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Property Eye

In Property Eye we provide a weekly roundup of recent property news items:-

Celebrity Watch

Tracy Emin Falls Out with Preservation Movement

Tracy Emin is regenerating the 1920s locally listed building that she owns in Spitalfields London but her proposed plans to demolish the building have drawn criticism from the East End Preservation Society and Save Britain’s Heritage. The submissions are currently with Tower Hamlets Council for a decision.

Liz Hurley Sells Home

Liz Hurley, the actress and model, has cashed in on the soaring value of farmland by selling her home in the Cotswolds for £9 million, just two years after she failed to sell for £6million following her 2013 split from Australian cricketer Shane Warne. The decision to acquire a further 300 acres of farmland in between was crucial to securing the sale.

She bought the Grade II listed property in Gloucestershire for £3.3 million in 2002, just 13 years ago.

The home has been sold to a farming family and represents one of the biggest sales of the year outside London.

Ms Hurley can now focus attention on her other country home an hour up the road near Ledbury in Herefordshire which she bought in 2012 with Mr Warne, at the time her fiancé, for £6 million. She bought out his half when they split a year later.

House Prices still below peak

House prices in the regions outside of the greater South East are still well below their 2007 peak, with national data heavily skewed by the performance of London,

The latest Residential View report by Carter Jonas said that Land Registry figures at the end of Q1 2015 showing that average annual house prices in England and Wales were close to eclipsing their 2007 peak was “skewed” by the rapid house price inflation recorded in London.

Outside London, only the South East and East have surpassed their previous peak. In the North, house prices are still 16% to 24% below the highs of late 2007 and early 2008.

The report said transaction levels showed a similar split, with sales in the North still 29% to 33% below the peak market annual average. In London, the South East and East transaction levels are just 15% to 17% down on peak levels.

The report also highlighted that house price inflation in prime regional city and town markets had outstripped other regional markets as the trend towards urban living gathers pace. This trend has seen larger scale investment shifting from London and major regional conurbations to smaller more affluent towns and cities.

Property Development

High Court overrules government on affordable housing for small sites

A High Court ruling has supported Reading Borough Council and its neighbour West Berkshire District Council in their case against Government guidance exempting small developments from the requirement to provide affordable homes. The judge ruled that the policy is “incompatible” with the statutory planning framework and additionally ordered the government to pay the councils’ £35,000 legal costs.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said it would appeal the decision.

Further development in Croydon but Council may force a slow down

We have written before about the continuing redevelopment of Croydon and now Inspired GSP (Grosvenor Square Properties) – a joint venture between Martin Skinner and Raymond Bloomfield – has bought another office block for a residential conversion. The developer has bought Coombe Cross, in Croydon for around £7m from Direct Line Insurance. The 32,000 sq ft office building, which has permitted development consent to convert into 82 units, could be worth £21m upon completion. A planning application has also been submitted for another nine penthouse units.

Also Cordatus Real Estate is planning to turn one of the tallest office blocks in Croydon into 249 flats. The asset manager has submitted an office-to-residential conversion application to Croydon council in relation to the 20-storey Leon House which was built in the mid-1960s and is regarded as one of the town’s most striking examples of brutalist architecture.

However, Croydon council is looking to opt out from the office-to-residential PDRs next month because of concerns the powers are being overused. This has prompted a rush of office-to-residential applications recently, including plans to convert Lunar House and Apollo House into 1,500 flats.

London leads the way for Treasury

Research from Knight Frank shows that London’s share of the stamp duty revenue collected in England and Wales has risen to 46.9% of UK revenues in the first three months of this year compared with 43% a year ago. The increase is down to the new tiered stamp duty regime which has reduced the tax due on houses worth less than £1m but resulted in increases for those buying houses worth more than this. Houses sold over £1.5m are now subject to a top rate of 12%. While London accounted for almost half of stamp duty revenues the capital only accounted for 13% of transactions.

The research also found homes across England and Wales worth more than £1m now account for 34% of stamp duty revenue, compared with 26% a year ago.

Residential Buildings

Don’t Sell Financial Times Building Warns Council

In the wake of Pearson selling the Financial Times newspaper business to Japanese media firm Nikkei for £844m last month, Southwark Council has warned the Company which still owns the Financial Times’ office at One Southwark Bridge, that the site cannot be redeveloped as an entirely residential scheme. Any future development must maintain a commercial element.

A spokesman for Southwark Council said: “There is huge demand for office space in Southwark, and the FT are in a substantial office building in an area where our policy is to retain and expand office space and employment. Any application for this site would need to retain or increase this space in addition to any other uses.”

Planning granted for 320-home Hampshire Greenfield scheme

Following a planning inquiry, permission has been granted on appeal to Commercial Estates Group for the development of 320 homes on an unallocated 120-acre Greenfield site adjacent to the village of Rownhams, Test Valley, in Hampshire.

128 of the 320 will be affordable homes and there will also be a 60-bed extra care facility, a livery for up to 30 horses, allotments and new areas of open space.

Property London

UK nears ‘rental revolution’ as London PRS market takes off

At a time when the UK is facing a severe housing shortage, a report from Addleshaw Goddard and British Property Federation (BPF) has found that the UK is on the cusp of a “rental revolution”, with a 16,000-unit PRS pipeline in London alone. This suggests that the UK private rented sector (PRS) is finally gaining momentum with almost one-third of all housing starts in London in the first quarter of 2015 for rental schemes.

Around £30bn of institutional investment had been earmarked to build and manage homes to rent over the next five years.

So far, most PRS activity has been focused on London and the North West but the report said investors had a growing appetite for different yields and products and were looking to develop nationally across the UK. Institutions such as APG, Hermes and Legal & General, together with developers such as Grainger, Essential Living and Fizzy Living are driving the growth of the sector.

The rising number of private renters – expected to reach one in four households by 2020 – has presented an opportunity for more investors to move into the sector.

But the report said the sector still faced challenges, particularly around councils prioritising affordable housing over PRS developments.

Homes are more affordable than in 1997 says survey

It may not feel like it for many but according to research from Hamptons International Homes the majority of residential properties in England and Wales are now more affordable than they were in 1997 thanks to falling inflation, low interest rates and rising wages.

The estate agent’s “Ability to buy index” showed affordability increasing from 133.2 points in 1997, the year in which the study started, to 135.5 points in the first three months of 2015, meaning that more people are finding it easier to purchase their first home or move up the ladder, and have more money left over after their mortgage payments.

However, the national picture is polarised as affordability has continued to improve in the North East, North West, Yorkshire & Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands and Wales from 1997 to 2015 but deteriorated in London, the East, the South East and the South West.

The study revealed that in the first quarter of this year, a first-time buyer in London had £85 less left over after mortgage payments compared to the first three months of 2014. In all other regions of the country, first-time buyers saw an increase in cash after servicing their home loan.

A household that included a full-time worker, part-time worker and children found themselves £69 out of pocket after mortgage payments over the same time frame.

Property to let

The Top Five Cities for Rental Growth

The number of new landlords buying into the buy-to-let market has fuelled concerns that a bubble may be forming which may have provoked George Osborne’s budget announcement that he will scale back the tax relief for those higher income tax rate landlords with a mortgage.

But property investors who moved into the buy-to-let space 12 months or more ago have reaped the rewards from buying in areas that combined sensible house prices with subsequently soaring rents.

Of the 29 most economically significant towns and cities in the UK, as studied by the property group CBRE – here are the top 5 cities over the last year.


Despite its beauty, house prices languish 10pc below the national average whereas rental prices in the city increased by 26pc over the last 12 months, according to a report from CBRE. Demand from students, who flocked to both of its universities, and a bevy of young professionals drove up monthly rents to £901 on average.

Rent rises: 26pc to £901pcm Average house price growth: 3pc to £228,907 Population growth by 2020: 3pc rise to 210,263 Average age: 39.5 years

Property Edinburgh


Edinburgh holds the world’s largest arts festival and the longest running film festival, both contributing £261m to the Scottish economy every year. The city has expected GDP growth of 30pc in the next decade.

Rent rises: 19pc to £942 pcm Average house price growth: 21pc to £260,647 Population growth by 2020: 8pc rise to 525,341 Average age: 38.5 years


The “town and gown” duality of Oxford – its academic reputation and the thriving bioscience sector and industries have brought more workers into Oxford, often looking to rent before they buy, plus there has been an increase in wealthy, overseas students looking to rent expensive digs.

Warning though – Oxford house prices may now be overheated and the population of potential tenants is expected to fall.

Rent rises: 18pc to £1,459 pcm Average house price growth: 16pc to £431,143 Population growth by 2020: -1.7pc rise to 149,867 Average age: 34.3 years

houses oxford

Milton Keynes

The town is the fastest growing urban area in Europe and the increasing population has translated into growing demand for housing, driving up rental prices.

It is becoming increasingly popular as a commuter town for London with trains to Euston and Clapham Junction.

Rent rises: 15pc to £949 pcm Average house price growth: 3pc to £237,399 Population growth by 2020: 8pc rise to 282,131 Average age: 36.1


Sitting in the very heart of the country, it has two big universities – Coventry and Warwick – and a large student population. It has one of the highest sales rates in the country as renters transform into buyers.

Rent rises: 14pc to £677pcm Average house price growth: 0pc to £162,788 Population growth by 2020: 7pc rise to 355,990 Average age: 36.8 years

Planners Show Teeth

Central Bedfordshire Council have ordered businessman Syed Raza who turned his bungalow into a 3 storey mansion to return it to its original size. Originally granted permission to increase his home by about 45% Mr Raza in fact added around 200% and has now been served with an enforcement order following the rejection of his appeal to retain the extensions.

Student accomodation

Student Accommodation

The student accommodation market has been one of the best performers in a property market that has itself been setting records and with the number of students likely to increase it is expected to continue to grow. The next academic year’s intake of students’ looks like hitting a new high of 540,000 or more, helped by a removal of the existing cap on those numbers. Unite, one of the primary specialist providers of student accommodation, has this week announced a 20% rise in net assets per share and has reported that it is 90%booked for the next year compared with 85% at the same time last year.

This week’s statistics curtesy of

52,167 – The number of homes granted planning permission in England during the first quarter of this year, a 19% increase on the same period last year, according to the Home Builders Federation (HBF)

£131m – Annual turnover at retirement house builder Churchill Retirement, an increase of 46% on 2014. Operating profit was up at £43m, an increase of 110%

5,842 – The number of homes house builder Taylor Wimpey completed in the first half of 2015, up from 5,695 for the same period last year

203,810 – The number of homes granted planning permission in England in the year to April 2015 – the highest ‘four quarter’ total since early 2008, according to the HBF

1,000 – The number of retirement units Churchill plans to build per year by 2018 – up from 492 units in 2015

£1.34bn – Half-year revenue at Taylor Wimpey, up 12.2% on the same period last year. Pre-tax profits rose 33.4% to £238m

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