Developers East Sussex minutes: 19 July 2022

Meeting details

Date: Tuesday 19 July 2022

Time: 2pm

Location: Microsoft Teams

See the list of attendees and apologies for this meeting.

1. Welcome and introductions

  1. JB welcomed the group. Round table introductions were made.

2. Review of previous minutes, 7 June 2022

  1. JB confirmed that there were no actions from the previous meeting. The minutes were approved by the group as an accurate record of the meeting.

3. Planning resourcing

  1. JB introduced this ongoing issue, which was flagged at the start of the year and has continued to be raised at DES meetings, and advised that regular conversations on the topic are now taking place with DLUHC and with the Kent and Essex developer groups.
  2. The group, and particularly Local Planning Authority colleagues, discussed some of the key issues currently being faced, and highlighted the following:
    1. Planning colleagues are experiencing an inordinately high level of abuse, resulting in high levels of staff attrition; leavers simply cannot bear the flack they take.
    2. Abuse comes mostly from the general public and local residents using social media.
    3. Local Planning Authorities are receiving far more representations than ever before.
    4. Problems with recruitment appear to be less about money, but rather a lack of candidates to recruit. Even when an offer is adjusted, there are no takers. Planning professionals simply do not want to work with local authority.
    5. Agencies seem unable to put forward quality candidates.
    6. The issue is particularly acute with high-quality senior
    7. Recruitment at graduate/junior level can be more successful. The principle of ‘growing your own’ is sound, but it takes time.
    8. The recruitment issue extends to the private sector to some extent, as when local authorities put out tenders for work, there is far less interest. Organisations across the board are under-resourced.
  3. CBe suggested that more positive voices/views are needed, for example from Housing Association colleagues, to counter the negative rhetoric. Coordination in this area might help redress the balance.
  4. DG asked whether it takes more time to process an application now compared to ten years ago; is the problem of resourcing compounded by an increased workload? SR affirmed that it does indeed take a lot longer due to the ‘calibre’ of objections now being received, with far more barbed comments on social media. ES agreed that people are more savvy with their objections/representations, and noted that he has a senior planner spending a huge amount of time responding to FOIs.
  5. DG queried whether pre-app ‘fast-track’ services have become more of a hindrance to local authorities given their resourcing issues, and if there is any advantage to developers using them? LP confirmed that they will always negotiate Planning Performance Agreements (PPAs) with developers in order to establish milestones, and would still advocate pre-app services, but acknowledged that fast-track is a challenge. SR agreed that they will always want to have conversations with developers as early in the process as possible, but noted that while Wealden DC recently tried to step up their PPA services, they have not overtly pushed the fast-track option due to delivery concerns.
  6. BH highlighted the proposed increase in planning fees, as referenced in DLUHC’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (“To improve capacity in the local planning system, we intend to increase planning fees for major and minor applications by 35% and 25% respectively, subject to consultation”). This was discussed today by the SELEP Housing and Development group, where it was agreed that while no one likes increased fees, if the money is genuinely going back into planning services, it will be welcome. DLUHC officials do understand that the money will need to be ring-fenced to do the job the industry needs, but the case must be made to HM Treasury.

4. First Homes

  1. BH advised that a virtual round table event is taking place on 22 September 2022 to discuss the First Homes programme – people’s experiences, the response to the pilot scheme, the barriers, how we can make it work – with Homes England and DLUHC invited to participate.
  2. Local Planning Authority colleagues confirmed that while some discussions on First Homes have taken place, they are not currently delivering any.
  3. JG and IS highlighted various concerns from a Housing Association perspective that have previously been mentioned:
    1. housing associations seemingly being a ‘middleman’ in the process;
    2. whether a hybrid solution would be better;
    3. whether First Homes even meets the definition of affordable housing;
    4. fully understanding the impact on social housing;
    5. making social rent a requirement (rather than affordable rent);
    6. whether all planning applications should be considering First Homes (as a national requirement) or if we’re still in a transitional phase.
  4. BH confirmed that all of the above points will be raised at the round table. Moving forward we will look to share the learning from those authorities that have already participated in the programme.

5. Market conditions / open forum

  1. The group briefly discussed the current state of the market and the ongoing issues around the supply of materials, labour shortages, price increases etc. The housing market remains buoyant, and problems with labour appear to have abated slightly, though are still not ideal. However, costs still seem to be out of control, and the availability of materials (particularly bricks/blocks) continues to be an issue.
  2. A concern was raised that Registered Providers are exposed to the same cost issues as everyone else, but may be constrained by fixed rent levels.
  3. DG noted the difficulties in entering into contracts without some sort of cost escalation clause, and NF observed that contractors are going out of business at an alarming rate. BH noted that Homes England has previously asked if we’re seeing contractors’ failures, so they are looking at the issue – if colleagues have any information, please feed it in.
  4. On the issue of materials availability, DG recalled a previous conversation at DES, where Local Planning Authorities were willing to be flexible with developers on the specifications of some materials (roof tiles, cladding, window types etc). LP confirmed that while there will always be cases where explicit detail is required, by and large they can be flexible if given a range of options.

6. Housing stats: Census 2021 data

  1. KB provided information on the first set of results from the Census 2021, published on 28 June 2022. These figures are estimates of the number of people and households in England and Wales, by sex and age at local authority level, rounded to the nearest 100.
  2. The East Sussex population is given as 545,800, which is slightly smaller than expected but is still growing. East Sussex has the lowest population growth rate (3.6%) in the SELEP area, well below the South East average (7.5%) and the England average (6.6%). Population growth in the county is concentrated in the 70-79 age category, which grew by 37.6%, while the number of under-25s fell by 4.7%. At borough and district level, Wealden showed the highest population growth rate in the county (7.5%, in line with the South East average) while Hastings displayed the lowest growth at just 0.9%.
  3. In terms of dwellings, East Sussex reported 240,100 households, an increase of just 3.6% over ten years, and the primary occupancy rate has fallen to 93% (compared to 95% in the previous two censuses). Wealden is showing the highest household growth rate and the highest occupancy rate in the county (9% and 95.1% respectively) while Hastings is showing the lowest (-1.6% and 90.7%).
  4. KB agreed to come back to DES with more Census data when it is released later in the year. In the meantime, all feedback on the current tranche of data is welcome.

7. DLUHC / Homes England engagement

  1. BH noted that all of the current conversations with DLUHC have already been covered above, but as always, DES members are asked to please continue feeding back any additional issues which will be raised with Government.
  2. BH also highlighted the most recent change of Government Ministers, which includes the appointment of Greg Clark MP as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
  3. RT again thanked the group for their valuable feedback and market intel, which will be reported back to officials and Ministers at DLUHC. He added that feedback can always be sent to his team directly via The team is particularly keen to hear back on stakeholder insolvencies and the impact this may have on the pipeline and supply chains, and also the impact of rent rises/caps on Housing Associations.

8. Local Planning Authority (LPA) updates

  1. CBe and LP advised that publication of the Wealden DC, Eastbourne BC and Lewes DC Local Plans are all subject to slight delays due to the Government not making a clear decision on housing numbers. JP advised that Rother DC’s Local Plan is still progressing, and is expected to go out to consultation in January next year.

9. Other matters arising

  1. JB commented that the annual DES Leader’s Dinner, held last month at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, was a great success. Plans are already underway for next year’s event.
  2. JB asked the group to consider possible agenda items for future DES meetings, and to please pass on any thoughts or ideas.
  3. JB raised the question of whether the DES group should continue with virtual meetings or return to holding them face-to-face, as this has been asked on several occasions in recent months. The consensus seems to be that our virtual meetings are extremely helpful, but the group misses out on the networking aspect of getting together in person. It has therefore been suggested that DES continues with virtual meetings, but also holds a separate face-to-face networking session every six months, possibly to also include colleagues from the Kent developer group. DES members were supportive, so JB agreed to move forward with the idea.


9.3 - JB to establish a biannual face-to-face networking session for DES colleagues, and to investigate the possibility of inviting colleagues from the Kent developer group.

10. AOB (any other business)

  1. CBe advised that Transport for the South East (TfSE) has launched a twelve-week consultation on their draft Strategic Investment Plan. TfSE presented to DES earlier this year, so colleagues are encouraged to participate in the consultation, which is open until 12 September 2022: TfSE Strategic Investment Plan Consultation.
  2. NF advised that he is setting up a learning session for colleagues in Kent on the phosphates/nitrates issue (reported previously at DES), so if anyone in this group has encountered any issues, or if they would just like to be included in the session, please let him know.

Summary of actions

9.3 - JB to establish a biannual face-to-face networking session for DES colleagues, and to investigate the possibility of inviting colleagues from the Kent developer group.

Attendees and apologies


  • ACo - Andy Cox - BMOR
  • ACu - Alex Cunningham - Dandara
  • AF - Amy Fearn - Rother DC
  • AW - Amy Woodward - Stantec (formerly Barton Willmore)
  • BB - Beverley Bayliss - East Sussex CC
  • BH - Brian Horton - SELEP
  • BP - Brett Pearson - Locate East Sussex
  • CBe - Chris Bending - Wealden DC
  • CBk - Chris Brocklebank - Taylor Wimpey
  • CBm - Chris Broome - Sea Change Sussex
  • CD - Christine Dadswell - Batcheller Monkhouse
  • CM - Chris Moore - Bellway Homes
  • DE - Dave Evans - East Sussex CC
  • DG - Derek Godfrey - Derek Godfrey Consulting
  • ES - Edward Sheath - East Sussex CC
  • IS - Ian Scott - Town & Country Housing Group
  • JB - Jonathan Buckwell - (CHAIR) DHA Planning
  • JC - Janan Clatworthy - Countryside Partnerships
  • JG - James Gray - Clarion Housing Group
  • JP - Jeff Pyrah - Rother DC
  • KB - Kim Bloxham - East Sussex CC
  • LP - Leigh Palmer - Eastbourne BC / Lewes DC
  • MB - Mark Bewsey - DHA Planning
  • MO - Matthew Oliver - Vistry Homes (formerly Bovis Homes)
  • NF - Nick Fenton - Nick Fenton Associates
  • PC - Peter Coldbreath - Stiles Harold Williams Partnership
  • PT - Paul Thomas - Development Land Services Ltd / SELEP
  • RT - Ryan Trodden - DLUHC
  • SR - Stacey Robins - Wealden DC
  • ST - Seth Tyler - Stantec (formerly Barton Willmore)
  • VG - Vera Gajic - East Sussex CC


  • EG - Emma George - Rentplus
  • JM - Joshua Mellor - Stantec (formerly Barton Willmore)
  • LME - Lourdes Madigasekera-Elliott - East Sussex CC
  • NB - Nigel Brown - East Sussex CC
  • PM - Patrick MacMahon - Berkeley Homes
  • PN - Phillip Naylor - RH Partnership Architects
  • RM - Ravail Marwaha - Taylor Wimpey