Hallam have had another successful year, despite a quiet year selling land with consent. Site disposals with planning permission were restricted to small sites at Mansfield, Desford and Bishopbriggs. The work we have undertaken to build value into our land holdings has not been reflected in the 2012 pure financial results. During the year, we worked on an unprecedented number of sites within the planning process and were particularly successful in securing planning permissions or minded to grant planning permissions on a large number of sites and further increased our site acreage.
At the end of 2012, we were in detailed discussions and close to acquiring interests in a further six sites with a number of others identified for acquisition as we move through 2013. The Government’s planning reforms, including the enactment of the Decentralisation and Localism Bill, together with the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework, have undoubtedly made an impact on the planning system. These changes have created a clear opportunity to secure planning permissions on sustainable sites in locations which do not have an appropriate land supply. Hallam Land has capitalised on the new system, securing planning permissions (or minded to grant resolutions) on over 3,542 plots on 14 sites in the year. These add to long-term sites we hold with planning permission and therefore the Company now has a substantial portfolio of consented sites from which we can make disposals over the forthcoming years. Of particular note is a site at Blaby, Leicester, where a minded to grant resolution has been approved by the council for a 4,250 house development together with a 50 acre business park, a district centre, two local centres, a secondary school and two primary schools.
This will be the largest single permission that Hallam Land has achieved and is a consortium planning promotion agreement of which our share is 37.5%. We are now in a position to begin the Section 106 negotiations. The planning permissions we achieved were a mixture of success at local level and at national level. We have been successful in seven out of our last nine appeals, including two appeal wins already in 2013, and we anticipate that an increasing number of sites will need to go into the appeal process to obtain permission, as local members reject officer recommendations. We believe that this trend will continue on the large number of sites we have in the process during 2013 and we will report on their progress throughout the year.
The strategic land market remains patchy and difficult in some parts of the country. The south, and particularly the south east, is strong but demand and values generally weaken as one moves north. That said, throughout the country good quality, well located sites still sell very well and generate good returns. As a consequence, sales values will be lower on some of our northern sites but our nationwide coverage is such that our land sales will enable us to make a consistent overall return. We have also sought to replenish our land stocks during the year and have increased our total landholdings with the addition of twelve new sites totalling 960 acres. Of these sites, planning applications have already been submitted on five (180 plots at Ripley, Derbyshire; 110 plots at Haddington, East Lothian; 90 plots at Handcross, Sussex; 170 plots at East Leake, Staffordshire; and 120 plots at Abingdon, Oxfordshire) and a further three (Buxton, Faversham and Wymondham) are likely to be submitted during 2013. Despite the real and beneficial improvements that the Government has made to speed up the planning system, there remain some troubling aspects to the process. The desire of local authorities to share in the enhanced value of land is well understood and supported in principle. However, the proportion of this value being demanded through Section 106 agreements makes certain permissions unviable, fails to recognise that land values are not what they were several years ago and defeats the Government’s objective of creating more construction work and homes.
This is particularly true in many lower value areas where, arguably, the need for housing and development is even more acute. Viability studies are, in many cases, making this problem even worse by increasing local authority aspirations and creating unworkable planning permissions. The introduction of Community Infrastructure Levy is a further tax on development land which exacerbates these issues. At a time when Section 106 and affordable housing contributions are being reduced to reflect the economic realities of today’s house building costs, CIL is being used to recapture this lost value. There is only so much tax that the profits from the house building cycle can support and we fear that in many cases the current level is stopping potentially good housing sites coming forward.
A further issue is that certain local authorities have still not accepted the Government’s desire for more land to be released where housing supply is very tight. Having faced long delays in securing minded to grant consents, we then find that there is further lengthy battle to settle the Section 106 agreement and other contributions; this bureaucratic delay serves to slow up and/or restrict housing delivery. Although the major UK house builders are continuing their recovery, the total number of houses that the nation is producing remains well below 2006 levels. Although there has been some improvement in the mortgage market recently, there seems to be no lasting solution to the fundamental issue, being the availability of high loan to value mortgages at competitive rates, which is holding back the delivery of more units. The recent budget has brought forward measures to support house buyers in this very area and may make a significant contribution to addressing these concerns.