Published: Thursday, 14th January 2016
Watchdog queries deliverability of major government projects. Canterbury homes boost. Solar power moves. Crossrail 2 concerns. And more stories...
Watchdog queries deliverability of major government projects
A third of major government projects due to deliver in the next five years are rated as in doubt or unachievable unless action is taken to improve delivery, the National Audit Office has reported.
The spending watchdog said it was “particularly worrying” that 37 out of 106 projects which include key infrastructure schemes like Crossrail were rated as red or amber-red.
It added that initiatives had been designed to improve the oversight and delivery of these kinds of projects, but their impact had been unclear.
The NAO noted how the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (the former Major Projects Authority) and Whitehall departments had taken “many positive steps” to develop capability and provide greater assurance on improving project delivery.
The watchdog said it was difficult to tell whether performance was improving “without reliable and consistent measures of project success”.
It complained about the limited data published by departments; inconsistent reporting of costs; and the absence of systematic monitoring of whether intended benefits have been achieved.
Canterbury homes boost
Developer Pentland Homes has obtained outline planning permission for Canterbury’s largest housing scheme in decades. The company is set to build up to 750 homes on land near Harington in Kent.
The development, known as Thanington Park, includes a business park, community centre, primary school, allotments and sports pitches, as well as a wildlife corridor linking to the adjacent Larkey Valley Wood nature reserve. It would also include a new slip-road linking the A2 and Wincheap as well as a park and ride service.
Solar power moves
- North Lincolnshire Council has approved a supplementary planning document (SPD) covering solar photovoltaic (PV) power development. This expects schemes to be proposed for previously developed or industrial land, on existing roofs or integrated into new roofs and buildings. Where proposals involve farm land sites only poorer quality agricultural land will be acceptable.
- Swansea Council planners have recommended approval for a solar farm at Pontarddulais despite criticism over the local authority’s lack of policy on such projects and fears the scheme might cause a glare risk to drivers on the nearby M4.
- Meanwhile a 20,000 panel solar farm planned for a site in Peterlee has been approved by Durham County Council.
Crossrail 2 concerns
Crossrail 2, the proposed new rail route running from north London into Surrey, should extend as far as both Woking and Dorking, according to the county council.
Those are key findings of a study for the local authority examining ways to get the maximum benefit for Surrey’s businesses and commuters from the scheme.
Plans for the cross-London line currently take in Shepperton, Epsom, Hampton Court, Chessington South and Surbiton stations on its southern tip.
Meanwhile Hackney Council wants a fundamental rethink over proposals for a new Crossrail 2 station in Dalston, east London, which would see homes and businesses demolished and Ridley Road Market disrupted.
The council has also urged Transport for London not to use Shoreditch Park or the Britannia Leisure Centre for an access and ventilation shaft to serve the project.
In a related development amenity body the Victorian Society has warned that historic buildings which have been part of central London since the 19th century could be demolished to make way for the new rail line. The sites identified at risk by the group include several Grade II-listed buildings and part of Angel station in Islington, built in 1902.
Knowsley adopts Core Strategy and deallocates nine green belt areas
Knowsley Council has formally adopted its Core Strategy which sets out how the Merseyside planning authority will deliver 8,100 new homes and develop 164-hectares of employment land by 2028. The strategy, found to be sound by a planning inspector, will involve the release of nine areas of green belt land for strategic urban extensions.
- Up to 360,000 extra homes could be created in London by redeveloping council estates to a higher density along street patterns, according to a government-commissioned report from real estate company Savills.
- Meanwhile a new report from Atkins has claimed that the capital is significantly underestimating the level of development required to keep up with the city’s growth over the coming decades. The report highlighted concern that official infrastructure strategies are falling significantly short of projected growth rates. The document forecast that the conurbation’s population will reach 12 million by 2050, rather than the 11.3 million anticipated in the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) London Infrastructure Plan.
- Recent blog by legal firm BDB’s infrastructure planning guru Angus Walker warns of trouble ahead over Heathrow expansion given current problems over air pollution in London and the prospect of legal action.
Coventry land use strategies
Coventry City Council has approved for consultation a new draft local plan which identifies where up to 42,400 new homes could be built in and around the city over the next two decades.
The document sets out potential brownfield sites, a number of green belt locations within the city’s boundaries and at other sites beyond the city’s boundaries in Warwickshire.
The development strategy also highlights areas for new employment sites, services and infrastructure and proposals to further protect a number of key green areas by re designating them as local green space.
In a separate but related development car giant Jaguar Land Rover has announced its intention to invest more than £500m in its research and development complex at Whitley in addition to earlier plans to double the size of operations at the facility signalled last year.
Mineral and waste planners like their jobs
Planners working in the minerals and waste sector have a high level of job satisfaction, according to a questionnaire survey conducted by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)
Some 78 percent of respondents said they “like their job” or “would not do anything else”, despite the sector often being perceived to be less attractive than other planning specialisms.
However the survey also highlighted that over 80 per cent of respondents pointed to a growing shortage of skilled and experienced mineral and waste planners, both in local authorities and the private sector.
Go-ahead for Manchester housing
Manchester City Council has approved three residential-led projects across the city at its first planning committee of 2016, including the first phase of development at the former BBC Oxford Road site now rebranded Circle Square by joint venture Bruntwood and Select Property Group.
The first planning approval for the site involved two serviced apartment buildings, 12 and 15-storeys high, providing 600 flats targeting postgraduate and mature students. The blocks will include a business incubator unit and will be surrounded by public realm space.
At Whitworth Street and Princess Street, Urban & Civic has been granted permission for two residential towers totalling 238 flats, alongside a hotel with ground floor commercial uses, a restaurant and café, and public realm.
In Hulme the council has approved a development involving the building of 172 new homes for market rent on Royce Road and Leaf Street.
The project, known as ‘Hulme Living’, will see a mixture of two-bed flats and three-bed townhouses built across the two sites by housing association One Manchester.
Horsham business and science park ambition
West Sussex County Council has unveiled an ambitious project to transform a site vacated by pharmaceutical giant Novartis at Horsham into a science and business park, financed by housing.
The council has agreed to buy the eight hectare site at Wimblehurst Road. Subject to planning approval, two thirds of the site will be redeveloped as a science park, while one third will be set aside for housing.
The council is now working with architects and planners on designing a mix of research and laboratory floor space, office accommodation and start-up facilities.
Under the agreement with Novartis, all buildings on the site will be cleared except the locally important 1930s Art Deco building. That will be converted for residential use and the avenue of cedar trees leading to its door will also be protected.
Rhymney Valley opencast mine appeal
Mining company Miller Argent has decided to appeal following Caerphilly Council’s rejection of its proposal for a 478 hectare opencast mine in the Rhymney Valley at Nant Llesg.
- The High Court has dismissed Sainsbury’s and developer Eshton Gregory (Hebden Bridge) Ltd’s legal challenge to a planning Inspector’s dismissal of their appeal over Calderdale Council’s refusal of planning permission for a new store and three flats and five town houses on the site of the former Hebden Bridge’s fire station at the heart of the town’s conservation area.
- NHS Property Services is mounting a legal challenge to Surrey County Council’s decision to register land in Leatherhead near a hospital as a village green.
- A property owner who put red and white stripes on her mews house in London has been ordered to comply with a section 215 notice issued by the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and repaint her home, which is in a conservation area, white.
RTPI streamlines chartered membership
The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) is to streamline the ways that professionals can achieve chartered membership.
From January 2017 onwards, the requirements to become a chartered member (MRTPI), for those who do not follow the accredited Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) route (used by graduates of RTPI-accredited planning schools), will be changing to competency-based routes.
The RTPI is also re-designing its membership structure to ensure existing technical members have a clear route to achieve chartered status.