Housing Associations: getting the best from them

Maximising really affordable housing in London 2021-2025 What could the Assembly & the Mayor of London do?

Letter from Just Space to Mayor and Assembly Members 3 February 2021 [This follows a letter sent a few days ago calling on the GLA to discuss ways of minimising the ill effects of the New London Plan. See previous post here.]

The new London Plan is now finalised and there is wide agreement —including by the Mayor— that it will not secure as much low-rent social housing as London needs. Totally inadequate investment in social rent housing will continue from 2021 to 2025, and grant funding from MHLG via the GLA is likely to remain biased towards intermediate tenures. But despite this, boroughs and the Mayor of London could still deliver much more, by positively influencing housing associations and adopting better planning policies and development management practices. Londoners’ experience during Covid adds urgency to the need for low-rent homes.

Just Space is keen to encourage and support moves from all quarters to mitigate the failings of current practice and submits the following list of proposals and suggestions.  If no groups lobby the Mayor, Assembly Members and Borough councillors for specific changes, thousands of households will be condemned to stay on housing waiting lists. 

Specifically the following suggestions could be implemented by

  • How the Mayor’s team deals with Housing Associations and accounts for their work
  • How the Assembly seeks to scrutinise and influence the Mayor’s work
  • How Mayor and Assembly respond to government consultations
  • How the GLA and Boroughs go about their plan-making and development management work in the coming years.
  • How the London Housing Panel works.

The matter is timely because bids from Housing Associations are being submitted during February.

Mayor of London

Part 1. Housing associations: maximising affordable and social rent stock 

Baseline funding conditions for the 2021-26 Affordable Housing Programme (AHP) were published on 23.11.2020. Some proposals below suggest that the Mayor introduce additional conditions for Strategic Partners (SPs) and Approved Providers (APs), as in the 2016-21 AHP. If he is unwilling to do this, or associations or regulations prevent such conditions, then the Mayor and Assembly Members could at the very least publicly ask SPs and APs to voluntarily commit to higher standards. 

  1. Strategic Partners & Approved Providers 

(SPs got all grant upfront from 2016-21. APs got some)

a) At least 70% of their new London supply should be ‘affordable’ tenures. (From 2016-21 SPs committed to 60%. APs to 50%. From 2015/18 London-based HAs averaged 70% ‘affordable’, when less grant was available. Some built much more than others). Some data is in the Appendix.

b) Far more important that a minimum proportion of social rent should be required; 60%+ of new ‘affordable’ supply, even if government grant conditions remain biased towards intermediate tenures. (One SP’s grant-funded affordable supply was split 18% ‘low cost’ rent/82% intermediate, for 2016-21, ignoring all boroughs’ Local Plans. (Network Homes. GLA FOI response after main grant allocations in December 2018. The Mayor will have more recent and complete figures. Our great stress on social-rent (council-rent) homes reflects the fact that the intermediate tenure forms which make up the balance of ‘affordable’ supply are NOT in fact affordable to the majority of those in great housing need. 

2. Stopping the sale of social rent voids to market-sector buyers or to councils at market prices.

a) HAs should only ‘sell’ vacant social rent homes at Social Housing Existing Use Value and should only sell them to councils or to other HAs, to retain them as social rent stock. (This should be a condition of AP & SP status. Most HAs sell voids to the highest bidding private buyers at auction, or offer them to councils at full market value only, which means boroughs can buy far fewer to house the homeless). 

b) Stop HAs leasing voids to councils ‘temporarily’ at LHA rents (the lower end of private rents) instead of at social rents. (LHA drastically increases tenants’ rents and councils’ costs for housing the homeless. Benefits cover most but not all costs, for tenants and councils). 

3. Discouraging London-based associations from spending revenues generated in London on building homes in regions with less housing need (as a grant condition for SPs and APs)

a) Publish full details of multi-region HAs’ revenue sources, spending, and planned tenures in developments by region; London -vs- the rest of England. The Mayor should require this data from bidders, consolidate it and publish it.

b) London-based HAs should not divert London’s (non-grant) revenues to areas with less housing need. (GLA grant has to be spent in London. Other revenue sources don’t.) If 60% of an association’s current stock is in London at least 60% of their new affordable homes should be built on sites within the GLA’s boundary. If HAs claim that shifting new supply outside of London is unavoidable due to the difficulty of obtaining sites in the capital at reasonable cost, they should explain why they can’t increase the proportion of social rent in their London schemes. 

4. Public Land & London Development Panel 2/3

The Mayor has some direct power over Mayoral bodies (TfL principally) which he could and should use more actively to maximise social housing production.

LDP2 members have exclusive rights to bid to buy or lease some public land to develop (19 developers, 6 HAs, and two joint ventures between HAs and private developers).

a) Stop LDP2 in 2022, not 2023, and allow councils and coops to buy land through LDP3.

b) For LDP2, promote non-profit developments by associations, rather than developer-led schemes or joint ventures, to boost affordable housing by avoiding 50% of higher profit margins being extracted by private developers instead of being used to cross-subsidise affordable housing. 

5. Reporting on associations’ current reserves and future targets

Commission a detailed independent financial analysis comparing associations’ policies and practices. Are vastly increased reserves —being pursued by some associations— necessary? If not, they could deliver more affordable housing or more social housing (which is what matters most) within the ‘affordable total’. 

Part 2. Planning policies & funding guidance: to maximise social rent supply

6. Support ineffective boroughs to deliver higher proportions of social and affordable housing

a) Compare and report boroughs’ records with full publicity; the percentage of new supply delivered as social rent and other ‘affordable’ tenures (Some boroughs deliver less than 10% ‘affordable’ housing despite their Local Plan policies requiring 35% as a minimum. Clearly some don’t uphold their own policies). 

a) Increase local ‘going rates’ for affordable housing by supporting willing boroughs to fight planning appeals for schemes below 150 units (& thus not referred to the Mayor for viability scrutiny). (If the Mayor won’t do this councils could support each other in doing so.)

b) Report schemes (housing numbers and tenures) that councils refuse for failing to meet viability-tested policies on affordable housing, and the number of planning appeals that boroughs fight, win and lose. 

c) Consider GLA recognition for boroughs that deliver the best results for upholding their planning policies on social housing: average percentage achieved, and compliance with policy on low cost rent. (The GLA should rank boroughs annually in AMRs and press releases, and the best-performing councils should receive public recognition or awards).

7. London Plan tenure guidance to boroughs: increase the minimum ‘low cost’ rent requirement from 30% to 60% from 2021, in the London Plan AMR or an SPG. (Some developers are getting away with delivering 70% of ‘affordable’ homes as shared ownership, ignoring Local Plans). 

8. ‘Low cost’ rent levels: clarify that new build homes can still qualify for GLA grant when boroughs set rents below formula targets. (Target social rents aren’t affordable to many people in high value areas). 

9. Public Land: Mayoral bodies and other public sector

a) Require all schemes to deliver at least 50% affordable homes (before grant) and the tenures required by Local Plans; usually 70% ‘low cost’ rent/30% intermediate. (Currently only the first 35% has to meet tenure guidance, so the ‘additional’ 15% is often all shared ownership. This does not meet need, and fails adequately to embed affordability into accepted land costs used in viability tests). 

b) Mayoral bodies’ sites due to be developed; publish full details of tenures and rent costs for all sites owned by TfL, the Metropolitan Police, and Fire Service. Promote non-profit developments. 

10. Change the Build-to-Rent tenure model to deliver social rent

London-wide guidance allows B2R (large, private rent) schemes to deliver all ‘affordable’ homes as intermediate or ‘discounted’ rent, which ignores the priority need for social rent, on the grounds that the private rent developments don’t generate up-front profits for developers. 

While the provisions in the new London Plan cannot readily be changed quickly, the Mayor’s tenure model should be managed so as to encourage the provision of more social rent and LAR dwellings within each scheme, encouraging Boroughs to make use of the facility in London Plan §4.11.10 to justify and require lower rent provisions in their Development Plans. This objective can be further pursued in the SPG envisaged in §4.11.6.

11. Unaffordable intermediate tenures

London Living rent is much more affordable than shared ownership but of the G15’s ‘intermediate’ starts in 2018/19, only 5% was LLR, with 93% for shared ownership. 

* Shared ownership: cap full market values at £600k and/or cap monthly housing costs at a level that average earners can afford while not paying more than 40% of their net household income. 

* London Living Rent: The consensus view of Just Space member organisations is that all grant funding should be devoted to new social rent homes because of the overwhelming need, London’s homelessness crisis and the insecurity and increasing unaffordability of ‘intermediate’ tenures. However, in light of the fact that ministers have insisted on devoting a large proportion of funding to intermediate tenures under the 2016-21 AHP, we recognise that London Living Rent, and potentially boroughs’ local living rents, are generally much more affordable than shared ownership. Therefore the Mayor should require SPs/APs to deliver a minimum proportion; (e.g., 50% of intermediate supply) as LLR. From 2021 he should increase the grant rate for LLR. (From 2016-21 LLR & SO both got an initial set grant rate £28k/unit. For the 2021-26 AHP grant rates will be flexible rather than fixed but details have not been published. Alternatively, consider other incentives to increase the proportion of intermediate tenures delivered at living rents, as opposed to shared ownership). 

* Rent-to-buy: households who can’t afford to buy in 3-10 years shouldn’t be evicted. 

* Shared ownership: avoid rent defaults leading to eviction, by converting debt to equity or extending repayment periods and by tenancy sustainment policies. As a last resort landlords should repay tenants’ equity. 

12. RTB lease extensions as a revenue raiser: ask councils/HAs to conduct pilots

Hundreds of thousands of RTB leaseholders need to extend their leases in the next few years, at an average cost of around £5,000. How much revenue could be raised if they were contacted? 

13. Support long term reforms

* Social rent formula target rents are unaffordable to most low-income tenants in high value areas. Caps need to be lowered in line with incomes, or the property value element in the formula needs to be scrapped. The Mayor should initiate a review in 2022 in the light of post-Covid income distribution data.

* Giving HA residents the collective right to transfer landlords like council tenants have

* The Freedom of Information Act should be extended to associations (all PRPs)

* Fair Rent Regulations for pre-1989 secure tenants currently allow annual rent increases of inflation plus 5%. Maximum rises should be the same as other tenancies; inflation plus 1%.

* Housing Statistics Review: The Mayor and Assembly should be pro-active in the review being conducted by ONS of housing statistics.  In particular they should stress the need for annual data on both the stock and flows of dwellings by tenure and rent level, at least for Borough level. (Flow means new production, demolitions and voiding, switches between tenures or rent levels.)

These points should be reflected in the Mayor’s and the Assembly’s responses to the government consultation on Social Housing.

This letter draws on research by the London Tenants Federation and others for which Just Space is very grateful. It is not a statement of settled policy by any of the contributors but is intended as suggestions for debate and discussion.

END

Appendix

London Plan: damage limitation

On 1 February Just Space wrote to the GLA calling for urgent steps to reduce the negative impacts of the latest changes to the Plan.

From Just Space to Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor (planning)

Cc to Tom Copley, Deputy Mayor (housing), Members of the London Assembly, London Plan Team, London Councils

Dear Mr Pipe and colleagues

New London Plan: mitigation of adverse impacts

Now that the new London Plan is cleared for printing and London is, in effect, stuck with it for a few years, we are writing to urge you to launch an urgent study of how the negative impacts of the Plan can be mitigated through any of the GLA’s powers or the powers of boroughs or other bodies and to collaborate with community groups in doing so.

Many community and grassroots organisations, and others, struggled long and hard through the last five years of consultation & planning to make the London Plan a more equitable and powerful instrument to achieve the inspiring egalitarian ambitions held by the Mayor and captured in his City for All Londoners, in his preface to the London Plan and in the Good Growth Policies. Both the process and the outcome have been a tremendous disappointment at successive stages. The interventions from the SoS have made matters worse.

The consultation draft of the Plan as amended prior to the EiP was subject to very strong criticism for failing to provide for the low-rent social housing which the SHMAA showed was London’s overwhelming need; its protections for industrial land, other workspace and local services – while an improvement on earlier plans – were heavily criticised for not going far enough. The lack of resources for infrastructure meant that inroads were made into the prospective S106 resources to support social housing and further intensified densities beyond what could be supported by social infrastructure or community consent. The entire logic of the plan was to further increase centralisation of jobs, depending on heavy investment in radial railways to create capacity and lengthen commutes. What we needed instead was more distributed employment (existing as well as new) and a strong emphasis on better inter-suburban transport, alongside walking and cycling. On this, and other environmental issues, the Plan was criticised for lacking staged milestones and targets ambitious enough to match the global warming and biodiversity emergencies. A year ago we urged the Assembly to reject it (our 2020 letter was attached.).

Many of the deficiencies of the Plan would disproportionately impact low income Londoners and one or more of the groups with protected characteristics. We were proud that our evidence and determination persuaded the Panel of Inspectors to require the GLA to do a lot of extra work on the Equality aspects of the IIA and were not surprised to see that the resulting GLA report NLP/EX/33c Impact of policies on each ‘protected’ group acknowledged the plan’s discriminatory impacts, especially on housing. 

The changes which the GLA has been required to accept during the last year’s exchanges with the SoS produce further negative effects and we would like urgently to meet with you and the planning team to consider the scope for mitigation. In particular:

  • Affordable housing: the wording which encouraged Boroughs to seek affordable housing contributions from small sites has been deleted. (Direction 3, Policy H2). Although this is a small change it comes on top of the plan’s failure to ensure that enough affordable —and particularly low-rent— housing can be secured. Community groups are gravely concerned and are not satisfied that the mayor is doing everything in his power to improve prospects, even in the housing emergency revealed by Covid19.
  • Density and Opportunity Area expansion: (Direction 2, Policy D3) where the pressure further to densify already-dense parts of London would tend to overload social infrastructure with adverse effects on many protected groups and the addition of power to extend OA boundaries would amplify the democratic deficit already endemic in OAs.
  • Industry and employment: (Direction 4, Policies 4,5,7) substantially weaken the protections the plan offers for employment space, threatening damage to the output and employment of diverse sectors and disproportionately likely to affect working class, including BAME, Londoners. At a time when Covid19 has brought London severe growth in unemployment levels, especially of young people, and an awareness of the value of jobs close to homes, this SoS intervention needs urgent mitigation.
  • Gypsies and Travellers (Direction 7, Policy H14). Community organisations had supported much of the Mayor’s approach and are shocked by the SoS weakening of the plan. The best possible mitigation would surely be for the GLA to press forward with the London-wide Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment.

We look forward to hearing from you on the mitigation issues. We shall be writing soon about the larger, longer term, prospects for starting work on the next London Plan in an altogether more participatory way, piloting and devising a Mayoral SCI as we go along.

End of letter. (To download a Word copy, click below)

Both the web version and the download have typos corrected and links repaired 5 Feb.

London Plan going to the printer

News 29 January: Secretary of State (Mr Jenrick) has agreed to the Mayor’s latest set of revisions so now the Publication London Plan is being sent to the printers. It was a developer’s dream from the outset & is now even worse, especially for low- and moderate-income Londoners, for most ethnic minorities and for productive enterprises. Scroll down to the end of this post for our assessment.

15 January: Deadlock was reached between the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the Secretary of State (SoS) Robert Jenrick but the SoS has pulled rank and dictated changes to the Plan which are now embodied in a new version from the Mayor.  This seems bound to give us an even worse London Plan than we were expecting a year ago and reads like something from a past era. What happened? A summary…

2019

22 May 

London Plan Examination in Public (EiP) ended after 34 days over 5 months. About 80 community groups spoke including Just Space; many more wrote in. 

Our main concerns:

Plan is a developers’ charter and needs to be a plan for justice. Only the preface has this stress on justice.

No consideration of alternative strategies, including our own;

Dire impacts this plan would have on lower-income Londoners & groups protected under the Equality Act 

Weak approaches to climate change and bio-diversity, lacking urgency, targets and timeframes.

The changes we asked for:

In housing, prioritise meeting the huge and growing backlog of need for low-rent (council) housing (demonstrated by the GLA’s own studies) in place of targets for open-market housing which so few can afford

A complete halt to new Opportunity Areas until impacts so far have been evaluated and a transparent, democratic system devised for their designation, design and implementation

Need for community audit and review for major schemes alongside design review

Protection of industrial / employment land and buildings and of green space from speculative housing development

Convincing ways of paying for social and physical infrastructure without cutting in to the provision of low-rent housing, contributing to unsupportable increases in housing density and probable land price inflation.

And hundreds of smaller changes

8 October 

The Panel of Inspectors’ report came out, ducking most of the major issues.

It failed to challenge the Plan’s low ambitions for low-rent & affordable housing, which flew in the face of the evidence and would lead to a mounting backlog

It swallowed the Mayor’s proposed removal of density limits and their replacement by ‘design’ negotiations at Borough level

It proposed that the Plan’s “Good Growth” policies should be downgraded and described as Objectives, even though they cover important issues such as health, which are not seen elsewhere in the Plan, and add egalitarian impetus to others

It considered the Small Sites policies unfeasible and proposed their deletion, with a consequent 20% reduction in the housing capacity for London

On the positive side the Panel did recommend strengthening community role in planning, but it considered GLA had (after doing the extra work we demanded) satisfied the Public Sector Equality Duty

The Panel recommended strengthening of industrial land protection & provision which we welcomed but proposed less protection for Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land.

9 December 

Mayor of London released his ‘intend to publish London Plan’ and sent it to the Secretary of State for approval. The Mayor’s Plan accepted most of the Inspectors’ recommendations including the downgrading of Good Growth Policies.

It rejected the Panel’s recommendations to narrow the definition of Gypsies and Travellers, to rule out the review of Green Belts, to be less restrictive on developments on Metropolitan Open Land and to increase protection of industrial space. 

This version of the Plan has lowered targets for housing output, reflecting the Panel’s rejection of the Small Sites policy – mainly significant for outer London.

2020

We told the London Assembly on 3 February why we thought they should reject the plan.

13 March 

The Secretary of State finally replied to the Mayor; a rude and critical letter saying: housing delivery had been ‘deeply disappointing’, house prices had risen, worsening affordability, strategic sites had stalled, eg Old Oak, estate regeneration has “onerous conditions” [these are the hard-won conditions to prevent demolition without democratic ballots, and are not part of the Plan], buying a home is crucial so people can have “a stake in society” so priority to Shared Ownership and First Homes. And he disagrees with rent control (which is anyway not in the Plan).

SoS demanded 11 changes including:

More family housing needed

‘Optimisation’ of density, with the possible extension of Opportunity Areas

Further release of Strategic Industrial Land, though safeguarding of land for ‘Last Mile’ distribution etc near the centre.

Allowing reduction of Metropolitan Open Land

Caveats for development on the Green Belt (in line with national policy)

Allowing more car parking spaces in suburban developments

24 April 

Mayor replied to Secretary of State saying he was “mindful of the need to support the development industry” and his staff would work with SoS to consider policy changes / minor amendments  to ‘achieve the necessary outcomes’. 

Details of the Mayor’s counter-proposals were not published.

9 December 

Mayor wrote to SoS asking for feedback & proposing to publish and adopt his London Plan version if no reply by 21st December. 

10 Dec 

SoS wrote to Mayor directing him to add two more changes to the Plan, after which it could be published:

as a result of Covid19 he proposes yet more housing land be taken from industrial land, in cases where Boroughs would otherwise use green belt or Metropolitan Open Land.

Tall buildings should be restricted to areas defined by Boroughs and are not suitable for all places, with the default definition changed from 30m to 18m to enable “gentle densification” in these areas, broadly outer London / suburban. This would dramatically reduce the capacity of most surburban areas to densify.

The letter said talks between the Ministry and Mayor’s staff had been ‘ongoing and positive’ and wanted to extend a housing strategy for London and the wider south east (where, evidently, more of London’s need would now have to be met). He also attached a schedule of the changes agreed and some more required in the Plan to satisfy his original 11 directions. Read all the exchanges.

21 December 2020

Mayor issues a ‘Publication London Plan’ version and sends it to SoS who has 6 weeks to respond. Here it is.

Summing up

This London Plan was a bad one for the London of 2016 when it was being written: stacked in support of developer interests, investors and the rich, bad news for low- and middle-income people and for protected groups – including many ethnic minorities, disabled people, single parents. Bad news too for jobs and production in manufacturing and other workshop industries. Although the evidence showed a huge backlog of unmet need for housing, 78% of it for housing at council rents, the Plan would actually have seen the backlog grow. Emphasis on ‘Town Centres’ and abandonment of ‘Lifetime Neighbourhoods’ leaves local shops and services unprotected. Environmental and climate policies imprecise, lacking timelines. Transport stacked in favour of more heavy radial railways though walking & cycling targets are good and ambitious.

The Plan we are now faced with is even worse. Some small gains in wording (e.g. on local shops) offset by downgrading of the former Good Growth Policies, which gave the plan most of its egalitarian impetus, to mere Objectives at developers’ request. Protection of industry and employment space weakened. Scrapping of Small Sites policies designed to get more housing into outer suburbs, amplified by SoS defining tall buildings so that default densities there will fall further. With sustained pressure to maximise building in London, though, the squeeze on Inner London would be massive. Prospects for social housing production even worse than before as SoS insists that small developments can’t be made to contribute. House prices continue to rise but still developers can’t ‘afford’ the social and physical infrastructure and social housing they are supposed to pay for. Capturing land value has been a failure so how can the plan be implemented?

Covid makes that plan even more irrelevant to London’s needs and we are starting to think what the next London Plan needs to be like to ensure safe, spacious homes with good private and public outdoor space for all, more emphasis on the local and with environmental policies radical enough to reverse the crisis. 

Wrong reforms proposed for planning

1 Nov 2020: Democracy down; developer profits up; free gift of rights to landowners; few silver linings. Consultations have closed on the government’s proposals for changes to the planning system in England with very strong criticisms being made by community groups and others. Just Space groups have declined to answer the government’s leading questions and instead present refreshing insights on what’s wrong and what’s needed:

  • More transparency and more democracy, not just a little bit corralled around plan-making every few years; welcome to the potential widening of participation brought by technology but don’t scrap old forms of communication and meeting and deal seriously with class bias and digital exclusion.
  • More certainty about key policies (like social housing obligations, space standards, safety) not more deregulation and more exemptions;
  • More pressure on local authorities and government to meet measured needs for social housing, not just aim for maximum total housing outputs for the market;
  • More emphasis on housing as a human need and right, a stabilisation of house and land prices to reduce speculation in housing as financial assets. Expand commons and collective ownership and management of urban space; don’t just hand the entitlement to develop back to private interests;
  • Give some real, precise, meaning to “sustainable development” so everyone can check that developments and plans actually help with environmental crisis, social inequality, social cohesion and a robust economy for well-being, not just “viability” aka profit.

Read the Just Space response to government (8 pages)
Read the very similar version submitted to the Parliamentary Select Committee (7 pages)
Just Space also sent a response to the earlier consultation on Changes to the Current Planning System

Submissions by Just Space groups

London Tenants Federation response to government consultation;
and response to parliamentary committee

London Gypsies and Travellers response

London Forum of Civic and Amenity Societies response to government consultation; the same paper was sent to parliamentary committee. The Forum also responded to the earlier consultation on Changes to the Current Planning System.

Friends of the Earth and their response to the Parliamentary Select Committee is now on the Committee web site.

Regents Network response

Submissions by other organisations

(Please add more in the comments at the bottom so we can list them – there is no publication or index of the responses to government, though submissions to the parliamentary select committee are published on their web site.)

The Right Answers to the Right Questions, (publication Monday 2 November) a submission by a group of progressive planners in universities who had produced The Wrong Answers to the Wrong Questions when the White Paper first appeared.

Highbury Group on Housing Delivery

Staff at The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL, short and full versions of response to government.

Haringey Defend Council Housing responds to the Parliament Select Committee

Civic Voice formerly known as the Civic Trust

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

Homebuilders Federation (HBF)

ACRE Action with Communities in Rural England short article and archived full submission.

Royal Town Planning Institute response to government, short and full versions.
Planning Officers Society

Architectural Workers (SAW) open letter (UVW-SAW)

Architects Declare…

Wider South East Strategic Planning Group

London Councils – the association of London Borough Councils

A Response from chartered planners in academic practice. No URL found so archived copy here.

Distinguished professionals’ letter to the Financial Times 5 November 2020 https://on.ft.com/36e0hrs

Distinguished professionals’ letter to the Financial Times 5 November 2020 https://on.ft.com/36e0hrs

Staff at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at Sheffield University, short summary and full statement

National Parks England and New Forest National Park Authority

CPRE Council for the Protection of Rural England

PricedOut submission.

SmartGrowthUK submissions in parts

Sound Diplomacy, in partnership with the Music Venue Trust, Outset Contemporary Art Fund, Studiomakers, Night Time Industries Association and the Creative Land Trust, argue that while reform is welcome, the White Paper does not address significant issues related to the impact of the planning system on cultural spaces and venues…

Kensington Society

Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) with TCPA

LSE London blogs and responses

Blogger Andrew Lainton designs the entire system in an open letter to the new arChief Planner.

Barrister blogger Zac Simons #planoraks (and he has compiled a list of links to responses, with some overlaps with this list but some other items. Nice that we figure in his list).

Nick Falk t(URBED)

Local Government Association (LGA)

Barton Willmore, planning consultants, summary and full text

Federation of Cambridge Residents Association

Centre for Cities 100% support the government. Blog post by Anthony Breach (who might as well have written the White Paper) with links to the Centre’s full responses.

https://www.thecentriclab.com/news-and-blog-roll/centric-labs-response-to-the-uk-governments-planning-white-paper

New London Architecture (NLA) https://nla.london/news/nla-responds-to-governments-planning-white-paper-on-implications-for-greater-london

Open Space Society https://mk0ossociety9jn92eye.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Response-to-Planning-White-Paper.pdf

Our previous blog post includes earlier material among which are responses to the consultation on Changes to the Current Planning System.

New Planning System?

August 10 + later updates through October: The UK government is preparing a number of major changes to the Town and Country Planning System in England (not Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland where devolved bodies make these decisions). We shall add material to this page in the coming weeks to help member groups in London to prepare responses, so this is a good post to bookmark: click on the heading above first. Please do contribute.
A number of consultations are finished and have been moved to the bottom of the page. This is the big one remaining:

Planning for the Future: white paper Consultation ends 29 October 2020 2345h.

This is the Just Space response to the consultation, submitted on 28th October.

Deadline is close. All members / groups are urged to submit comments – brief or detailed – to the consultation page linked above at white paper.

Just Space briefing on the white paper, download PDF: https://justspacelondon.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/planning-for-the-future-white-paper-js-briefing-21-sept.pdf

Paper by volunteer Jo Pearce on the zoning aspect of the White Paper, citing some international experience. Download PDF.

Final submissions now coming in.
Bartlett School of Planning: 19 academics critical of the White Paper but finding some potential positivesl. Short summary + 500 word version + 22,000 word full version.

Our summary of the White Paper:
Proposes major long-term changes to the 1947 system: Government would define 3 simple zones, local plans would be much simplified, identifying which land should be zoned for growth (new building), which for protection (Green Belts, Conllservation Areas, etc) and which for renewal. Owners of land would have an entitlement to develop any uses provided that their project conformed to the rules of the zone except in protection areas where the old system would continue. Local authorities would have no power to stop conforming developments, only to check they conform to design rules (not yet formulated). Much is written about the design rules (mostly about ‘beauty’), though not about transport, accessibility or safety. These changes would focus all community participation at the local plan making stage and prevent it at the planning permission stage (except perhaps for some design details).

The white paper also proposes to sweep away Section106 and the Community Infrastructure Levy, replacing them both with a single new Levy designed to pay for (some) infrastructure and ‘affordable’ housing. Social housing is not mentioned, nor is council housing, but the 30% discounts which developers will be required to give to first-time-buyers would count towards payment of the levy. The Levy would be fixed by national government at a fixed % of development value (or perhaps regionally varied rates). Small schemes would be exempt; so would all developments in ‘low value’ parts of England.

In the coming weeks there will be much debate about these proposals, indeed it has already started in newspapers, online and among campaign groups. The tag #PlanningReform is being used on Twitter.

Some of the country’s leading university experts on planning have got together to write an initial critique, The wrong answers to the wrong questions: Countering the misconceptions driving the Government’s planning reform agenda. Publication is being hosted by the TCPA. Blog and Report here.
23 October: another (overlapping) group of professional planning experts blogs very critically about the White Paper.
24 October: Lawyer Simon Ricketts summarises what he has learned from endless webinars since the White Paper appeared in August. Confirms many worst fears.
26 October: draft submission by London Forum. Very well worth reading.
Duncan Bowie talk to LTF meeting. Strongly recommended
The planning lawyer Simon Ricketts has written to point out that the white paper authors haven’t thought about London or the London Plan.
Dr Laurie Macfarlane (UCL) writes in OpenDemocracy
Dr Ben Clifford writes in The Conversation
Good history of S106 – Crook, Whitehead etc evidence to parliamentary committee 2018
CPRE video 9 minutes about the white paper. Recommended
An Oxford community/environment group (POETS) response: https://t.co/rzHeIZF4zu?amp=1
Royal Town Planning Institute RTPI paper on zoning in various countries.
Review by Julia Park in Building Design (register, but free)

Early changes to the existing planning system: download

A modification to the present planning system is being proposed, in a consultation on 4 changes, closed 1 October.

Just Space response to changes to the current planning system. Do use this as raw material for your own submission – due by 11.45pm Thursday 1 October. Submission instructions are on the download page of gov.uk in the heading above.

Download Just Space earlier briefing on this consultation, including a draft response to assist community groups in London: https://justspacelondon.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/js-briefing-changes-to-current-system.pdf

In a nutshell: A revision is proposed to the Standard Method by which housing need is calculated for localities. This is of limited immediate importance for London but highlights the political challenge facing government and the need for proper regional planning.

Government proposals for ‘First Homes’ (homes to buy at 30% off) to be a quarter of the ‘affordable’ housing in any S106 agreement. This will be an attack on the production of affordable rent tenures and a boost for developer profits.

A proposal to raise the threshold below which housing schemes are not required to contribute a % of affordable homes from 10 homes to 40 or 50 would produce big losses of affordable homes and another profit boost for site owners.

Just Space has clear and long-standing policies which mean that we should oppose both of these proposed changes.  

A third proposed change would extend Permission in Principle to larger schemes but we don’t think this is an issue in London and we have never taken a view about it. However, where such sites are being considered for development, uses of density and (separately) height MUST be scrutinised carefully so Outline Planning Permission should be used instead.

Submission by the London Tenants Federation
Submission from the London Forum of Amenity and Civic Societies
Here an outstandingly good short critique of the new formula by Rosie Pearson
Submission by Civic Voice (previously the Civic Trust
Kensington Society Submission

…”key worker” housing in London. The Mayor of London says that ‘intermediate’ housing in London will be targeted at ‘key workers’ but the London Tenants Federation points out that most couldn’t afford anything more expensive than council rents. Their interim response is here.

Pavement parking: government consultation on whether to change the law in favour of pedestrians, disabled people, buggies. Deadline 22 November https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/managing-pavement-parking

Just Space activity July 2020 update

We last published a digest of all the activity of JustSpace in late September 2019 [ Link ]. This update shows funding sources, who leads from Just Space and which other Member groups and others are involved.

Council estates website

The website Estate Watch : a resource for London’s communities undergoing estate regeneration launched on 17 June 2020. 

 Jointly produced by London Tenants Federation and Just Space, this took 3 months to prepare. Two workers were hired and there were regular meetings.  The site disseminates the results of a 3 year research project led by Loretta Lees at Leicester University, and with LTF and JS as partners.  The plan had been to hold a series of sub-regional meetings, reaching out to affected estates, but this wasn’t possible because of Covid-19.

The research project held an event at City Hall in March at which Just Space spoke, just before lockdown.

Funds have been obtained to support the maintenance and up-dating of the website for the remainder of 2020, but more funds are needed for 2021.

Funding: University of Leicester (ESRC)

Lead for Just Space: Richard Lee

Freelance inputs from Santa Pedone and Adrian Glasspool

Partner: LTF

Fairville international exchange

Considerable liaison work with UCL’s Development Planning Unit (DPU) and international partners took place in March and April 2020 to produce a major 4-year funding bid to the EU on citizen science and the just city.  A decision is due in the autumn and, in any case, the partners want to work together on other applications.  Projects include documenting the Just Space story (with interviews), a study of facilitation as it operates in community groups and University engagement with communities and resources for a comprehensive social impact assessment in London.

No funding (but potential funding in 2021).

Lead: Richard Lee

Partner: Barbara Lipietz, Development Planning Unit, UCL

Collaborate! – (Previously known as Universities – Communities Knowledge Exchange)

This funded project ended in December 2019. [Download most recent report ] Time has since been devoted to completing its outcomes – a video film and strategic action plan with a draft Charter of Principles to follow.  Discussion is taking place with the Community and University steering groups to decide which of the actions can be taken forward this year and whether/ how Collaborate can incorporate to position itself for funding bids.

Funding:  small amount remains from 2019 grant (UCL)

Lead: Richard Lee

Freelance input from: Sona Mahtani

Partners: Sarah Bell, UCL Engineering Exchange, UEL, QMU, KCL, Brunel, HEAR Equality, Westway23, Bengali East End Heritage Society, Community Centred Knowledge, Hayes Community Forum, Wards Corner Community Coalition, Thames Ward Community Project, Peckham Vision.

Note: UCL Engineering Exchange has paused its innovative formal organising of specialist support to community groups until continued funding can be found. JS would continue to play a role in its operation.   

Social Impact Assessments (SIA)

The UCL Development Planning Unit (DPU) Masters course, which is co-produced with Just Space, has produced 3 handbooks (with Old Kent Road groups, Bengali East End Heritage Society and Camden Council) on how to do a social audit (SA).  A meeting has been held with Camden Council planning department to discuss mechanisms to integrate SIAs into their planning practice.  The relationship with Camden followed on from the Calthorpe Community Garden SIA.  There has been no activity with Calthorpe Community Garden since August 2019.  The SIA there was funded by UCL Estates and led by Richard Lee with freelancers Sona Mahtani and Karl Murray.

Inspired by social impact assessments, one DPU student is producing a report for community groups on how to use the Aarhus Convention to achieve stronger rights to information and participation.

Funding: UCL DPU 

Lead:  Richard Lee

Partners:  As above

Safeguarding the public voice in planning in the Covid era (planning network)

Lucy Rogers brought together London Forum, Friends of the Earth, CPRE with Just Space to publish a joint statement with 6 principles for a democratic input into planning decisions under exceptional regulations for Covid19.  This initiative has gained national attention.  London Forum has produced monitoring reports on the practices of London Boroughs under Covid.  A meeting has been held with Government officials. [Links to earlier blog posts.]

Not funded

Lead: Lucy Rogers.   Partners:  as above

Mayoral Statement of Community Involvement (MSCI) Planning network

Originally, a New London Architecture project, it is now a coming together of various individuals active in the built environment discussing the changes needed to ensure communities are at the heart of urban change for the better. These include Just Space members Hayes Community Forum and Peckham Vision. 

Two particular outputs are planned: a Mayoral Statement of Community Involvement (MSCI) that sets a strategic expectation for standards of effective and meaningful community involvement, and the provision of collaborative education and training programmes for both the public and professionals to help shape their city. Recognising that wider attention and support must first be secured, the group is to make a call to decision-makers for Collective Community Action that prepares the ground for the practical outputs of MSCI and education programme would follow later. This project is voluntarily supported.

Lead for Just Space: Robin Brown. Partner: Peckham Vision

Emerging new London Plan

At its meeting in January 2020, the Just Space Planning Network agreed to set up a working party to continue to conduct a thorough review of the treatment of equalities in the plan-making, examination and pre-publication processes of the emerging new London Plan. It authorised the seeking of legal advice and a QC was engaged on favourable terms from Just Space monetary reserves to give legal advice. But because of the remedial work the Mayor had been required to do by the Examination Panel of Inspectors, largely driven by the representations made by Just Space, it has been concluded that enough had been done by the GLA to satisfy the Panel and legislation on the Equalities Impact Assessment and the exercise of the Public Sector Equality Duty up to and including the Panel’s report. 

Members of Just Space remain concerned on the thrust and detail of the Plan (now the Intend-to-Publish Plan) and the Directions issued by the Secretary of State and some have made representations to the Mayor and London Assembly. The debate is continuing and the GLA is anyway not expecting to publish the new plan for at least two months after the Secretary of State replies to a letter from the Mayor written in April 2020.

Policy ideas and narratives arising from Covid-19 (Planning network / Collaborate)

Several people have come to Just Space offering volunteer work.  This has enabled the commissioning of a series of discussion papers giving new policy ideas. Next steps are being considered.

Not funded

Lead: Richard Lee

Greater Carpenters Neighbourhood Forum

Just Space (with support from LTF) has continued to assist the GCNF.  A very good result was achieved with the examination of the LLDC Local Plan: the Inspector fully backing the residents’ wishes to retain their community and avoid demolition and dense development.  However, alongside this the examination of the neighbourhood plan recommended the deletion of essential policies opposing demolition and identifying housing sites that would provide sensitive infill.

Funding: Locality (central Government money)

Lead: Richard Lee                  

Freelance inputs from: Marian Larragy

Partner: LTF

New Lucas Plan/ Climate Change Strategy/ Industrial Strategy

Discussions and a zoom meeting on socially useful production applied to the current crisis.  The main aim is to connect the agenda of community groups with trade unions and social movements.

Spoke at event in Coventry (14 March) on how to involve grassroots groups in the production of an alternative Climate Change Strategy for the city.

No funding in 2020

Lead: Richard Lee

Funding in 2021 from Sarah Bell UCL Eng Exchange and Myfanwy Taylor, Leeds University

Land Justice policy group

Considerable work had been done to prepare for an event Land and the Ecological Crisis  on 28 March, which had to be cancelled.  Planning meetings resumed in June and a series of 3 events will begin in Summer 2020. See events page. [ Earlier Post ]

Not funded (but the group has resources)

Lead: Richard Lee

Partners: Radical Housing Network, StART, Granville Community Kitchen 

Grand Union Alliance (GUA)

JS was commissioned back in Spring 2016 by the London Tenants Federation (LTF) to help LTF deliver UCL community-based research supporting the community network GUA in Old Oak Park Royal area (Mayoral Development Corporation OPDC). Although due to end in Spring 2018 when LTF’s involvement ended, the £15K received was stretched to February 2019 and has assisted London Plan work (on Opportunity Areas). Further support to GUA, particularly during the OPDC’s Local Plan EiP, was provided through an agreement worth £1.6K with UCL Geography. Since then, July 2019 onwards, JS inputs have continued voluntarily on a ‘care and maintenance’ basis whilst the OPDC prepares a ‘new approach’ to its draft Local Plan and delivery process following the Planning Inspector’s Interim Findings in September 2019 requiring substantial changes to the Plan.

Prior to ‘lockdown’, regular monthly public meetings continued in partnership with the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum, whose reports can be seen at its website. Co-operation has extended to responding to the OPDC and HS2 and various planning applications.     

On looking for resources to sustain GUA, the OPDC has asked the GUA to make a proposal to OPDC to facilitate an OPDC-GUA continuing ‘dialogue’.  This could provide funds to hire a support worker plus ‘buying in’ of advice from JS but issues of independence need consideration. UCL Geography has awarded £2K towards the production of a Community Handbook on influencing large scale planning as informed by GUA experiences. For the forseeable future, JS would be the parent body for the GUA. 

Funding: UCL Geography (Jennifer Robinson)

Lead: Robin Brown

Partner: LTF

London Markets

[See earlier post on this major national research project ]

Funding: Leeds University  (Myfanwy Taylor and Sara Gonzalez)

Lead: Richard Lee

Partners: Saif Osmani (Friends of Queens Market ) and Mama D (Community Centred Knowledge)

Just Space Economy and Planning Group

The group continues to maintain contact and share experience across London, and to attend the Economics Round Table convened by GLA Economics. Not funded, but with some support through UCL academics and students

Leads: Michael Edwards, Ilinca Diaconescu

UCL (Bartlett School of Planning) Neighbourhood Planning & Community Engagement Programme 2019-20

Most of this programme, funded by an award from UCL Bartlett School of Planning, expected to be for the 2019-2020 academic year £6.6K, is intended to give students real life experiences of the issues faced by local communities. One part is delivered through a planning course ‘Collaborative City Planning Strategies’, which attracted 48 students. A Just Space nominated tutor embedded in the course focused on the ‘Future of High Streets’ from a community perspective.  

Another larger part enabled students to be mentored by Just Space and community tutors on a variety of socially useful activities. These included evaluating outputs from the draft London Plan EiP – transcribing and analysing recordings of sessions to inform further Just Space policy positions— and assisting the Grand Union Alliance, Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum, Thames Ward Community Project in Barking Riverside OA and Save Hackney Central Campaign – on various aspects of neighbourhood planning, community organising, and major site development analysis. Some local group costs such as venue hire were also eligible for reimbursement from the UCL grant. 

This programme also enables Just Space to contribute to progressing diverse activities promoting community collaborations with UCL and wider academia.

Funding: UCL Bartlett School of Planning

Lead: Michael Edwards

Reclaim our Spaces

[Earlier post] No activity in 2020 , but links with Collaborate

Not funded      Partner: The Ubele Initiative

Lead: Richard Lee

European Action Coalition for Rights to Housing and the City (EAC)

Just Space were among founders of this network but play a rather minimal role in it now, not much more than sharing links from its web site HousingNotProfit.org on our Twitter and on Pat’s Facebook. Next project to share national / city data and strategies on social housing needs volunteer inputs from London. 

Leads:  Pat Turnbull and Michael Edwards

Just Space web site, Twitter, FaceBook

The web site JustSpace.org.uk mainly supports the London Plan activities of Just Space because other groups choose not to contribute content, though this could change. It has between 700 and 1000 visitors per month. The Twitter account @JustSpace7 has 3,700 followers including many London groups and some international interested people and networks. It is very active and helps London groups and campaigns keep in touch with each other and with policy changes. Facebook, by contrast, was set up for us by a student volunteer and is dormant, awaiting people to run it. 

Leads: Michael Edwards with some inputs from Lucy Rogers

Estate Watch

Demolition or neglect: Are the Mayor of London’s ballots offering tenants a fair choice?

WEDNESDAY 17th JUNE

Over 35,000 homes across more than 100 London estates are earmarked for or undergoing demolition according to Estate Watch, a new resource for affected communities.

This despite the Mayor of London’s Estate Regeneration Guidance (2018), which was supposed to give council tenants and leaseholders a better deal.

Launching today, the Estate Watch website has been produced by community organisations Just Space and London Tenants Federation (LTF) to provide tenants and residents with independent facts and resources about the realities of demolition and possible alternatives.

Since 2018, councils and housing associations seeking Mayoral funding for large housing schemes involving demolition of existing homes must obtain majority resident support through a ballot. 

“We’re hearing worrying reports that balloted communities are being offered a false choice: demolition or neglect,” said LTF and Just Space in a joint statement.

“Tenants must be fully informed and have meaningful choices before we get to a ballot. We’ve established Estate Watch in part because of concerns that that is not happening.”

Luise, a leaseholder on Camden’s West Kentish Town estate, which voted in favour of demolition earlier this year, described seeing council officers visiting residents in their homes while the ballot was taking place to ‘help’ them fill in the form. 

“They were upfront that they were pushing for it to be knocked down,” said Luise. “There was nothing impartial about the consultation. They’ve been deliberately and continuously neglecting the estate. We were basically told that if we voted against demolition the estate would be run down even further.” 

According to the Mayor’s Guidance, “when considering the option of demolishing and rebuilding homes, councils, housing associations and their partners should always consider alternative options to demolition first”.

“In our case we had to work really hard over a very long period of time to get the best that we could out of a demolition and rebuild scheme, but there was only ever one option on the table. Refurbishment was simply dismissed.” said Harry, an LTF rep from a Kingston estate, where residents have recently voted for demolition.

The new website provides tenants with key facts, tools and case studies to fight their corner and to try to engage on more equal terms in discussion about the future of their homes and communities. 

This includes research by academics at University of Leicester (UOL) and Kings College London (KCL) showing that long term uncertainty, depression and displacement were common experiences among both tenants and leaseholders undergoing demolition.

“Just Space and LTF have set up Estate Watch because the realities of ‘regeneration’ for resident communities are very different to what’s depicted on council websites and brochures,” said Loretta Lees, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Leicester. 

“It comes on the back of my 3-year ESRC research project into gentrification and displacement of council estate tenants and residents. 

“My research identified that 55,000 council homes had been demolished in estate renewal schemes since 1997 and as a rough estimate, about 131,000 tenants and leaseholders were displaced.”

**************************************

Over the last 3 years, Just Space and The London Tenants Federation have worked with the University of Leicester and King’s College London on a research project that has provided detailed evidence since 1997 of the displacement of London council tenants and leaseholders through regeneration schemes.

As part of this research, 120 in-depth interviews were carried out with tenants and residents on 6 different council estates undergoing regeneration: Aylesbury (Southwark), Gascoigne (Barking and Dagenham), Ocean (Tower Hamlets), Love Lane (Haringey), Pepys (Lewisham) and Carpenters estate (Newham). The interviews showed that many residents were forced out of their neighbourhoods leaving behind that precious network of friends, relatives and neighbours. The research has also shed light on the conditions many residents have been forced to live in – with essential repairs often neglected by the Council for years – and the uncertainty about the future, which created high level of anxiety and stress.

As the research project draws to a close, the EstateWatch website has been developed as a resource for communities on estates facing regeneration, to know their rights and to ensure that tenants’ and residents’ choices will be respected. We want to monitor each scheme as it progresses and make space for residents to add updated information about their estate in real time. This can be a precious tool to hold Councils across London and the Mayor to account and make sure that future regeneration schemes benefit existing local communities.

Boroughs & Covid-19: update

The London Forum of Amenity & Civic Societies —members of Just Space and one of the partners in our campaign to defend democracy & participation during the pandemic— has sent this update, reporting on their survey of London Boroughs by Paul Thornton:

“Following … two Zoom meetings and the many contributions from member societies, we have consolidated the current state of play and our recommendations on best practice in an interim report available on the London Forum website via this link.

In general, the picture is better than we might have imagined. The transfer of Planning online has gone reasonably smoothly, it has had benefits as well as drawbacks, and some of our greatest concerns (greater use of delegated powers, loss of speaking rights at Council committees etc) have either not materialised or been confined to a handful of boroughs. Continue reading

Ministry defensive on virtual meetings

8 May: The Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government (the ministry responsible for the planning system in England) has responded to the letter from Just Space and a number of bigger and national networks in which we had defended transparent and democratic features of the planning system and called for government action.

The ministry’s reply is mainly defensive, arguing that their priority has been to keep the planning system functioning and to give local authorities the flexibility to innovate in how they do that. [The implication seems to be that it’s up to the council how they proceed; complain to them if you are unhappy.] Continue reading