Time to think about what a new year will bring?
We are almost at the end of January. As we enter the second month of the year, it might be worth taking stock of what to expect in the context of our own area. Nationally, from a housing and homes point of view, it seems that despite what has been described as “the cost-of-living crisis” continuing, people still need to find a place to live and a General Election at some point in the year, is likely to feature housing as an issue about which all parties will have in their manifestos. The Nationwide Building Society reports on the UK housing market regularly and recently reported that that house prices fell by 1.8% over the course of 2023. The forecast for 2024 does not see a rapid recovery, and perhaps even a further decline in prices.
What does the housing market look like in Stoneygate?
Of course, while these figures get widely reported in the news, the reality is that there is not just one housing market, but many. Different markets exist across regions and in different towns and cities, and demand is often determined by its desirability. These include things like local amenities, including schools, shops and of course the type and quality of properties. In a place like Stoneygate, we find the market is described by estate agents operating in the area as “buoyant”, in part because it is a well-established and settled area with little available land for new development. It is not surprising that demand remains high here whenever properties do come to the market. And that demand fuels high prices. One of the features of housing in Britain is the lack of new supply to meet demand. That also includes rented property to meet the demand for those unable to buy. For the housing market in Stoneygate, the lack of rented property is possibly one of the factors that results in some of the larger, older properties in the area ending up being converted to multiple flats to meet that demand.
Although the amount of land available for development is limited, there is one potential, significant development on the horizon. Mary Gee Houses on Ratcliffe Road is a site of former student halls owned by Leicester University. It has been purchased by a developer called Adlington who submittted planning permission to the council for a 100 apartment care complex. The plans were rejected by the council and the developer appealed. This appeal was not upheld and the Planning Inspectorate was very critical of the plans. It is now hoped that a revised and much improved proposal, which is sensitive to the conservation area location will come forward this year.
One of the things that makes the area desirable is the great diversity of homes here. In terms of style, age, size and the overall environment there is a lot to admire. While some homes have quite extensive grounds, others are more modest, but most places benefit from wonderful canopies of trees and shrubs in gardens and public spaces. Definitely something to thank our predecessors who laid out the street scene and planted many varieties of trees. I always marvel at their foresight because they could only imagine their lifetimes the street scenes we can now appreciate.
White Stacks – a local landmark
One fine example of the rich diversity of homes in the area can be found on Southernhay Road. This distinctive house came onto the market just before Christmas last year. Its white stucco exterior contrasts with vivid green window frames and ledges. Dating from the late 1920s or early 1930s, it is a fascinating example of a mix in styles between art deco, with echoes of the arts and crafts movement, particularly in the roof line and chimney features. “White Stacks” as it is appropriately called, sits back from the road, and makes an imposing statement in comparison to adjacent buildings because. Other images and a brief description of the interior and exterior can be found in this link here
We cannot comment on the accuracy of the estate agent’s particulars, but they are of interest. Offers of more than £1m are being sought, which demonstrates that the market is seen as very buoyant by someone.
Getting our housing ready to meet zero carbon
We are all aware of the challenges that climate change places on the way we may have to adapt in the future. One of those challenges is in the way our homes are heated and cooled. New building regulations coming into force mean that from this month, all new developments will have to show how they increase biodiversity by 10% in order to receive planning permission.
At the end of last year, the government announced a consultation to revise the current building regulations in relation to energy efficiency. It states that new buildings built to the proposed standards will meet the 2050 net zero target as the electricity grid decarbonises without any need for retrofitting. The consultation suggests that gas fuelled boilers would not be permitted in new homes and rules out hydrogen and biofuels too. These regulations would come into force from 2025.
While most of will probably welcome new homes built to standards to tackle climate change, it does raise the question of what, if any, measures will be introduced, or recommended to help those of us living in much older housing? What will be the cost of “retrofitting” our homes to make them more energy efficient, and how will we pay for it? No answers here yet, and will this be become clearer as the election draws nearer? Let’s see.
Reviewing the conservation area
Of course, the unique character of the area is recognised in the designation of much of Stoneygate as a Conservation Area, and the SCAS (Stoneygate Conservation Area Society) exists to promote and protect the unique character of the area and has done so since 1978 – the date when the conservation area was created. This year, we understand that Leicester City council is considering reviewing some of the conservation areas across the city and this may include Stoneygate. We still await details on what to expect, but at the very least we anticipate replacement of the signage at the boundaries of the area which has been damaged or mislaid over the years. It is hoped that the character assessment of the area will also be refreshed. The review is intended to strengthen the existing powers and help shape future development and planning policies. You can be assured that the SCAS committee will keep you informed of progress and will work with the council to ensure that Stoneygate retains its unique character a a good place to live and work. If you have any views or comments on the issues here, please feel free to get in touch and let us know what you think via the comments box at the end of this article.