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TOWN EXPANSION – WHAT IS NEEDED TO RETAIN COMMUNITIES

Additional HousingAdditional Housing

Of late, the current Government has implemented a building spree across the Country, and in short, the relevant District Councils have been instructed to provide additional housing to push the housing stock numbers up and to kick start the economy to try and build our way out of our current recession.

What are the effects of this?

This has two major effects; firstly the obvious, that the construction industry will move forward and generate work and economic stability, promoting industries to produce more goods and give the ability for the Country to start to move out of recession.  Secondly, is that swathes of building estates will sprout up across the Country which may be at the expense of communities.

community 2

Smaller developments such as housing numbers of 15 and below, would be of benefit to smaller towns and village   communities as they would bring families to the community who would use the local services such as shops, pubs, bus routes, schools, churches, village halls, and may in fact give these the ability to re-generate and move forward with the injection of the growth of the community.  In some cases the downside might be that larger settlements that have gained consent for 50 houses and above on the perimeters, will in fact just increase the size of the existing community, but as that community has limited resources to start with may drive the town towards a commuter settlement.

The Government have applied the Localism Bill of late and this is for communities to feed in at the bottom, giving guidance to any new development on how it can be integrated into the local economy.  A District Council would look to the Parish Council for their input to make a better settlement following consent.

Resources

Due care and consideration should be given to settlements for the increase of resources such as expansion to schools, expansion to Doctor’s Surgeries and Health Facilities and injection into the community buildings, such as village halls, town halls and libraries that would encourage new residents to integrate with the existing community, by providing the facilities that are adequate for the increase of housing numbers.community

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Becoming a New Landlord?

Property to Let

painterHow Do I prepare My Property for Letting?

This is a question asked by many new landlords when I first meet them. When planning a refurb, or merely preparing a property ready for the open market, it is difficult to find the right level to aim for.  How you present a property largely affects and influences the type of tenant that takes it.  If the property is scruffy or grubby you will normally find that the ‘fussy’ tenants discount it completely.  You will therefore end up with tenants that are not so fussy about their surroundings, which is not ideal.  You may have heard of the saying ‘scruffy property, scruffy tenants’.  On the other hand if a property is in good order, with up to date fittings and presented in a clean condition, then you will find it will appeal to the more fussy tenants.  These are the tenants you want as they will end up looking after your investment in a much better manner.  Tenants also do tend to stay longer if the property is comfortable to live in.

Don’t over-do your propertykitchen

Many landlords also make the mistake of over-doing their property.  It is key to make sure a refurb is planned in line with the type of property and with consideration to the typical group of potential tenants it would appeal to.  For example, a two bedroom maisonette in the centre of town is likely to appeal to a young couple or single occupant.  This does not need a high end finish. A mid range finish will suffice in this instance.  If you were renovating a large detached family home, the expected finish would be for a higher standard and specification and this would be appropriate to the market you would be aiming for, typically a professional couple with children. It is also important to ensure the fittings you install are of a good standard, as cheap fittings never last. You need something that is fit for purpose and will withstand wear and tear.

I see many landlords getting this wrong and we can help with any level of advice you may require, even down to managing the entire project for you.  For assistance please call Sue on 01608 665473 or Michael on 01789 206760.

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Achieving Sustainable Development

Achieving Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development

As the recent planning reforms have slowly been introduced and their effects are now becoming evident, the key buzzword seems to be the issue of sustainable development, and certainly this is the golden thread running through the policies contained within a National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  Much discussion has revolved around what actually is sustainable development.  The NPPF describes it as three separate dimensions; these being economic, social and environmental.

In relation to the economic role of sustainability, a development must contribute towards building a strong, responsive and competitive economy in order to support growth and innovation.

With regard to the social element of sustainability, a development should support strong, vibrant and healthy communities by providing housing to meet the needs of present and future generations.

With regard to environmental sustainability, any development should look to protect and enhance the natural, built and historic environment.

By looking at all three of these elements together, developments should be located close to local services where they can be supported by the local community, and support local growth where a supply of housing is required.

Housing

8,000 Dwellings Earmarked

Stratford District Council originally earmarked in their 2012 Draft Core Strategy for the allocation of 8,000 dwellings throughout the district; however, at the 1st April 2011, 2,400 of the 8,000 were already accounted for and therefore leaving a 5,600 quota to be filled.  560 of these dwellings were to be allocated in Stratford-upon-Avon, 1,680 dwellings were to be located in the Main Rural Centres; 2,240 dwellings were to be located in Local Service Villages; with the remaining 560 dwellings to be allocated within the smaller settlements which are the settlements that are not either Main Rural Centres or Local Service Villages.

WarwickshireLocal Service Villages

Local Service Villages are defined as villages which have key services and have reasonable access to public transport, these include:

Alderminster, Alveston Bearley, Bishops Itchington, Brailes (Upper and Lower), Claverdon, Clifford Chambers, Earlswood, Ettington, Fenny Compton, Gaydon, Great Alne, Halford, Hampton Lucy, Harbury, Ilmington, Lighthorne Heath, Long Compton, Long Itchington, Long Marston, Mappleborough Green, Moreton Morrell, Napton-on-the-Hill, Newbold-on-Stour, Northend, Oxhill, Pillerton Prior, Priors Marston, Quinton (Lower), Salford Priors, Snitterfield, Stockton, Tanworth-in-Arden, Tiddington, Tredington, Tysoe (Upper & Middle), Welford-on-Avon, Wilmcote and Wootton Wawen.

In order to develop in one of the Local Service Villages, sites should adhere to either of the following criteria.

  • It is a site allocated for development in Neighbourhood Plans or the DPD.
  • The re-use and redevelopment of land and properties within existing settlements.
  • Opportunities for regeneration within and adjacent to existing settlements.
  • Local choice schemes which meet housing needs identified by the local community.

Smaller Settlements

As there has been an allocation of 560 dwellings in smaller settlements of the district, you would be forgiven in thinking that infill development within a smaller settlement would be acceptable to help meet the 560 housing quota.  In reality, we have learnt from the District Council through a number of pre-application enquiries that when an infill site is put forward as a potential site for housing within a smaller settlement, the District Council often look unfavourably upon the proposals due to them deeming smaller settlements to be unsustainable in terms of the NPPF as they are not located near local services, transport links or shops.  Such proposals therefore need to be brought about through ‘local choice’ schemes where a housing need is identified by the local community.

Since the Stratford-on-Avon District Council published their Draft Core Strategy 2012, they have revised their housing quota to 9,500, yet this is still to be officially confirmed.  The division of this quota across the settlement hierarchy is also unclear and should hopefully be unveiled shortly.

It should be noted that many Parish Councils are in the throes of preparing their Neighbourhood Development Plan, which provides power to Parish Councils to set their own policies in relation to the type of development and where development is to be located within their settlements.  Once a Neighbourhood Development Plan has been adopted by the District Council, the policies within it will take precedence over the presumption of sustainable development; thereby bringing planning powers back to local areas.

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Biodiversity Offsetting – 27th Jan 2014

Sheldon Bosley has been monitoring the progress of the Biodiversity Offsetting Scheme Pilot.  Farmers and Developers will be interested in the outcome.

Habitat

Laura Gaydon MRICS FAAV writes.

Summary of Scheme

  • Biodiversity Offsetting allows Developers to deliver biodiversity benefits in compensation for losses occurring on development sites.  By purchasing ‘credits’ from Landowners who undertake biodiversity management, this relieves the Developer’s responsibility of maintaining their own area of land for biodiversity purposes.
  • Landowners commit to a 30 year management scheme, for creating, protecting or restoring habitats on areas or parcel(s) of land which have been assessed for their biodiversity value, and gain funding for the period of the management agreement.  The funding is paid by Developers who purchase ‘credits’ to counter-act any habitats they may have lost on development sites.  The purchased ‘credits’ should be of similar habitat value and within the locality.
  • Before the Offsetting Scheme is considered, Developers must consider all other options of creating habitats on site, or mitigating before looking at offsetting alternatives.
  • Irreplaceable sites cannot be compensated for, to include SSSIs or ancient woodland.
  • The Scheme acts to compensate for any lost biodiversity by retaining management of other areas of land in the locality.
  • DEFRA have provided a metric scale for assessing the habitat quality on the development site, to include quantity, level of biodiversity, size etc.  The site being put forward by a Landowner will also be assessed and given a number of ‘conservation credits’ which they can sell to developers looking for ‘credits’.Biodiversity 2014

Advantages

  • Income to Landowners for protecting, improving or creating natural features.
  • Income guaranteed for 30 year period at pre-agreed instalments.
  • Potential income for sites which may have little agricultural benefit/productivity, or with poor access.

Disadvantages

  • Landowner tied into 30 year management plan – long period of time to guarantee land taken out of production/management obligations being upheld.
  • Rates of income or credit value are calculated now – but value in 15 or 25 years’ time is very difficult to calculate, particularly if food productivity / gross margins / subsidy increases.
  • The Agreement is a legal contract with land owner– if sold, management obligations must be transferred on sale.
  • There is little or no known funding at present for monitoring and reporting during the Scheme – monitoring will be as stated in the management plan prepared, however will probably be through self-assessment by the landowner – photos, invoices, site inspection.
  • Dual funding and compatibility with ELS/Basic Payment Scheme and EFAs not known (DEFRA consultation not yet completed).
  • This will be in addition to CIL/Section 106 – ultimately costs of ‘offsetting’ will come out of the original Landowner’s pocket (who owns original development site).
  • The farmer or landowner has to outlay fees upfront for preparing a management plan and undertaking an ecological survey – no guarantee of acceptance into Scheme, therefore costs may not be recovered from Developer.
  • Potential issues for APR/BPR if areas of land are taken out of production and main income or activity is not agricultural.
  • Consideration needs to be given in preparation of Promotion Agreements – difficult to calculate the value of credits or offsetting costs at present.
  • Legal agreement between Environment Bank and Landowner will need careful review by legal adviser – extra expense for Landowner.

Further Comments:

  • Suggest an Adviser is needed throughout management plan to review Scheme and provide advice if management prescriptions are not working – funding for this unknown.
  • If prescriptions are not working, how can the Landowner resolve these issues without being penalised/paying back money to date?
  • Contingency costs need to be built into the management plan.Biodiversity
  • Income to be index-linked or interest-linked, but how can prices in 2014 reflect those in 2024 and 2034 onwards?
  • DEFRA Consultation on interaction with Stewardship and Basic Payment Scheme etc not yet released.
  • Six official pilots ongoing at present – Warwickshire is one.  Natural England are overseeing pilot schemes and will provide results at the end of the pilot period – Spring 2014.

Examples of Management:

  • Woodland Restoration;Biodiversity planting
  • Woodland Replanting;
  • Hedgerow Restoration, to include gapping up, coppicing, laying;
  • Grassland Management, to include low input grassland, restoration of species-rich meadows etc;
  • Reducing stocking rates;
  • Reverting arable land to permanent pasture/field corners;
  • Buffer strips;
  • Management of scrub;
  • Management of bankside vegetation adjacent to watercourses.

For more information contact Laura Gaydon 01608 661666 or lgaydon@sheldonbosley.co.uk

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Dont be caught out by Agricultural Waste Exemptions

Agricultural Waste Exemptions

Many agricultural waste activities that commonly take place on your farm will need to be registered as an Agricultural Waste Exemption with the Environment Agency.  Any exceptions registered before the 6th April 2010 will have expired on the 30th September 2013, and some old exemptions have been replaced by a new list of exempt waste activities.

Some common activities which require a waste exemption include:

  • A bonfire of wood or vegetation waste on the farm it was produced
  • Clearing silt from a stream, ditch or other inland water
  • Composting hedge trimmings, crop waste, horse or farmyard manure
  • Washing of spray containers
  • Strimming areas of ground such as river banks
  • Adding waste chalk to soil as a liming agent to improve soils
  • Spreading ditch dredging spoil on land to provide nutrients
  • Using telegraph poles for pole barns
  • Using tyres on a silage clamp
  • Using shredded rubber in a horse manège
  • Using rubble from a demolished farm building in the foundations of a new barn
  • Using woodchip as surfacing for a path

If you are concerned that you are undertaking activities which require a Waste Exemption, please contact our Land Agency Department on 01608 661666.

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Environmental Stewardship

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ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP CHANGES AHEAD

 Natural England have recently released updates on some of the potential changes to Environmental Stewardship (ES) under the CAP reform proposals, which provide a flavour of the intended changes.  However please note these are all draft proposals and subject to final agreement and implementation:

  • The final start date for ELS/HLS Agreements under existing ES schemes is the 1st December 2013.  ELS Applications will need to be with Natural England by 1st September 2013 (and HLS agreements earlier) to achieve this final start date.
  • New Environmental Land Management Schemes (NELMS) under the next regime of the CAP Reform will not commence until 1st January 2016; and all Agreement start dates will be the 1st January each year – there will be no monthly start dates.
  • Inevitably, there is a gap between December 2013 and 2016, known as the ‘transitional period’.  Currently, the following proposals are in place:
  • 2014, for Agreement Holders who have ELS Agreements which expire in 2014 (approximately 2,000) – to either extend their existing schemes in 2014, or begin a new Agreement using the current ES scheme rules – both of these options will be within the new budget, therefore the more money which is spent on transitional arrangements means there will be less available for NELMS in the future;
  • 2015, Currently 2015 is not defined as a transition year, therefore there are currently no proposals in place for the 12,000 ELS Agreements which are likely to expire.
  • The proposals for the NELMS in 2016 and beyond:-
  • ‘Lower tier’ – a national scheme open to all (similar to ELS) but with limited management options and capital items, with more emphasis on providing advice to landowners (similar to Catchment Sensitive Farming);
  • ‘Middle tier’ – targeting geographical/landscape priorities – agreements by invite only with simple management options and limited capital items;
  • ‘Upper tier’ – targeting designation areas to provide schemes for complex or demanding sites such as SSSIs – agreements by invite only with capital items available for special projects.
  • Depending on the outcome of the “greening” proposals under the CAP reform, and the availability of budget for Environmental Stewardship, it may be possible that only the middle and upper tier agreements are implemented, which will be targeted to deliver more significant benefits.
  • The Defra policies and objectives for formulating the NELMS and management options are based on EU directives such as water, biodiversity, landscape, climate control.
  • It is anticipated that there will be a single IT system for all CAP schemes, including the Single Payment Scheme (or equivalent) and NELMS, which shall include preparing and submitting applications, and submitting claim forms.

If you would like further advice on changes to Environmental Stewardship, or require assistance completing your ELS renewal in 2013 please contact Laura Gaydon of Sheldon Bosley on 01608 661666 or lgaydon@sheldonbosley.co.uk