London's Estate Regeneration: no ballot - no grant

Last week saw clarification of the GLA’s Residential Ballot Requirement on 18th July 2018, the principles of which were previously set out in “Better Homes for Local People - the Mayor’s Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration” (February 2018).   The further guidance came in the form of a new chapter to the GLA’s Affordable Housing Capital Funding Guide.

Although not strictly a ‘town planning’ requirement, the GLA’s new Guide now stipulates that a ballot of existing residents of Strategic Estate Regeneration Projects benefitting from GLA funding must be undertaken where:

  • There is demolition of any existing affordable or leasehold homes and / or any freehold properties previously acquired under the Right to Buy, Right to Acquire, or Social HomeBuy schemes; and
  • Proposals providing at least 150 new homes (regardless of tenure), within the boundaries of an existing social housing estate.

GLA funding will only be secured where a ballot has been undertaken and existing residents support the proposals.

As part of the ballot process, existing residents are asked to vote on the ‘Landlord Offer’ presented by Investment Partners. As a minimum, the Offer must clearly set out the broad vision, priorities and objectives for the Estate Regeneration (including design principles; estimated number of new homes; future tenure mix; and proposed social infrastructure); details of the full ‘right to return’ or ‘right to remain’ for social tenants; and the financial offer for leaseholders and freeholders. In addition, a commitment to on-going open and transparent consultation and engagement must be provided.

The ballot should be carried out by an independent body and a minimum ballot period of 21 days must be given to maximise voter turnout.  Following a “yes/no” vote, a simple majority must be achieved.  In the event of a “no” vote, the Landlord Offer may be revised.  There is no limit to the number of ballots that can be held prior to arriving at a “yes” vote and no minimum threshold for turnout in a ballot. 

Of course, a ballot is not required where a scheme is privately funded, does not require housing grant from the GLA, or is to deliver less than 150 new homes.

Five exemptions have been defined, with any qualifying project having to apply to the GLA for such an exemption.  These exemptions include where demolition is required to facilitate:

  • major infrastructure project/s;
  • to address concerns about the safety of residents; or
  • to reconfigure provision of supported and/or specialist housing.

There are Transitional Arrangements for schemes where:

  • Planning permission has been secured prior to 18th July 2018; or
  • GLA funding was committed on, or prior to, 18th July 2018.

Where a scheme is exempt from a Resident Ballot by virtue of an existing Full or Outline Planning Permission, all phases specified in that permission will be exempt from the Residential Ballot Requirement.  Where such permissions are amended, varied or renewed after 18th July 2018 to include demolition of affordable housing floorspace that was not contemplated in the existing decision notice, a Resident Ballot is likely to be required.

GL Hearn will be monitoring the implementation of Resident Ballots in practice, particularly the first of these announced in the London Boroughs of Enfield and Lambeth.

  • The ballot requires Investment Partners to engage with residents early in the process about what can and cannot be achieved. However, the process is also perceived to present a number of potential risks:  Without a “yes” vote, no GLA funding can be secured.  This creates uncertainty and potential project delays – multiple ballots could be required to secure a “yes” vote.  This places increased importance on involving residents very early in the process;
  • Investment Partners risk potentially significant abortive work to complete sufficient feasibility design work to inform/support a proposed offer, which could be rejected;
  • It pre-empts the successful outcome of the planning process as ballots would generally be envisaged prior to determination of a planning application;
  • It does not offer sufficient flexibility at early design development stages, for example any material deviation from the Landlord Offer is likely to trigger a further Ballot; and
  • It has not yet been tested in practice.

GL Hearn is at the forefront of Estate Regeneration; our advice extends beyond Town Planning, drawing in Development Viability, Land Assembly/Compulsory Purchase, Environmental Impact, Daylight and Sunlight Assessment, Strategic Communications and Public Consultation.

GL Hearn is the leading Planning Consultancy delivering major Council and Joint Venture-led Estate Regeneration projects across London.

Working for a range of private sector, housing association and local authority clients, we are actively engaged on fourteen estate regeneration projects across the Capital, delivering in excess of 16,000 new homes.

Should you wish to discuss this or matters relating to Estate Regeneration more widely please contact us.  Our team would be happy to assist you in the delivery of your Estate Regeneration projects.