Developers East Sussex minutes: 12 September 2023
Date: 12 September 2023
Location: Microsoft Teams
See the list of attendees and apologies for this meeting.
1. Welcome and introductions
- JB welcomed the group to the meeting.
2. Review of previous minutes, 18 July 2023
The minutes were approved as an accurate record of the meeting.
There were no actions from the previous meeting.
3. Market conditions / open forum
The group had its usual catch-up on how members see the current state of the market and any new/ongoing concerns.
CMo commented that the sales market is currently the poorest he has known in the last 8-9 years and that the situation is the same for most SMEs/housebuilders. From an Affordable Housing point of view, Registered Provider (RP) interest has diminished, including for S106 sites, and this issue is becoming more acute.
On a positive note, the reduction in speculative build across the industry has enabled a more focused, regimented way of releasing land. In addition, the industry has become less burdened by the availability of materials and labour, which was a significant issue several months ago. The cost of these has now mostly levelled out.
IS confirmed that from an RP perspective, shared ownership sales remain strong (so long as they are not flats). The rise in costs, including for maintenance of existing housing stock, has significantly reduced the financial capacity to undertake an extensive development programme. This is also why RPs are not filling the gap left by volume housebuilders.
CBu mentioned that Barratt are starting to deliver more dwellings that are First Homes compliant, however there are concerns that these may result in a blockage to the delivery of other forms of affordable housing.
BHr reiterated that these concerns would be flagged to DLUHC / Homes England, and suggested that developer group chairs would be looking at how to influence the manifesto in the run up to the next election – for example, as a lobbying piece.
ACTION - All
From a commercial perspective, DG and TH confirmed that the market is still fairly buoyant. New enquiries for light industrial / warehouse units slowed during the summer but have returned to pre-covid levels. Demand for offices has reduced following the pandemic as a result of companies downsizing in favour of improved quality and cost savings. BP highlighted that supply in East Sussex is particularly low and TH suggested that it is not a prime location for commercial development, with long lead times making it difficult to bring schemes forward.
4. County Council Property
- This item was removed from today’s agenda, to be brought back to a future DES meeting.
5. SELEP Transition update
- The SELEP Housing and Development group has been a useful forum to discuss issues across the counties of East Sussex, Kent and Essex. As SELEP will discontinue at the end of March 2024, BHr is exploring mechanisms for continued engagement and will keep the group updated in terms of how things progress.
6. Environmental Regulations update
JB introduced the issue of nutrient neutrality and the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.
NF raised concerns that the proposed amendment to the Levelling Up Bill could be rejected by the House of Lords. It is also unclear if the Bill will impact plans already in place for wetlands. The Bill does not cover the issue of water neutrality, but this is less of an issue in East Sussex (besides Wealden).
JB mentioned that the Bill could be delayed into the next parliamentary session and that this would cause local planning authorities to hold back on carrying out significant work on their local plans.
On a separate note, NF raised concerns that the increase in planning fees will not be ringfenced, allowing the proceeds to be spent in other directions. Therefore, it is important that planning departments are properly resourced so that they can deliver the service required. JB emphasized that this could result in a lose-lose situation whereby local planning authorities do not see the increase. This issue was raised last week with DLUHC and local government colleagues.
7. East Sussex Housing Strategy
MC stated that the overview of the draft evidence base will take place at the next meeting, and that the first draft to the Partnership Board would be published next week.
JPo highlighted that the challenges faced by the private sector are in parallel with huge demand across the system. There is an appetite to work with developers to enhance / increase the level of social housing.
Rother DC has been evidence gathering and engaging with local community groups in the last few months in order to understand the barriers to development.
An invitation will be sent out for an event on 2 November 2023 in Bexhill, which will provide a forum for developers, RPs and community groups to discuss innovative solutions to these barriers. DES colleagues are encouraged to attend.
ACTION - All
8. DLUHC / Homes England engagement
JHe provided a brief overview of the Brownfield, Infrastructure and Land Fund, in which up to £1 billion is available for projects across England. Its objective is to bring forward strategic sites for development and you may be eligible for funding if:
- you meet the strategic aims of the fund;
- your project would stall, or could not progress, without this funding;
- your project will lead to the development of new housing;
- your project represents value for money;
- you are a UK-registered corporate entity, limited liability partnership (LLP) or English local authority or public entity;
- your project will contract by 31 March 2026.
The full criteria are set out in the link below:
JHe highlighted that there is no formal application, and that anyone could contact him directly to discuss sites which might be appropriate for the fund.
9. Local Planning Authority (LPA) updates
LP (Lewes/Eastbourne) mentioned that there has not been much progress since the last meeting. The next iteration of the Local Plan is anticipated to be published in November 2023.
KE (Rother DC) advised that an invitation has been circulated for the agents meeting which is restarting on 17 October 2023.
CBe (Wealden DC) stated that WDC still aims to publish the next iteration of their Local Plan this year. It is important to remember that planning departments are not only constrained by planning fees, but also shortages of staff (for example, senior planners).
10. AOB (any other business)
The Leaders Dinner will be held on the evening of 27 September 2023.
The next DES meeting will take place on 14 November 2023 at 2pm.
Summary of actions
3.6 - DES colleagues to flag their concerns with BHr so that these can be raised with DLUHC / Homes England as part of the aims of the wider partnership.
7.4 - DES colleagues are encouraged to attend the ‘barriers to development’ event in Bexhill on 2 November 2023.
Attendees and apologies
- AC, Alex Cunningham, Dandara
- BB, Beverley Bayliss, East Sussex CC
- BHr, Brian Horton, SELEP
- BP, Brett Pearson, Locate East Sussex
- CBe, Chris Bending, Wealden DC
- CBr, Chris Broome, Sea Change Sussex
- CBu, Craige Burden, Barratt David Wilson Homes
- CD, Christine Dadswell, Batcheller Monkhouse
- CMi, Chris Mian, Whitehall Homes
- CMo, Chris Moore, Bellway Homes
- DG, Derek Godfrey, Derek Godfrey Consulting
- DMh, David Maher, Dandara
- DMr, David Martin, Stiles Harold Williams Partnership
- DT, David Tatterton, UK Land Investors
- EP, Erica Peck, Rydon Homes
- GH, Gary Hall, Eastbourne BC / Lewes DC
- IS, Ian Scott, Town & Country Housing Group
- JB, Jonathan Buckwell, DHA Planning (CHAIR)
- JC, Janan Clatworthy, Countryside Partnerships
- JHe, Josh Hemmings, Homes England
- JHu, Jonathan Hugo, Berkeley Homes
- JMu, Joan Mumo, L and G Affordable Homes
- JPo, Joe Powell, Rother DC
- JR, Jason Roberts, Wealden DC
- KB, Kim Bloxham, East Sussex CC
- KE, Kemi Erifevieme, Rother DC
- LP, Leigh Palmer, Eastbourne BC / Lewes DC
- LS, Lauren Sinden, DHA Planning
- MB, Mark Bewsey, DHA Planning
- MC, Michael Courts, East Sussex CC
- MG, Melissa Gent, Redloft
- NF, Nick Fenton, Nick Fenton Associates
- RT, Ryan Trodden, DLUHC
- SC, Simon Collins, Jones Homes
- TH, Tim Hardwicke, Stiles Harold Williams Partnership
- AF, Amy Fearn, Rother DC
- BHk, Ben Hook, Rother DC
- CH, Chris Hancock, Hastings BC
- DE, Dave Evans, East Sussex CC
- ED, Emma Davies, Redloft
- JMe, Joshua Mellor, Stantec
- JPy, Jeff Pyrah, Rother DC
- LME, Lourdes Madigasekera-Elliott, East Sussex CC
- PC, Peter Coldbreath, Stiles Harold Williams Partnership
- RW, Richard White, Southern Housing
- VC, Victoria Conheady, Hastings BC