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Planning round-up 17 December

Published: Thursday, 17th December 2015

Ministers urged to allow more time for policy change consultation. Report claims nimbyism isn’t inevitable. Liverpool proposals. Accessibility tool-kit. And more stories...

Ministers urged to allow more time for policy change consultation

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee, has written to Communities Secretary Greg Clark to press for a month’s extension to the consultation period over the Government’s proposals announced last week for a raft of changes to planning policy in England.

That move came as Betts signalled that the all-party committee would hold a quick-fire inquiry into the proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) early in the New Year.

Betts pointed out there had been no prior warning about the consultation and that much of the consultation period will be taken up by the traditional Christmas and New Year break.

“An extension would allow the opportunity for the proper, informed, public debate these issues deserve” the Labour backbencher argued.

Meanwhile the Campaign to Protect Rural England has warned that the plans for a new ‘housing delivery test’ and proposals to allow housing on previously developed sites in the green belt would lead to more greenfield land being lost to development and the risk of further urban “sprawl”.

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Report claims nimbyism isn’t inevitable

A new report from cross-party think-tank Demos has insisted that widespread local opposition to house development (aka ‘nimbyism’) is not inevitable.

The report argued that rather than being motivated by self-interest and financial concerns, most opposition was born out of genuine concern for the community and a lack of transparency and trust in the planning process.

The report ‘Community Builders’ highlighted that councils in the north of England are much more likely to approve new housing development, and in a much faster time, than those in the south where the shortage of supply is most acute.

The report also found that many types of council, particularly those in rural areas, were dragging their heels on approving new planning applications, including some councils where a third of all proposals for large developments are being rejected in the face of significant population growth.

The think-tank made the case that community-led housing schemes could help to solve the national housing crisis by encouraging greater local ownership over house-building.

View the press release

Liverpool proposals

Proposals for the regeneration of Liverpool’s Chinatown have moved closer now planning permission has been approved for the £200m development that will provide new homes, businesses, leisure facilities, a hotel and a unique Chinese retail core.

The approved hybrid application sought detailed consent for the first phase of the project on Great George Street, and outlined consent for the second and third phases.

Meanwhile in a separate move the city council has dropped its legal challenge over the decision by the then Communities Secretary Sir Eric Pickles to refuse permission for regeneration plans for the Welsh Streets district in Toxteth proposed jointly by the local authority and housing association Plus Dane.

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Accessibility toolkit

Social housing specialist Habinteg and the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) have joined forces and launched an online toolkit to help make accessible housing more of a national priority.

The interactive resource, Towards Accessible Housing, was launched in response to the implementation of the Building Regulations in October 2015.

This initiative is designed to offer practical support for local authorities’ planning policy on access and to ensure homes and communities are inclusive for all.

The TCPA said the toolkit would help planners and local authorities understand the implications of the new housing standards, support accessibility within planning, and ensure an increased supply of accessible homes.

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Custom-build pilot for Basingstoke

A new development of 122 homes in Basingstoke, Hampshire has been selected as a national pilot for large-scale custom build, housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis has announced.

The minister stressed that the Government was committed to working with industry professionals to eradicate the two biggest barriers to custom and self-build, access to land and finance.

The proposed custom build scheme will be at Park Prewett, part of a major new housing development in Basingstoke. There, developer ZeroC will provide homes under the custom build model, ranging from self-build to custom fit-out.

Each of the homes can be customised to the buyer’s specifications with various levels of custom build on offer to buyers.

Plans for the site also include 44 plots which will be allocated for affordable housing, along with a few entirely-self build plots that will be made available.

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Slough’s Sarah Richards named as new PINs Chief Executive

The Department for Communities and Local Government has named Sarah Richards as the new Chief Executive of The Planning Inspectorate.

Sarah is currently Strategic Director Regeneration, Housing and Resources, at Slough Borough Council a post she has held since 2013.

Previously she worked for the Greater London Council, Test Valley Borough Council and Essex County Council.

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Resort restoration

Blackpool’s iconic Winter Gardens is one of 77 projects due to benefit from three million pounds of government funding.

Ranging from theatres to piers and lidos to lighthouses, the projects will each receive grants of up to £50,000 to help kick-start restoration work.

They are also set to attract £30m in private and public investment and could support up to 1,500 jobs, ministers have claimed.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said: “Several of the sites are on our Heritage at Risk Register and require urgent action before they are lost.”

The schemes include projects from Berwick in Scotland to St Ives in Cornwall.

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Energy and power projects

  • Proposals to build a gas fuelled peaking power plant at a site near a scrap yard close to the M32 at St Werburgh’s, Bristol have been refused by the city council because of air quality and other pollution concerns. Three other proposals for peaking plant were withdrawn.
  • Communities Secretary Greg Clark has dismissed an appeal over a single wind-turbine project earmarked for a location in green belt near Lumby in north Yorkshire originally refused by Selby District Council. His decision was in line with the recommendation of the planning inspector who held the recovered appeal inquiry. Clark’s decision letter concluded that the benefits of the scheme did not outweigh its short comings in terms of harm to the openness of the green belt and impact on heritage assets. He also said community concerns over planning impacts had not been addressed.
  • The UK needs to start fracking to establish the economic impact of shale gas, an industry-funded body has said. The Task Force on Shale Gas’s latest report says only after fracking has begun will it be possible to determine how much gas can be recovered. The report calls on the Government and local communities to allow initial exploratory wells.

Cheshire East Council’s draft local plan receives examiners support

The planning inspector examining Cheshire East Council’s draft local plan has issued further interim views on how the strategy is developing which are broadly supportive of the local planning authority’s latest work.

The inspector noted that the council has produced “an impressive and comprehensive set of additional evidence within a relatively limited amount of time during the suspension of the examination.” The inspector said the council had adopted a balanced and rational approach to economic and jobs growth.

On housing, the objectively assessed need (OAN) for 36,000 new homes was viewed as “supported by the evidence”.

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Thumbs-down for Hull music venue

Plans for a £36m music and exhibition centre in Hull have been rejected. The 3,500 capacity venue was to have been built on derelict land in the city centre and was expected to open in 2018.

Hull City Council’s planning committee rejected the proposal, despite council officers recommending approval.

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Lewes development approved

The South Downs National Park Authority’s planning committee has approved, in principle, a 416-home development proposed jointly by developer Santon and the local authority for the Phoenix quarter of Lewes in East Sussex. Some 40 per cent of the homes will be affordable.

The North Street Quarter development is the biggest housing scheme to be determined by the park authority and was the subject of considerable local controversy and an alternative proposal by campaigners.

Margaret Paren, Chair of the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “We recognise that our decision won’t be universally welcomed but we believe that it offers the best possible use of this brownfield site for the future of Lewes and the people who live here, including much-needed flood defences and drainage for the whole town and space for recreational facilities.”

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London developments

  • A viability report commissioned by two east London councils who object to controversial proposals to redevelop the four-hectare Bishopsgate Goods Yard site has questioned the lack of affordable housing on offer from developers Hammerson and Ballymore. London mayor Boris Johnson has called-in the housing-led mixed-use scheme on the grounds of its strategic significance. The proposals involve plans for 12 new buildings including two skyscrapers of 39 and 47 storeys straddling the boundary between Hackney and Tower Hamlets Councils.
  • AFC Wimbledon has been given permission by Merton Council to build a new stadium close to its spiritual home in Plough Lane, south west London. The League Two club applied to build an 11,000-seater stadium (that could be expanded to hold 20,000) on the site of Wimbledon greyhound stadium. The original Wimbledon club left Plough Lane in 1991 because of legislation requiring all-seater stadiums.
  • A series of listed Victorian buildings once used to store coal is set to be converted into a spectacular Covent Garden-style piazza under the latest proposals for the regeneration of the King’s Cross unveiled by developer Argent.
  • Haringey Council have approved revised plans for Tottenham’s new 61,000-seat stadium. Spurs hope to move to the ground for the 2018-19 season with work beginning in spring 2016. The plans must now be formally approved by the Mayor of London.

Transport projects

  • A new £26m railway station in Rochester has opened. It is closer to the town centre and allows longer 12-car trains to pass through the station. The old station used to take 10-car trains. Five extra trains to London will run in the mornings and one extra return train will run in the evening.
  • A five million pound railway station has opened for the first time and is now serving residents of the new Cranbrook eco-town near Exeter. The single platform Cranbrook Station, funded by Devon County Council and Cranbrook New Community Partners will mean hourly services will run on the existing Exeter to London Waterloo line, providing new links to Exeter, Salisbury and Basingstoke.
  • Two potential sites for a lorry park to deal with disruption on the M20 motorway in Kent have been unveiled for consultation. Either site would help prevent the need for Operation Stack, when the motorway is closed during cross-channel disruption. Both sites are to the north of the M20 at junction 11, close to Westenhanger, and would ease Eurotunnel and Dover port disruption, Highways England said.

Chinese lessons?

China’s success in using planning to grow and develop its economy has been highlighted in a report just published by the Royal Town Planning Institute. The organisation has insisted that this should send a strong signal to UK politicians and the public.

The report stressed that China recognised that urban planning was vital to economic growth and civic pride and showed what can be achieved when national and local policymakers provide leadership and support for planners.

In the study Professor Fulong Wu, Bartlett Professor of Planning at University College London (UCL), sets out China’s experience in using planning to drive economic growth while limiting the environmental impact of urbanisation.

Mike Harris, Head of Research of the RTPI said: “We see a confident and positive interpretation of the role of planning in China which is not always the case in the UK. Of course there are problems with their system but the key lesson here is China’s attitude and confidence in robust planning.”

View the press release

East Sussex coastal erosion scheme

A scheme to protect homes at Fairlight in East Sussex from coastal erosion has been approved by Rother District Council. A rock barrier costing nearly two million pounds should prevent further erosion for the next 50 years but some 22 homes will be lost, it is predicted.

The new defences should save around 160 properties in the village, which sits on cliffs between Rye and Hastings.

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Lawrence cottage listing upgrade

The only adult home of the iconic diplomat and writer T.E. Lawrence has been upgraded to a Grade II* listing by Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch.

The cottage, Clouds Hill, in Dorset served as Lawrence’s retreat from barrack life where he would entertain his friends and wrote most of his famous books.

Lawrence reconstructed the partly-derelict cottage during 1923-35 to his specifications and needs, preferring the simplicity of the small and unheated building. Since his death in 1935 the cottage has remained unaltered and preserved as he left it.

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Roger Milne