Developers East Sussex minutes: 25 January 2022

Meeting details

Date: Tuesday 25 January 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 and delivered the apologies.

2. Review of previous minutes, 16 November 2021

  1. JB confirmed that all of the actions from the previous DES meeting had been completed. Regarding action 8.2 (sharing the quarterly SHW commercial property report), an updated report has just been published, so it will be circulated with the minutes of this meeting.
  2. The minutes were approved by the group as an accurate record of the meeting.

3. Market conditions/open forum

  1. The group briefly discussed the continuing issues around the supply of materials, labour shortages, price increases and so forth, and painted a very mixed picture at the moment. Some organisations have seen conditions ease, with shortages seemingly moving towards the end of the supply chain (for example, white goods) while others are still experiencing significant issues with materials (bricks, blocks, roof tiles and so on) with spiralling costs. An added worry is international logistics, as things can’t improve quickly if the problems are global.
  2. JG observed that the ongoing issues are shining a light on the modular sector, with the market growing to some extent (but the sector faces imminent risk with the end of Help to Buy).
  3. In terms of Planning, all agreed that resourcing is the main cause for concern. It was noted that both Rother District Council and Brighton & Hove City Council have reopened their ‘pre-application’ service. SR added that Wealden District Council will shortly be winding down their free COVID-19 fast-track service and replacing it with a fast-track pre-app service.

4. DLUHC/Homes England engagement

  1. BH welcomed RT to the meeting, noting that the continued attendance from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) clearly demonstrates the ministry’s genuine interest in the issues being highlighted on the ground by DES.
  2. BH highlighted the most recent letter sent to the Minister of State for Housing from the combined East Sussex, Essex and Kent developer groups (dated 17 January 2022) which clearly set out the key subjects discussed at the DES meetings.
  3. The main focus of the last monthly conversation with DLUHC was First Homes and the issues previously raised at DES. The response suggests that while we can expect ‘some’ learning from the pilot, no significant change is likely. Water neutrality was also raised, and NF advised that he’s also made BBC South East aware too (they got in touch regarding the ongoing phosphates and nitrates issue, so he took the opportunity to flag the water neutrality issue at the same time).
  4. BH added that one further topic raised at the monthly conversation was Planning resourcing. Already highlighted again today (item 3.3 above), the group agreed that the problem is a combination of skills-gaps and recruiting and retaining people into Planning, so perhaps it’s a topic we need to keep on the DES agenda over the next year. BH commented that he’d like to include some Planning colleagues on the next call with government, and agreed to liaise with ES on the details – a cohort of the 3 planning groups across East Sussex, Essex and Kent, as well as the 3 developer groups, to work collectively on presenting the issue to government. NF suggested that Natural England could be brought into the conversation too, as they’re offering internships so are looking for the same resource.
  5. JH advised that Homes England is still awaiting publication of the government’s Levelling Up White Paper, which should provide some clarity on the spending outlined in the last Spending Review. He expects to be able to give more detail at the next DES meeting.

Action

BH to liaise with ES on arranging for a cohort of Planning colleagues to join the next monthly conversation with DLUHC.


5. Locate East Sussex

  1. BP reported that the news from Locate is generally positive. Enquiries to the service are up, with interest in varying sizes across all areas of the county. Newhaven in particular seems to be garnering interest as a desirable location. Demand appears to be highest for larger sites, and mostly industrial and commercial (rarely retail).
  2. The continuing issue is the lack of supply to meet demand. We don’t have that many larger sites coming onto the market, either for sale or lease, so we need to ensure we use what we do have smartly. A general plea to all concerned – if you do have any commercial property coming on-stream in the near future, please let Locate know.
  3. The Locate team has appointed a new property consultant to fill the role vacated by Mike Cogswell last year. John Wood will start on 1 February 2022, bringing over 30 years’ experience in the commercial property sector. John will act as the team’s in-house property expert and be the main point of contact for any related issues, so will be reaching out to colleagues over the coming weeks to introduce himself. He will also be responsible for Locate’s regular property reports.

6. Economy Recovery Plan

  1. CBe provided a brief progress update on the Mission 4 activities of the Economy Recovery Plan (ERP), specifically the actions most applicable to DES – coordinated asks of government, relationship with Homes England, and community engagement.
  2. Overall, these actions have now been completed, or will be ongoing as a regular part of this DES forum (continued dialogue with DLUHC and Homes England, reviewing the production of Local Plans). Planning reforms on the horizon may impact local plans, but at this stage we don’t know when or what they’ll entail.
  3. With the actions closed, CBe advised that this will be his last ERP update to DES, but colleagues can continue to view the full Economy Recovery Plan Action Plan on the East Sussex County Council website.

7. Local Planning Authority (LPA) updates

1. JB advised that he’d like to make this a new standing item on the DES agenda, to ask our LPA colleagues for very brief verbal updates on any important matters (for example, planning issues, upcoming consultations or any other news). Colleagues don’t necessarily have to contribute, but if they have anything to report then this is the place to do it.

2. As Wealden DC was the only authority on today’s call, SR provided the following update:

  • Wealden DC members and officers continue to lobby government on various aspects of our housing numbers, from our Local Plan starting point to our 5-year land supply. The WDC Leader and Deputy Leader met with Secretary of State Michael Gove MP on these issues in Dec 2021. Mr Gove has committed to a response from government on these issues early this year.
  • December 2021 saw the completion of the Brownfield Land Register, Authority Monitoring Report and Infrastructure Funding Statement – the latter confirming the CIL and S106 monies received during the 2020/21 financial year and making recommendations to Full Council to allocate significant sums, including £9m towards Health and Wellbeing projects within the district (Crowborough Teaching Pool, Community Sports Park at Knights Farm East and the new leisure and health centre as part of Hailsham Aspires). Full details are on the Wealden DC website.
  • Local Plan Cabinet Advisory Groups (CAGs) have been considering early content of the draft Local Plan, including many of the detailed policies. Work continues to establish the main elements of the evidence base to support the Plan, with draft documents to go to members at the CAG in the coming weeks or months.
  • Work has continued to support a small but growing number of parish councils actively preparing their Neighbourhood Plans.
  • Work is progressing on rolling out a FastTrack Pre-App service for commercial and business in the Wealden DC area.

3. SR also advised that Wealden DC has been involved in a judicial review relating to a particular housing site, where part of the complaint claimed the planning permission ignored adopted policy requiring a mix of accommodation. The policy referred to is in the Affordable Housing Delivery Local Plan, which WDC said does not apply in regard to open market housing. However, in the oral renewal hearing, the judge maintained that it was at least arguable that the policy was applicable, owing to its wording, so permission to proceed to a full judicial review hearing was granted. WDC was surprised at this and is actively seeking external legal advice on the implications for other live casework. There will likely be an impact on reporting times into upcoming planning committees in February and March 2022. For any further advice on this please contact Robins@wealden.gov.uk or Samuel.Batchelor@wealden.gov.uk.

JB reported that the government’s Housing Delivery Test figures for 2021 have just been published on the GOV.UK website. Eastbourne, Hastings and Rother scored 32%, 42% and 57% respectively, meaning the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ applies. Wealden and Lewes have figures of 82% and 116% respectively.


8. DES priorities for 2022

1. JB asked the group to put forward any suggestions for discussion topics, agenda items or other work priorities for DES to consider over the year ahead. The following suggestions were made:

  • Sustainability: a discussion on the challenges of driving towards net zero – the direction of travel, what’s too aspirational, how housing companies and registered providers can deliver.
  • Public Health in Construction: considering Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) in developments; LME would like to invite Iceni Projects to deliver a presentation sometime this year.
  • Commercial Property: as well as the quarterly SHW/Locate report circulated for information, we should have regular discussions on the commercial sector at the meetings.
  • Infrastructure: a coordinated strategy with Transport for the South East (TfSE); it would be useful to hear from them at a DES meeting and discuss how we can work together.
  • Affordable Housing: always a relevant topic, including 100% affordable schemes; we should also consider statistics in this area, such as number of completions.

9. AOB (any other business)

  1. BP queried whether there are any plans to hold face-to-face DES meetings again. JB confirmed that we’ll definitely get there at some point, but there are obvious advantages of holding virtual meetings, so we’ll most likely try alternating between virtual and in-person meetings. It’s something for us to look into moving forward.
  2. JB advised that the annual Leaders Dinner will be pushed back to spring or early-summer so that we can hold the event in person again. More details will follow in due course.

Summary of actions

4.4  BH to liaise with ES on arranging for a cohort of Planning colleagues to join the next monthly conversation with DLUHC.


Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • AB - Adam Berger - Locate East Sussex
  • BHr - Brian Horton - SELEP
  • BP - Brett Pearson - Locate East Sussex
  • CBe - Chris Bending - Wealden DC
  • CBr - Chris Broome - Sea Change Sussex
  • DE - Dave Evans - East Sussex CC
  • DG - Derek Godfrey - Westcotte Leach Ltd
  • DM - David Martin, Stiles Harold Williams Partnership
  • EB - Ema Blay - L and G Affordable Homes
  • EP - Erica Peck - Rydon Homes
  • ES - Edward Sheath - East Sussex CC
  • IS - Ian Scott, - Town & Country Housing Group
  • JB - Jonathan Buckwell - (Chair)  DHA Planning
  • JG - James Gray - Clarion Housing Group
  • JH - Josh Hemmings - Homes England
  • JM - Joshua Mellor - Barton Willmore
  • JN - James Newton - Taylor Wimpey
  • KH -Kate Harrison - Taylor Wimpey
  • LC - Lee Casselman - Vulcan Ellis
  • LME - Lourdes Madigasekera-Elliott - East Sussex CC
  • LS - Lisa Shead - Sussex Weald Homes
  • MB - Mark Bewsey - DHA Planning
  • MCa - Matt Carter -Redloft
  • MCo, Martin Cooper, Taylor Wimpey
  • NF - Nick Fenton - Nick Fenton Associates
  • PC - Peter Coldbreath - Stiles Harold Williams Partnership
  • PF - Paul Flatt - Homes England
  • PN - Phillip Naylor - RH Partnership Architects
  • PT, - Paul Thomas - Development Land Services Ltd / SELEP
  • RM - Ravail Marwaha -Taylor Wimpey
  • RT - Ryan Trodden - DLUHC
  • SC - Simon Collins - Jones Homes
  • SM - Sarah Mayers - Rentplus
  • SR - Stacey Robins - Wealden DC
  • TH - Tom Hichisson - Clarion Housing Group
  • VG - Vera Gajic, - East Sussex CC

Apologies

  • AP - Andrew Palmer - Hastings BC / ES Housing/Planning Groups
  • IG - Isabel Garden, - Wealden DC
  • JS - Janet Shields - Vulcan Ellis
  • KB - Kim Bloxham - East Sussex CC
  • LP - Leigh Palmer, - Eastbourne BC / Lewes DC
  • PC - Peter Coldbreath - Stiles Harold Williams Partnership