Developers East Sussex minutes: 7 March 2023
Date: 7 March 2023
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, 24 January 2023
- JB confirmed that all of the actions from the previous DES meeting had been completed.
- 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.
- The residential sales market has improved significantly, largely due to developers ‘repositioning’ themselves in response to the market, but is still nowhere near pre-pandemic levels. The cost of labour seems to have stabilised somewhat, but the cost of materials is still erratic – anything that uses energy to produce or transport is still fluctuating. Cancellation rates are still high, as the dependency on chains is prevalent (lots of broken chains leading to cancellations). We need to push the second-hand market back into a better position.
- Interest in shared ownership is high, with IS reporting 50+ shared ownership sales completed in the last few months. Buyers are recognising it as a good way to hedge against negative equity.
- Temporary accommodation statistics have recently been published, with almost 100,000 people reported to be in temporary accommodation across the country. Locally there has been a significant increase in Kent.
- In terms of Planning and the ongoing challenges of resourcing, officers continue to report unfilled vacancies, particularly at senior level. LP advised that he’s having to rely on costly agency staff. JB highlighted the Government’s current consultation on proposals to increase Planning fees, which is open until 25 April 2023: UK consultation on increasing planning fees. DES colleagues are encouraged to respond.
4. East Sussex Highways
- DP introduced himself as Head of Highways for East Sussex County Council, and provided some background information on the work and responsibilities of the ES Highways team, including highways maintenance, new asset adoption and transport development control. The maintenance contract is a fully outsourced service, with Balfour Beatty Living Places about to begin a new seven-year contract from April 2023.
- Network space is a key consideration for organisations needing to conduct work on the highway, with developers, utilities companies and ES Highways all competing for space. Pressure on the network is huge: an average of 24,000 permits are issued each year (the highest number issued to BT, followed by Southern Water), and that average has actually increased in recent years.
- DP asked the group to consider whether there is anything more that can be done moving forward to improve the service and the overall experience for developers, such as conducting regular meetings (for awareness of upcoming works) and more joined-up communications, and he encouraged DES colleagues to contact him directly. Hopefully this can be the start of an ongoing dialogue to enable developers and ES Highways to work together more collaboratively.
- ES reiterated the ongoing staffing and resourcing issues regularly discussed at DES meetings, and suggested that if colleagues are looking to implement S278 agreements (as part of planning approval, to make permanent alterations or improvements to a public highway), then the sooner they engage the better.
5. East Sussex Lane Rental Scheme
- JSS delivered a presentation on the DfT-approved Lane Rental scheme being introduced in the county by East Sussex Highways, to encourage utility companies and highways authorities to work quickly and/or to avoid working during traffic sensitive times when conducting works on the highway.
- He provided some background to the current permit system, and explained how the new initiative will incentivise companies “to minimise disruption during peak hours” by introducing new daily charges for all works, and aligning the charges with disruption costs if those works are conducted on selected busy streets at busy times. The scheme will apply to all kinds of work on the network, including that of developers, with the Lane Rental fee to cost up to £2,500 per day to work on a critical road at peak times. Around 5-6% of major roads across East Sussex are initially proposed to be part of this scheme, covering the most critical parts of the network.
- Currently at the consultation stage, the scheme is expected to be implemented in September 2023.
6. DLUHC / Homes England engagement
- JB reminded the group that regular monthly meetings with DLUHC officials are continuing, at which all of the issues discussed here at DES are raised. As always, colleagues are invited to feed in any further points that they think ought to be covered.
- JB advised that a meeting with the Housing Minister is still intended, but it’s been difficult to arrange as the Minister in post keeps changing, with six different people holding the position over the past twelve months. The latest incumbent, Rachel Maclean MP, was appointed on 7 February 2023, so we’ll reach out to her in due course.
- BHr also flagged the annual Building Garden Communities Conference taking place at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London on 26 April 2023. It’s probably more relevant to developer colleagues in Kent and Surrey, but anyone can book to attend (costs apply).
7. Local Planning Authority (LPA) updates
- Borough and District officers reminded the group that local elections are taking place across most Councils in early May 2023, and the pre-election period (purdah) begins this month on 20 March. During this time officers are not permitted to engage in any comms, publicity or other activity that may inadvertently promote a candidate or political party.
- There is no further update in regard to Local Plans. NW advised that the latest information on the Wealden Local Plan is available to view on the WDC website.
- SR commented that he’s planning to conduct some training sessions for new Members at Wealden DC. BHr advised that DES has previously organised similar training events with local authority colleagues, so would be happy to help.
8. AOB (any other business)
- JB highlighted the new DES meeting schedule for 2023/24. Virtual meetings will be bimonthly rather than every six weeks, taking place on the second Tuesday of every-other month. The next meeting is scheduled for 2pm Tuesday 9 May 2023.
- JB also reminded the group that a face-to-face networking session is still planned for this year, hopefully to include colleagues from the Kent developers’ group. The date will be confirmed in the next few weeks.
Summary of actions
Attendees and apologies
- AF, Amy Fearn, Rother DC
- BB, Beverley Bayliss, East Sussex CC
- BHr, Brian Horton, SELEP
- BP, Brett Pearson, Locate East Sussex
- CBr, Chris Broome, Sea Change Sussex
- CBu, Craige Burden, Barratt David Wilson Homes
- CMi, Chris Mian, Whitehall Homes
- CMo, Chris Moore, Bellway Homes
- DE, Dave Evans, East Sussex CC
- DM, David Martin, Stiles Harold Williams Partnership
- DP, Dale Poore, East Sussex Highways
- EG, Emma George, Rentplus
- ES, Edward Sheath, East Sussex CC
- IS, Ian Scott, Town & Country Housing Group
- JB, Jonathan Buckwell, DHA Planning
- JC, Janan Clatworthy, Countryside Partnerships
- JG, James Gray, Clarion Housing Group
- JH, Jonathan Hugo, Berkeley Homes
- JL, John Longhorn, Vistry Homes
- JMe, Joshua Mellor, Stantec
- JMu, Joan Mumo, L and G Affordable Homes
- JR, Jason Roberts, Wealden DC
- JSS, Jason Setford-Smith, East Sussex Highways
- KE, Kemi Erifevieme, Rother DC
- LN, Leah Needham, ilke Homes
- LP, Leigh Palmer, Eastbourne BC / Lewes DC
- MB, Mark Bewsey, DHA Planning
- MS, Matt Suggitt, ilke Homes
- NF, Nick Fenton, Nick Fenton Associates
- NW, Nichola Watters, Wealden DC
- PC, Peter Coldbreath, Stiles Harold Williams Partnership
- PM, Pippa Mabey, East Sussex Highways
- PN, Phillip Naylor, RH Partnership Architects
- PT, Paul Thomas, Development Land Services Ltd / SELEP
- RE, Rachel Evans, East Sussex CC
- RM, Ravail Marwaha, Taylor Wimpey
- RTa, Rebecca Taylor, Dandara
- SC, Simon Collins, Jones Homes
- SH, Sean Havis, Barratt David Wilson Homes
- SR, Stacey Robins, Wealden DC
- BHk, Ben Hook, Rother DC
- ED, Emma Davies, Redloft
- EP, Erica Peck, Rydon Homes
- ET, Ed Tibbetts, Orbit Homes
- JP, Jeff Pyrah, Rother DC
- LME, Lourdes Madigasekera-Elliott, East Sussex CC
- RTr, Ryan Trodden, DLUHC