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Housing Infrastructure Fund: The story so far….
It is now almost two years since the UK Government launched the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) in July 2017. This blog provides an overview of the announcements made to date on what funding has been granted to lower and upper tier authorities across England to help unlock thousands of new homes. Lichfields has been involved in preparing a number of HIF bids across the country. First, let’s look at the Marginal Viability Fund (MVF), the smaller of the two HIF sub-funding pots. The MVF was designed to get housebuilding started quickly on sites where the upfront costs of putting in the infrastructure are not stacking up financially. Bids were capped at £10 million, although a higher level of funding may be awarded in exceptional circumstances if bids demonstrate a “transformational delivery of new homes”[1]. The value of MVF funding available to lower tier authorities (e.g. Districts and Boroughs) is currently set at around £900 million, of which, £866.3 million was provisionally allocated to 133 bids from lower-tier authorities in February 2018. To date, 94 of the 133 bids with a combined value of around £605.9 million have been approved by the Government. At the regional level, most of the approved funding has so far gone to lower-tier authorities in the South East and South West (£172.1 million and £121.5 million respectively), which is reflective of the two regions having the highest values of bids accepted by the Government in February 2018 (£224.5 million and £141.3 million respectively). In comparison, the East Midlands, West Midlands, North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber have lower combined values of accepted and approved bids (£291.2 million and £254.8 million respectively). These five regions also have lower values of accepted and approved MVF funding per resident then the other two.  MVF Status (May 2019) Note: The ratios of provisionally accepted bid funding and approved bid funding per resident have been calculated by using the total value of each funding and dividing it by the population of each region in 2017, sourced from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Mid-Year Population Estimates (2018).   Unlike the other regions, none of the provisionally accepted bids submitted by authorities in London has yet been approved by the Government. This may change as the Greater London Authority (GLA) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government to fund the £110.7 million of London projects[2], which signals the intention of approving the funding eventually. The map below shows MVF awards by local authority to date. Approved MVF Funding by Local Authority (at May 2019) Note: the local authority boundaries do not reflect the changes that came into force during April 2019. Those areas that have not benefitted from the MVF still stand to potentially gain funding from the Forward Fund (FF), which is substantially larger than the MVF with £4.1 billion of capital available and a maximum bid value of £250 million other than in exceptional circumstances. So far, seven successful FF bids have been confirmed (see the table below), with a combined value of £1.16 billion, or 28% of the total FF pot. Almost half of the £1.16 billion has been awarded to the GLA to improve the capacity of the Docklands Light Railway and to pay for infrastructure to unlock housing in part of the Old Oak and Park Royal Opportunity Area. London could further benefit from the FF if the other large-scale bids the GLA submitted such as for expanding capacity on the East London line and funding infrastructure at Meridian Water are approved. Successful Forward Funding Projects (at May 2019) Whilst it may seem that London will be the major beneficiary of the FF, other regions still stand to significantly benefit from it, with projects in Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and Cumbria having been awarded over £100 million of funding apiece. Considerable amounts of funding were also announced for Devon and the North Cheshire Garden Village in East Cheshire. Lichfields assisted in the delivering the North Cheshire Garden Village bid by developing the economic case for the scheme and providing post-submission support to East Cheshire Council. With the final round for bids closing on 22 March, we can expect that the remaining £2.9 billion of FF will be allocated once Government completes its appraisal and final co-development process with upper tier authorities which is in progress. It remains to be seen exactly how the Government will use the additional £500 million of funding added to the HIF in the Chancellor’s 2018 Autumn Budget.[3] Further announcements are due shortly, and it will be interesting to see if and how the geographical allocation of funding changes as new HIF awards are confirmed. [1] Introduction Housing Infrastructure[2] Housing Infrastructure Fund Forward Funding Business [3] Budget 2018: HousingImage credit: Matt Buck


The London Cultural Infrastructure Plan: A call for planners
The Mayor of London published his new Cultural Infrastructure Plan, last month (March, 2019); as noted in Lichfields’ planning news, it focuses on cultural spaces and how the Capital should best plan to meet its cultural needs. The report makes clear that these spaces are at risk from land pressures, increasing business rates and permitted development rights. A call for action from planners is at the centre of this Plan, not least because the NPPF regards ‘cultural wellbeing’ as a crucial component of sustainable development[1]. The Plan delves into how we can better understand our cultural infrastructure, from cultural ‘consumption’ (which includes spaces such as art galleries, museums and libraries) to the increasingly broad nature of cultural ‘production’ (including but not limited to artist studios, design workshops and creative co-working spaces). It coincides with the Mayor publishing a Cultural Infrastructure Toolbox, the first of its kind, which also includes an interactive map. By understanding the differing cultural venues which make up London’s world class cultural infrastructure, only then can we start to take action. Planning effectively for cultural spaces in London has become increasingly complex. Unsurprisingly, cultural uses are experiencing much of the same pressures to that of industrial and office uses: rising land prices, increasing business rates and pressure from higher value residential uses. In response, the Cultural Infrastructure Plan is intended to sustain and enhance the cultural spaces within London by advocating collaborative solutions on a site-specific basis, whereby planners work alongside, developers, local authorities and cultural organisations. The Mayor’s Plan proses a call to action to 1) map where cultural spaces are within each Borough and 2) consider how we can enhance these spaces. The following questions addressed within the Plan are particularly crucial for our sector: What is cultural infrastructure? Cultural infrastructure, whilst critical to London’s economy, is often ill-defined. The Plan states this infrastructure encompasses the buildings, structures and places where culture is either consumed or produced. With the recent announcement of the Creative Enterprise Zones – the first ones being designated in December 2018 – we are seeing an increasing emphasis placed upon the creative economy; a sector which generates ‘£52bn for London each year, is the reason most tourists visit, [and] employs one in six Londoners’.[2] Our cultural spaces, beyond contributing to ‘cultural wellbeing’, are critical in terms of job creation, sector growth and maintaining London’s position as a world leader in cultural capital. The Mayor’s Plan stresses the need to map this cultural infrastructure across the Capital to plan effectively. The cultural infrastructure map allows users to choose from 36 indicators (spanning from artists workspaces, community centres, dance halls, heritage at risk, pubs and theatres) to explore different locations across the Capital. The map (see extract, below), allows cultural spaces to be viewed at both Borough and Ward level. This can then be combined with context layers such as transport, planning policy, audience and demographics, and open spaces. For instance, the map below shows the results of combining the museums indicator with the Opportunity Zone context layer. Developers, planners and architects proposing new developments are encouraged to consider cultural spaces, particularly those deemed to be at risk, and seek to incorporate these spaces within their proposals. Source: The Cultural Infrastructure Map (2019) Planning for cultural infrastructure The Cultural Infrastructure Plan outlines how we can better plan for cultural infrastructure, in accordance with the Draft London Plan policies, towards a ‘roadmap to 2030’[3]. It identifies a ‘seven-point action plan’[4] centred around mapping, sustaining and enhancing cultural spaces. Action 2 explicitly calls for planners to ‘plan for and create cultural infrastructure’[5]. This includes reference to the role that Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levey can play with regards to cultural infrastructure. Alongside funding, the plan calls for intensification of sites, re-purposing buildings and developing new sites to provide cultural spaces. It also highlights the potential role of meanwhile uses, a topic covered by Lichfields through our work for U+I (for more, read our recent blog). As well as creating new sites however, the Mayor calls for a more collaborative approach to planning such spaces. This involves the co-operation of local authorities, cultural organisations, architects and planning organisations. For example, Hackney Borough Council, the London Legacy Development Corporation and creative co-working spaces are safeguarding cultural production sites by introducing planning policies which ensure rent is below market value. This is intended to safeguard 8,500 sqm of creative working spaces within new developments in Hackney. Whilst we are already seeing a number of co-operative solutions being implemented across the Capital, more is needed to sustain our world class cultural assets which are vital to both London’s economy and our sense of cultural wellbeing. The Mayor seems resolute that planners must play a key role in delivering future cultural spaces to enable our creative economy to thrive and for all of London to enjoy. As the Cultural Infrastructure Plan states, a first step must be for planners to answer this call to action.   [1] National Planning Policy Framework, (2019), paragraph 8[2] The Cultural Infrastructure Plan, Greater London Authority, (2019) p.7[3] The Cultural Infrastructure Plan, GLA, (2019), p.35[4] The Cultural Infrastructure Plan, GLA, (2019), p.38[5] The Cultural Infrastructure Plan, GLA, (2019), p.40