Monday, 29 November 2010

Schapps' bag carrier

Due to the efforts of MPs from beleagured towns and cities, there was a debate about the changes introduced by Schapps. This is the Hansard report

Nicky Morgan (Loughborough) (Con):

The part of Loughborough to which I am referring has lost its primary school, church and post office due to lack of permanent residents. There is a rather ghostly atmosphere during university holidays, and as students are, by their very nature, transient, there is less of the sense of community and social interaction than is normally found in a stable and balanced community. There are also higher levels of crime. If a burglar breaks into a student house, he is likely to find several laptops, TVs and so on, which is bad news for the neighbours."
A quote from Loughborough residents
"We fail to understand why you are overlooking the responses of 92% of more than 900 respondents to last year's country wide HMO consultation, all of whom saw a change in the Use Classes Order as the preferred way forward for avoiding concentrations of HMOs. Participants did not make a blanket proposal to stop landlords converting family homes into HMOs. We envisaged a change in the Use Classes Order which councils could opt out of in situations where it was expedient to increase such accommodation. We breathed a sigh of relief that Charnwood Borough Council were at last being given the tools with which to control concentrations of HMOs and which could be tied into the existing Student Housing SPD.
Dr Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab)

We then come to the October changes. Frankly-I shall not mince my words-they were an act of legislative vandalism. For example, in Lenton, we have seen many of the local shops disappear, to be replaced by takeaways. Local residents have seen their local primary school shut down for lack of children. During term time, they experience daily problems with parking and, unfortunately, on occasion, with noise, litter and increased crime. Outside term time, they sometimes feel that they live in a ghost town.

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab):

The universities, Nottingham city council and local voluntary and church groups are working hard to restore a sense of community, but they need the support of the Government too. The ability to control the development of HMOs gave local people real hope-the opportunity to maintain balanced and sustainable communities, rather than have their neighbourhoods left to the market.

The minister didnt bother to turn up - he left the underwhelming response to his bag-carrier, Andrew Stunnel

Saturday, 27 November 2010

praying against the brick wall

statutory instruments have been prayed against in the Early Day Motions so had to be debated here

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) thinks Article 4 Directions (A4D) are OK. Yes Julian, housing and student needs in Cambridge are not representative of the rest of the country. Most students are in College-provided accommodation so the demands on the private rented sector are different. The industries around Cambridge and the particular circumstances of the University lead to intermittent demand for family housing that doesn't exists elsewhere in the country. Elsewhere there are student ghettos that remain as such year after year.

Grant Schapps in his response comes up with some sophistry about developers not knowing if they could invest,as a reason for undoing the change. Its difficult for me to understand , he also says its difficult for him to understand. Of course its difficult to understand , you clown, because the decision you are trying to defend is illogical, irrational and goes against the prolonged consultation that went on over 2 years. The Councils are rushing to implement Article 4 Directions because that's the only option you have left them , not that they think its a good idea. The other reason for the change gets a brief mention. With the changes to Housing Benefit, the Government need to ensure as far as they cant hat there is a supply of HMOs for people to move into after they have left their current accommodation. So stopping the Councils doing anything about it for 12 months lets developers provide the supply of housing.

Grant Schapps reminds me of a young Tony Blair - oozing insincerity and opportunism every time he says something.

Friday, 12 November 2010


So the request for a Judicial Review was refused.  Here are the reasons for refusal.  The figure of hate in this is of course Grant Schapps. As HMO lobby pointed out, disempowering Local Councils does no fit with the 'Big Society' guff that came out of David Cameron. HMO lobby put it nicely in their press release

National HMO Lobby

News Release, 7 September 2010
The 'Big Society' is a Big Con

The coalition government is always to keen to promote 'the big society' - except when it contradicts their libertarian ideology and enthusiasm for the unrestrained market! The last government acted to protect local communities from exploitation by the Buy-to-Let industry, supporting the Big Society. But now, in a dictatorial exercise of Big Government, announced today, the Housing Minister has re-opened these communities to further exploitation.

For decades, local communities in a wide range of situations have suffered from exploitation by irresponsible landlords, responding to a range of markets, and buying up family homes, to turn them into lucrative shared houses. Pack in the tenants, rake in the rents! They've done it in market towns (with migrant workers), they've done it in seaside towns (with benefit claimants), they've done it in university towns (with students). As transient tenants moved in, they forced out stable families - undermining any sort of society, big or small.

Organisations like the National HMO Lobby campaigned for years for action. Last summer, a huge consultation supported new legislation. At last, after a decade of damage, the last government changed the legislation on houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), so that local councils had some control at last over what was happening to their housing stock. Specifically, they amended the Use Classes Order, to do so.

But within forty days of the General Election, the new coalition government announced it was going to overturn these measures - even though their alternative was rejected by 99% of the respondents in the consultation in 2009. The Minister initiated a consultation by invitation. Even then, the Core Cities, the professionals (Planning Officers, RTPI), the Coastal Communities Alliance, MPs (All-Party Group), the Councillors Campaign for Balanced Communities - not to mention representatives of local communities up and down the country - opposed the new proposals.

All agree they are undemocratic and unworkable. But Big Government has bulldozed ahead, and dashed the aspirations of all those trying to preserve their communities. The Minister has introduced measures which revoke the amendments to the Use Classes Order

It's pretty clear what the 'Con' in 'Conservative' means.

Contact Dr Richard Tyler, C-ordinator, National HMO Lobby, 0113-275 5369

The Lobby's website is at

And its response to the Minister's 'consultation is at

With help from Detective Google I found an article from The Guardian. There have been links in the past between the Tories and vested interest. To quote from the article

Grant Shapps, the party's housing spokesman, disclosed to the commissioner that he had taken tens of thousands of pounds from five different companies associated with his portfolio.

They were two online mortgage brokers, Charcol and Edeus Creators; Douglas & Gordon, a west London estate agent; the Sapcote Group, a commercial property developer; and Goldsmith Williams, a firm of solicitors that specialises in conveyancing and remortgaging.

So instead of Local elected Representatives having their say in trying to maintain 'balanced communities', Councils are effectively powerless to stop further parasitic exploitation of some areas in University towns and cities by Landlords and Developers. There is a waiting period of 12 months before the replacement to the changes in planning, Article 4 Directions. in some circumstances Local Councils may end up paying compensation. "The effect of an Article 4 Direction is to remove permitted development rights, thereby necessitating a planning application to be made. Article 4 Directions are not issued without careful consideration, because the Council may be required to pay compensation in circumstances where you cannot obtain planning permission for development which otherwise would be treated as permitted development" (Planning Applications, at

Local residents are disappointed that the Government has disregarded the needs of their communities. I cant see that Grants' previous financial supporters being too unhappy about this turn of events.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

An unusual sight

I cant remember this before  - 'To Let' signs still up after term has started.   Either

  • landlords are  taking advantage, leaving the signs up and having some free publicity
  • there are still vacant properties to let when all the students are back and hav somewhere to live.
I suspect (on no objective grounds whatsoever)  that its the latter.
The combined effects of Universities  being penalised for over-booking, the current poor employment  prospects for students and new developments at the top end of the student housing market means total numbers of students may be falling. Is this good or bad for Jesmond ?
The  wealthier students may go into the new build around the City. For the rest, if there is over-provision, then rents may fall. Some students will prefer to live more centrally saving on travel costs and time so empty rental properties may occur more peripherally in Newcastle and occupancy rates in Jesmond may remain higher than elsewhere.
If students have  less disposable income then the night-life of Osborne Road may take a hit and there will be less disturbance for residents. If the students living in Jesmond are poorer and don't have their own cars then parking may  become easier for residents.

Will an influx of poorer students be good or bad ? No idea, but at least parking will be easier.