Office to become new homes

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Empty offices above shops could soon be converted into flats if proposed changes from the government come into force next month.
Currently planning permission is required for material changes of use of land or a building even if no building work is required. Converting an office above a shop to a residential use would therefore usually require planning permission but from October 1st this could all change.

After an announcement made by the government Permitted development rights look likely to be extended to include the conversion of parts of certain offices and shops to two residential flats.  There will still be exceptions as local authorities can remove permitted development rights where they think they may cause a problem – for example in conservation areas.

Under the 1995 Order, local authorities can remove permitted development rights in geographic areas where they think these new rights might cause a problem. They can do so by making an Article 4 direction, the effect of which is to a require a planning application which in other locations would not be necessary. Article 4 directions are commonly found in conservation areas.

Announcing the proposed changes Mr Pickles said:

“These are common sense planning reforms that will deliver more affordable homes in areas where there are good transport links whilst ensuring better use of existing developed land. Cutting this red tape should be a shot in the arm for the high street increasing footfall and providing a boost to regeneration.”

We look forward to finding out if the new permitted development rights will be as revolutionary as Mr Pickles hopes when they are brought into force in October.

Living Space Architects join Regen South West

After exhibiting at the  Renewable Energy Marketplace a few months ago, we decided to join Regen South West this month.  Regen SW has an expert team working to enable business, local authorities and other organisations to deliver renewable energy and energy efficiency and build a prosperous low-carbon economy in the south west.

http://www.regensw.co.uk/

Regen SW will be working with us to expand our knowledge and expertise within the renewable energy sector so that we can help our clients make the most of the opportunities offered by the Green Deal and other Government incentives.

We will also be looking at the opportunities offered by Communities for Renewables, a not for profit company set up by Regen SW to help communities start projects to generate their own power.  This is of special interest to us as we frequently work communities, such as Newtown in Exeter, who are in the process of building a new community centre which includes a photovoltaic array.

We are looking forward to working with further community groups in this setor, so if you have  a project that you need some help with in Devon, Somerset or Exeter give us a call or come in for a chat.

 

The requirement for home improvement energy efficient upgrades is scrapped by the Government

 

The Government has scrapped plans for what was dubbed a ‘conservatory tax’ that would have required homeowners to install additional – and potentially expensive – energy efficiency measures when making home improvements.

Part of the complicated proposals under the England and Wales Building Regulations: Part L 2013 Consultation – ‘consequential improvements’ have been part of the Government’s agenda for many years.

This time, as in 2006 and 2010, it seems it has folded to pressure. Rupert Scott, TRADA’s Membership and Marketing Manager, is not surprised. “If someone is having their windows replaced for example, should they really have to pay to have further energy efficiency measures undertaken, when they are already doing this with the windows?”

He said the key issue for industry is whether the plans would to create more work for construction. “There will be some who are dissuaded from upgrading their windows altogether – and in this scenario everyone loses,” he said.

Another key point of the consultation – as summarised in the latest TRADA Construction Briefings document – is that the overall CO² maximum design targets have been watered down from what was expected for 2013: for dwellings, the Government’s suggested position is a reduction of the 2010 CO² target by 8%. 

“This is not much of mid-way bridge between the 2010 requirements and the goal of ‘zero carbon’ in 2016,” says Mr Scott. “The main issue is that all changes to building regulation guidance have to be appraised for their economic impact. The bottom line is that as we increase the energy performance levels it becomes increasingly difficult to make the financial case.

“The performance standards are not that onerous but the way the Government is proposing to ask people to comply is. It needs to get much simpler.”

TRADA Construction Briefing

What is the Green Deal?

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The Energy Bill includes provision for a new “Green Deal” which the Government believe will revolutionise the energy efficiency of British properties.  Put simply, the Government is establishing a framework to enable private firms to offer consumers energy efficiency improvements to their homes, community spaces and businesses at no upfront cost, and recoup payments through a charge in instalments on the energy bill. 

At the heart of the Government’s proposals is the “Green Deal plan”, an innovative financing mechanism which allows consumers to pay back through their energy bills. This means consumers can see the Green Deal charge alongside the reductions in energy use which generate savings on their bill. It also means that if they move out and cease to be the bill-payer at that property, the financial obligation doesn’t move with them but moves to the next bill payer: the charge is only paid whilst the benefits are enjoyed. In this way, the Green Deal differs from existing lending – it is not a conventional loan since the bill-payer is not liable for the full capital cost of the measures, only the charges due whilst they are the bill-payer.

This is a market mechanism, funded by private capital, which the Government believe will deliver far more to consumers than any sort of top-down Government programme.

The role of the Green Deal provider is to offer a Green Deal plan to customers, which enables them to finance work recommended by an accredited adviser and undertaken by an accredited installer. These functions might be done in-house by the provider, or shared amongst other organisations, but the customer’s contractual relationship is with provider.

The Government’s proposals are centred on the Green Deal plan but are also more ambitious.  For example, they are looking at how best to use the accredited, objective advice which is required in advance of the plan to give consumers a wider range of information about steps they can take to improve the sustainability of their homes, such as water efficiency.

There are a number of important consumer protections which will be embedded into the Green Deal which are detailed in the document.  These include the following prerequisites for all Green Deal plans:

1. The expected financial savings must be equal to or greater than the costs attached to the energy bill, known as “the golden rule” of the Green Deal.

2. The measures must be approved and the claimed bill savings must be those accredited through this process.

3. The measures installed must have been recommended for that property by an accredited, objective adviser who has carried out an assessment.

4. The measures must be installed by an accredited installer.

5. For householders, the Green Deal provider must give appropriate advice within the terms of the Consumer Credit Act and take account of the individual circumstances of the applicant.

6. The Green Deal provider must have consent from the relevant parties, including the express consent of the current energy bill-payer.

7. The presence of a Green Deal must be properly disclosed to subsequent billpayers (e.g. new owners or tenants) alongside energy performance information.

8. Energy suppliers must collect the Green Deal charge and pass it on within the existing regulatory safeguards for collecting energy bill payments – including protections for vulnerable consumers.

To qualify for the Green Deal, expected savings in typical properties consuming a normal amount of energy must be equal to or greater than the cost of the measure. However, actual cash savings cannot be guaranteed by government since no-one except individuals and businesses themselves can control how much energy they actually consume in their own property. Whilst the consumer has ultimate responsibility for reducing consumption after the Green Deal measures have been installed, we will give energy users advice on how to change behaviour to maximise the benefits of better insulated, less wasteful properties.

Not every household will be able to save on their energy bills by taking up a Green Deal plan, so there will be additional help for those who need it most. Lower income and vulnerable households may not save money through energy efficiency because many do not have the heating turned on long enough to heat their homes sufficiently, so increased efficiency may mean they will enjoy warmer homes rather than cash savings. Likewise, homes which can only be made energy efficient through major measures which are currently more expensive will need additional support to bring down costs enough to meet the golden rule. Alongside the Green Deal, the Government is planning to replace the existing energy company obligations. The new Energy Company Obligation (ECO) will focus energy companies on improving the ability of the vulnerable and those on lower incomes to heat their homes affordably, and on improving solid wall properties, which have not benefited much from previous schemes.

The Government  are designing the Green Deal with the aim of making it available for businesses as well as households – enabling smaller businesses to access funding for energy efficiency improvements, and larger businesses to meet their obligations under existing schemes at lower cost, such as Climate Change Agreements or the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme. The complexity of energy use in the business sector means that there will be a number of differences in the Green Deal for this sector, though the key principles set out here will apply to both businesses and households.

 

For further information visit the website for the department of Energy and Climate Change at www.decc.gov.uk

The New Homes Bonus

New Homes Bonus – Potential funding for community schemes

The New Homes Bonus is billed by the government as a powerful incentive for housing growth and is a key part of the housing growth focus of thier national strategy. It is based on the council tax of additional homes built within local areas and those brought back into use, with a premium amount for affordable homes, and paid for the following six years. The idea is that it ensures that those local authorities which promote and welcome growth can share in the economic benefits, and build the communities in which people want to live and work.

The New Homes Bonus commenced in April 2011, and will match fund the additional council tax raised for new homes and empty properties brought back into use, with an additional amount for affordable homes, for the following six years.

Provisional Allocations 2012-13

Housing Minister Grant Shapps announced the provisional allocations for 2012-13 last month and this has led to a flurry of interest from local community schems who could benefit from the money.

In his announcement Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:

“For years communities fought against development because they saw no evidence of how it improved their lives. Their experience of housebuilding under the old system top-down targets amounted to the wrong homes being built where they weren’t wanted, and their concerns about extra pressure on local services ignored” 

“So I’m delighted that after just one year of the New Homes Bonus this is now changing. There is a culture shift taking place across the country – communities going for growth are reaping rewards for their local area, and councillors are reporting that it is now much easier to lead a mature debate about the benefits of development”

“The bonus payments for new homes last for six years – so this year’s bonus is more than double the payment from year one, and it’s why communities that continue to welcome new homes can expect to see bigger cash bonuses and improved local services in the future”.

Provisional allocations for 2012-13 total £431m and Exeter will receive £389,165 for 2011-12

Full local authority allocations and on the online calculator are available below under ‘Related downloads’.

We are committed to ensuring that the Bonus remains a flexible, unring-fenced fund.  Local authorities are best place to understand the barriers to growth in their areas, the needs of their local communities and lead a mature debate about the benefits that growth can bring.

Background

The New Homes Bonus is based on past increases in housing supply. It is a powerful and simple incentive for housing growth, because it ensures that those areas which are growing have the resources to meet the needs of their new residents and existing communities. Local authorities are best placed to understand these needs and lead the debate about spending priorities. Wychavon have developed a protocol, whereby up to 40 per cent of the funding is spent by the community where the growth is taking place. While Dacorum are reinvesting the Bonus in further housing and business growth

The Department has set aside almost £1bn over the Comprehensive Spending Review period for the scheme, including nearly £200m in 2011-12 in year 1 and £250m for each of the following three years. Funding beyond those levels will come from formula grant. This ensures that the economic benefits of growth are returned to the local level .

New Homes Bonus could fund Community Centre

 

Newtown Community Association (NCA) could soon have a new building due to funding soon to be released through the New Homes bonus.

The Community Association based in Belmont Park in Exeter has been drawing up plans for a new facility, which will be an exemplar of sustainable passive technology and provide the local community with a much needed updated facility for local clubs and groups to meet.

The NCA have been working with Exeter based Living Space Architects to create a Vision for the scheme which will shortly be submitted for planning permission.

Kirsty Curnow director of Living Space Architects said: “We have been working hard with the community to create a building that meets their needs and uses as little energy as possible and the NCA are delighted that the council may be able to provide some of the funding that is required to make the scheme viable”

Background

The New Homes Bonus is based on past increases in housing supply. It is a powerful and simple incentive for housing growth, because it ensures that those areas which are growing have the resources to meet the needs of their new residents and existing communities. Local authorities are best placed to understand these needs and lead the debate about spending priorities. Wychavon have developed a protocol, whereby up to 40 per cent of the funding is spent by the community where the growth is taking place. While Dacorum are reinvesting the Bonus in further housing and business growth

The Department has set aside almost £1bn over the Comprehensive Spending Review period for the scheme, including nearly £200m in 2011-12 in year 1 and £250m for each of the following three years. Funding beyond those levels will come from formula grant. This ensures that the economic benefits of growth are returned to the local level .

See related press notice and written ministerial statement  in top right hand corner of this page. 

The New Homes Bonus: final scheme design was published on 17 February 2011 (see Related Publications below).

Further information

For further information contact Kirsty Curnow Bayley at Living Space Architects www.livingspacearchitects.com

 

Meeting the Woodcraft Folk

While we’re working in the design for Newtown Community Centre we’ve been trying to talk with as many of the users as we can and I was lucky to be invited to present to the Woodcraft Fold District meeting yesterday to present our scheme.

I have to admit Woodcraft Folk is not a group I had come across before, but I thought I should do a bit more research as they use the hut more than any other organisation.

http://www.woodcraft.org.uk/

So for those of  you like me that don’t know much about them they are a movement for children and young people, open to everyone from birth to adult. We offer a place where children will grow in confidence, learn about the world and start to understand how to value our planet and each other.

Woodcraft Folk runs on the passion and energy of thousands of volunteers, most of whom help at a local Woodcraft Folk group and who may have been in Woodcraft Folk as children, or whose own children may attend a group. With the support of regional and central resources, local Woodcraft groups decide their own programme and co-ordinate their own events and camps. Young people take an increasingly active role in planning and leading their own activities, and helping with District co-ordination. 

Whilst sharing many of the same historical roots as the Scouting movement, The Woodcraft Folk’s direct antecedent was the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, an organisation led by ex-Scout Commissioner for Woodcraft and Camping John Hargrave, who had broken with what he considered to be the Scouts’ militaristic approach in the years immediately after the First World War. The Woodcraft Folk was established by Leslie Paul in 1925 after the south London co-operative groups challenged Hargrave’s authoritarian tendencies over his refusal to recognise a local group called “The Brockley Thing” and broke away from the Kindred. In its early days it was very similar to the Kibbo Kift, with a strong pagan and anti-capitalist emphasis, but gradually developed its own distinct ethos.

The name ‘Woodcraft‘ was used by the influential writer and naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton at the turn of the 20th century when setting up the American proto-Scouting organisation Woodcraft Indians, and in this context meant the skill of living in the open air, close to nature.

I was pleased to meet the Exeter Woodcraft Folk and hear their views about what we had designed so far.  They were really positive about the project and gave me some helpful sugestions about how they might use the space.  I hadn’t considered all of the implications of running a club with 20 11 year olds running around the centre one day and 20 3 year olds the next!  Design is definitely a process and it’s a lot easier when you get to talk to the people that will actually use your building.

Living Space Architects Launch New Website

We’ve been working hard over the last few weeks creating our new website.  Let us know what you think, we’ve created it in wordpress using a theme by web designer Kriesi and we’re really pleased with it.  Over the coming months we will be adding to our blog to keep you up to date with Living Space News.