Developers East Sussex minutes: 16 November 2021
Date: Tuesday 16 November 2021
Location: Microsoft Teams
See the list of attendees and apologies for this meeting.
1. Welcome and introductions
- JB welcomed the group and delivered the apologies. Round table introductions were made.
2. Review of previous minutes, 5 October 2021
- JB confirmed that all of the actions from the previous DES meeting had been completed. The minutes were approved by the group as an accurate record of the meeting.
3. Market conditions/open forum
- The group briefly discussed the continuing issues around the supply of materials, labour shortages, price increases and so on, and again agreed that conditions are still not improving. EP cited issues in the supply and logistics of bricks, blocks, timber and even front doors, and DMe added that while the sales market seems relatively buoyant, supply issues are affecting delivery.
- BH concluded that there are clearly still significant issues to be reported back to DLUHC. Furthermore, we’re conscious of the ongoing phosphates and nitrates issue in Kent, as well as the growing ‘water neutrality’ issue in West Sussex (item 4 below), so we’re surrounded by additional problems that may also affect us in the near future.
4. Water neutrality
- JB reported to DES on this relatively new issue affecting development in some of the areas surrounding the county, particularly Crawley, Horsham, Chichester and parts of the South Downs National Park, and which is likely to expand into East Sussex over time. The problem occurs where too much water is being drawn upstream, causing water shortages that could potentially have adverse ecological impacts on the Arun Valley SAC (Special Areas of Conservation). This is leading to planning applications being put on hold in those areas unless the developer can demonstrate ‘water neutrality’, something which is very hard to achieve as it means extremely strict targets or offsetting the problem by taking action in other areas.
- EP commented that we need some insight into Natural England’s reasoning for issuing this water neutrality directive, to understand their process and evidence. DMa added that we also need to know NE’s timescales on resolving it, as we must see proper solutions that allow development to proceed.
- BH observed that the whole of the south east is an area of ‘water stress’, so we’re right to be concerned about this environmental issue creeping into East Sussex, and will continue to monitor it closely. We’ll return to this topic again at DES if/when we need to.
5. Autumn budget/spending review
- JB asked DES members to flag any particular issues or impacts from the recent Autumn Budget delivered on 27 October 2021. The group agreed that the Budget was generally okay, with a welcome £600 million announced to tackle homelessness, but overall it wasn’t the Budget for Housing we would have liked.
- JHe stated that Homes England is largely happy with the announcements, which confirmed funding for brownfield housing (details TBC) plus money to support development finance for SMEs.
6. Affordable Housing/First Homes
- Following up on an action from the last DES meeting, TH provided some insight into the government’s Affordable Homes Programme after Clarion Housing Group was named as a Homes England Strategic Delivery Partner.
- Around £250 million has been awarded to support the delivery of 5,000 new homes, with Clarion being set a target of 50/50 shared ownership, and around 60% of the programme to be delivered through SMEs. They’re not moving away from the 106 model, but this programme broadens Clarion’s reach and offers a degree of certainty and flexibility, with known grant rates, flexibility across regions, and the ability to layer up grant funding with existing funding.
7. DLUHC/Homes England update
- BH advised that all of the usual issues (labour, materials, demand, productivity, price inflation on land and so on) were covered again on the most recent meeting with DLUHC.
- Questions around First Homes were not covered this time, so please continue to feed in any issues as we’re keen to pick it up with DLUHC next time. First Homes appears to be fully subscribed, but Medway is the only local authority area we’re aware of in the south east region looking at the programme, and none of our authorities have been asked to support bids. Whether the pilots will lead to any useful advice or further guidance or policies is something for Homes England and DLUHC to consider.
- BH reminded the group that our regular conversations with DLUHC are fed directly to ministers, so this is a critical route for us to get our messages directly to government.
8. AOB (all other business)
- JB highlighted the DES meeting schedule for 2022/23. Meetings will continue to be virtual for now, but the situation will be monitored as there is definitely an appetite to hold in-person meetings from time to time. BH advised that the tentative plan for the future will be to hold a combination of virtual and in-person meetings, perhaps alternating. We could also look at hybrid meetings, but we’ll need DES members to offer appropriate venues.
- VG advised that Stiles Harold Williams (SHW) is producing a quarterly commercial property update, which she will share with DES on a regular basis. DMa noted that the most recent report in September 2021 highlighted that industrial rents are climbing, the retail sector is looking at repurposing town centre units, and while retail is returning to the high street it seems to be more ‘local’ businesses, so landlords are having to revise rents. However, the situation is changing rapidly so the next quarterly report may reveal a different picture.
VG to circulate the most recent SHW commercial property update, and then continue to share it quarterly.
Summary of actions
8.2 VG to circulate the most recent SHW commercial property update, and then continue to share it quarterly.
Attendees and apologises
- AB, Adam Berger, Locate East Sussex
- AP, Andrew Palmer, Hastings BC / ES Housing/Planning Groups
- AS, Amy Sinclair, unknown
- BH, Brian Horton, SELEP
- CBe, Chris Bending, Wealden DC
- CBr, Chris Broome, Sea Change Sussex
- DE, Dave Evans, East Sussex CC
- DG, Derek Godfrey, Westcotte Leach Ltd
- DMa, David Martin, Stiles Harold Williams Partnership
- DMe, Dan Merriman, Bellway Homes
- EP, Erica Peck, Rydon Homes
- IS, Ian Scott, Town & Country Housing Group
- JB, Jonathan Buckwell, (CHAIR) DHA Planning
- JHa, James Hare, Clarion Housing Group
- JHe, Josh Hemmings, Homes England
- JM, Joshua Mellor, Barton Willmore
- KB, Kim Bloxham, East Sussex CC
- KH, Kate Harrison, Taylor Wimpey
- LP, Leigh Palmer, Eastbourne BC / Lewes DC
- MC, Matt Carter, Redloft
- NB, Nigel Brown, East Sussex CC
- NM, Neil Miller, Homes England
- PT, Paul Thomas, Development Land Services Ltd / SELEP
- RM, Ravail Marwaha, Taylor Wimpey
- RT, Ryan Trodden, DLUHC
- SM, Sarah Mayers, Rentplus
- SR, Stacey Robins, Wealden DC
- TH, Tom Hichisson, Clarion Housing Group
- VG, Vera Gajic, East Sussex CC
- CBk, Chris Brocklebank, Taylor Wimpey
- CM, Chris Moore, Bellway Homes
- GP, Graham Peters, Team East Sussex (TES)
- IG, Isabel Garden, Wealden DC
- JG, James Gray, Clarion Housing Group
- JO, Jane Owen, DLUHC
- LME, Lourdes Madigasekera-Elliott, East Sussex CC
- LS, Lisa Shead, Sussex Weald Homes
- MO, Matthew Oliver, Vistry Homes
- NF, Nick Fenton, Nick Fenton Associates
- PC, Peter Coldbreath, Stiles Harold Williams Partnership
- PN, Phillip Naylor, RH Partnership Architects