Developers East Sussex minutes: 6 September 2022
Date: 6 September 2022
Location: Microsoft Teams
See the list of attendees and apologies for this meeting.
1. Welcome and introductions
- JB welcomed the group to the meeting.
2. Review of previous minutes, 19 July 2022
- JB highlighted action 9.3 (establishing a biannual face-to-face networking session for DES colleagues and extending the invitation to the Kent developer group), advising that there is nothing to report yet, and an update will be provided in due course.
- The minutes were approved as an accurate record of the meeting.
3. Market conditions / open forum
- The group discussed the current state of the market and the ongoing issues around the supply of materials, labour shortages, price increases etc. Overall, it seems the high cost of materials and the continuing issues with supply are still real concerns. Manufacturers are clearly suffering from energy price increases, in terms of both production and transportation costs, meaning it may become uneconomical to produce goods at all. Companies continually raising their prices to absorb higher energy/transportation costs is simply not sustainable. It was noted that one of the UK’s largest roofing contractors, Avonside, has fallen into administration today.
- The build process is taking a lot longer at all sites, with lengthier builds meaning lower delivery rates. The slow build rate is not likely to improve anytime soon, with developers poorly forecasting their completions and expecting fewer homes to be completed within the financial year. CM added a ‘seasonal normality’ caveat, as things do often quieten down during the summer, so the coming months of September/October will be looked at with a keen eye to see if there is any bounce-back.
- EP noted strong demand at their smaller sites (fewer than 25 units), but highlighted that all of their buyers are prioritising energy efficiency when making enquiries.
4. Commercial property sector
- THa provided a brief overview of current supply-and-demand in the commercial sector in the southeast region, highlighting an increase in demand for office space this year, particularly better quality offices, and a good occupational market. Retail continues to under-perform, with larger stores struggling, but ‘shop local’ is doing better. Demand in the commercial sector remains high. All of the information has been compiled into a series of ‘South East Focus’ research documents from Stiles Harold Williams (SHW), available to view on the SHW website:
- CBr agreed that demand is still very strong, and cited a high number of enquiries for industrial units, as well as for their office stock aimed at the smaller end of market, with good occupancy through a steady stream of tenants. BP added that Locate East Sussex is also receiving frequent enquiries for larger sites, and the problem is a lack of appropriate sites to meet demand.
- The group discussed the lengthy time taken to develop commercial sites, with the main barriers being infrastructure and utilities, specifically East Sussex Highways, Southern Water and UK Power Networks. The commercial developers at the meeting have all encountered significant problems in these areas, and all agreed that the protracted time taken by these organisations means the whole development process is drawn out to extremes. Land Registry can also be an unnecessarily lengthy process. Overall, the impact on both the developer and the commercial organisation is massive, as the timelines for locating/relocating businesses are far more constrained (than say simply moving house), so delays in delivery of a site will risk losing the business, as they will go elsewhere. Simplification of the whole process is key.
- With such high demand for commercial property in the county, the group agreed that we all need to work together to smooth out these problems, and sit around the table with whoever is necessary to find workable solutions. NF offered to assist in brokering the relationship with the organisations mentioned above.
4.4 - NF to help broker a relationship between DES’s commercial developers and various external organisations – including East Sussex Highways, Southern Water and UK Power Networks – in order to begin an open dialogue on how to speed up the commercial development process.
5. DLUHC / Homes England engagement
- BH thanked RT, IMV and MF for again joining today’s DES meeting, and advised that the next meeting with DLUHC officials is tomorrow. Discussions will include the usual feedback on market conditions, the rent consultation (the position of Registered Providers on rent increase controls), conditions around planning, First Homes, and the ongoing phosphates/nitrates issue in some of our neighbouring authorities.
- BH reminded the group that a virtual roundtable event is taking place on 22 September 2022 to discuss the First Homes programme. Invitations have already been circulated; contact BH if you would like to attend.
- BH also advised that the Chairs of the Kent, Essex and East Sussex developer groups will jointly write to the new Secretary of State (when announced) to introduce themselves.
6. Local Planning Authority (LPA) updates
- CBe flagged an issue currently being experienced by local planning authorities (certainly in Wealden but potentially in other areas too) where Members of the Planning Committee are concerned about sewage discharges and the impact on watercourses. Whilst this is not a matter that Boroughs and Districts regulate, there is poor public understanding of this and a misconception that in granting planning applications we are making matters worse. The Members of the committee are therefore seeking reassurance from Southern Water before they proceed with planning applications, and are currently deferring applications until this has taken place.
- Wealden DC officers are working on this as a priority, and are meeting with Southern Water in late-September to move things forward and give confidence to Members to make decisions at the Planning Committee’s October meeting. This will involve communication to the public, to explain the Council’s role and place the onus on Southern Water and their regulators to act.
- DES colleagues asked what they could do to help, and CBe suggested the following three points:
- Help provide information, if you have it, to show connection points, upgrade plans etc. Developers are very likely to have this at RM stage and so will help reassure Members and the community.
- Put pressure on Southern Water to deliver. Developers all pay an infrastructure charge to Southern Water, but how often do you check whether that infrastructure has been delivered? When it goes wrong, as it does all too often, the public will blame all parties involved, so help us hold Southern Water to account for delivery.
- Finally, be mindful of the politics of this and the disconnect between the public view of what the planning system should be controlling, verses how the system is designed.
6.3 - DES colleagues to consider the points raised by CBe on the impact of Southern Water’s sewage discharges on planning applications, and help as appropriate.
7. AOB (any other business)
Summary of actions
4.4 NF to help broker a relationship between DES’s commercial developers and various external organisations – including East Sussex Highways, Southern Water and UK Power Networks – in order to begin an open dialogue on how to speed up the commercial development process.
6.3 DES colleagues to consider the points raised by CBe on the impact of Southern Water’s sewage discharges on planning applications, and help as appropriate.
Attendees and apologies
- 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
- CBr, Chris Broome, Sea Change Sussex
- CM, Chris Moore, Bellway Homes
- CS, Craig Steenhoff, Rother DC
- DE, Dave Evans, East Sussex CC
- DG, Derek Godfrey, Derek Godfrey Consulting
- EG, Emma George, Rentplus
- EP, Erica Peck, Rydon Homes
- IMV, Ieuan Marks-Venables, DLUHC
- IS, Ian Scott, Town & Country Housing Group
- JB, Jonathan Buckwell (CHAIR), DHA Planning
- JC, Janan Clatworthy, Countryside Partnerships
- JL, John Longhorn, Vistry Homes (formerly Bovis)
- JS, Janet Shields, Vulcan Ellis
- KB, Kim Bloxham, East Sussex CC
- KD, Kate Drury, Stantec (formerly Barton Willmore)
- MF, Megan Field, DLUHC
- NF, Nick Fenton, Nick Fenton Associates
- NW, Nick Webb, Batcheller Monkhouse
- PT, Paul Thomas, Development Land Services Ltd / SELEP
- RT, Ryan Trodden, DLUHC
- SC, Simon Collins, Jones Homes
- THa, Tim Hardwicke, Stiles Harold Williams Partnership
- TT, Tom Tanner, Optivo
- VG, Vera Gajic, East Sussex CC
- AP, Andrew Palmer, Hastings BC / ES Housing/Planning Groups
- DM, David Martin, Stiles Harold Williams Partnership
- ES, Edward Sheath, East Sussex CC
- JG, James Gray, Clarion Housing Group
- JM, Joshua Mellor, Stantec (formerly Barton Willmore)
- JP, Jeff Pyrah, Rother DC
- LME, Lourdes Madigasekera-Elliott, East Sussex CC
- LS, Lisa Shead, Sussex Weald Homes
- PN, Phillip Naylor, RH Partnership Architects
- PS, Peter Smith, East Sussex CC
- RW, Richard White, Optivo
- THi, Tom Hichisson, Clarion Housing Group