Draft Bury Housing Strategy - Your questions answered

Frequently asked questions

Note: Some of the following questions have been grouped together.

What is the Bury Housing Strategy and why do we need it?

The Bury Housing Strategy will enable the Council to plan ahead. It sets out the scale of housing issues and challenges in the borough and details the objectives and priorities that are most appropriate for our towns and surrounding neighbourhoods. 

It is designed to support the economic, cultural and community ambitions of the borough, to make it a place where people actively choose to live and work. It seeks to diversify and enhance the housing offer by size, design, location, quality and attractiveness so that people at all stages of life can find and live in a quality home they want at a price they can afford.

The Strategy will help us:

  • Achieve the right quantity and mix of housing;
  • Raise the quality of our housing stock;
  • Support development that meets the needs of different sections of the population at different stages of their lives;
  • Make best use of existing homes;
  • Address fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency;
  • Prevent homelessness and support communities;
  • Improve our Town Centres and neighbourhoods.

What has been done so far?

A draft Bury Housing Strategy has been produced. This has been informed by an assessment of housing need and demand in the borough and, the views of key stakeholders including private developers and registered providers who took part in our early engagement workshops.

Will there be any events where people can ask Council officers for further information?

Due to the limitations imposed by Covid-19, we cannot currently hold open public consultations in Council buildings. We are looking at different ways of providing a similar service online and will keep you updated here and on social media as more details emerge.

The Strategy aims to meet targets for low carbon homes, how is the Council going to help shift existing homes to low carbon?

The Council is undertaking minimum energy efficiency standards enforcement and will continue to work with GM partners to promote energy efficiency grants and schemes to residents and, bid for national funding where possible.

In relation to the council housing stock that Six Town Housing manage, a draft action plan for the retrofit of 8,000 homes over the next 17 years has been developed. Measures will include internal and external insulation, solar panels, energy efficient heat pumps to provide low carbon heating and LED lighting.

90 properties have already been fitted with energy efficient heat pumps and customers have benefited from substantially reduced energy bills. Solar panels have been installed on the Red Bank Extra Care scheme and to 13 residential blocks of flats on an estate in Whitefield. Loft and cavity wall insulation, energy efficient central heating and double glazing is provided as standard.

Fast tracking pilots for carbon neutral homes - will these pilots be with real residents?

With regards to the council housing stock managed by Six Town Housing, the scale of the pilots is dependent on funding and we are looking to maximise grant funding opportunities.  We will seek to prioritise those properties with the lowest energy rating, a combination of both empty and tenanted properties (subject to consultation with those customers).  We are working closely with Electricity North West to establish the capacity of the grid in those areas which will influence the decision as to which tenanted properties will be involved in the pilots.

Is the Council going to use the only existing building standard consistent with low energy homes which is the Passivhaus build standard for both new build and refurbishment and if not why not?

The Housing Strategy proposes the development of a Bury Eco Standard which will reflect a fully retrofitted home with a renewable energy source. In order to meet the targets for all new homes to be carbon neutral by 2028 and all existing homes by 2038, a significant step change is needed. This will require high standards to be achieved and Passivhaus is seen as the level we need to be aiming for. In developing the Bury Eco standard all options including Passivhaus will be considered and we will certainly include the principles of quality installation which Passivhaus embodies.

Can the Council plant more trees, particularly in areas at risk of flooding?

The Council has already approved £250,000 for tree planting including £100,000 to be allocated to City of Tree as match funding towards further external funding for tree planting. This will be used for a wide range of tree planting within parks and open spaces as well as community tree planting and also tree planting aimed at reducing flooding.

What is the minimum expected EPC rating of a new build home?

Although new properties require an EPC, there is no minimum rating required. However, under the building regulations there are minimum thermal efficiency requirements for the building fabric. As part of the Housing Strategy, we will be developing a Bury "Eco Standard" which will be applicable to new build and retrofit projects.

Will the Strategy reduce or remove protection from our Green Belt and why is there no mention of the Green Belt in the Strategy? You said that this is not a GMSF strategy but how can we as residents work with you on this whilst the Council supports a strategy that will destroy so much Green Belt? We have a very precious resource known as Green Belt in Bury yet this does not seem to feature in the Strategy despite the huge obvious health benefits. Why is this?

It is not within the remit of the Housing Strategy to identify the quantity of new houses needed and where this development should be located or to make any amendments to the Green Belt.

This consultation is about getting people to have their say on how we can deliver a balanced and diverse housing supply that meets the needs of our residents including issues such as affordability, house types, tenures and quality.

The Housing Strategy does not allocate any development land nor re-set any planning policies - it does not have the authority to do this.

The GMSF was a strategy that sought to accommodate the quantity of development required using the Government's standard methodology for calculating housing needs.

Some areas e.g. Prestwich and Ramsbottom are definitely not affordable (by most people's measures) in the lower quartile. What are you going to do to make these areas affordable? What definition are you using for affordable?

The Government definition of affordable housing includes social rented, affordable rented or intermediate housing such as shared ownership, discount market housing or rent to buy. Under the definition rented housing is considered affordable if it costs no more than 80% of the local market rent, and discounted market housing must be at least 20% below market value. 

It is acknowledged that this is not affordable for all, and the Housing Needs and Demand Assessment considers how housing costs compare to incomes. For renting, 25% of gross household income is used as the 'tipping point' for affordability, with properties not affordable if more than 25% of income is spent on rent. For buying, affordability is based on a 3.5x gross household income multiple.

We have policies in place to require developers to provide affordable housing on new developments of 10 or more homes, but delivery is limited by the availability of larger development sites in some areas.

What consideration has the strategy given to urban sprawl and the protection of the life in local villages? Specifically preventing the building on land between localities thus increasing density and removing much needed green spaces?

It is not within the remit of the Housing Strategy to identify areas for development or protection. This is the role of planning policies which are subject to separate consultation.

How do we find out exactly what new houses will be built in Bury. Is there a specific page or web site? Please can you post the link for the new build plan for Bury on the web page?

You can view and comment on current planning applications and appeals via the View and comment on planning applications and appeals.

In addition, the Council also monitors the supply of land for housing in a document called the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) which you can also find on the Housing development opportunities

You say that you can't dictate what housing is built but surely through the planning process the council have a say?

The Council has an influence through the planning process, but has to determine all applications submitted in accordance with the development plan and national planning policies, which seek to boost the supply of homes.

We can seek to encourage a mix of different house types, especially on larger sites. The latest evidence to support the Housing Strategy helps to show what types of homes are needed and different areas, which can then influence developers' decisions and will feed into future planning policies.

We can't control what applications developers choose to submit or whether they choose to build out planning approvals that are granted. Some developers can opt to land bank instead of starting building even when planning permission is in place.

The Council is working on bringing forward its own Council owned sites for development, where we will be able to control what housing is built.

What can the Council do to force developers to provide cheaper homes? As you know the developers will obtain planning permission and half way through the build will claim increased costs and attempt to claw back on the promises they make? Also can the section 106 payments be ring fenced at a local level to ensure residents affected by development get enhancement to their immediate areas?

The Council has planning policies in place to ensure affordable housing is provided on developments of 10 of more homes. In most cases, these are sold at 25% below market value to eligible households, or can also be provided as shared ownership or affordable rent.

Section 106 contributions for recreation provision are spent on improvements to local parks close to the development, and provide benefits for existing residents as well as meeting the needs of new residents.

The Strategy aims to increase the supply of affordable housing, what are the Council's plans for building more affordable homes and, can the Council compel private developers to build more affordable homes on new private developments?

The Council has planning policies in place to ensure affordable housing is provided on developments of 10 of more homes. In most cases, these are sold at 25% below market value to eligible households, or can also be provided as shared ownership or affordable rent.

Seeking higher standards from developers on private sites needs local policy to be in place - does the Council have a local policy or plan?

The current UDP includes policies relating to the design of new development, including policies on the form and layout of new residential development. We also have supplementary guidance that provides more detail on requirements for the design and layout of new development.

The NPPF is also a material planning consideration and this includes Government policy on achieving well-designed places.

The Government are currently consulting on proposed changes to the NPPF design policies in order to promote and increase the use of high quality design for new build homes and neighbourhoods.

Bury's emerging Local Plan policies will also include policies on design that reflect the latest policies and guidance contained within the NPPF.

Re-enticing young people back to live in Bury: Will the Council encourage PDR for 1 bed flats via social housing in empty retail and commercial premises in both Bury town centre and the other towns in Bury?

It is important for our town centres to include a mix of different uses to maintain their vitality and viability and be attractive places to live, work and visit. Residential uses and reducing vacancy rates have a role to play in this.

The Council is already well underway in developing a response to the challenges facing our town centres and to support their regeneration and adaptation. This includes the preparation of strategies, masterplans and development frameworks, such as the recently completed Radcliffe Strategic Regeneration Framework, as well as delivering key town centre projects such as new housing, transport hubs, public service hubs and culture.

We will consider the impact of permitted development rights moving forward.

Could the Council introduce penalties to prevent properties being left empty? 

The Council already imposes increased Council Tax charges on long term empty properties as a deterrent. There is a 200% increase in Council Tax on properties that are empty for 2 years or more and a 300% increase in Council Tax for properties that are empty for 5 years or more.

How does the Council plan to tackle unlicensed Houses in Multiple Occupation?

The scope of mandatory licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) broadened in 2018 so many properties that didn't meet the criteria for licensing now do. Building on the improvements to standards that have been achieved through our current HMO Licensing Scheme, we will proactively seek out and enforce against landlords and agents who have not yet obtained a license.

The Council takes action on unlicensed HMO's that it is made aware of through partners such as the emergency services, other organisations and members of the public. Fines are issued where appropriate.

Is there any support for tenants in the private sector to help them sustain their tenancies and stop them from becoming homelessness?

The Councils' Homeless team work closely with private landlords, to support tenants in the private rented sector that are at risk of homelessness. The team have various tools to help sustain tenancies at risk such as the Help to Rent scheme and the Homeless Rescue Fund. The Council also has floating support provision to help sustain complex tenancies in the private rented sector.

When Council houses are sold why doesn't the Council buy them back and rent them out to people on the Council's waiting list?

The Council do look to acquire former Right to Buy properties. The process is subject to strict criteria and available resources. Once a property is bought back it will be let to applicants on the Council Housing Waiting List in accordance with the Allocations Policy.

What are the Council doing to help homeless people now and what provision will there be in the future?

The focus is around prevention and a partnership approach to ensure we robustly support and help our homeless people into long term, affordable housing. 

We have a Homeless Team that supports and assists all homelessness people and their families. They provide personalised action plans with clear outcomes to help ensure we assist as quickly as possible. We are also considering developing a homelessness hub which will help us to provide better support to those that need it.  

We also have temporary accommodation available for our statutory cohort. The Resettlement Team support families, couples and single people and assist them to move on into longer term affordable housing.

Commissioned support services and floating tenancy support is in place for people with complex needs, to help the transition from emergency accommodation into longer term temporary accommodation and ultimately into their own accommodation once ready. 

We are currently refreshing our Homeless Strategy with our partners, to ensure we are ready to react as needed to future demands and pressures.

Ending rough sleeping is a priority in the Strategy - what is the Council doing to help rough sleepers?

Over the past 12 months, we have been providing enhanced accommodation with support to rough sleepers in the borough, in accordance with the Government's 'Everyone in' initiative. In addition, our Homeless Team and outreach service are working closely with private landlords to support those at risk of eviction, in order to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping occurring.

We are also supporting a number of Greater Manchester and national initiatives that help rough sleepers such as the Housing First initiative, a Bed for Every Night (ABEN) which provides emergency temporary accommodation and, the Next Steps Accommodation Programme which provides emergency bed spaces with support for rough sleepers.

Selective licensing is a tool for improving existing stock and neighbourhoods so what is the Council's stance on this?

Selective licensing is an additional tool available to local authorities under The Housing Act 2004. It allows the Council to designate an area or areas in the borough where all landlords would be required to have a license to let their property.

The Council will not rule out introducing selective licensing schemes in the borough.

What other options are you looking at with other departments as opposed to selective licensing?

We will continue to work with our colleagues in various Council departments and our external partners to improve overall standards in an area through a holistic and intelligence led neighbourhood approach.

What is classed as an empty property, how many empty props are there in the borough and do people have to pay Council Tax on empty properties?

Empty properties are classed as those which have been empty for more than 6 months. Anything over 2 years would be classed as a 'long term' empty property.

There are currently 546 long term empty properties across the borough.

For more information on rates of Council Tax, including empties, please visit the Council Tax for empty properties and second homes web page.

How many Arc4 housing surveys were sent out to households in Bury and what was the response rate? We have been informed that it was 16,000 with a response of 2,000. The reason I ask is that there are 90,000 households in Bury and a response of 2,000 represents just 2% of Bury residents. If this is the case, do you think this is a sufficient data set to provide both qualitative and quantitative information to base a housing strategy on?

The purpose of the household survey was to obtain data from a representative sample of households (not all households) to understand general patterns of housing need and the aspirations/expectations of households. To engage with everyone would cost a huge amount of money and the standard practice in social research is to engage with a sample of the population. There were 2,093 responses to that particular survey which provided a sample error of +/-2.1%. This means that if 50% answered yes to a question, we can be confident that the result for the whole population is between 47.9% and 52.1%. The more people interviewed would reduce this range further but, the overall impact on the findings would be negligible.

In addition to the household survey secondary (existing) data analysis was carried out such as house prices and population data and stakeholder consultation, to enhance the credibility of the study and provide a robust, defensible and rounded perspective on housing issues across the Borough. The study was overseen by a consultant with over 20 years research experience and relevant professional accreditations.

Over the past 10 years, Arc4 have interviewed over 74,000 households which represents 2.4m households and they have found that the patterns in data are generally consistent with the national data they hold. They also have access to national studies such as the English Housing Survey which helped corroborate the findings.

With regards to the Arc4 survey you say that the response rate was within national guidelines. How can 2% be acceptable? If so can you point me in the direction of where the national guidelines are?

There are no national guidelines as such. Previous government guidance on housing needs assessments suggested a sample of 1,500 would be sufficient at a district level. You may also want to look at the Office of National Statistics - Methodology guidance web page which provides more information on sample methodology. 

2,100 responses over 17 wards if spread evenly this works out at about 120 responses per ward. Was this evenly spread across the wards, were some wards represented more than others, do you think this is a reliable representation?

The 'sample frame' was based on sub-areas and not wards. But as the sample was a 'random systematic sample' this would have ensured that the sample was in proportion to households living in different wards within the sub-areas. There was no intention of publishing or analysing data at ward level - that would have required a larger sample survey. You rightly point out that if we had wanted ward-level outputs the survey would have needed to be sent to a larger number of households.

Carrying out surveys of random households is standard practice, akin to polling at a general election.

Why has the Strategy been commissioned now when we are almost due to have a completely new census soon and why was the housing needs study allowed to go ahead based on the completion of such a small sample of returned questionnaires?

Census data will not be available until at least March 2022 and detailed information will not be available until March 2023. There are very pressing issues facing housing markets and the Council needs to have a strategy in place to help more households live in good quality accommodation. The sample size was appropriate for the study.

What consultation have you done to develop the Housing Strategy so far? How can this be the change that Bury residents want to see if you have only interviewed 40 households?

During the webinars we referred to interviews with 40 stakeholders made up of Council officers, Members and partner organisations. In addition to the survey and 1-2-1 interviews we held themed consultation workshops with housing developers and registered providers (e.g. housing associations) in the borough, Members, Council officers and partners on eco-housing, health and housing development.

Have we directly consulted young disabled people 18 to 25 as to what their needs are such as supported accommodation? Bury People First would be a good place to start to engage with disabled people and their families.

Bury People First have been involved in the consultation from the outset. They have been directly consulting with young disabled people and their families as part of the consultation. They held a focus group session and workshop with residents and helped them complete the survey as and when required. They also wrote the easy read survey questions and easy read version of the strategy on our behalf. 

The Strategy talks about 15 minute neighbourhoods, please can you explain what this means?

The 15 minute neighbourhood concept means ideally that education facilities, healthcare, shops, cafes, leisure, green space and more are within a 15 minutes' walk, cycle ride or public transport from your home. Existing communities would be able to benefit from proximity and access to good quality and affordable homes, employment opportunities, retail, education facilities, health services, public spaces and culture. This exists in some parts of our towns but it is more of a challenge in rural areas where 15 minutes travel may not bring you close to these facilities.

Contact for Housing strategy consultation