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Dudley Council to build homes for outright sale for first time in decades

Council bosses are set to welcome a multi-million pound investment scheme, which will see Dudley Council build homes for outright sale for the first time in decades.

The homes for sale project will see the council invest £9.7 million to build 59 homes for sale on the open market and 20 affordable homes in the borough.

The properties will be developed on four plots – the site of the Mere Centre in Stourbridge, Amblecote House in Brettell Lane, Turner House in Dudley and St Thomas’ Network in Dudley.

The expected return on investment will be ploughed into boosting the council’s resources to improve and support council services. The scheme will be discussed at Dudley Council’s cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Councillor Laura Taylor, cabinet member for housing, said: “This is a major decision for Dudley. It’s the first time in decades the authority is able to pursue a project to build homes for outright sale at market value, alongside our ongoing project to build new affordable council homes.

“We’re confident we can deliver the homes that people want at affordable prices. This is an exciting time for us and any return on our investment will be used to support future housing investment as well as boosting general fund reserves to continue to improve council services for all of our residents.”

The council has also vowed a “brownfield first” approach to protect the borough’s green belt, while plans to identify key employment and housing gather pace.

The Black Country Core Strategy is also set to be discussed by cabinet members next week, outlining the next stages of the study – which includes working with neighbouring councils to identify land within the existing urban area with the potential for development. Council chiefs have vowed to “leave no stone unturned” in identifying brownfield sites to develop housing and business.

Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley added: “Critically, we need to do everything we can to protect the greenbelt in Dudley borough. That is why I have made it very clear that we need to leave no stone unturned in making sure we look at every aspect of brownfield sites.

“Our brownfield first approach will not only make sure that Dudley plays a big part in shaping the future of housing and the growth of businesses in the Black Country, but at the same time we make sure we do everything we can to protect as much of the borough’s greenspaces as far as we possibly can.”

Once adopted, the Black Country Core Strategy will outline where new homes and businesses should be built in the four boroughs through to 2036.

Source: Express and Star

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New Shrewsbury housing development could be on the way

Outline plans to build a housing development on land in Shrewsbury have been submitted.

Saxonby Homes has applied to Shropshire Council planners for outline permission to build 36 homes on land opposite Ellesmere Drive in Greenfields.

A design access statement prepared by Berry’s on behalf of Saxonby Homes said: “The site is located within an established residential area and within comfortable walking distance of Shrewsbury town centre and all of its associated facilities, services and employment opportunities.

“Future residents of the proposed development will therefore have ease of access to the full range of services and facilities.

“The site currently benefits from a vehicular access onto Ellesmere Road, where traffic is limited to 30mph. Nonetheless, it is proposed that the development will be served by a new access off Ellesmere Road. The scheme will provide 10 per cent affordable housing provision.

“The development site also benefits from a large pond on its western side and this may be utilised within the proposed development, providing an opportunity for valuable amenity space for residents.

“The locality within which the proposed development is sited is the Greenfields area of Shrewsbury. Primarily a residential area of older historic development of terraced dwellings built in the late 1800s-early 1900s and more modern dwellings at a lower density built in the mid to late 1900s.”

There has been a substantial amount of development in the area with a new housing development of 147 homes abutting the site.

Source: Shropshire Star

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Hundreds of new homes to be built as Ironbridge Power Station site sold

UK regeneration company Harworth Group is planning a mixed-use development of several hundred new homes on the site alongside commercial development, leisure uses and significant public open space.

Harworth has bought the 350-acre site for an undisclosed price, taking formal ownership of the land today.

Power station operator Uniper began the site sales process in February 2017 and completed its sale following a shortlisting process.

The Ironbridge, or Buildwas, power station was closed in November 2015, and early last year the site was put up for sale.

Adam Archer, Uniper Head of Land Management International, said “We’re delighted to have found a purchaser for the former Ironbridge power station land.

“There has understandably been great interest in what will happen to the site, and we are sure the new owners will be sharing details of their exciting plans in due course.”

Plans for the demolition of the decommissioned power station plant were submitted to Shropshire Council in autumn 2017 and subject to the appropriate approvals, Harworth Group will be taking on the responsibility for both the demolition and for the site’s sustainable redevelopment.

New owners speak about plans

Owen Michaelson, Chief Executive Officer of Harworth Group, said: “The redevelopment of Ironbridge Power Station requires an experienced regeneration company to sensitively handle the project. We have proved with our major developments of former coal mines and other industrial sites across the North of England and the Midlands that we have the core skills required to effectively redevelop complex sites. We look forward to doing the same at Ironbridge.

“The Midlands market remains a key priority for the business as we continue to expand our presence in the region. With the continued undersupply of new homes and commercial space, there is good demand from housebuilders and commercial occupiers alike. This acquisition forms part of our ongoing strategy to become the UK’s leading regeneration company.”

The site comprises around 240 acres of brownfield land and a neighbouring parcel of over 100 acres of agricultural land. Harworth says it will remediate the site ready for future development and promote the site through the planning process, targeting the delivery of a new mixed-use development of several hundred new homes alongside commercial development, leisure uses and significant public open space.

Construction of the original coal-fired Ironbridge A station began in the 1920s, with commercial operations of the first phase of development starting in 1932. Ironbridge B coal power station, with a generating capacity of 1000MW, was commissioned in 1970. Ironbridge A and B co-existed until the demolition of A in 1982/3.

 Ironbridge B finally closed on 20 November 2015 in order to comply with the Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD). Prior to this, in 2013, the power plant was converted to fire wood pellet fuel for the remaining LCPD hours, whilst retaining the ability to co-fire coal at a maximum level of around 20% electrical output.

Listed on the main market, Harworth Group plc (LSE: HWG) is a land regeneration and property investment specialist which owns, develops and manages a portfolio of approximately 21,000 acres of land on 136 sites throughout the Midlands and North of England. The company specialises in the regeneration of former coalfield sites and other brownfield land into employment areas, new residential developments and low carbon energy projects.

Local councillor reacts

Nicola Lowery, borough councillor for the Ironbridge Gorge said: “Harworth Group plc have a strong track record in the regeneration of industrial sites, are highly experienced in bringing life to brownfield sites and are very much at the forefront of regeneration in the UK.

“The future of the former Ironbridge Power Station and the opportunities that it presents for economic growth are significant and Harworth Group have experience on similar sites such as Waverley in Rotherham.

“Harworth have been responsible for remediating some of the most complex brownfield sites in the UK and the next steps will be to look at the demolition as well as embarking on creating a vision and masterplanning for this unique site.

“The initial discussions with Harworth have been encouraging and I along with neighbouring councillors will be meeting with the new buyer in the coming weeks to ensure we establish an open and constructive dialogue at the earliest opportunity.

“I maintain my preference for a mixed-use development and an inclusive approach to public consultation to ensure our local communities are aware of the key information relating to the demolition and are given the opportunity to contribute to the future of the power station, which I know is of great interest to residents.

“The former power station sits on the doorstep of one of our most important historical assets and it is important we make use of this once in a lifetime opportunity to realise the national economic potential of this strategic and important site. I look forward to working closely with Harworth Group over the forthcoming months to ensure we achieve an iconic regeneration project for our region.”

Source: Shropshire Star

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Low-risk investment in social housing

There is a very interesting article by James Johnsen published on the civil society website which gives a great insight into investment in social housing and how it may fit into the future property market. This is an area of the market which is often dismissed as a low margin but the fact that these assets are backed by housing associations/local authorities, with rents guaranteed, offers an interesting opportunity.

HOUSING SHORTAGE

It is common knowledge that the UK has a rising population and a new build housing deficit in the region of 200,000 units per year. This should come as no surprise when you learn that in 2009 the UK government, under Gordon Brown, injected £11.4 billion into the cost of building new homes in the UK. Fast forward to 2015 and under David Cameron’s coalition government this investment had fallen to £5.3 billion. There is an argument to suggest we are not comparing like for like because of the change in economic environment but it does give an example of the reduced investment in the new build housing sector. To perhaps put this into better perspective, this has fallen from 0.7% of GDP to 0.2%.

REDUCED INVESTMENT AND INCREASED HOUSING BENEFIT

One thing very striking about this particular subject is the fact that over the last 20 years, up to the 2015/16 tax year, housing benefit payments in the UK have increased by 50% having reached £25.1 billion. When you compare the reduced investment in new builds against the increase in housing benefit it becomes obvious that there would have been better returns, both financially and socially in the long term, at least sustaining new build financial support. We are now in a situation where rents continue to rise, the cost of property is often out of the reach of new buyers and so demand for rental property continues. A stereotypical vicious circle!

LAND BANKING

Despite political “pressure” we have yet to see any real meaningful regulations introduced with regards to underutilised land banks. There has been talk of additional taxes, compulsory purchases and other “solutions” but so far nothing has been written in stone. We know that the U.K.’s largest housebuilding companies own significant land banks. These non-income producing assets are an investment for the future so perhaps it is a little unfair to criticise companies who plan for the future and build up their land banks? Or should there be more of a balance?

INVESTING IN SOCIAL HOUSING

Over the last couple of years we have seen a number of social housing real estate investment trusts raising money on the stock market. They have been acquiring assets where rent is guaranteed by the local authority and linked to inflation. This ensures that the vast majority of social housing in the UK, now standing at around 4.1 million units, is affordable with a mix of tenant/government assistance. In theory these property should not be at the beck and call of the often volatile private rental market and therefore offer a relatively low-risk long-term income stream.

While the philosophy of ethical investment is perhaps not as strong today as it was 20 years ago, the ability to lock in long-term low-risk rental income streams and offer some assistance to the U.K.’s housing market troubles does have its attractions.

Source: Property Forum

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19,000 new homes needed for Dorset

Massive housing growth – but a failure to meet affordable home targets are outlined in a review of the Local Plan which will guide development in Weymouth, Portland and West Dorset until 2036.

The plan review, being put to councillors next week, says there will also be a need to find up to 15,000 new jobs in the area.

If the housing targets are achieved it could mean having to build almost 800 homes a year with one projection putting the global figure for the area at more than 19,000 new homes by the end of the plan period.

To achieve the target a new extension to Dorchester could be build to the north, beyond the water meadows, with more homes in neighbouring Charminster. There would also be large scale developments around Littlemoor and in Weymouth at Southill and Markham and Little Francis.

Bridport and Crossways would also have to help meet the development target with several sites identified around both towns, together with others around Chickerell and Sherborne.

District and borough councillors are being told that without the revised plan and a five-year supply of housing land, which the area is currently short of, it becomes increasingly difficult to reject speculative housing developments.

There is also an admission that not enough affordable homes are likely to be built: “The total projected need for affordable housing is not expected to be met in the plan review,” admits the report authors.

The document will be first discussed by West Dorset district councillors next Tuesday, June 12th.

A ‘preferred options’ document will be published for public consultation in mid August, with a consultation period lasting for eight weeks, concluding in October. A series of public exhibitions will also be held as part of the consultation exercise.

The document says that with a high percentage of the area enjoying legal protection from development and with good quality farming land needed for food production the scope for finding suitable building sites can be challenging.

Yet the area suffers from one of the highest differences in the country between average wages and average house price, pricing even families on better than average local wages, out of the market.

In September 2017 there were more than 3,000 people on the housing register – shared almost equally between Weymouth and Portland and West Dorset.

In a ‘vision’ statement the report says: “In 20 years time, we want to be proud of the area in which we live. We want more and better paid jobs, more affordable homes, improved access to public transport and a network of community facilities that enable all ages and abilities to contribute to their community enabling a real sense of belonging and engagement.

“We wish to see significant investment and regeneration providing infrastructure to encourage businesses across the area to start and grow.”

Source: WessexFM

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Council confirms record number of affordable homes

A RECORD number of affordable homes were built in Stratford-on-Avon district last year, the district council has confirmed.

The final figure was 377 homes for rent or shared ownership through housing associations, eclipsing the previous highest amount of 288 in 2015/16.

Schemes completed last year were in Alcester, Alderminster, Bidford-on-Avon, Broom, Gaydon, Harbury, Long Itchington, Lower Quinton, Meon Vale, Napton, Newbold-on-Stour, Salford Priors, Shipston-on-Stour, Southam, Stockton, Stratford-upon-Avon and Wellesbourne.

It comes amid changes to national planning policy that aims to close loopholes that are currently allowing developers to wriggle out of affordable homes requirements.

Council leader, Tony Jefferson, said: “Last year’s record achievement is a reflection of the district council’s long-standing commitment to providing more affordable homes for local people and our local communities.

“Our district is a great place in which to live and work, but, sadly, the reality for many people is that they’re priced out of the local housing market: to the detriment of our local economy and our local communities.

“To tackle this, the district council has been working hard with its partners over many years to get the homes we desperately need built and last year’s figure is also a reflection of the good working relationships we’ve built with our partners.

“Despite a substantial reduction in funding available at national level, as well as other changes, the fact that we were able not only increase the overall number of new homes built last year but also maintain their quality is of great importance to the district council.”

Cllr Daren Pemberton, the council’s cabinet member with responsibility for affordable homes, added: “Building new affordable homes aren’t just about numbers, it’s also about ensuring the right type of homes are built in the right places and that they are of good quality and genuinely affordable to those that need them.

“Not only that, but also ensuring we get the support of our local communities that host those new homes. All this has been a challenge, but – as last year’s results clearly show – we can deliver.”

The Herald reported in March how the council had estimated that 340 will be built over the coming year, but warned that other changes to government funding policies could increase demand for low-cost properties, predicting the 2019/20 figure could be as low as 100.

Source: Stratford Herald