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Planning round-up 11 June

Published: Thursday, 4th June 2015

Councils wary of NPPF viability test and affordable homes. Study on new development impact on house prices. Government housing taskforce announced. And more stories...

Councils wary of NPPF viability test and affordable homes

A majority of English councils believe the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)’s viability test has hampered their ability to deliver affordable housing.

That’s the main finding of a survey compiled for a research report jointly published by the Association for Public Sector Excellence (APSE) and the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA).

According to the survey, some 54 per cent of authorities polled said the policy had negatively impacted social and affordable housing provision, against 14 per cent who said it had helped. The remainder was undecided.

The report,’ Housing the Nation: Ensuring councils can deliver more and better homes’, calls for local government to get a stronger voice in the delivery of new homes, with a beefed-up role in co-coordinating land assembly and planning, plus greater powers to lead development.

The two bodies recommend that the NPPF viability test should be amended to allow the wider economic benefits of new social and affordable housing to be considered.

View the press release on APSE’s website


Study on new development impact on house prices

A new study has shown that new house building appears to have little discernible and consistent impact on local house price patterns.

That was the conclusion of a report by researchers at the London School of Economics jointly commissioned by Barratt Developments, the largest house builder in the UK, and the NHBC Foundation.

The research examined the impact on local house prices of eight recent residential Barratt developments. The selected sites all involved fewer than 300 units and were substantially completed within the last five years. Spread across the South and Midlands these sites are typical of housing development outside city centres or wholly rural areas.

The aim was to exemplify ‘ordinary’ developments mainly on sites where there had been objections (some significant) at planning permission stage prior to development.

The research concluded that prices did not decline as a result of development, although sometimes there may be some limited impact during construction. The researchers found almost no evidence of longer-term negative impacts on house prices in the area of the new development.


Government housing taskforce announced

The Prime Minister’s Office has announced the membership of a newly established Cabinet-level Housing Implementation Taskforce.

The focus of the task force will be on increasing the supply of new housing, helping first-time buyers onto the property ladder, implementing Right to Buy and progressing public sector land sales.

The new taskforce’s membership includes Communities Secretary Greg Clark, Business Secretary Sajid Javid, Environment Secretary Liz Truss, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Letwin, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Greg Hands, Paymaster General Matt Hancock, planning and housing minister Brandon Lewis and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for NHS Productivity Lord Prior of Brampton.

Like the other Whitehall taskforces, it will report to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on a regular basis.

View more information on GOV.UK


London round-up

  • London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced he is inviting developers to transform an empty piece of industrial land in Rainham, Essex into a new neighbourhood with nearly 2,000 new homes and a train station. The 29-hectare site in Beam Park, bisected by the Beam River, is one of the largest areas of land earmarked for new development. The site is currently owned by the Mayor of London and the last major site released for development.
  • MEC London Property (General Partner) Limited has submitted a planning application to the City of London Corporation for an office led redevelopment. The plans involve the demolition of existing property and the construction of two new buildings, one of which will be a 40-storey tower at a 0.45 hectare site between Bishopsgate and Leadenhall Street.
  • Wandsworth Council has approved plans for a residential-led mixed-use development of the former Battersea gasholder site located within the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area. The applicant is St William Homes LLP, which is a joint venture between National Grid and The Berkeley Group Holdings. The gas holders on the two-hectare site will be replaced with 12 new blocks ranging from 7–26 storeys high and providing 839 new homes.
  • Camden Council has submitted a planning application for the new council homesneeded to replace those set to be lost to High Speed 2 (HS2) on Regent’s Park Estate. Over 200 homes in Camden are earmarked for demolition due to HS2, many of them occupied by council tenants and leaseholders.
  • Tessa Jowell, Labour’s candidate to be the next London Mayor, has pledged to build more new affordable homes in the capital by establishing a new housing body, Homes for Londoners, which will be a housing equivalent to Transport for London. Homes for Londoners will act as a developer and will be led by a Homes Commissioner.
  • Architect Robert Adam’s controversial proposals to demolish Athlone House in Highgate have been rejected by a planning inspector. The inspector said the plan to replace the Victorian villa with a new, classically inspired eight-bedroom mega-mansion would have been out of place with other buildings in Hampstead.


Minecraft aids Dundee waterfront planning

Dundee school pupils have put forward their designs for the future of the city’s waterfront using the popular videogame Minecraft in a project led by the city council and the university.


Warwick local plan hits the buffers

The planning inspector examining Warwick district council’s local plan has told the planning authority that the housing provision set out in its draft local plan is “not positively prepared, justified, effective or consistent with national policy. It is not sound.”

The inspector’s stance has dismayed the council which has been effectively told either to non-adopt the plan or withdraw it. The inspector argued that suspending the examination would be inappropriate in the circumstances.

View the press release on the Warwick District Council website


Legal round-up

  • US billionaire Donald Trump has lost his latest legal challenge over an offshore wind farm project near his Scottish golf resort.
  • The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames’s enforcement officers have removed and destroyed illegally moored boats and also removed unauthorised structures on the riverside. The action came as part of a wider joint initiative between neighbouring planning authorities bordering the River Thames which involved both the Metropolitan Police and the Environment Agency.
  • A basement construction company has been fined £15,000 after pleading guilty at Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court to 11 charges of the display of unauthorised advertising boards and shrouds at two properties in west London.
  • Plans for a new four-storey building in the centre of St Albans will have to be reconsidered after the owners of an adjacent block of flats won a court battle at London’s High Court to quash planning permission because of ‘overshadowing’.
  • CPRE Kent has begun legal action over Dover district council’s approval of proposals for 500 new homes at Western Heights and Farthingloe in an AONB.


Norfolk urban extension approved

South Norfolk Council has given outline approval for an urban extension of over 900 new homes, which would double the size of the village of Easton near Norwich.

The proposals, which include a primary school extension, village hall, a green and a shop, have been drawn up by a consortium of local landowners that include Easton and Otley College, the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, Norwich Diocesan Board of Finance and the Rampton Property Trust. Just over a quarter of the new dwellings would be affordable homes.

There is local opposition to the scheme because of its impact on the existing settlement and fears over flooding. Historic England is concerned that the proposals would harm the setting of a Grade 1-listed church.


Brownfield land eco-advice

A group of environmental charities has published guidance on what constitutes brownfield land of high environmental value for wildlife.

The charities hope the advice will make it easier for local authorities to safeguard such land from re-development when they produce brownfield development land registers, a statutory requirement under government policy proposals.

A total of eight organisations, all members of Wildlife Link, are behind the advice initiative.

View the press release


Northumberland solar farm

Northumberland county council has proposed an ambitious renewable energy programme beginning with plans for a 10-hectare solar farm at Ashington on the edge of the 135-hectare Ashington Community Woodland.

View the press release


Birmingham office tower

Proposals for the tallest office block currently planned outside London are back on the table for Birmingham city centre.

The scheme would see the old 22-storey NatWest Tower demolished and a £60m, 26-storey office block erected in its place in Colmore Row.

The planned new landmark would also include a rooftop restaurant offering 360-degree views across the city and a winter garden and café at street level.


Cornish food enterprise zone

Farming minister George Eustice has confirmed that funding linked to a new government-backed Food Enterprise Zone (FEZ) initiative will help boost Cornwall’s first dedicated food village at Norton Barton Farm, near Bude.

Cornwall is one of 17 areas in England awarded a share of £830,000 of government funding to develop a FEZ, which is built around a Local Development Order to overcome barriers to planning permission and fast-track the expansion of food and farming businesses within the zone.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has just published new guidance detailing changes in the methodology it is using to produce land use change statistics. The guidance sets out the changes and the effects on the data produced.

View the press release on GOV.UK


RTPI bursary scheme 

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has launched a Future Planners bursary scheme initially worth £1,000 per student.

This initiative, which involves 16 universities across the UK and Ireland, is designed to encourage more students, particularly from related subjects such as law and geography, to study planning at Masters level. The scheme is also supported by a number of employers.

View the press release on the RPTI website


‘Black spider’ letters

A freedom of information request from the Guardian followed up by a legal challenge, has finally led to the publication of some of the detail from the so-called ‘black spider’ correspondence between Prince Charles and former government ministers.

An outline of some of the material has been published on the Department of Communities and Local Government website.

This confirms that the heir to the throne intervened over eco-towns, affordable rural housing and regeneration and heritage issues.

View the Prince of Wales correspondence with government departments


Bicester garden town feasibility studies

The government has confirmed a £1.47m grant to Cherwell District Council to fund feasibility studies for its Bicester Garden Town project. The project planned to deliver a new settlement of 13,000 homes in two phases.

The first will be in line with the local plan, which outlined the delivery of 10,000 homes at north-west Bicester, Graven Hill and south-west Bicester between 2014 and 2031.

The funding will be used for studies looking at issues such as green spaces, transport links and the possibility of a new motorway exit south of junction nine on the M40.


River Teme makeover

A multi-million pound plan to restore the River Teme has been backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). It has approved a grant of £204,000 to allow the Severn Rivers Trust, an environment charity, to apply for a £3m grant for its Springs of Rivers Project.

The project aims to conserve more than 200 kilometres of the river and build a visitor centre. The river extends across four counties (Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Powys) and the trust said the project would cover the entire length of the river, “from source to Worcester”.


Seaside wrangles in Brighton and Portsmouth

A row has broken out about the future of two tourist attractions on Brighton seafront where the proposed i360 observation tower is due to open next summer.

The developers of the observation tower are objecting to the fact that the owners of the Brighton Wheel, also on the seafront, have applied for permission to stay another five years after arguing there’s sufficient business for both. The team behind the tower doesn’t agree and claim the wheel will be unfair competition.

Meanwhile, Portsmouth city council is reviewing plans to paint a major landmark in the colours of a rival football team.

Last week the council announced a £3.5m sponsorship deal with the Emirates airline which would have seen the Spinnaker Tower painted red and white, which happen to be the colours of Hampshire rival Southampton FC.

Following an online petition against the colour scheme the Conservative leader of the local authority Donna Jones has announced a review of the plan “to better reflect the city’s own football team, the Royal Navy and local heritage”.


Clive Dutton RIP

Clive Dutton OBE, formerly one of England’s most high-profile local authority planners, has died aged 62 after a long battle with cancer. Before starting his own urban regeneration consultancy he played a key role in the planning and regeneration of east London’s Newham in the run-up to the Olympics and between 2005 and 2009 he was instrumental in establishing a strategic framework for Birmingham city centre.



Roger Milne