Big Tree Planning

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Big Tree is 5!

We would like to say a quick thank you to each and every one of our clients for their business and support over the last 5 years.

We started-out in October 2008 at the very depth of the economic crisis and yet, thanks to our wonderful clients, continue to grow from strength-to-strength 5 years on.

Here’s to another 5 years of business and growth for us and our clients.

Cheers!

New home extension rules to boost the economy…really?

The coalition’s announcement that rules on residential extensions are to be relaxed to ‘boost the economy’ and ‘revitalise the housing industry’ have been met with widespread concern and incredulity. Ministers have said that homeowners will soon be able to extend their properties by up to 8 metres (for detached dwellings) without the need for planning permission, doubling the current allowance.

How on earth will allowing homeowners to extend their houses by a whopping 8m have any impact on the housing industry? If the Government thought about this for any length of time they may realise that by allowing such massive additions without any form of planning control, homeowners will be able to massively increase the size of their property for a fraction of the cost of moving to a larger home, and that this could well further stagnate a housing market that is already teetering on the edge of collapse. Again.

And what effect will such massive additions have on neighbours throughout the country? Many believe the current rules, which allow 4m extensions for detached dwellings and 3m extensions for terraced or semi-detached properties, are too generous and that such extensions can often cause harm to the amenity of neighbouring residents. Doubling this allowance seems preposterous. Many modern detached houses built in recent years are barely 8m wide to start off with, and soon it will be possible to double their footprint without any form of planning control.

All-in-all the general consensus is that the new rules will wreak havoc for homeowners throughout the country. Indeed several local authorities have taken legal advice in an effort to stop the rule changes from taking place.

Like the revocation of Regional Spatial Strategies and their subsequent re-enactment, the decision to change the rules appears to have been made without much thought or understanding, or any consideration for the general home-owning public. The Government is still consulting on the rule changes, so let us all hope they realise the impact they would have and once again perform an impressive U-turn.

Big Tree Uprooted!

Big Tree Planning has moved its Newcastle office to a historic Listed building within the heart of the City Centre. Here at Big Tree we feel that our new NE1 address will help us to continue to grow our name and presence within the North East and nationwide. This is our second major office move within 6 months, with our Leicester office having relocated in January of this year.

Our focus remains on our clients and providing the right advice at the right cost, and with two shiny new offices in prime locations, things are only going to get better!

Our new office details for both offices can be found on our ‘Contact Us’ page, with our new Newcastle office details also listed below:

 

Churchill House

12 Mosley Street

Newcastle upon Tyne

NE1 1DE

Tel: 0191 230 8085

Fax: 0191 261 0200

2011 Budget – Commercial to Residential Conversions

George Osborne’s Budget speech included mention of the Government’s intentions to consult on a change in the Use Class Order to allow changes of use from business, general industrial and storage sites and buildings to residential developments. The apparent thinking behind this move is to support the urgent need to increase housing supply. 

Whilst some empty office premises in town and city centres may be suitable for such a change and may even result in desirable living space, other uses and their associated operations could have serious impact upon residential amenity, particularly in terms of smells and noise generated; not many people would wish to live next-door to a heavy industrial use or chemical plant.

To prevent conflicts between businesses and residents most industrial and distribution businesses are located outside of urban areas away from all residential development and the shops and services that support them. By allowing the change of use of premises located out of urban areas, surely this would conflict with the objectives of sustainable development; another key aim of the Budget’s ‘Plan For Growth’ document. The proposals could lead to isolated communities with no access to public transport, schools or other essential facilities.

Whilst residential land supply is an issue, the biggest problem facing the housing market at present is the lack of mortgage availability for first-time buyers and the impact this has on the house buying ‘chain’.  There is actually no shortage of housing available to buy due to this and as such the proposed measures announced by Mr Osborne may have little effect.

The piecemeal occupancy of commercial premises for housing purposes will not play a major part in increasing housing supply on a large scale. The proposed permitted change seems narrow minded and is not likely to address a key issue in the short-term.

Another thing that seems not to have been considered is the future impact such a move could have on employment land supply. As the economy recovers, where are new businesses expected to locate if all premises have been converted into housing? Maybe to the countless part-built housing estates lying empty across the country…

Budget Planning

In his Budget speech George Osborne affirmed the Government’s objective of significant reform to simplify and streamline the planning system alongside new financial incentives and mechanisms to support private enterprise. The Chancellor stated that the planning system is a ‘chronic obstacle to growth’ and used a raft of pro-development language not heard from his office since the mid-80′s.

Whilst the announcements made in the Budget can only be seen as positive for businesses and developers, it seems a rather unashamed swing away from the principles of the Localism Agenda, which seek to hand more power to local communities.

Under the provisions of the Budget and its accompanying growth strategy document, firms will be able to develop neighbourhood plans, theoretically meaning that businesses should be able to develop and implement local planning frameworks. However, the Localism Agenda seeks to hand the same power to local communities. It is highly unlikely that any two neighbourhood plans; one prepared by the local community and one by local businesses; will be striving for the same goals. How the differences are to be reconciled is anybody’s guess.

There was also the announcement that the answer to development and growth should be ‘yes’ wherever possible. Whilst this is welcome, this surely should always be the case both in times of boom and bust, and everywhere in-between. Businesses have always being saying ‘yes’ to development, whereas local communities invariably say ‘no - not in my back yard’. Dishing out equal power to business and communities will undoubtedly result in stagnation. Perhaps Mr Osborne should learn Newton’s Third Law?

With Eric Pickles being told by the High Court in November last year that his decision to abolish Regional Spatial Strategies was unlawful, will the measures set out in the Budget end up to be another case of ill-informed ‘planning by headlines’? Let us hope not for the sake of the economy, but only time will tell…

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