Doesn’t time fly! It is over a year since my last Ponderings and it is useful to look back and see how things have changed over that period. When I last reported in August 2020 we were on the dawn of a new era, with planning reform promising to make the system “more efficient, effective and equitable” and heralded by the Prime Minister saying “So let’s do better. Let’s make the system work for all of us. And let’s take big, bold steps so that we in this country can finally build the homes we all need and the future we all want to see.” Well, that didn’t last long did it! Robert Jenrick, the then Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government is no longer in post, being replaced by Michael Gove as the newly named Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and the Prime Minister has now pronounced in his Conference Speech “Build back beaver and though the beavers may sometimes build without local authority permission you can also see how much room there is to build the homes that young families need in this country not on green fields not just jammed in the south east but beautiful homes on brownfield sites in places where homes make sense.” Well that will be interesting to see where all of the brownfield land is going to come from to build the 300,000 houses a year that the government say are needed.
Needless to say, the promised planning reform is now under review and will presumably have to be watered down to appease some of the Tory Heartland constituencies. But has much actually changed in the last year? The planning process remains frustrating slow. It is often difficult to speak directly to planning officers to discuss proposals, with some authorities abandoning pre-application enquiries because of resource issues. The process of decision making is also dependent upon the speed and quality of the consultation process which also seems to be suffering post-Covid complications. All in all, it remains as challenging, if not more challenging, to navigate the planning system as it always has. Some sites can be more challenging than others to develop, such as brownfield sites and this suggests to me that there will still be a role for greenfield development if we are to deliver the development that is needed to recover the economy.
The inertia of the planning system, in turn has implications for the delivery of consented sites and this is something which has conversely ensured that the market for consented land has remained strong throughout the last year, with a relative dearth of good quality development sites coming forward. House builders and developers keen to secure a pipeline of projects for the coming years are competing strongly for the best opportunities. Bletsoes has recently successfully sold a 7.88 acre site consented for up to 50 residential dwellings in Roxton, Bedfordshire, with price and competition both exceeding expectations. Contracts were exchanged in a timely manner ahead of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, amid concerns of possible changes to Capital Taxation. There is also evidence of speculative demand for land with future development potential and Bletsoes have been involved in a number of privately negotiated deals, which have enabled clients to achieve aspirations which would otherwise have been inconceivable.
There is clearly potential for turbulence in the near future, and concerns that the type of deals that are being achieved at present may be short lived, but for the time being, and despite the unseasonal analogy, it is a case of make hay whilst the sun shines, and look for opportunities when they arise. Do not hesitate to get in touch with the Planning and Development Team here at Bletsoes, if you would like us to appraise the opportunities on your farm and associated with property you own.
Andrew Middleditch - Planning & Development
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