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Planning round-up 26 November

Published: Thursday, 26th November 2015

Welsh stalled sites and s106s. Social town planning manifesto launched. Inspector agrees to suspend Warwick’s local plan examination until May 2016. And more stories...

Latest housing stats

The Department for Communities and Local Government has published statistics on house building starts in England for the September quarter 2015.

These indicated that seasonally adjusted starts are now 100 per cent above the trough in the March quarter 2009 but 30 per cent below the March quarter 2007 peak. Completions are 28 per cent below their March quarter 2007 peak.

Annual housing starts totalled 137,490 in the 12 months to September 2015, down by one per cent compared with the year before. Annual housing completions in England totalled 135,050 in the 12 months to September 2015, an increase of 17 per cent compared with the previous 12 months.

Other findings showed that seasonally adjusted house building starts in England were estimated at 34,250 in the September quarter 2015, a two per cent increase compared to the previous quarter. The seasonally adjusted level of starts in the September quarter 2015 increased by two per cent on the same quarter a year earlier.

Private enterprise housing starts (seasonally adjusted) were one per cent higher in the September quarter 2015 than the previous quarter, whilst starts by housing associations were 10 per cent higher.

View the press release

Lewis urges pragmatic s106 affordable homes renegotiations

Planning minister Brandon Lewis has written to English councils asking them to be flexible and pragmatic when asked by developers to renegotiate affordable housing delivery.

In the letter Lewis voiced concerns that, following a government announcement that social rents will be reduced from 2016-17, schemes for the development of housing association properties “are not being built out at the anticipated rate”.

The minister predicted developers would be approaching councils to renegotiate section 106 agreements to adjust the type of affordable housing provision.

He urged local authorities “to respond constructively, rapidly and positively to requests for such renegotiations and to take a pragmatic and proportionate approach to viability”.

Lewis said the “minimum amount of viability information necessary” should be sought where developers proposed a reduction in affordable housing contributions. He said proposals to change the mix of tenures provided without reducing the overall affordable housing contribution were unlikely to warrant new viability assessments.

He also recommended that section 106 agreements should be drafted to allow for “the delivery of alternative forms of affordable housing if this becomes necessary”.

The minister said officials would be contacting councils to gauge the extent of renegotiations and what action was being taken.

View the letter

Report highlights growth deal variations

Analysis of the first suite of English Growth Deals agreed between central government and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) undertaken by consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield Partners (NLP) has highlighted that transport schemes are the main focus of the funding and the level of private sector investment leveraged by the deals varies “widely”.

The funding is based on a formula approach and most LEPs have extended this through a process of making competitive bids to government. This means that some LEPs have received a lot more public funding and identified greater private sector leverage than others (a key condition of this public grant), particularly in comparison to relative population size.

As a result of the dual system of formula allocation and competitive bidding, the NLP assessment found there was no overall national pattern of investment to areas of relative economic strength or weakness.

The anticipated impacts of the new projects in terms of potential number of new jobs supported and new dwellings also varied widely. Individual LEP estimates of the impact of every additional £1m of funding from the extension of the Growth Deals ranged between 25 to 748 additional jobs supported and between 15 to 304 new dwellings.

View the report

London round-up

  • London Mayor Boris Johnson has given his seal of approval for the capital’s largest single regeneration development, a scheme earmarked for the Greenwich Peninsula. A revised master plan for nearly 12,678 homes and 12,000 jobs on a previously disused 80 hectare former gasworks site has been signed off. The proposals are designed to create an entire new district formed of five neighbourhood zones.
  • Transport for London is pushing ahead with plans to build 10,000 homes across the capital during the next decade, as it submits planning applications for three sites in Nine Elms, Northwood and Parsons Green. The group that runs London’s public-transport network has begun the first wave of its property development programme that will see it build homes across 75 sites, spanning 121 hectares of land.
  • Housing developer HUB has submitted plans for 239 homes on the former site of the Chesterfield House council building in Wembley. The north west London development will be made up of two blocks of 26 and 21 storeys, one consisting entirely of affordable housing, some 43 per cent of the total provision.
  • Ed Watson has been named as Westminster City Council’ new Executive Director of Growth, Planning and Housing. He will start his new role in January 2016. He is currently Camden Council’s Director of Culture and Environment.

Development plan pilots fund

A £600,000 challenge fund to enable local authorities to make changes to their planning service to help them deliver neighbourhood and local plans has been unveiled by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The funding is being made available in the 2015-16 financial year to pilot authorities to help them:

  • Support neighbourhood planning by piloting ways of making neighbourhood planning an integral part of their planning service, for example in relation to local plan-making
  • To identify ways of involving or delegating planning decisions to neighbourhood planning groups
  • To make changes to their service to ensure that they have an up-to-date local plan in place by 2017.

Pilot authorities will also be expected to deliver resources, toolkits and reports that can assist other local authorities in supporting neighbourhood and local plans. DCLG has said un-ring-fenced grants of up to £60,000 will be available to successful planning authorities.

View the publication

Garden village viability report

Private sector-led garden villages providing up to 5,000 homes could play a significant role in meeting the country’s housing shortage, a discussion paper prepared by house builder Barratt Developments has argued.

The builder has looked at a notional development of 5,000 mixed tenure homes, office and employment space, community services and transport and green infrastructure.

It said such a settlement could be entirely privately financed and require no public money. It would however require amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework.

Delivery could involve Garden Village Creation Company, in effect an Asset Backed Vehicle with developer(s), participating landowners and financial institutions(s), plus a so-called Promotion Vehicle to deliver the development and a Stewardship Vehicle to manage the legacy.

The paper said an economic appraisal identified total costs for the settlement of £800m and revenues that generate surpluses of £300m and an internal rate of return well in excess of 20 per cent.

The paper said: “Garden Villages present a solution for meeting housing needs because they are of a sufficient scale to deliver infrastructure and benefits for residents, but not so large as to necessitate costs and intervention that erect major barriers to delivery”.

View the press release

Fewer Welsh councils will mean £650m savings claims minister

Welsh Public Services Minister Leighton James claimed this week that plans to cut the existing 22 local authorities to eight or nine would result in £650m savings over 10 years.

That claim was made as the Welsh administration published the draft legislation required to slim-down Welsh local government and halve the number of planning authorities. The bill is not intended to become law until after the Welsh Assembly elections in May 2016.

View the draft local government (Wales) bill

Legal round-up

European lessons on how to do it

New insights from Europe show how France, Germany and the Netherlands have successfully tackled housing and regeneration by using planning skills and tools to stimulate, not just regulate, development in a way that is markedly different from the UK, according to a RTPI report.

In this new study, researchers from the University of Liverpool have identified five specific stratagems, seldom used in the UK, that have led to faster and better development, especially housing development, in Western Europe.

These involve:

  • Upfront infrastructure investment to shape future development
  • This investment builds support for urban extensions, so tackling ‘NIMBYism’
  • Land assembly and readjustment whereby an overarching body actively seeks out and temporarily pools together private development rights
  • Strong planning institutions to coordinate this development
  • Regional coalition-building and strategic planning across administrative boundaries to reflect functional economic areas.

View the press release

Stroud local plan made

The Stroud District Local Plan has been formally adopted by the council. It is the first planning authority in Gloucestershire to have an up to date development plan.

The strategy has made provision for at least 11,400 homes to be built over the 25-year period between 2006 and 2031. The number includes over 7,700 homes which have already been built or have planning permission and 4,200 homes to be developed on sites identified in the plan. Some 1,350 new homes are planned for a development west of Stonehouse.

On average, 470 homes need to be built each year over the next 16 years to accommodate the expected needs of the district. The plan also supports the development of 58 hectares of employment land over the plan period.

View more information on the Stroud District Local Plan

Tallest Welsh building planned for Cardiff

Bangor-based developer Watkin Jones has submitted plans for a 42-storey student residential block for a site in Cardiff city centre which would be Wales’s tallest building.

The proposed 132metre building would dwarf the Meridian Tower in Swansea, currently the tallest in Wales.

The scheme would provide some 447 student bedrooms in a mix of cluster flats, studios and one bedroom flats, along with communal and management facilities and a commercial unit at ground floor level.

View the news story on the BBC

Three more successful NP referendums

Three more neighborhood plans (NPs) have passed muster following referendums organised by the relevant local authorities in, respectively, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Nottinghamshire.

The Welbourn NP had an approval rating of 88.4 per cent on a 48 per cent turn-out; Brancaster NP obtained 82 per cent of the votes on a 33 per cent turn-out, while the East Leake NP polled 94 per cent yes-votes on a turn-out of nearly 25 per cent.

View more information about the Welbourn NP

View more information about the Brancaster NP

View more information about the East Leake NP

Manchester developments

NOMA, a central Manchester regeneration project on land owned by The Co-operative Group and Hermes Real Estate, has received planning permission for two office developments at Angel Square.

The buildings will collectively provide more than 32,516 square metres of commercial floor space over nine and 11 storeys, and have been designed by AHR architects. The site is opposite the newly refurbished Victoria Station.

Find out more information about NOMA

Ipswich listed brewery makeover

An outline planning application has been lodged with Ipswich Borough Council to turn the listed Tolly Cobbold brewery at Cliff Quay, Ipswich, into a mixed-use development providing a cafe, restaurant, business start-ups, an auditorium and a conference space with other parts of the site being turned into a health club and 222 flats.

A separate full planning application has been submitted by Pigeon Developments for a change of use from a redundant Victorian brewery to mixed commercial and residential use.

View the news story on the BBC

Chef to trash home

TV chef Gordon Ramsay has announced proposals to demolish his £4.4m home in Rock, Cornwall and replace it with a luxury five-bedroom villa with a swimming pool, and a three-bedroom boathouse.

View the news story on the BBC

Petition to save illegal mock Tudor castle

More than a thousand people have signed a petition backing calls to halt the proposed demolition of a mock-Tudor castle built without planning permission which has been at the centre of a planning and legal saga involving Reigate & Banstead Borough Council.

Farmer Robert Fidler hid the castle behind bales for four years when he built it in Redhill, Surrey. A High Court judge has ordered him to demolish it by June. If he fails to do so he will be jailed for three months.

A petition, with 1,200 signatures, calls on the council to stop the “wasteful” enforcement.

Roger Milne