Published: Thursday, 4th February 2016
Public land prospectus. LGA warns of loss of 80,000 council houses by 2020. Seven more neighbourhood plans pass muster. Winchester redevelopment scheme ditched. And more stories...
Public land prospectus
The Government has published details of 242 hectares of surplus public sector land as part of its drive to deliver tens of thousands of new homes and boost local growth.
The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has more than 80 public land sites for sale and will bring a further 40 more sites to market over the next 18 months. It is estimated these sites will support more than 5,000 homes as well as land for industry and business. Over 20 per cent of the sites already have outline or detailed planning permission.
The Land Development and Disposal Plan also sets out some key principles of land disposal, which followed a review of the HCA’s processes and were developed in cooperation with the Home Builders Federation and its members.
In a separate but related development the London Land Commission has published the first ever comprehensive register of public land in London, listing 40,000 sites across the capital with the capacity to deliver a minimum of 130,000 homes.
LGA warns of loss of 80,000 council houses by 2020
More than 80,000 council homes could be lost as a result of the Government’s Right to Buy policies by 2020, the Local Government Association has warned.
Meanwhile the Department for Communities and Local Government has released its latest local authority housing statistics in England covering the year ending March 2015.
These showed that councils owned 1.64 million dwellings on 1 April 2015, a decrease of 1.5 per cent from the previous year as a result of Right to Buy sales and large-scale voluntary transfer of local authority stock to so-called Private Registered Providers.
Local authority landlords in England made 127,300 lettings during 2014-15. This was a decrease of 11 per cent compared with the 142,900 lettings made in 2013-14, and follows a general decrease from 326,600 in 2000-01.
The average local authority social rent in England in 2014-15 was £85.89 per week. This is four per cent higher than in 2013-14, when the average local authority social rent in England was £82.44.
There were 1.24 million households on local authority waiting lists on 1 April 2015, a decrease of 9 per cent on the 1.37 million on 1 April 2014.
Seven more neighbourhood plans pass muster
A clutch of seven neighbourhood plans passed muster last week after local polls. Two were in East Staffordshire, two in West Lindsey, Lincolnshire, one in the Lake District and one was for an area involving two parishes in Mid-Sussex. The other was in Daventry.
The NPs which all secured a vote of over 50 per cent in turnouts of between 26 and 41 per cent were: Tatenill and Rangemore, Stretton, Caistor, Nettleham, Coniston, Lindfield and Lindfield Rural and West Haddon.
Winchester redevelopment scheme ditched
Winchester City Council has decided to end its deal with TH Real Estate to redevelop the Silver Hill area of the Hampshire city.
Notice to terminate the £150m scheme is likely to be issued immediately after the council’s next Cabinet meeting on 10 February.
Council leader Stephen Godfrey said: “I am disappointed that TH Real Estate appears unable to go unconditional with the scheme, although they do still have a few more days. It is time to draw a line under this scheme, pause for breath and consider afresh how best to regenerate this important site.”
The area known as Silver Hill covers an area of approximately 2.3 hectares of central Winchester. It includes the bus station, Friarsgate medical centre, Kings Walk and the Friarsgate car park amongst other elements.
Think-tank report urges new strategy to reverse environmental decline
A new government strategy is needed to reverse the decline of the UK’s natural environment, according to a report published by think tank Green Alliance.
The report called for a strategy combining the strengths of traditional nature conservation with the more recently developed approach centred on natural capital.
Natural capital involves valuing the benefits society receives from natural assets like soil and water. In contrast, nature conservation recognises the intrinsic value of the environment and seeks to protect it from the negative impacts of the economy.
The report argued that an aligned approach could use natural capital accounting and market-based policies to support companies in reducing their environmental impacts, working alongside traditional conservation instruments such as regulation, grants and the creation of nature reserves.
The report said the natural capital approach could drive new business investment to protect and maintain natural assets like soil and water. But the think-tank acknowledged that the case for business investment was weaker with assets like biodiversity, which benefit society at large.
The report said the scale of environmental decline required “the restoration of natural systems at landscape scale. Nature conservation approaches will often be the cheapest and most effective way to deliver this.
Four wind and solar power projects blocked
Communities secretary Greg Clark has agreed with the planning inspector who held a recovered appeal inquiry into proposals for a 16 megawatt solar power facility on 32 hectares of farm land at Steyning, West Sussex and rejected the scheme, originally refused by Horsham District Council.
The decision letter concluded that Huddlerstone Farm Solar Park Ltd’s appeal should be dismissed, citing the project’s “unforgiving utilitarian aspect”.
In a separate recovered appeal determined by the SoS, Clark has dismissed proposals for a 2.1 megawatt solar power facility earmarked for 4.6 hectare site next to an existing larger solar power project at Penryn originally refused by Cornwall Council. His stance echoed the recommendation of the planning inspector who considered the case.
In respect of another renewable energy project Clark has agreed with the inspector who held an inquiry into a recovered appeal for a four-turbine on-shore wind farm at a Somerset quarry originally rejected by Mendip District Council.
The SoS noted that the scheme would harm the setting of heritage assets and had generated considerable community opposition whose concerns had not been met.
Broadview Energy Ltd’s proposals for six wind turbines near Charminster has been rejected by West Dorset District Council.
Go ahead for improved A190 junction near Wallsend
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has approved a development consent order (DCO) to construct a new section of highway and make improvements to the existing A19 trunk road in North Tyneside between the A19/A193 Wallsend and A19/A191 Holystone Junctions. The scheme will also include improvements to the A19/A1058 Coast Road junction.
The project is designed to relieve congestion and improve safety at the junction. McLoughlin agreed with the Planning Inspectorate that the project would support economic activity and growth.
Bournemouth airport growth prospects
The Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership has launched an economic growth plan focused on employment and development around Bournemouth Airport.
Almost £40m secured by Dorset LEP, as part of the Dorset Growth Deal, is funding a series of transport and infrastructure investments.
Over the next four years the projects and schemes will transform accessibility to and around Bournemouth Airport through extensive transport improvements and release up to 60-hectares of prime, flexible employment land for high-quality new business premises at the Aviation Business Park.
The strategy will also deliver around 350 new homes of which up to 50 per cent will be affordable and increase broadband capacity to Bournemouth Airport and the Aviation Business Park.
The LEP is overseeing the programme in collaboration with Aviation Business Park, Bournemouth Borough Council, Bournemouth University, Christchurch and East Dorset Councils, Dorset County Council and the Manchester Airports Group.
- US property developer Greystar Europe Holdings has announced the acquisition of a 10-hectare site at Greenford in west London formerly owned by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmith Kline and J Lyons & Co. The developer is planning the UK’s largest purpose-built rented housing scheme as well as homes for sale, employment and retail space and community use.
- Developers have withdrawn plans for a 254 metre tower in west London dubbed the “Paddington Shard”. Irvine Sellar (the developer behind the 306 metre Shard in Southwark) used the same architect, Renzo Piano, to design the 72-storey skyscraper earmarked for the site of a currently derelict Royal Mail building next to the London rail terminus. Westminster City Council said Sellar was reconsidering the plans following concerns raised by campaigners and Historic England.
- Crossrail has got the green light for a new office development above Farringdon Crossrail station, following an appeal.
- Islington Council has expressed concern after Mayor Boris Johnson intervened to “call in” a planning application that could see an 11-storey building dominating one of London’s most historic burial grounds (Bunhill Fields) in City Road. William Blake and Daniel Defoe are buried there.
- Developers are deliberately paying too much for land to escape affordable housing obligations, the London Assembly planning committee has warned.
- Developers who put in residential planning applications that don’t meet the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s affordable housing target of at least 35 per cent will have to supply fully public, unredacted viability assessments under a policy which has just come into force.
- The first minister has apologised to Assembly Members after a report from the National Assembly for Wales Public Accounts Committee said taxpayers had lost tens of millions of pounds over the sale of publicly-owned land. The committee said there were fundamental flaws in the way the Fund was managed, overseen and advised which cost Welsh taxpayers tens of millions of pounds. RIFW was set up as an arms-length body by the Welsh Government to sell off land around Wales including in North Wales, Monmouthshire and Cardiff and use the money, in conjunction with European funding, to reinvest in areas in need of regeneration.
- A new service to help social enterprises and SMEs across Wales develop their own renewable energy schemes has been launched by planning and natural resources minister Carl Sargeant.
- City Councillors formally approved the Cardiff Local Development Plan (LDP) last week.
Leaked letter moots NSIP status for fracking
A leaked letter obtained by Friends of the Earth and published in the Sunday Telegraph appears to confirm that ministers have actively considered fracking applications under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) regime.
Communities Secretary Greg Clark, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd and Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss all backed the idea, apparently.
Welsh Streets initiative
An initiative which could lead to the regeneration of the Welsh Streets area of Toxteth has been unveiled by Liverpool City Council.
The council’s Cabinet is being asked to approve plans to enter a six month exclusivity agreement with specialist development company PlaceFirst which will draw up a new master plan and submitting a planning application.
The company has a track record in converting 19th century housing into high quality homes that meet modern standards whilst retaining their original character and layout.
Stoke spending spree
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has announced a proposed package of capital investment totalling £470m including spending on private rented accommodation, affordable homes and the refurbishment of historic buildings in the city centre.
Also planned is expenditure on infrastructure in the Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone and on brownfield sites to make them suitable for development under the government’s Houisng Zone initiative.
Dorset’s ‘Woodhenge’ approved
A wooden replica of Stonehenge, dubbed Woodhenge, which was built without planning permission, has been allowed to stay now Purbeck District Council has granted it retrospective planning permission.
- Campaigners battling to prevent London’s historic Norton Folgate site in Spitalfields being redeveloped with corporate office towers have been given permission to mount a High Court challenge over the consent granted by Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
- A further legal challenge is being considered by the owners of Skelmersdale Concourse Shopping Centre after the High Court ruled in favour of West Lancashire Borough Council in a judicial review that was raised after the council granted approval for a rival town centre development.
Top job moves
- Phil Roberts, Swansea City Council’s corporate director of place, whose responsibilities include economic regeneration and planning, will become the authority’s interim chief executive in May.
- RIBA chief executive Harry Rich has quit the organisation after six years at the helm. Alan Vallance (interim director of finance and operations) has assumed the chief executive duties.