Developers East Sussex minutes: 5 October 2021
Date: Tuesday 5 October 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, 13 July 2021
- JB confirmed that all of the actions from the previous DES meeting were completed. The minutes were approved by the group as an accurate record of the meeting.
3. Welcome new DES members
- JB welcomed BP and LME to the group and asked them to introduce themselves and their roles. BP is the new Service Director for Locate East Sussex, and LME is the Public Health Strategic Lead for Creating Healthy Places at East Sussex County Council.
4. Market update/open forum
- DES members discussed the current state of the market in terms of the ongoing issues with supply, price increases and labour shortages. The general consensus amongst the group is that things are not yet improving, and in some instances they seem to be getting worse. The continuing problems are affecting productivity, which in turn affects competitiveness in the market and therefore any future opportunities.
- NF noted that the developer groups in Essex and Kent are also reporting precisely the same issues, with no obvious signs of them easing.
- SR advised that local authorities are receiving cries for help, and suggested it would be helpful if developers could put forward a ‘range’ of possible materials options – but acknowledged that in the current climate it would need to be a very long list of alternatives, so may not be viable or practical.
- IS observed that in terms of Registered Providers and S106 development, with the labour and materials issues, performance close to handover is becoming a problem as developers are tending to shift their focus onto private housing.
- BHr reminded the group that the state of the market is continually being discussed with MHCLG – now renamed the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) – and with Chris Pincher MP as part of their ongoing dialogue, so all of the above will again be fed back directly to government.
5. Community engagement
- CBe reminded the group that one of the main actions for DES in the Economy Recovery Plan is to “develop approaches that put local communities at the heart of shaping places”. To that end, colleagues from Grosvenor Strategic Land were invited to discuss their approaches to community engagement.
- AS and LH delivered a presentation, covering the background and experience of Grosvenor – a privately owned global company working in both the private and public sector on sites of around 1,000 to 10,000 homes. Grosvenor has a focus on sustainability, seeking to be a carbon neutral company by 2025.
- One of Grosvenor’s principal considerations is how they work closely with local communities, and how this is key to understanding the unique characteristics of a place. Initial feedback from surveys was quite negative, suggesting that people tend to think development happens to them rather than with. As such, Grosvenor has created a community charter, ‘Positive Space’, setting a new standard for public engagement and giving communities meaningful involvement in how their neighbourhoods evolve. The 4 basics principles of the charter are: Listen First; Open Up (that is, be honest and clear on choices); Make it Easier (for example, use as many platforms as possible to engage); and Be Accountable (to ensure that commitments are actually carried out).
- Another specific area being targeted by Grosvenor is youth engagement. Around 25% of the UK population is under 19, yet 89% of young adults aged 16-19 have never been asked their opinion on neighbourhood change. Grosvenor has therefore launched a Youth Engagement Toolkit, featuring structured workshops and practical guidance.
- Community engagement should begin as early as possible in the development process, should not be rushed, and should be a continual iterative process. By conducting good community engagement, development will be much more bespoke to the local environment and the people that live there, and people are far more likely to support proposals, rather than oppose, if they can see that their community has been properly involved.
- The group discussed the pros and cons of conducting virtual engagement through the pandemic, and agreed that online events are really useful for reaching a far wider breadth of people who don’t normally get involved, but online events can’t fully replace in-person engagement, as discussing maters face-to-face builds a rapport and makes for more constructive dialogue. The ‘best of both’ model is evidently the way forward.
6. Affordable Housing/First Homes
- Local authority members confirmed that they’re yet to receive any interest in the First Homes programme, and BHr agreed that he’s heard the same thing from the Essex and Kent developer groups too. DG said that he’s aware of a site in the Midlands that has shown some interest, but nothing locally; perhaps the scheme works better in the north due to the caps imposed.
- BHr advised that since our last DES meeting, Homes England has announced its list of strategic partners that will receive a share of almost £5.2bn under the Affordable Homes Programme, to collectively deliver 90,000 grant-funded affordable homes across England (outside of London) between 2021 and 2026. The list of strategic partners includes DES members Clarion and Vistry, so it will be good to get their views at our next meeting.
JB to ask DES colleagues from Clarion and Vistry to provide some insight into the Affordable Homes Programme, and being a Homes England strategic partner, at the next DES meeting on 16 November 2021.
7. MHCLG/Homes England update
- JH advised that Homes England’s new Delivery Partner Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) was launched on 4 September 2021, where bidders are invited to sign-up to become partners to bring forward residential sites. Future land opportunities are shown on the Homes England Land Hub. Local authorities and other public sector bodies can also utilise the DPS for their own land opportunities.
- PF added that the Land Assembly Fund is also still available, looking at sites that continue to be stalled and where Homes England can help.
- BHr reminded the group that a virtual workshop is taking place on 18 October 2021, bringing together Homes England and SME developers to discuss case studies, barriers, suggested improvements, and to help developers better understand the support available from Homes England. Details have already been shared with DES members – if anyone else is interested in joining the call then please contact BHr
- JB repeated his ongoing request for any issues, and particularly any examples of problems, to report to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) during their regular meetings. We know that these conversations are fed directly to Ministers, so this is a critical route for us to get our messages directly to government.
8. Other matters arising
- Following a presentation to DES on this topic earlier this year, VG queried whether the group would advocate conducting a piece of research on the sustainable construction sector in East Sussex. This would fit within Locate East Sussex’s research budget and would look to identify the companies involved in the sector, the issues, and what more can be done to support and promote the sector. The group agreed that it’s definitely an area of interest, so worthy of further study.
9. AOB (all other business)
- VG reminded the group that the County Council’s Stalled Sites Fund is still operating, but is due to close next year. It provides small amounts of funding for feasibility studies and business case development to help unlock sites that have site-specific reasons for remaining undeveloped. More details on the East Sussex business grants and loans pages on the County Council's website.
Summary of actions
6.2 JB to ask DES colleagues from Clarion and Vistry to provide some insight into the Affordable Homes Programme, and being a Homes England strategic partner, at the next DES meeting on 16 November 2021.
Attendees and apologies
- AB, Adam Berger, Locate East Sussex
- AS, Andy Sharpe, Grosvenor
- 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
- 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
- JL, Joyce Lo, Barton Willmore
- JS, Janet Shields, Vulcan Ellis
- LH, Louise Houston, Grosvenor
- LME, Lourdes Madigasekera-Elliott, East Sussex CC
- LP, Leigh Palmer, Eastbourne BC / Lewes DC
- LS, Lisa Shead, Sussex Weald Homes
- MB, Mark Bewsey, DHA Planning
- MO, Matthew Oliver, Vistry Homes
- NB, Nigel Brown, East Sussex CC
- NF, Nick Fenton, Nick Fenton Associates
- PC, Peter Coldbreath, Stiles Harold Williams Partnership
- PF, Paul Flatt, Homes England
- PN, Phillip Naylor, RH Partnership Architects
- SM, Stephen Marsden, Rother DC
- SR, Stacey Robins, Wealden DC
- TH, Tom Hichisson, Clarion Housing Group
- VG, Vera Gajic, East Sussex CC
- BHk, Ben Hook, Rother DC
- CM, Chris Moore, Bellway Homes
- JM, Joshua Mellor, Barton Willmore
- KB, Kim Bloxham, East Sussex CC
- PT, Paul Thomas, Development Land Services Ltd / SELEP