One Public Estate: Brownfield land release fund - Bid writing workshop - a transcript

This webinar took place on 28 April 2021


Transcript

Chris Watts: Morning, everybody. A warm welcome to the One Public Estate Brownfield Land Release Fund Bid Writing Workshop. Next slide, please, Belinda. An an introduction, my name is Chris Watts, and I'm the One Public Estate Regional Programme Manager for the South West region, and I'll be chairing this workshop. It's really great to see so many of you join us today, and just to clarify, the purpose of today's workshop is to support local authorities in preparing their brownfield land release funding bids. Because of the number of people attending this workshop, may I please ask that you pose your question through the 'soon' chat function. You'll see this at the bottom of your screen, and there's a speech bubble labelled 'chat'. The questions and answers panel at the end of the workshop will pick up as many of these questions as possible within the allocated time. This workshop is being recorded, and we intend to share the recording with our One Public Estate partners.

 

Today's agenda includes an overview of brownfield land release fund and self-and custom-build bid criteria, 'What is local authority self-and custom-build housing?', some top tips on how to submit a funding application that is concise, clearly structured with well-referenced proposals, and a questions and answers panel session where we will answer questions posted through the chat function. Just to give you an overview, the brownfield land release fund is a £75 million capital grant that is available to eligible English local authorities. The capital grant is made up of £50 million for brownfield land release for housing, and £25 million for self-and custom-build housing delivery. Applications for this funding need to be submitted to the One Public Estate programme by one minute to midnight on Wednesday 2nd June. Bids posted after this deadline will not be accepted. Without further ado, I will now pass you to Ben Stoneman, the OPE Regional Programme Manager for the South East. Ben will lead us through the brownfield land release fund bid criteria. Thank you, Ben.

 

Ben Stoneman: Thank you, thank you, Chris. Yes, hello, everyone. Yeah, as Chris I'm Ben, and I look after the East and the South East region, and I'll talk you through funding and assessment criteria for the brownfield land release fund. So, this will hopefully help you all understand the sort of projects that we are looking for from this. Most of what I'm going to say also applies to the self-and custom-build £25 million element of funding, and my colleague Abigail Raymond is going to be talking you through that later and highlighting any differences. I'm going to be focusing on the £50 million. So, next slide please.

 

So, in terms of the basics, there's £50 million available, and that is capital funding, and it's available nationally on a competitive basis. This is available for local authority-owned brownfield sites only, so it has to be owned by the council, not privately, not other public sector partners. Apologies if there are any of you on the call, but those are the parameters of our fund. The funding's available to help the abnormal costs associated with the development which are acting as a barrier to the site coming forward for housing. So, some examples are there, including paying for site remediation, groundworks, demolition, access improvement, utilities, that sort of thing. It's not an exhaustive list, but when you're considering your bids, please remember we'll only fund the upfront capital works associated with getting a site ready for development, so if you're putting revenue costs or housing construction costs, for example, your bid will not be eligible. We'll also only fund projects that demonstrate a clear need for the funding, in terms of addressing market failure. So, if sites are viable without government grant support, we will not fund them, so please include evidence of this in your application. In terms of size, we've got up there, our funding is targeted at relatively smaller sites. We've got an indicative ceiling of 250 homes. This is larger than our last round of 100 homes ,and there is no minimum housing requirement, so as small as they go and they are eligible. What is really crucial for us is the ability to release land within the target date set for our fund, and this is the end of March 2024. In terms of release and what that means, well, this is defined as the point at which the site transfers to the developing body. So that could be sale to a private developer, transfer to a joint venture or wholly-owned housing company, for example. If the local authority, though, is building the houses itself, then there's no transfer, so the release date would be defined as the start of the site on housing-, the start of housing construction on the site. The definition for these are referenced both on the slide, but also on our online guidance. Next slide please. Next slide. Thank you.

 

So, our assessment criteria are summarised here. Again, there's more detail in our online prospectus, but I'll quickly go through them. So, we've got six, one of which is gateway criteria, so your must-haves. And our gateway criteria for schemes to be eligible, I've covered some of these already, so it must be local authority land, it must be capital works, it must address market failure and the land release date is critical. In addition, we have floor targets for the project's benefits-cost ratio, both with and without the inclusion of an additional element for non-monetized benefits, and I'll come to this again in a minute. But we've changed this since our last funding round, and the reason that we've changed this is in order to help areas of lower land values be able to access our funding, by including a calculation around non-monetized benefits, so hopefully we'll have broader appeal to our last fund round. In addition, the local authority must be eligible, and councils which are within a mayoral combined authority area which has been awarded brownfield funding from MHCLG last year, are not eligible for this fund. So, these are the MCA areas, except for the West of England, and Cambridgeshire, and Peterborough. Our assessed criteria is shown on a slide. Value for money is worth the most marks at 40%, and this will be based on a competitive ranking of eligible schemes. There's more detail on the following slide, and I'll come back to this again. The strategic case is worth 30%, and this should be covered in the narrative of the application form, so, this should really explain the rationale for the project beyond simple market failure of the site. So, I suggest you highlight where the project supports local and national policy priorities. So this could be, for example, levelling up, how it fits with town centre and high street, Future High Streets Fund, or if it's contributing to releasing land in a high housing demand area, for example. There are many others that I'm sure you can think of. We're also really keen to see projects that support postcodes with economic recovery, and this could be, for example, through job creation and supporting local SMEs by providing new activity for them. Deliverability, this is worth 20% of the marks, and this score will reflect our assessment of the project plan and the risks of the projects, and critically whether we have confidence that it will achieve the land release deadline by the end of March 2024. So this could include, for example, consideration of site risks, the commitment of the local authority, the planning position, governance, local decisions required, and progress generally. So, being able to tell a convincing story that the project will deliver on time is important for us, for here. In addition, we have 5% of marks available both for innovation and for public sector equality duty. So, for innovation, this is more around how the technology is delivered, so this could be through the technology employed within the project, it could be building techniques, partnership arrangements, or its contribution to sustainability and zero-carbon agendas. For the public sector equality duty, I think this is standard across MHCLG funding, and these marks were available for projects which demonstrate a positive impact for people's ability to attain appropriate housing. And this is where they show one or more of the protected characteristics as defined in the Equality Act 2010. Next slide, please.

 

There it is. This is the fun bit, thank you. So returning to value for money here, this-, this is, as I said, the largest element of our success criteria, and is made of a number of different elements, which I'll quickly explain here. So, on the right in the pink, so, 10% of the value for money marks will be allocated based on the area's relative position in terms of GVA. So, the aim of this is to help incorporate the government's levelling up priority into our scoring of value for money. We will do this centrally, based on the local authority area, so applicants don't need to put any information on this, it's just for your information there. The remaining 30% of value for money is calculated by the project's benefits, and there are two parts to this. So, as mentioned, this is derived from the benefits-cost ratio, which is calculated by the land value uplift less existing value and grant. So, if you didn't catch that, don't worry, we've got an Excel spreadsheet which calculates this all for you, and if you bid in the last round it's very, very similar. You simply need to input your project details, which are basically the local authority area, the size of the sites, the number and build-out of homes, and the additionality factor both for planning and the overall scheme, and there's a bit more guidance to help you, kind of, do that on the-, on the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is online, and it does need to form part of your application. Please note, and this is important, we'll only fund projects which have a BCR score of 1.0 or above, so make sure that those are the numbers. If not, we just won't-, we won't support it. So, supplementing this, this is the second part, projects may identify non-monetized benefits in their application, and this can be used to supplement the BCR score. This could be, for example, the visual amenity benefit of removing an eye-sore in an area, travel benefits by opening up a site, or natural capital by creating new green space for wildlife. So, these non-monetized benefits will be scored by us, based on what you put in the application form, and they're going to be scored based on their significance, and the evidence provided that they will actually happen. This score is then converted into a maximum uplift value of 0.5 to add on to the BCR score. Please note, we will only fund projects which have a combined BCR score and non-monetized benefit score of 1.5 or above. So, we've kind of got two floor targets, but hopefully it makes it easier and is not all derived from land value uplift this time. Again, our prospectus and online material has some further guidance for applicants, so please use this. I also suggest you look at Treasury's green book, which has a section on non-monetized benefits if you're planning to include those as well. And, in addition, your regional programme managers, us, so, we will be really happy to advise you on emerging applications and comment on application forms, so please do consult us before you put them in on the 2nd June at 11:59, as Chris mentioned. That's me covered, I think, and I'll hand over to Chris to take us to the next speaker. Thank you.

 

Chris Watts: Thank you very much, Ben, that was really useful, thank you. Can I just remind everybody to keep posting your questions through the chat function, the more the questions the better. So I'm now going to pass you to Abigail Raymond, the One Public Estate regional programme manager for London. Abigail will lead us, now, through self-and custom-build bid criteria. Over to you, Abby.

 

Abigail Raymond: My name's-, so, I'm Abigail Raymond, the One Public Estate regional programme manager for London. Thank you, Belinda. Now, some-, most of the criteria for self-and custom-build are the same as the brownfield land release fund, so I'm not going to go through them in the same detail. I'm just going to draw out a couple of differences, and the first difference is that in terms of when the land can be classed as released, in addition to the definitions that Ben referred to, for self-and custom-build, it also includes the point at which disposal of the first plot takes place. So, this is recognising that the delivery of self-and custom-build by a local authority is likely to be more complex, and they are likely to be involved for a longer period of time, and the actual may not be released as a custom-build unit until the first plot is sold. The other key difference is, in addition to the abnormal costs that are funded until brownfield land release, the costs of servicing plots can also be included in applications. If we can move to the next slide, please, Belinda?

 

Okay, thank you. And again, the same criteria, but I think the thing to emphasise for self-and custom-build is that the evidence that might be submitted under each criteria could be different, or could be nuanced. So, for example, in terms of the deliverability criteria, it might be helpful if applicants set out how-, what expertise they have in terms of delivering self-and custom-build, or what expertise they intend to procure to deliver self-and custom-build, recognising that it is a different product, and the government is particularly keen to promote exemplars. It's also worth mentioning in the-, one of the other differences from brownfield land release fund is in the strategic case, where emphasising the role of self-and custom-build applications to illustrate that they are exemplars, so, to illustrate to others how these products can be delivered. And that might mean how they might be delivered in different settings, which is rural, urban, high or low density. And an indication from applicants that they are willing to share that learning. As Ben mentioned, there is more detail both in the prospectus and in the application template, to give bidders an indication as to how they might draw out different evidence to support their applications. So, for example, in the strategic case it's reference-, being able to reference housing need, and it may be appropriate or relevant to refer to housing-, self-and custom-build need, and in particular evidence, through your local registers. I haven't gone into the detail of what self-and custom-build is, because that's going to be covered in the next presentation, but happy to take questions at the end, and, as Ben mentioned, these schemes are likely to be quite different, and I think it will be important to discuss with your regional programme managers any specific projects to test their likely eligibility. Thank you.

 

Chris Watts: Thank you very much, Abby. We're now going to move to Mary Elkington. Mary is the Acting Head of the National Right to Build Taskforce, and will lead us through local authority self-and custom-build delivery. Over to you, Mary.

 

Mary Elkington: Thank you, hi. I'm just going to be-, today, it's just an overview, and for those of you who are engaged with self-build, some of this you'll know, but the point here is I just want to make sure it's a level playing field. You might be surprised that what you've done in the past actually could qualify as self-build anyway. So, I just wanted to do some headlines to-, to, sort of, give you the context and set the stage. And I'm going to keep signposting, there's a briefing tomorrow at 3, I think, for self-and custom-build, and hopefully you'll have those links, and I know a lot of you are registered for both, which is great. So, I'm from the Right to Build Taskforce, which is an independent body, and we've been set up to support local authorities, community groups, and other organisations, just working to increase the delivery of custom- and self-build. We are currently funded by MHCLG, in part, and that's to help-, specifically help local authorities in rolling this out. We engage with councils across England, and in the past year we've done over 60 local authority briefings and workshops, and have done direct support on schemes and projects for about a dozen or so councils as well. So, again, this is just the contextual. And if I could go to the next slide, please? Next slide? Click? There, right.

 

So, don't think about-, when we talk about self-build, this is just the definition, don't think about the people you see on the telly because that's, that's only a part of the iceberg. So, we're all familiar with self-build, which is where someone, you know, gets plots, hires an architect, commissions a build, and that can be individuals or a collective self-build, a group of people that get together and do the commissioning. Very few actual do the main construction, although there's a bit of that, which is really exciting to see. So, that's what we call self-build, and we distinguish custom-build as being where there's an enabler involved, and that's someone who, who does the servicing, works through planning and design codes. Again, it's a spectrum, and it can be somebody who's simply servicing and providing plots, or it can be actually, you know, a kit home provider that has a fixed number of kits and allows the customisation within that. And obviously, custom-build enablers can be councils, the council can, kind of, act as this, and there's a, kind of, growing industry of commercial custom-build enablers, who are working to roll this out. So, the key thing is that the home-, the key in the definition is that the home has to be built to the plans or specifications decided by the occupant, and it does say occupant. It's not owner, because, this is something that can be used for rental tenures for affordable housing. The legal definition is set out in the legislation. And we know that there's a level of activity that's always gone on, and you'll see that through the, kind of, windfall developments and the one-offs that councils see. But since the NPPF came in, in 2012, and legislation's come in in 2015, there is-, it is slowly beginning to-, it's not yet mainstream, but it is something that's a lot more activity going on. I mentioned the legislation, and I just want to, just real quickly, review that there's three duties on councils, and the first is to publicise and keep a register of potential self-builders, and the second is to have regard to that register in council duties, planning, decision-making, and economic development and other things. And the third is that councils are required to grant a number of permissions for suitable self-build plots that matches the level set out in the register. It doesn't match one-for-one, so the individuals who have gone on the register and are looking for a specific thing, there's no requirement to permit for those individuals, but that's, sort of, a proxy for the current duty. So, anyway, if you're here from an assets team, just know that if you do put forward a self-build, custom-build bid, you'll definitely be helping your planners-, your planner colleagues, because you'll be doing them a favour in increasing the land supply. Next slide, please? Oh, I've put someone to sleep. Next slide, please. Thank you.

 

Right, so, and as the definition shows, it's a broad church, this self-and custom-build, so it's not just your very big house in the country. That can be-, so, in terms of types, it can be small, it can be terraces, it can be flats, infill, heritage, you know, a whole range of different types. And again, in terms of delivery models, it can be service plots for individual self-build, it can be community land trusts, or collective or a co-housing project. It can be the council, or RP, or a commercial enabler who does it. These can be affordable homes, they can be discount market sale, and first homes, even, so again, there's a range that this can be. Tomorrow's session will cover in more detail some of the types of delivery models and some of the things to think about, in terms of, you know, marketing and marketing plots, and how you manage the build-out, and a few lessons learned from people who've-, who've-, councils who've done this. Right, next slide please? Thank you.

 

Right, so this-, my little slideshow I did last week, and of course this weekend the government has put out what they're calling their action plan for custom- and self-build. These bullets are all in the action plan, which is good. There's another bullet which isn't here, which is the-, recently they've announced this weekend-, they've asked Richard Bacon, MP, to do a review into the sector, so it's, sort of, ten years on. The legislation had the intent to really begin to mainstream and grow this sector, and that's only been partially, modestly, moderately successful. So that’s what that review's about. So if you look at some of what's in this government action plan, now, the Help to Build fund is something that's very consumer-oriented, and it's going to be a real game-changer, particularly for the multi-plot custom-build delivery. And this is similar to Help to Buy, and it's-, it's where the government's going to be picking up part of the mortgage. And mortgage availability is an issue, particularly in some certain types of schemes, so that's going to be a real boost. There's a review of the legislation going on. As I said, it's, you know, only been partially successful in terms of what it set out to do, and, you know, there's a bit of a lack of clarity in the legislation which makes it hard for councils to implement and may be acting as a drag on some other bits of the market. So-, an account (ph 24.59), then, again, government initiatives, Right to Regenerate, and then, again, funding us, the taskforce, to help local authorities support local authorities. The next slide? Great.

 

So, the government supports self-to-build and has an action plan, and that's great. And I want to say, that's not a new thing, this, the whole self-build movement-, well, it's been going on for decades, hasn't it, but it certainly predates the coalition in its, kind of, current form. For communities and individuals, there still is a wider choice and variety. It can help with affordability, particularly where you've got someone who is able to-, to do a bit of their own what we call sweat equity. There's a lot of research on community cohesion, and those things are great. Personally, this, this, the benefit of-, I'm a planner, and planners are all about beauty these days, and I do think there's such a beauty in having a diversity of housing. We've not, historically, built 500 type A, B, C dwellings with no-, you know, with absolutely no diversity. And so, if you go somewhere like Graven Hill, when I go there and I see a, you know, flat roof next to a pitched roof, or a brick next to a render or a wood-cladding, this is something that would terrify some people, but when you actually see it it just works brilliantly, because this is people who have built, you know, really quality homes that express themselves, and in the right-, you know, the councils, you have the ability to control the development, but it is a way to introduce something different, and just-, I just think that's one of the best benefits. For councils, obviously, main advantages is it is a way to accelerate and grow housing supply, and particularly if you're looking in areas and really turbo-charging your urban capacity and your infill, which is where the brownfield fund, I think, and the custom or self-build fund have a real unique role to play. Obviously improving choice and quality, it supports your local SME builders, it delivers generally high-quality housing. Most custom or self-build housing has high as possible environmental standards. And, just as an aside, you do tend to get far fewer planning objections when you're promoting a self-build scheme, custom-build. When it's not speculative, fully profit-driven, people are much happier to support their, their neighbours doing something like this. And then, again, for builders and landowners there really aren't any downsides. It helps with cash flow, and that all works a bit differently with a multi-plot custom-build scheme. And it's really just a question of getting one's head around it, but, as I said, there are now-, there's an increasing-, there's a growing market of custom-build enablers who, who look to take on multi-build sites and bring those forward. And, again, tomorrow we'll go into more detail on this. So, next slide, that will be my final slide. Great.

 

So, basically, again, come tomorrow. Tomorrow afternoon's briefing on self-and custom-build will go into a bit more detail. As I said, today was just to get your heads around it if you hadn't engaged at all with self-build. The taskforce can help provide advice on self-and custom-build, we can signpost case studies and resources. They-, there's a word missing, we provide introductory and ongoing workshops and briefings, particularly, we do have some councils that haven't engaged at all, and it's an initial one, and other councils, perhaps, just one group, maybe the housing team or the planning team has engaged, but the rest of the council really doesn't know what it's about, so we like to go in and give, kind of, a broad briefing. You've got our website there. The email is taskforce@righttobuild.org.uk, but if you go onto our website you've got contact details there. So that's it, and just again, hopefully we'll get a lot of interest in this, I've already had quite a few queries. And we’ll do more on-, more detail tomorrow. Thank you.

 

Chris Watts: Thank you very much for that, Mary. We're now gonna move to Mike Harries, he's the One Public Estate regional programme manager for the North West, and Mike will lead us through how to apply, top tips on completing your brownfield land release funding application. Over to you, Mike.

 

Mike Harries: Thank you, Chris. When the technology shifts, the first slide will no doubt appear. We've clearly given you a lot to think about, and trying to fit all of that into an application is, is a challenge, so my purpose is really to try and tell you how to-, how to make that work. We've tried to make the process as simple as possible, and easier than it was before. We have created three separate documents, all of which are needed to form a complete submission, so the basic details form, the application form, and the technical annex. Taking the basic details form first, I mean, it very much says what it does on the tin. It is about the basic details of the council, your OPE partnership and the project. And one thing to bear in mind is all of the applications need to come in through your OPE partnership rather than direct from the council. Taking the last one, then, the technical annex, and Ben has referenced this in his piece, this is largely formulaic, and it drives predominantly the BCR, the benefits-costs ratio, once you've selected your council from the drop-down list. There are some elements you can-, you can adjust in, in respect to additionality, but that will drive the figure as it gets used, as the BCR for your project. Looking at the application form, this is new, and it's designed to actually make things much simpler and give you almost a step-by-step guide to go through it. As Abby referenced, within the application form, there is guidance within the boxes, so there's additional information as you go through. One point to note is there is a page limit, so keep it concise and keep it relevant. Think about a structured approach in terms of addressing each criterion, so, if you're thinking about the context, the intervention and the evidence, my tip would be think about half your answer focusing on the evidence, whereas often we spend more time thinking about the context. The form is structured by each of the criteria in each of the sections, so make sure you've got something in every section, albeit you might not have something in every box. And the other thing to remember is that the quality of the evidence you provide is much more important than the quantity of the information included. So, if I look at a couple of parts in, in a little more detail, and you've got, you've got all the sections on the slide. The gateway criteria, we've included a checklist this time, and that will auto-populate within the form to show you whether there is any content. It won't tell you if you've passed or failed, but it will help you identify where there is no evidence offered, and hopefully will ensure that everything comes forward. The other one I would draw out is the public sector equality duty, and-, and Ben mentioned this earlier, but remember that this is about how the project addresses the duty, it is not a simple, generic, council-wide statement of your council's compliance with the duty. Next slide, please, Belinda. Thank you.

 

So what do we want? We want you to tell us the story of your project. What are the challenges, and how does the project address them? We also need to understand why public sector funding and some form of intervention is needed. So, what is the market failure for your project? And, in particular, how can you evidence that failure? And I saw in the chat, 'Is there a standard definition for market failure?', and we'll pick up the formal answer to that in a bit, but we're interested in why you believe there is a market failure, and what evidence that supports that. As I've said at the top of the slide, remember to answer the question. Don't get so carried away with telling a story that, actually, you forget to include the evidence that underpins it. Evidence is what will drive the assessment process. So, answer all the questions, another, sort of, classic examination tip from teachers to students, and, at a technical level, try and submit before the deadline, because if you are trying to do it at one minute before midnight, the chances are something will go wrong and there will be nobody at our end to deal with the technological issue on your behalf. So, you know, my top tip would be think about submitting it at least 24 hours early, and we've found in the past that, if you put too many attachments on it, sometimes they won't get through your gateway or our gateway in technology terms. Also, back to gateway criteria, just take the time to make sure they have all been met and evidenced. You don't want to put all the effort into completing an application, only to find it falls at that very first hurdle. So, taking three of these tips in a little more detail, non-monetized benefits, Ben provided an explanation as to what they are and how they work. These matter the most where the benefit-cost ratio is between 1.0 and 1.4, because that's the gateway threshold. But, actually, they make also affect rank order for projects with higher BCRs. So, just because you're over 1.5, don't ignore non-monetized benefits, and think about how might they apply to your project? The secondary I'd look at is additionality, and this is one of the factors that drives that benefit-cost ratio calculation within the technical annex. So, read the guidance, understand how additionality applies and how it applies to your project. But, most importantly, if you choose to adjust the additionality you must provide the evidence to support those changes within your application form. Just changing the high, medium, low, or the percentage on its own won't mean that's the answer we'll work with. We need the evidence when assessing, to understand why it has changing. And the last one I would pick out from there is, is additional information. Include critical information only. So, keep all of the extra information to a minimum. We've talked about a lot of things we do need to see, though, like evidence of viability, gaps, risk analysis, project plans. If you need to reference other documents, please give us a page number or a paragraph number for the relevant bits. Sometimes documents can be several hundred pages, and assessors will not have the time to hunt for that one gem you want us to read, so make sure that we know what it is you see as significant in that document. Next slide, please, Belinda.

 

Particularly for those who've not applied for the land release fund before, there are four examples on the slide or a range of different projects that have been funded under previous funding regimes. Remember, though, that the criteria for brownfield land release fund are different, and that, therefore, projects that were marginal under previous funding rounds may score better under the brownfield land release fund, and particularly, as others have referenced, those areas where land values are lower, which, certainly, will impact my area in terms of the North West and the West Midlands, but also applies in other parts of the country. The funding amount per home varies. In the past we've had an upper ceiling of £15,000 per home delivered, but actually, most commonly, funded projects have been somewhere around the £7,000-£9,000 per home. But you can see the range that's there. Some of them are less than £1,000 per home, but, actually, the viability gap is there, the work is needed to make it happen. The sites to be developed can be more or less anything. You've got examples there with car parks, with clothes stores, depots, but the most important thing is that the land should be in the local authority ownership and suitable for housing. The OPE partnerships include a wider range of partners, but, sadly, the land cannot be from another public sector body, it has to be in the ownership of the local authority. And then, remember it is capital funding. And funding has been used for a whole variety of things that others have touched upon. But just think about, you know, what is the intervention needed that addresses the viability gap which will bring the site ready for housing? So, commonly, things like decontamination, demolition, infrastructure, but so long as it's capital, and so long as it addresses that viability gap, it should be eligible. So, lastly, if in doubt, look at the prospectus, look at the guidance, talk to our task force colleagues. There's some good FAQs on the-, on the website, and, of course, please feel free to approach your regional team and ask us for advice as you're developing your ideas. Back to you, Chris.

 

Chris Watts: Thank you very much, Mike. We've heard, now, presentations from Ben, Abigail, Mary and Mike. We're now moving into the questions and answers panel session, where you've been posting your questions to the chat. Two of our regional programme managers, Jez Dyer, manager, programme manager for London, and Cath Conroy, the programme manager for the North East, has been trawling through these questions and they'll be reading out the questions and then be allocating to the appropriate One Public Estate panel member. Over to you Jez and Cath.

 

Jez Dyer: Thanks, Chris. So, I'm going to run through those related to the brownfield land release fund, and then I'll hand over to my colleague Cath, who will pick up the self-and custom-build elements, so please keep the questions on that coming in. Just to flag that we do have a list of frequently asked questions on the website, so please do have a look through these. If we don't have time to cover all of the queries that have come in today, we'll try and pick them up separately, or, or we'll ensure that they're added to the FAQs if there's some wider points. We've had some queries around the slides. Just to confirm that we'll be circulating a recording of this session to help colleagues, so the slides will be available to help others. We'd appreciate you sharing those internally with your other local authority colleagues, who it might be of interest to. The first question I wanted to pick up was around the, the definition of market failure, and this is one of the frequently asked questions that is in the frequently asked questions log on our website. Just to address it quickly, but please do go and have a look, market failure occurs where the market cannot achieve an economically efficient outcome on its own. So, when we're talking about the brownfield land release fund, this will happen where there's a need to provide those works the developers wouldn't be able or willing to fund to make the land suitable for housing. So, whether it's deemed too costly by the public sector, leaving a funding gap, which leaves the site stalled without a prospect for a release, that would be enough evidence for us in terms of market failure. The next question that we had in was around non-monetized benefits, and, Ben, I'm going to ask you to pick this one up. So, do we include non-monetized benefits even if the benefit-cost ratio is already over 1.5? And I wondered if you might just talk a little bit about the, the value for money criteria being weighted at 40% and the importance of non-monetized benefits on some of those schemes.

 

Ben Stoneman: Yeah, sure. So, quickly, so the-, so the answer to the question is no, you don't have to. If you're-, if you're-, if you're 1.5 or above, because you're above the 1.0 threshold for BCR, and the 1.5 threshold for both, okay? Fine. But, as Mike-, as Mike said, as well, you get to-, you get the ability to boost your score by 0.5, so if you put in the non-monetized benefits, you get-, you get the opportunity to have a higher score, which would-, which could increase the amounts that you get through value for money, because they will be allocated by ranking the projects from top to bottom. So, you don't have to, but it could help. And I think the other thing is, if you are-, if you are close, you know, if you are just 1.5 or 1.-, 1.55, or whatever, and you've made some assumptions about additionality, I think, you know, your scheme is quite sensitive to changes or challenges to our assessment and our QA process. So, I think yes, if you can put them in, it should help your score. You don't have to, but I'd advise you do, I'd advise you to do so.

 

Jez Dyer: Great, thank you. Another question was around the max bid level, and Mike referenced this, so the question was, has the indicative max bid level increased proportionally? Just to confirm that there's no limit on the intervention level, but the process is competitive, and therefore you'll need to justify the level of funding sort, and that comes back to the evidence point. So, slightly different to previous rounds of the land release fund.

 

The next question we've got is do the sites have to have planning permission when we apply? And Mike, I wondered if you would mind saying a few words around the deliverability, in terms of top tips and the stages that sites might be at when they submit their application.

 

Mike Harries: Okay, thanks, Jez. So, it doesn't have to have planning consent at the point you apply. But, when we're looking at what deliverability will look like, if you take a site that is not even referenced in the local plan, looks as though it might be an exception site, but looks as if it'll be really difficult to get to in the planning process, the deliverability score will be quite low, because there are lots of things to be done in order to get there. If you've got local plan, you've either got an outline consent or there might be a development zone or something within which it sits, then clearly the risk of not achieving planning is lower and deliverability will score better. Equally, if you have already got planning consent, great, because deliverability is even more easy to prove, because you've got through what is typically one of the major hurdles, so, back to you Jez.

 

Jez Dyer: Thanks, Mike. The next question was around sites that might already be in receipt of government support, and there was a section in the-, in the technical annex for anybody who's managed to look at that yet, to add any additional government support that's received for the site, and you're-, you'll need to make inquiries with the individual funder to make sure that that's acceptable to them, also, but there is a section in the technical annex for those to be added, which will be taken into consideration. The next question was around mixed use sites, and-, and Ben, I wondered if you'd like to pick that up, so the question was do mixed sites qualify?

 

Ben Stoneman: Thank you, Jez. So, so, yes, mixed use, you can put in for a mixed use, that is fine. For the value for money assessment and the technical annex it won't make a difference, because that is based on the housing output. So the fact that it's mixed use doesn't impact on your value for money, but it may well impact on some of the other criteria, so for example the strategic case and your connection to, perhaps, say, you'd be generating a town centre or a job creation. So, you can reference it in those areas, but there's nothing that restricts mixed use sites coming forward for this funding.

 

Jez Dyer: Thank you. Another question around small sites being combined into one bid and brought forward into a single project, and this is, again, one of those questions that comes forward quite a lot, given that this programme sometimes targets smaller sites. The answer is no, only single site applications are eligible, but you can submit as many applications for those small sites as you like, and that's another one that's picked up in the frequently asked questions. There's another query about whether the funds can be backdated, or applied to works that are-, have already been started, and the answer is around the fund's purpose, and the fact that the fund should be used for works that are preventing the release of the site, so if the milestones that we consider to be land release have already been achieved, then it wouldn't be applicable for the fund. Another question that's just come in is around if a local authority is not currently in an OPE partnership, is there any way that they could apply without setting up a new partnership? Absolutely. We now have 97% of English local authorities on board, all sit within partnerships across the country, so please do get in touch with your regional programme manager, the details are at the end of the presentation, we'll be happy to put you in touch with the partnership in your area to submit that application. The last question that I'll pick up before we move onto the self-and custom-build queries, and I'm happy to come back if we still have time, is around specific costs for-, sewer capital costs. So, we're talking about a specific site which would not be able to come forward without funding to reroute a sewer. Ben, would you like to, to talk a little bit about the types of-, the types of works that would be eligible for funding?

 

Ben Stoneman: Yes, I think, so the-, just on that specific-, yes, that would be eligible. We've funded-, we have funded re-routing of a sewer on another project in the, in the South East. So it comes, it comes back to making the case for that funding and that activity, and linking it to the development itself, and why that is an issue for, for market failure. I saw another question in the, in the chat about gardening, gardens, and landscaping, and I don't think that would be eligible, to be honest. You know, I, I think it's-, I think it's about the upfront cost for making the site ready for development, and attractive development, rather than, rather than the construction or the finishing of the site, for me, and the finishing the housing. So I think that's, that's a slightly different prospect, there.

 

Jez Dyer: Alright, thank you. And a couple of questions, but just before I do finish, around the definition of brownfield. That is in the FAQs. We’ve added a definition around brownfield land. So, I'll, I'll post a link to the FAQs in the chat, because it's quite long. Cath, would you like to pick up those questions around the self-and custom-build fund?

 

Cath Conroy: Okay. Yeah, that's great. Thanks, Jez. I've got some specific questions have come through, particularly for Mary. There's a few questions, so I'll just go through them one by one. The first one was that would you consider community groups that are using the homes for their primary residence and commissioning architects will qualify under custom-build?

 

Mary Elkington: Yeah, community-led, collective and co-operative housing, it's quite a spectrum of development, and in general they will. There are a few cases where it wouldn't be self-build, but in general, a community, land-trust type scheme would be self-build, and we'll be happy to, if anybody wants us to, look at the specifics of a scheme and give an opinion, you know, just to confirm for your bid our view that it is or isn't a self-build, we'll be happy to do that.

 

Cath Conroy: Okay, thank you, thanks, Mary. Another one was how can community-led schemes meet the definition if they haven't identified the tenants before starting?

 

Mary Elkington: Again, that, that sort of aligns with my previous answer, is it really depends on how each scheme is set up. If it is-, yeah. It would depend on each scheme set-up.

 

Cath Conroy: Okay, that's helpful. And, and, as you say, you would-, your organisation would be happy to discuss and advise any individual groups, presumably, who are interested in that?

 

Mary Elkington: Yes, yeah. And then community-led CLT and co-operative housing is an area where there is a strong overlap between the two, but not 100%.

 

Cath Conroy: Okay, okay, understood. We have a very specific question around what is the government delivery vehicle for Help to Build?

 

Mary Elkington: That is-, in the announcement, it say that is one of the details to be forthcoming. It-, there's still some work being done on that. There's a lot of work that's been done, but I can't say at this time.

 

Cath Conroy: Okay, okay, thank you, thank you for that, Mary. We had an earlier-, quite a bit of a general question around what legal interest would the local authority be required to have in the completed development? For example, could it be used to enable a community development through a community land trust? And I suppose from a-, from a funding perspective, from the BLRF and the self-and custom-build funding perspective, I guess we would be saying that there would be no requirement for the local authority to actually have an ongoing legal interest in the completed development. What's crucial for local authorities, in order to be eligible to apply, is that they have the controlling interest when they actually apply. Now, I don't know whether there's anything you could add to that, Mary, and then, maybe, I'll go on to ask my colleague Abby whether she has anything else to comment on that, in terms of ownership?

 

Mary Elkington: That, as I understand, it is what you said. The gateway criteria is who owns the asset. Whether in the end you take that to the open market or take it to an RP, or take it to a community, land trust, or even a, you know, Parish Council, you know, that's part of your scheme as you've set it up.

 

Cath Conroy: Okay, thanks, Mary. Abby, is there anything else you wanted to, sort of, add onto that at all?

 

Abigail Raymond: Yes, Cath, yeah. I think it is important to remember that, one, as Mary said, a qualifying criteria is the land is in-, starts off in the ownership of a local authority, because the programme is all about local authority-, the release of local authority land. But, there, there may well be a range of enablers, who might include a community land trust. So, I think it will be down to the specifics, and again, we'd urge potential applicants to talk to their-, both Mary and their regional programme managers. Thank you.

 

Cath Conroy: Okay, thanks, thanks Abby. And there was a related question, which was around a specific scheme where a building was going to be acquired, and the question was around when that acquisition would need to be made. And it was just, really, to confirm from a programme point of view, the-, in order to meet the eligibility criteria, very much the land needs to be in the ownership of the council in the time of application, in order to be eligible for that. So that's just, sort of, to confirm that. Another question, Mary, around planning in particular, was around, is there any, sort of-, do you have any tips, hints, tips, any advice, particularly around the applying situation, because obviously in terms of custom- and self-build, that can be, potentially, more tricky than otherwise. Is there anything in particular that you would flag up on that, in terms of advice?

 

Mary Elkington: It's my understanding from OPE that the key thing is if you have a policy compliance scheme, so if you’re talking about infill development, change of use, redevelopment, that will be broadly compliant with-, you know, it doesn't have-, your local plan doesn't have to say 'self-build', because self-build is just a different type of housing. So, if it's broadly policy-compliant, in terms of its location, etc., then planning should be straight-forward. There's no requirement that you've-, as I said, tomorrow, we'll talk about mechanisms for delivery and people who've engaged know about things like design codes or plot passports or local development order. There's no requirement to have any of that, and particularly if what you're planning on doing is seeking a, like, a JV partner, or, you know, if you wanna bring forward plots that will go through a third party, it's quite likely you wouldn't want to be doing any of that detailed planning. So, again, it's how you set your project up, but I would suspect a lot of these will be, you know, you'd be seeking either outline planning or local development order. If it's a small-, say you've got, like, some lock-up garages or something, then perhaps you'd want to do just a very simple outline or development order for that.

 

Cath Conroy: Okay, thank you, thanks for that. We-, a question that's just come in now, if funding is secured, does this exclude an RP using Homes England subsidy to deliver affordable housing at a later stage? Ben, perhaps, I'll ask you to, to, to comment on that one.

 

Ben Stoneman: Thanks, thanks, Cath. So I think there are, there are some references to other government funding in the FAQs online, and I think Jez has put a reference in the chat. But no, it doesn't. So, our attention for the funding goes on the site, and the site preparation, rather than the construction of the housing, which comes later. So, if you've had funding, you do need to clear it, as we've, we've, we've talked about before, on the site, but it doesn't prevent you going for Homes England funding in the future to help the construction of the housing itself.

 

Cath Conroy: Okay, thanks Ben, thank you. Just a note to reference everyone in the, in the chat, from Sarah Hart about Brighton and Hove Council, doing some great work with community groups and lease land to community groups (inaudible 58.44), which is a great case study, so that, perhaps, would be something of interest to everyone. Another question, if there's a listed building on the site can repairs to the roof to allow conversion be allowed where there is a conservation deficit? Perhaps, I don't know, Mike, would you pick that one up, maybe? And then Ben?

 

Mike Harries: It'll, it'll be a best guess from me, so others, others may be better informed or better at guessing. I think you've got to be able to demonstrate why it, why it's part of the viability gap. Normally, bear in mind, we would not be funding the development costs themselves. So, taking a listed building where the costs are so prohibitive that otherwise the cost-, the property couldn't possibly come forward for development, might be eligible, but you would have to be able to very clearly demonstrate why it's part of the viability gap. If it was simply about improving the developability of it, I think that would be much more unlikely to succeed. But, as I say, that's a best guess, not definitive guidance, so if anyone else wants to chip in, you know, up to you, Cath.

 

Cath Conroy: Thanks, Mike. Ben, would you care to-,

 

Ben Stoneman: So, I agree with Mike, yeah, absolutely agree with Mike. I think-, and some of these questions are getting quite specific and quite scheme-specific, and I think the best way to talk about those would be to have a conversation or email with your regional programme manager, because you need to understand the context behind some of these questions, I think, to-, rather than just rule out schemes in a blanket fashion. Whilst I'm talking, can I just pick up-, so, so, there's been questions around site ownership and everything, so, just to, kind of-, the purpose of this fund is to release council-owned property for housing where those sites are difficult or impossible to take forward. So, that's the purpose. It's not about supplementing local authority house-building, which is a, sort of, slightly different-, so, if you're, if you are acquiring land to build housing, so the obvious, sort of, question there is if you're buying land that isn't viable for housing, why are you buying it? So, it doesn't really fit with our fund. That's not to say it might not be eligible if it's of a wider regeneration scheme or project, but I think just think about what, what the fund is aiming to do, before you just think about the activity that it might or might not fund. Thank you.

 

Cath Conroy: Thanks, Ben, that's really, really helpful. I think that, kind of, references back to what Mike said in his presentation, around make sure that you answer the exam question, and always refer back to that. The contact details for the regional managers, thanks, Jez, Jez has put up on the screen now. I'm not sure whether we have time for any more questions, or whether-,

 

Chris Watts: We have a couple of minutes, Cath, so we (talking over each other 01.02.19). Maybe one or two more questions, and then I think we'll have to wrap up.

 

Cath Conroy: Okay. Well, I'll take, I'll take another one, and then, Jez, you might want to pick up another one. So, a question from Ashley. If a site is being transferred or sold to a local authority, but the sale has not been completed at the due date, could it be considered, particularly where there may be a formal agreement between, say, NHS-, sorry, I've lost it now, sorry-, NHS and the LA to transfer the land? For example, cabinet report, etc.. So there's an agreement to sell, but actually, legally, it's not completed. My feel would be that that wouldn't be eligible, but interested in Ben's view on that.

 

Ben Stoneman: Yeah, I don't know, I agree, Cath. That's not for us, and not for this fund.

 

Cath Conroy: Okay, thanks, Ben. Jez, do you want to pick up another question, maybe?

 

Jez Dyer: Yes, thanks, Cath. There was a question that came in around other public sector partners and the fund being open to local authority-owned partners only. The question was, what's the position regarding a joint-owned development site where the majority is local authority-owned, and the residual owned by another OPE public sector non-local authority partner? Is the bid limited to only cover the local authority-owned land, if there is a joint disposal agreement between the partners. In previous rounds, we've funded exactly that, where public sector partners are coming together, but the fund will only apply to the local authority-owned parcel of land, and the housing units which are anticipated on that piece of land. Ben, is there anything you'd like to add to that?

 

Ben Stoneman: No, no, Jez, I think that's-, I think that's absolutely right, so, it doesn't-, it doesn't restrict the, the, the project coming forward for funding. The value for money will be based on the housing on the local authority aspect of the land in the same way as the mixed-use development. I think in the bid you'll need to demonstrate that the funded activity will work to release the local authority bit of land, and if, incidentally, it also releases other land ownership, that is, that is a benefit and that is worth stating in your bid, but we wouldn't-, we wouldn't fund-, we wouldn't fund, say-, oh, I'm not going to get into the specifics. We wouldn't fund something that was just about supporting a partner's land ownership, if you see what I mean.

 

Jez Dyer: Thanks, Ben. And Helen's just flagged a query around the eligibility of mayoral combined authorities, and just some clarification on that. Again, that's outlined in the frequently asked questions, the specific question being, 'Which MCAs are not eligible for BRLF funding?'. The MCAs there are listed, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City region, north of Tyne, Sheffield City region, Tees Valley, West Midlands, and West Yorkshire, and their constituent lower authorities. And that is because they've already had the opportunity to benefit from the £400 million brownfield fund, so they're not eligible to bid for this one as well.

 

Chris Watts: Well, thank you, Jez, and thank you, Cath, for leaving that panel session. And, as Jez referenced, all the questions posted on the chat will be collated, and questions asked that are not already captured on the Brownfield Land Release webpage, under the frequently asked questions, and Jez actually shared a link with you all in the chat, will be added to the document after. I hope you've all found the workshop useful, and it provided you with the information required to submit a successful funding bid. As I referenced at the start, a recording of this workshop will be shared with OPE partners. If you have any further questions or potential project opportunities, then please contact your regional programme teams, and their contact details are actually on this, this last slide. So, please contact them. As Mary referenced earlier, I think several times, tomorrow we're running a self-and custom-build workshop from 3:00pm 'til 4:30, and I'm really pleased to say there's still time to register if you've not done so. I would like to end this workshop, now, by thanking all the presenters, and you all for attending this Brownfield Land Release Bid Writing workshop. As the One Public Estate programme, we're really looking forward to receiving your funding bids through your One Public Estate partnerships by the 2nd June deadline. As Mike referenced, earlier the better. So thank you all very much, and that's the end of the workshop, thank you.