Developers East Sussex minutes: 14 November 2023
Date: 14 November 2023
Location: Microsoft Teams
See the list of attendees and apologies for this meeting.
1. Welcome and introductions
1.1 JB welcomed the group to the meeting.
2. Review of previous minutes, 12 September 2023
2.1 JB confirmed that all of the actions from the previous DES meeting had been completed.
2.2 The minutes were approved as an accurate record of the meeting.
3. Market conditions / open forum
3.1 The group discussed the current state of the market and the ongoing issues around the supply of materials, labour shortages, price increases etc.
3.2 The sales market has slowed over the last few months, and while it seemed we were finding a ‘new normal’ during the summer, the market is now likely to remain flat until the new year. Volumes are down – CM noted that Bellway are currently reporting on this year’s numbers, and the norm of around 11,000 has been pared back to around 7,000. Some sites are performing well, but there are many more that are not doing well at all. In terms of the supply chain, subcontractors are feeling the pinch as many sites are standing still.
3.3 The affordable housing market has not really changed, with scarce interest from Registered Providers, and most offers barely covering build costs.
3.4 The commercial market also remains tough at the moment, with a sense that the market is simply treading water rather than bouncing back, and that seems unlikely to change dramatically in the short term.
3.5 BHr recalled the last major downturn of 2008, after which the industry seemed to lose a lot of Planners; given the rollercoaster of the market currently, we could find ourselves with an even bigger skills gap in the months/years ahead, which we need to be mindful of.
4. Water Resource Issues
4.1 NF reminded the group that while some of the issues around water neutrality do not directly affect East Sussex (yet), they do impact our surrounding boroughs/districts, and therefore affect many of the developers around the table.
4.2 The issue stems from concerns raised by Natural England that water abstraction within the Sussex North Water Supply Zone may be having a negative impact on areas of Special Scientific Interest within the Arun Valley. They advised that any new development cannot add to this negative impact and must demonstrate that it will not increase pressure on water resources by being made ‘water neutral’ (i.e. total water-use in the region after the development must be equal to or less than the total water-use in the region before the new development).
4.3 EP reported that four of our neighbouring authorities – Crawley BC, Chichester DC, Horsham DC and South Downs National Park Authority – have been working together on a study and strategy to deliver a strategic solution that ensures development remains water neutral across the affected region. There are three stages to the work, and Part C, the Mitigation Strategy, was published earlier this year. It includes measures to reduce water demand to 85 litres per person per day.
4.4 RC provided some insight and advice on achieving water neutrality, including:
- Consider any and all existing use on the site at the start (even if it’s a hose filling a feeding trough).
- Look outside of residential building stock and consider commercial use, such as public facing buildings, factories, pubs, hotels etc, as water-saving measures could include such things as removing bathtubs from hotel rooms or installing flow-reducing taps.
- The use of rainwater and greywater recycling is hugely important and must be part of our future, so we need to be better at harnessing it.
- Petition water companies to improve their service (e.g. reduce leakage).
- Overall, to get development underway, understand your entire water network and think outside the box.
4.5 JB observed that an ongoing challenge is ensuring tenants accept water saving measures and sustain them moving forward (e.g. understand that they cannot install a power shower later for instance).
4.6 CBe noted that sewerage is a key issue for Wealden DC, so echoed the point about petitioning water companies and collectively holding them to account for their failure to deliver. Local authorities have no power to regulate water companies and can only campaign politically, so there is a much bigger role that the industry can play. NF suggested inviting Southern and South Eastern Water to a future DES meeting, and agreed to reach out to them.
Action: NF to invite Southern and South Eastern Water to a future DES meeting.
4.7 NF asked the group to continue to feed in any further thoughts on any of the above water issues.
5. DLUHC / Homes England engagement
5.1 JB reminded the group that regular meetings with DLUHC officials are ongoing, so colleagues are asked to continue to feed in any points that ought to be raised. As usual, RT is present at today’s DES meeting to hear feedback directly.
5.2 JB advised that, as part of this week’s Cabinet reshuffle, Lee Rowley MP has been appointed as the new Minister of State for Housing. RT added that we’re still awaiting confirmation on Planning.
5.3 JB reported that following the Government’s consultation earlier this year, the increase to Planning fees will now come into effect from 6 December 2023. Application fees in England will increase by 25% across the board, rising to 35% for major schemes.
5.4 BHr advised that another Affordable Housing Roundtable event has been scheduled for 30 November 2023. Since the last roundtable, work has been undertaken on how to respond to market failures, for discussion at the upcoming meeting on how best to take it forward. Meeting invitations were circulated by DE earlier today, and DES colleagues are encouraged to attend.
6. Local Planning Authority (LPA) updates
6.1 Officers confirmed that work is progressing on Local Plans across our Borough and District Councils.
6.2 Lewes DC Cabinet considered the latest version of their draft Local Plan at a meeting on 9 November, and will now begin the public consultation phase; the Regulation 18 consultation is scheduled to run from 29 November 2023 to 8 February 2024.
6.3 The Wealden Local Plan is scheduled to go to Full Council on 8 February 2024, so their public consultation will be undertaken in March/April next year. Rother DC is working to a similar timeline, with consultation activity expected to start in April 2024.
6.4 Hastings BC has local elections next year so won’t be able to go out to consultation until after the elections in May 2024.
6.5 JPy advised that the Planning department at Rother DC is doing much better in terms of staffing, getting the team back towards full capacity.
6.6 JPo commented on the importance of lobbying, particularly from the private sector, as public sector lobbying is so standard. The power of private lobby should not be underestimated.
7. Leaders Dinner
7.1 JB thanked those who attended the DES Leader’s Dinner, which was held at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne on 27 September 2023. The event was very well received, with lots of discussion and debate. Another dinner will be held again during 2024.
8. AOB (any other business)
8.1 JB advised that work on the East Sussex Housing Strategy is continuing. A draft evidence base document has been produced, which DE will share after today’s meeting. A working group is also being put together to continue developing the strategy – BHr has agreed to represent DES, but additional DES colleagues are also welcome. If anyone has any comments on the evidence base document or would like to join the working group, they should contact MC
Action: DE to share the East Sussex Housing Strategy draft evidence base document; DES colleagues with comments/feedback, or who wish to join the working group, to contact MC directly.
8.2 BHr noted that the Residential Development event scheduled to take place in Rother on 2 November has been pushed back to 11 January 2024. An invitation will be reissued and DES colleagues are encouraged to attend.
8.3 VC queried whether developer colleagues been approached by DLUHC on the new Levelling Up Partnerships in Hastings and Rother, and asked that they please respond when contacted as DLUHC are keen to hear back. NF added that he and BHr are also happy to input/coordinate where appropriate.
Summary of actions
4.6 NF to invite Southern and South Eastern Water to a future DES meeting.
8.1 DE to share the East Sussex Housing Strategy draft evidence base document; DES colleagues with comments/feedback, or who wish to join the working group, to contact MC directly.
Attendees and apologies
- AS, Amy Sinclair, Town & Country Housing Group
- BB, Beverley Bayliss, East Sussex CC
- BHr, Brian Horton, SELEP
- BL, Brandon Lewis, Horton Strategic
- CBe, Chris Bending, Wealden DC
- CBr, Chris Broome, Sea Change Sussex
- CH, Chris Hancock, Hastings BC
- CM, Chris Moore, Bellway Homes
- DE, Dave Evans, East Sussex CC
- DG, Derek Godfrey, Derek Godfrey Consulting
- EP, Erica Peck, Rydon Homes
- ES, Edward Sheath, East Sussex CC
- ET, Ed Tibbetts, Orbit Homes
- GF, Gemma Forshaw, Wealden DC
- HF, Hayley Frankham, Wealden DC
- JB, Jonathan Buckwell, (CHAIR) DHA Planning
- JC, Janan Clatworthy, Countryside Partnerships
- JPo, Joe Powell, Rother DC
- JPy, Jeff Pyrah, Rother DC
- JR, Jason Roberts, Wealden DC
- JS, John Stebbings, Thakeham
- KC, Kirsty Castle, Batcheller Monkhouse
- KE, Kemi Erifevieme, Rother DC
- NF, Nick Fenton, Nick Fenton Associates
- NW, Nick Webb, Batcheller Monkhouse
- PT, Paul Thomas, Development Land Services Ltd / SELEP
- RC, Roland Cooper, Considine
- RT, Ryan Trodden, DLUHC
- SP, Sunil Popat, UK Land Investors
- VC, Victoria Conheady, Hastings BC
- BHk, Ben Hook, Rother DC
- BP, Brett Pearson, Locate East Sussex
- GH, Gary Hall, Eastbourne BC / Lewes DC
- LME, Lourdes Madigasekera-Elliott, East Sussex CC
- MC, Michael Courts, East Sussex CC
- MT, Mat Trewin, Willmott Dixon Construction
- NB, Nigel Brown, East Sussex CC
- PC, Peter Coldbreath, Stiles Harold Williams Partnership
- RW, Richard White, Southern Housing
- SC, Simon Collins, Jones Homes