Category Archives: Latest News

Miliband Promises 200,000 New Homes

Labour leader Ed Miliband is to set up a commission to review his party’s housing policy under the chairmanship of former BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons.

Speaking at yesterday’s party conference, Miliband also pledged that his party will build 200,000 new homes a year by 2020 if it comes to power.

He said that sites of new towns and garden cities would be identified, and that developers who sat on land would be told to use it or lose it.

Miliband told delegates: “There are nine million people in this country renting a home, many of whom would want to buy.

“We don’t just have a cost of living crisis, we have a housing crisis too.

“We will say to private developers – you can’t just sit on land and refuse to build. Either use the land or lose the land.”

Miliband also hinted at new planning powers. He said: “We’ll say to local authorities that they have a right to grow and that neighbouring authorities can’t just stop them. We’ll identify new towns and garden cities.

“We will have a clear aim that by the end of the parliament Britain will be building 200,000 homes a year, more than at any time in a generation.”

John Cridland, leader of business organisation the CBI, said that Labour’s plans revealed great ambition but said Miliband should not have criticised developers.

He said: “We have fallen woefully behind on house building and the commitment to 200,000 homes a year is a great ambition. To achieve this, we need house builders on board, not criticised for holding on to land when it’s not viable to build on it.”

A spokesperson for the Home Builders Federation said developers did not unnecessarily hoard land.

The Town and Country Planning Association welcomed the proposal for a new generation of garden cities such as Welwyn and Letchworth. She said the ideals that inspired them were relevant today, and that they created new jobs and sustainable lifestyles.

Chief executive Kate Henderson said: “The garden cities were fired by a sense of idealism and enthusiasm with numerous voluntary organisations.”

Rising Exports Brighten Outlook For UK Economy

The UK’s trade deficit contracted in June to stand at £1.5billion, compared to £2.6billion in May, according to data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

A spokesperson for the Centre for Economics and Business Research said: “An £8.1billion deficit in goods was largely offset by a £6.5billion surplus in services. Exports grew by 3.2% over the month, while imports increased by just 0.6%.

“While month-on-month changes in trade can be very erratic, this improvement appears to be slightly more solid, with exports 4.3% higher over the entirety of Q2 2013 compared to the same quarter a year earlier.

“The growth in exports was mostly driven by increased trade with  non-EU countries – not surprising given the ongoing weakness in the euro zone, but nonetheless a positive sign that UK companies are successfully seeking customers further afield. The UK’s exports to China were 20.6% higher in Q2 2013 than a year earlier.

“Exports of goods reached a record high of £78.4billion in Q2 as the UK production sector began to regain some of its strength. Exports of goods were up 6.4% in Q2 compared to a year earlier, despite a 3.0% fall in oil exports and saw their fastest real growth in over two years.

“Following concerns earlier in the year that the UK’s recovery was overly-reliant on the service sector, improvements in production industries are welcome news. Industrial production data, released on Tuesday, showed that production rose by 1.1% between May and June – the first  positive monthly growth  in the sector since February.

“The expansion was led by manufacturing, which grew by 1.9% month-on-month. Promisingly, output in the sector rose month-on-month, quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year for the first time since September 2010. Manufacturing of transport equipment has seen particularly strong growth, as new models, strong sales and exports boosted the automobile sector.

“Rising export growth and stronger manufacturing output spell good news for the UK economy. While we expect growth of at least 1.0% this year, with more government cuts on the horizon and households still facing slow wage growth, there is a limit to the support domestic demand can provide to the economy. A sustained improvement in exports would put UK growth on a surer footing moving forwards; however, there is still a way to go to achieve a trade-led recovery.”

Empty Shops To Become Homes

Empty shops are set to be turned into homes under permitted development rights and without the need for planning permission.

The Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government is proposing that a shop of up to 150 square metres can be turned into a single house or up to four flats.

Local authorities would have only limited powers to reject conversion plans. Developers would have to apply to councils for prior approval before they went ahead with conversions.

Councils would be permitted to reject the application on the grounds of loss of economic health to town centres, loss of essential local services such as post offices, and the “potential impact of the change of use on the local character of the area”.

However, the Secretary of State would have the power to overturn refusals if local authorities use them unreasonably.

The CLG consultation, which will run until October 15, is intended to make it easier to bring empty shops back to life by giving them new use. It follows a similar move to allow unoccupied offices to be turned into homes.

The shops-to-homes changes will come into force next April.

Planning minister Nick Boles said: “Thousands of empty and under-used buildings, often on the edge of town centres, are going to waste because people do not want the hassle and uncertainty of submitting a planning application.

“Removing this barrier will bring more people closer to their town centres, providing a much-needed boost to local shops and ensuring we make the most of buildings that are already there for new homes.”

The consultation also recommends allowing the conversion of redundant barns into up to three homes, again without planning permission. This is intended to address the need for rural housing.

Wind Farm Locations & Property Values

The advertising watchdog has ruled that campaigners cannot claim house prices will fall if a wind farm is built nearby.

The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that the claim – which the protesters said was based on the views of local estate agents who said house prices could fall by up to 40% – must not be repeated.

However, the views of the agents were only oral. None of the agents wanted to put anything in writing, apparently for fear of talking the market down.

The Stop Grange Wind Farm in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, put out a leaflet, making various claims including one that “home values will fall”.

The owner of the wind farm site complained that this was misleading and could not be substantiated.

The Stop Grange Wind Farm group argued hard for their claim.

They said that in preparing the leaflet, they had canvassed opinions from a number of local agents: all thought the proposed wind farm would have a negative effect and send local property prices down by between 10% and 40%.

However, while the agents were willing to give their views orally, they were unwilling to do so in writing.

The campaigners said the agents did not want to be seen to be talking the market down. Nor did they want to endanger any possible relationship with wind developers and other corporate entities who were potential clients.

However, the group did provide a copy of a letter from a local estate agent to the seller of a property which stated that a potential buyer had pulled out due to the proposed wind farm development.

They also provided copies of written comments from a partner of a local estate agent and a partner of a local chartered surveyor in response to a Wiltshire County Council consultation on wind farms. Both said property values would suffer.

They also provided a copy of a local newspaper article which quoted an estate agent in Devon regarding a local proposal for a wind development.

The protesters said it was self-evident that house prices were affected by proximity to large industrial-scale wind turbines. They said that at the very least it was likely to be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations on a property. They felt it was obvious that people would not choose to purchase a property near to a wind farm development because of issues with flickering, background noise and aesthetics.

They also provided copies of various press articles which referred to a ruling by the Valuation Office Agency which accepted that, for council tax purposes, wind turbines built near homes could decrease their value and that the VOA had moved such properties into a lower council tax band.

However, the ASA said that the claim “house prices will fall” needed robust documentary evidence in support. It did not consider it self-evident that property prices would be affected.

In relation to the letter from the local estate agent to the seller, the ASA said the letter did not state that the property had reduced in value. It stated that the potential buyer had withdrawn due to the wind farm proposal. The ASA said this was not sufficient substantiation for claims about house prices in the local area being reduced due to the proposed development.

The ASA also considered that the comments from the local estate agent and chartered surveyor were the subjective opinions of two individuals.

The ASA ruled that the claim breached advertising rules and has banned the leaflet.