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Number of farming building conversions falls 20 percent in a year

The number of conversions of farm buildings into new homes dropped 20% in the last year, denting hopes that these conversions could help solve the rural housing crisis.

According to Lendy, one of Europe’s largest peer-to-peer lending platforms, only 1,511 agricultural-to-residential conversion applications were approved in 2016/17.

This figure is down from 1,890 in 2015/16. Lendy adds that local authorities rejected 38% of all applications for converting farm buildings to houses last year.

It says converting outbuildings such as barns and stables into housing can be an “effective” way of combating the UK’s housing shortage, which is being felt “just as badly” in the countryside as it is in cities.

For example, a recent development of eight new houses in rural Cornwall had over 800 people apply to rent, demonstrating the demand for more rural housing.

As well as making unused buildings available for new housing, selling surplus outbuildings to convert can provide farmers with a vital source of additional income, according to Lendy.

‘Bank lending’

Lendy adds that in addition to the fall in applications and high number of refusals, another issue for developers is that bank lending to property developers remains low.

It says many developers can “struggle” to finance conversion projects through traditional means.

Bank of England figures show that in December 2013, over £34 billion in lending was outstanding from banks to property developers, but this plunged to just £14.8 billion in December 2017.

As a result, more and more developers are turning to alternative forms of finance, such as peer-to-peer lenders, to build more homes.

Liam Brooke, Co-Founder of Lendy, says: “Converting farm buildings is one of the easiest ways to help solve the rural housing shortage, so this sharp drop-off in approvals is very disappointing.

“Agricultural-to-residential conversions can be a win-win for everyone –farmers can unlock capital from their land and more homes get built for prospective buyers – helping to close the housing gap.

“It doesn’t make sense to have so many redundant outbuildings that have no aesthetic value at all slowly decaying when they could be turned into homes.”

Source: Farming UK

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Home ownership and property development delays

At a time when UK home ownership is under severe pressure it may surprise many to learn that there are 420,000 properties with planning permission which have yet to be built. This is a 16% increase from the previous year and begs the question, if demand is there, why are property developers not building homes?


A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found an alarming fall in the number of young middle income adults who owned their home in 2016. Overall it is fallen from two thirds in the 1990s down to just 25% in 2016. We also know that house prices over the last 20 years have increased seven times faster than the average income of the middle 20% of households in the UK (with after-tax income of between £22,200 and £30,600).

In a perfect example of the problems facing the UK housing market we also know that just 25% of those born in the late 80s owned their own home by the age of 27. This compares to 33% for those born five years earlier and 43% for those born in the 1970s. We have seen falls of more than 10% in home ownership in every area/nation of the UK, since the 1990s, with the south-east hit particularly hard, falling from 64% homeownership down to just 32%. The simple fact is that relative incomes are much lower relative to house prices and this situation is unlikely to change in the short to medium term.


A report by the Local Government Association has cast a very disturbing light on the property market and especially those homes which have been granted planning permission. As we touched on above, there are now 420,000 properties in the UK which have planning permission but have yet to be built. This is a 16% increase from last year and when you bear in mind the UK is falling short each year to the tune of around 50,000 newbuilds, surely this is a problem which can be addressed fairly quickly?

There is some debate as to why homes with planning permission have yet to be built and while the official statistics show that it takes on average 40 months from planning permission to completion, 8 months longer than 2013/14 this is not the whole picture. We know for a fact that building regulations have tightened over the years, developers may have outline planning permission for certain properties but when it comes to the detail it can prove excruciatingly slow where the local authorities are involved. However, it would seem that ministers have something of a radical proposal in mind!


There is some debate as to whether the introduction of a “use it or lose it” rule for property development might focus the minds of developers. The idea is that property with planning permission would need to be completed within a predetermined time scale otherwise planning permission would be withdrawn. It is unclear at this moment in time but there may also be some kind of penalty under the proposed regulations when reapplying for planning permission which had lapsed.

Over the years we know that property developers up and down the country have land banked sites as a means of securing their long-term future projects. The idea that they should be forced to build properties on these land banks within a predetermined period of time is controversial. Where will this all end? Would it attack the integrity of the free market? There are many questions to be answered but forcing developers to build properties may curry favour with the public but could decimate the UK investment market.

Source: Property Forum

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Plans submitted to build more than 130 homes at Brandon Stadium

Plans been submitted to Rugby Borough Council by the owners of Brandon Stadium to build houses on the mothballed speedway site.

The application by Brandon Estates was submitted on Friday January 26 and although the detail has not been revealed as yet it is believed to be for 137 homes, in line with a proposal put forward in October last year.

The stadium, former home to the Coventry Bees speedway team and CoventryStox stock car racing operation, has remained derelict since a long-running row between Brandon Estates and former Coventry Bees speedway team owner Avtar Sandhu ended with many of its fixtures and fittings being removed.

Brandon Estates reported their removal by Mr Sandhu to Warwickshire Police and a criminal investigation was launched but later dropped.

During the stand-off Mr Sandhu pledged to return the fixtures and fittings but the stalemate continued, meaning the Bees, now owned by Mick Horton, were excluded from speedway’s Elite League last season.

The Bees are set to return to competitive speedway in the forthcoming season this spring but at a lower level – and 30 miles away at Leicester.

Uncertainty over the future of the stadium continues and the Save Coventry Speedway campaign group has expressed its fears that speedway may never return to the troubled site, which has been home to top level speedway since 1928.

Brandon Estates has claimed speedway is no longer viable at the stadium and has made it clear it wishes to build new homes on the site.

But the site does not form part of Rugby Borough Council’s Local Plan and as such it is thought unlikely any application would be successful, meaning Brandon Estates might appeal a Rugby Borough Council refusal and development be the subject of a public enquiry.

David Rowe from the Save Coventry Speedway campaign group said: “The application was put in on Friday afternoon, though we can’t see it yet as it takes some time to be registered.

“As far as we know it is the same as proposals put forward in October for 137 homes.

“We are urging the council to turn it down.

“This can’t be allowed to happen.”

Mr Rowe said despite the dilapidated state of Brandon Stadium, something made worse following a number of incursions by travellers, Save Coventry Speedway had not given up hope of a return to Brandon.

He added: “It is a wearing down process but we won’t be worn down.

“We hope that if they get knocked back enough times they will get fed-up.

“The stadium is now in a terrible state because of the damage done by travellers though the speedway track is still there and good to go.

“It could be made race ready in three to four weeks and the buildings are still standing.”

Source: Coventry Telegraph

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Developers believe 19 parking spaces will be enough for 71 new flats in Tonbridge town centre

Plans to build 71 new flats with just 19 parking spaces in the centre of Tonbridge have been unveiled.

F Estates, which specialises in affordable rented property development, wants to extend the existing block at The Bank House on Medway Wharf Road.

But some residents have come out against the plans saying the “overcrowding” would “ruin” the riverside area with bedsits.

The five-storey building would incorporate 71 rented studio flats which, when added to the existing 64, would mean a total of 135 on site. The parking provision would increase from 52 to 71 spaces.

A similar scheme for 72 flats on the plot was thrown out by Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council in September on the grounds of overdevelopment.

But in a statement to the council, planning consultants Barton Willmore claimed previous concerns had been addressed.

It said: “The proposed development seeks to provide a high-quality living environment, extending the successful conversion of the existing Bank House building undertaken by the applicant.

“The proposals would provide much needed new homes – of a particular type and nature identified as being locally deficient – assisting with the council’s undersupply of five-year housing land supply.”

An artist’s impression of the rear of the site

The statement adds 40 per cent of the flats would be affordable homes let out at 80 per cent of market rate.


Despite the assurances, the plans are courting controversy locally with residents citing over-development, a lack of parking spaces and fears the building would block out neighbouring properties’ sunlight.

One objector, whose name has been redacted from planning documents but lives in nearby Cannons Wharf Road, said: “I am shocked and disappointed that the same company that wishes to build a 14-storey building down our road now wishes to double the size of an existing building and again not provide adequate parking. The additional traffic will burden a local infrastructure already under strain.

“It is unrealistic to assume that in this age of mass car ownership that the people who move into the proposed extension will either want or be able to rely on local bus services, so the question remain, where will these people park?”

Another, a serving police officer, feared the development could “ruin” life for existing residents, adding: “I object to this quite simply due to overcrowding. I work as a police officer in the Met and often see how disruptive a block of flats of this scale in an already busy area can be, often ruining many residents’ lives to the point they will move.”

Source: Kent Live

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Sunderland social club could be demolished to make way for housing

A Sunderland social club could soon be a thing of the past if plans to demolish it and build new housing get the green light.

Proposals have been submitted to Sunderland City Council to bring down the single storey Farringdon Social Club, which is in Anthony Road.

Farringdon Social Club redevelopment of residential accommodation plans

Farringdon Social Club redevelopment of residential accommodation plans

Agent TTS Planning Consultants has said that if permission for the move is granted, residential accommodation will be built in its place, although there are no concrete plans for what type of housing would be created at this stage.

The application reads: “The application site is currently a social club and therefore the proposal for residential accommodation would be the development of brownfield land.

“The site is also within a highly sustainable location being within short walking distance to shops, services and public facilities. “Farringdon Primary School is directly north of the site with St David’s Church immediately to the west.

Farringdon Social Club redevelopment of residential accommodation plans

Farringdon Social Club redevelopment of residential accommodation plans

“There are a number of shops and facilities on Ashdown Road to the south of the site, which includes a Post Office, The Dolphin public house and Gills Golden Fry fish and chip shop. “There is also access to good public transport links with bus stops on Ashdown Road and Allendale Road which are a short walk from the application site.”

The time of accommodation which could be built on the land should the club be demolished is not specified in the plans. The application added: “A proposed layout for a residential scheme would very much depend on the type of development which would eventually be brought forward.

“It is considered necessary that a strong frontage is created along the main highway of Anthony Road. “Therefore it would be suggested that whether apartment blocks or individual houses/bungalows are brought forward, the built form would be built up to the main road, creating parking and garden/amenity areas to the rear of the site.

“It is considered that a suitable residential layout can be delivered which would offer a strong built form in the Farringdon area.” The application adds that a residential scheme would create an improvements in terms of an environmental impact on the surrounding area, with less noise if the social club was demolished.

No-one from Farringdon Social Club or TTS Planning Consultants could be contacted for comment. The application, which can be viewed on Sunderland City Council’s planning portal, is set to be decided on by February 13.

Source: Sunderland Echo

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28,000 homes plan could benefit Shropshire’s rural landowners, says expert

Paul Middleton said that although the housing figure would be quite a challenge to fulfil, it could prove to be a positive move for rural landowners.

The development forms part of Shropshire Council’s local plan review.

The council’s cabinet approved a consultation document last week, which will seek the views on the preferred scale and distribution of future developments across Shropshire.

The review includes building 28,750 homes across the county, while the consultation document also looks at employment growth.

The consultation period began last week and closes on December 22.

Mr Middleton, of rural surveyors and estate agents Roger Parry and Partners, said: “A housing figure of 28,750 across the county is quite a challenge to fulfil, that equates to a delivery rate of around 1,430 dwellings a year.

“It therefore follows there will need to be development in the rural areas to assist in meeting these targets, and this places great emphasis on the emerging Hierarchy of Settlements policy.”

The Hierarchy of Settlements document puts forward rural settlements that have gone through a screening process for size, population, service provision, internet links, transport links and employment opportunities.

Mr Middleton added: “If adopted, the Hierarchy of Settlements could provide opportunities for development that presently are not achievable, which is very positive indeed for rural landowners.

“We will of course be liaising closely with the council during the course of the consultation to ensure that our planning team are best placed to advise clients on the development opportunities, that will undoubtedly come to fruition in the future.”

The extra 10,347 houses are mostly planned for the towns in Shropshire, with 30 per cent planned for Shrewsbury, 24.5 per cent planned for the bigger towns such as Market Drayton, and Whitchurch, 18 per cent for smaller towns such as Much Wenlock and Bishop’s Castle, and 27.5 per cent for rural areas.

Ian Kilby, planning services manager, said: “In the recession there were about 800 houses built per year, and last year we had 1,910 delivered.

“It’s only a few years ago that next to no houses were being built.

“There was significantly more development last year than there was.”

But the council admitted that, as of this year, there were more than 11,000 cases where planning permission had been granted for homes where construction was yet to start.

Source: Shropshire Star

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Communities Secretary calls for borrowing to invest in building new homes

A senior Cabinet minister has said the Government should borrow money to invest in hundreds of thousands of new homes in what appears to be a significant shift in Conservative thinking.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said ministers should take advantage of record low interest rates to deal with the housing crisis, which is “the biggest barrier to social progress in our country today”.

Asked if Chancellor Philip Hammond was on board with the idea a month away from his Budget, Mr Javid told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “Let’s wait and see what happens in the Budget”.

But his call to borrow more cash to pay for spending on housing and other infrastructure appears to echo Labour’s own “fiscal credibility rule”, which states that the government should not borrow for day-to-day spending but be prepared use it to fund long-term investment.

Asked whether there would be a new housing fund to build homes, Mr Javid said: “We are looking at new investments and there will be announcements.

“I’m sure at the Budget, we’ll be covering housing but what I want to do is make sure that we’re using everything we have available to deal with this housing crisis.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“And where that means, so for example, that we can sensibly – you borrow more to invest in the infrastructure that leads to more housing – take advantage of some of the record low interest rates that we have, I think we should absolutely be considering that.”

He added: “I would make a distinction between the deficit which needs to come down and that’s vitally important for our economic credibility and we’ve seen some excellent progress, some very good news on that just this week.

“But investing for the future, taking advantage of record low interest rates, can be the right thing if done sensibly and that can help not just with the housing itself but one of the big issues is infrastructure investment that is needed alongside the housing.”

Mr Javid also suggested the Government would not relax protections for the green belt.

new homes

“I don’t believe that we need to focus on the green belt here, there is lots of brownfield land, and brownfield first has been a policy of ours for a while,” he said.

“There is a lot more that can be done, density is a big issue – if you look at the density of London for example, it won’t surprise your viewers to learn that London has some of the highest levels of demand in the country, the density in London is a lot lower than many other cities, Paris, Berlin, compared to most cities around Europe, so that’s one area where you can expand more.”

At the Conservative Party conference this month, Theresa May pledged to “dedicate” her premiership to fixing Britain’s housing crisis as she announced an extra £2 billion for affordable housing.

An extra 25,000 social homes could be built under the plans outlined by the Prime Minister but her promise was overshadowed by her mishap-strewn conference speech and subsequent Tory infighting, and the party remains under pressure to do more.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove appeared to back Mr Javid’s suggestions, tweeting that he was “v impressive on #Marr”.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: “If hot air built homes, ministers would have fixed our housing crisis.

“Any promise of new investment is welcome, but the reality is spending on new affordable homes has been slashed since 2010 so new affordable house building is at a 24-year low.”


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More than 10,000 extra homes planned for Shropshire – with some on green belt land

Shropshire Council is reviewing its local plan, moving it forward by ten years.

The plan is now set to be presented to cabinet on October 18.

Although almost 19,000 homes are already set to be built in the county, the plan says a further 10,000 will be needed by 2036.

Adrian Cooper, planning policy manager at Shropshire Council, said: “Shropshire Council has got a local plan already, the job at hand is keeping it up to date.

“The current plan covers 2006 to 2026, the new plan we’re working on is moving forward by 10 years to 2016 to 2036.

“Back in January we asked the public the big questions in an eight-week consultation and we had about 400 responses from across different sectors.

“This next step is about responding to these comments and starting to take decisions about the preferred approach for the new plan.

“We’ve gone for the highest housing growth, there’s a nine year overlap between the current plan and the plan we’re doing so we’ve got quite a lot that we can count towards that 28,000.

“If you add up those houses that have already been built it comes to 18,583, so the new housing required by 2036 is 10,347.”

About 300 hectares of employment development would be earmarked under the new plans.

Mr Cooper added: “We’re looking to deliver a balance between the level of housing and employment.”

The extra 10,347 houses are mostly planned for the towns in Shropshire, with 30 per cent planned for Shrewsbury, 24.5 per cent planned for the bigger towns such as Market Drayton, and Whitchurch, 18 per cent for smaller towns such as Much Wenlock and Bishop’s Castle, and 27.5 per cent for rural areas.

Mr Cooper added: “It will focus the development in towns. About 70 per cent of the development will be in towns.”

Green belt land in Shropshire could also be released for development under the new local plan.

Mr Cooper said: “The green belt is very specific planning designation.

“Shropshire’s green belt was established in the 1970s, it includes the land east of the River Severn and south of the A5, land around Shifnal, Claverley, Alveley, Quatt.

“The planning inspector we had last time instructed us that we had to do this.

“We’ve got a specialist consultant who has done a piece of work which will be published looking at the green belt in Shropshire and has divided it up in manageable chunks.

“They have measured how well these chunks of land are performing as green belt.

“We will then look at what the impact would be if we were to release that land. It then falls to Shropshire Council to see how we want to run with that.”

The housing growth of 28,000 is equivalent to an average of 1,430 homes being built a year.

Ian Kilby, planning services manager, said: “In the recession there were about 800 houses built per year, and last year we had 1,910 delivered.

“It’s only a few years ago that next to no houses were being built.

“There was significant more development last year that what would be happening.”

But as of this year, there were more than 11,000 cases where planning permission has been granted for homes, where construction is yet to start.

Mr Cooper said: “We are to some extent dependent on our colleagues in the industry to build the houses. If they don’t build them it impacts on us.”

Mr Kilby said: “We’re trying to get the industry to raise its game on quality, so this year we’ve brought in industry awards.”

There will now be an eight-week public consultation on the plan, which will start on October 27 and close on December 22.

Source: Shropshire Star