Written by rosalind renshaw

A resurgence in estate agents’ land and new homes businesses could be on the cards following the Government’s long-awaited National Planning Policy Framework.

While there will be no overnight revolution, its publication begins to put an end to the planning vacuum that has existed since the Coalition took office and announced it would be abolishing top-down national house-building targets.

The biggest single change is one of philosophy, with local councils told to ‘enable’ development rather than simply ‘manage’ it.

The document makes it clear that local communities will be responsible for their own planning, and that they should look to redevelop brownfield sites before looking at any green fields.

There is also emphasis on redeveloping existing town centres rather than out-of-town schemes.

Local councils without local plans (now called core strategies) in place will be prompted to get on and produce them within 12 months.

In future, planning applications which are in general agreement with core strategies will be approved in an easier, quicker and cheaper process.

But the NPPF has not met with an unqualified welcome, with some commentators apparently disappointed in its underlying aim to protect the countryside.

Adam Challis, head of research at Hamptons, said: “It is about time that we get real about housing need. Greenfield development must form part of the development land mix in order to meet housing delivery targets.”

The RICS seemed uncertain as to whether the NPPF was much of a help or not.

Jeremy Blackburn, head of UK policy, said: “RICS supports the Government’s vision of reforming the guidance to the planning system. However, we would also like to see the Government address the serious problems currently affecting the UK housing market, such as the lack of affordable mortgage and development finance.

“Reforming the planning system in isolation will not deliver the 100,000 extra homes required each year or the jobs needed to breathe life back into the UK’s anaemic housing market.
“However, the NPPF provides a robust framework alongside existing national policy statements and we are optimistic that sustainable development can be delivered. The time has come to stop talking and start delivering the development and growth UK Plc so badly needs.”

Steve Lees, director at the website SmartNewHomes, had no such criticisms. He said: “The NPPF lays the foundations for a house-building and economic recovery, unravelling the complex planning law which has resulted in a shortage of homes alongside population growth.

“Developers only build in areas where there is a demand for new homes, creating jobs, improving local infrastructure and helping to generate increased local investment which in turn boosts local house prices.

“The Government is right to prioritise the development of brownfield land and house builders are well versed in creating sustainable developments out of these sites, as they have done for many years, with 75% of new home schemes already being built on previously developed land. If 250,000 homes were built every year for 25 years, only 1% of England’s land mass would be used.

“Savvy local authorities will continue to seek opportunities to identify disused sites for development, generating income for local people through the New Homes Bonus.”


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    Ray, did you ever get a Tesco in Sherringham??

    • 29 March 2012 13:49 PM
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    The Government should set up toe rag free zones. The free market can only do so much.

    Alternatively, designate a 'Wayne & Waynetta Free State' and build a big wall round it and we are sorted.

    • 28 March 2012 19:22 PM
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    In his book, 'Who Owns Britain' (2001), Kevin Cahill takes a long, hard look at UK land ownership. His findings surprised many: the Royal Family for instance owns UK land equivalent to an average-sized county. Just six thousand people own two-thirds of the entire supply of UK land - forty million of the sixty million acres of UK land are owned by a clique comprised of the Crown, aristocrats and a few institutions.

    Or, put another way, 70% of UK land is owned by 1% of the population. Some might say the extent of the concentration of UK land ownership is feudal-like, or at least unhealthy in a progressive, modern, liberal democracy with a dense and rapidly expanding population.

    Cahill then goes on to put in context these figures on the degree to which owning UK land is a privilege. The British population - circa 60 million - is housed in 24 million dwellings, which sit on just 4.4 million acres (which is equal to 7.7% of the UK land supply). Justunder 4/5ths of these 60 million residents live on 3.5 million acres, or 5.8% of the total supply of UK land. It is also surprising many that only 8% of UK land has been developed. That of course is not to say that the UK has 92% capacity for new homes: a large proportion of UK land is undevelopable due to the prevailing local environment.

    What does all this mean then for anyone considering investing in land? It is not by any means difficult to buy land, but there is not, relatively speaking, that much UK land available (as the bulk of it tends to remain with one owner rather than being actively traded). Certainly there has been a rise in the availability of land for sale as investment land in recent years, so the choice for the investor buying land has widened. But land investment remains a minority sport, from which a few reap spectacular rewards.

    Please, please rich people, give the population some land to live on, please! There is more of us than there used to be and less of you than once was.

    • 28 March 2012 16:11 PM
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    "They should look to redevelop brownfield sites before looking at any green fields. There is also emphasis on redeveloping existing town centres rather than out-of-town schemes".

    In other words... no new land.

    The Norman conquest of England in 1066 saw all land taken under the ownership of the monarchy. To this day the monarchy - in theory at least - owns all the land. The Normans changed the ownership of land with the King giving land as tribute to Norman lords and barons and depriving the Saxons. The Domesday book was the first audit of land. And the resulting system of feudalism exacted free labour, goods and produce and free military service to the land-owning classes for the rest of the middle ages.

    The Diggers sought to challenge the ‘Norman Yoake’ and return the land to common people. As one Diggers’ pamphlet proclaimed ‘Seeing that the common people of England by joint consent of person and purse have caste out Charles our Norman oppressor, we have by this victory recovered ourselves from under this Norman yoake…and the land is to be held no longer from the use of them [the commoners]’ Their attempts to build communal farms were persecuted by local landowners and the Diggers were dispersed. The Diggers obtained nothing from the new Republic which eagerly sold off Church and Royalist land – the spoils of war – to its own loyal aristocrats. The redistribution of land was so enormous that Charles II under the Restoration could not undo the redefined status quo.

    In the 1870s a political argument took place on the question of land ownership between the radical liberal John Bright and the conservative aristocrat Lord Derby. Bright had argued that very few – about 150 aristocrats - owned half of England and that this group used the Corn Laws to stop the importation of cheaper corn. For Bright this amounted to a subsidy to this class. Lord Derby -himself a very large landowner -claimed that land ownership was much more widespread and consequently Bright was wrong. The result was an enquiry into land ownership.

    In 1872 the British Government published The Return of the Owners of Land, which is only the second audit of land to have taken place in British history, the other being the Domesday book in 1086. After 2 years of gathering all the information the returns found that 1 million people owned freeholds, about 5% of the population. The ten leading Dukes in the Kingdom owned over 100,000 acres each with the Duke of Sutherland owning 1,350,000 acres. The Duke of Northumberland owned 186,000 acres then and still owns 132,000 acres. Both sides claimed victory, and the land-owning class realised that they had given up too much information about their assets and wealth.

    Since 1872 there has not been an audit of the land and the state effectively screen landowners from any enquiry into their activities, and their colossal wealth. The Royal Commission into the wealth of Britain set up by the Labour government just before Thatcher hoped to examine land ownership but found a paucity of information on the question. Thatcher abolished the commission on coming to power. None of the major political parties in the UK has any policy to redistribute land, with one exception; the Green Party.

    This situation is indicative of the cosy relationship that those whose arses grace the seats in the Palaces of Westminster have with the land-owning elite. On the other hand the Green Party believes that: ‘Land, the primary source of all real wealth, is the common heritage. We acknowledge that land is held in trust by human society on behalf of other species and future generations, and that land should not be treated as a capital investment nor traded for speculative profit.’ One only hopes that Jonathan Porritt CBE; Charles Windsor’s environmental advisor inculcates this advice into the prince’s ear!

    • 28 March 2012 15:45 PM
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    Just as the councils do with Tesco and the like.
    ALL large companies are "in bed" with the politicians
    (or is it the other way round?)
    Democracy? Localism? Consultation?
    Rubbish - money talks!

    • 28 March 2012 12:24 PM
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    There are 60 million acres of land in Britain, and 60 million people !

    70% of UK is owned by 1 % of the population.

    90% of the people live on less than 10% of the land.

    Modern homes are 1 third smaller than those belonging to our parents.
    The pattern of Britain's land ownership. (rounded up - approximate figures)

    · 10%: Home Owners, Joe publics stake in great Britain inc.

    · 15%: Private landowners, everything from golf courses, stud farms and celebrity new rich land.

    · 20%: Farmland, a figure made up of some 250.000 small farms.

    · 30%: Aristocrats, nearly a third of Britain in the hands of the toffs.

    · 1%: Church, its not the land owning power that it was.

    · 1%: Crown, all land owned by or on behalf of the royals.

    · 3%: Heritage, including the National Trust 800.000 acres and RSPB 300.000 acres.( The fastest growing

    · 4%: Commercial Institutions, (mainly urban land) owned by pension funds, among others.

    · 6%: State, the MoD (600.000 acres) and largest, the Forestry Commission with 2.5 million acres.

    · 10%: Infrastructure, Eg: roads, parks , playing fields etc.

    In the beginning of the 21st century 90% of the people own less than 10% of the land, and a hand full of aristocrats and landed gentry own 30%. This is a hugely unequal distribution.

    The vast majority of British people, the homeowners, (100 years ago 1 in 10 people owned their own home, now its 7 in 10 of people) are being crammed closer and closer together as building land gets scarcer and more expensive.

    Government demands an average of 14 homes per acre, and the average family home is a third of an acre.

    90% of the people living on less than 10% of the land.

    Ours is a country that has no history of land reform, no revolution to upset the size of estates that go back as far as William the Conqueror. Half of all land in England and Wales is unregistered, this is land passed on through generations of aristos, and no-one officially knows who owns it, the last time most of the land was fully registered was in 1872.

    In 1872 old aristocratic families owned half of the land in Britain now , it seems they own around a third of the
    land. Land ownership affords them political and economic power and social status.

    Some of the historic land owners like the church and the crown own much less than you might think, the Church who possessed 20% of the land 1000 years ago, has less than 1 % now, selling off land for more than a century to pay its costs.

    Governments now regard the huge estates, and popular institutions like the National Trust and the Forestry Commission as the best way to preserve our countryside. That’s why many of the big landlords get tax breaks and subsidies if they open their land to the public.

    We the Taxpayers, are financing this conservation .

    • 28 March 2012 12:21 PM
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    The new planning system hands over housebuilding even more to the large housebuilders, because councils now have huge incentives to do block-deals with them, whilst restricting sites for small developers, builders and self-builders: in Wokingham borough, for example, the Core Strategy pushes the vast majority of new housing to 2026 onto four huge sites, whilst simultaneously making it near-impossible for developers to bring forward small sites or for self-builders to find backfill garden sites.

    The argument goes: the council has already identified five years' land supply on its four big sites, together with large bonuses of free S106/CIL infrastructure and free affordable homes amounting to 35-40% of each site. Therefore no more homes are needed, and the Council can make itself popular with the general public by blocking almost all "garden grabbing" until 2026, using the local plan as its iron-clad justification. As a small developer, the new rules leave me in despair: far from being a developers' charter, the NPPF allows councils to completely control where housing goes, and encourages them to sew everything up in advance by doing deals with the large landowners and housebuilders. Local builders and homeowners are going to be restricted merely to doing extensions; self-builders will be forced to look at remote areas because the popular areas are already controlled by the big firms.

    • 28 March 2012 11:12 AM