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Planning round-up 18 February

Published: Thursday, 18th February 2016

Rotherham resumes planning role. Green light for Nottinghamshire business park. HCA review. Midlands stalled homes scheme fund. Boost for ‘pocket parks’. And more stories...

Rotherham resumes planning role

Rotherham Council has resumed responsibility for housing, planning and transport policy following 12 months when all executive functions of the south Yorkshire local authority have been exercised by government-appointed commissioners.

Lead commissioner Sir Derek Myers has advised Communities Secretary Greg Clark that a number of services are operating at an adequate enough standard and have sufficiently strong leadership in place to be transferred back to local democratic control.

Clark said: “The improvements that have been made mean it is now appropriate for councillors to take back control over some functions, a step towards a stronger future for Rotherham council and the community it serves.

“But let me be clear, there are still significant challenges that must be overcome before local people can have confidence in their council once again.”

As well as planning, housing and transport Sir Derek has advised that building regulation and policy arising from Sheffield City Region can now be exercised by officials and local authority members.

View the press release

Green light for Nottinghamshire business park

Planning consultancy Barton Willmore has secured planning permission from Bassetlaw District Council for a major new business park in Nottinghamshire. It will be located on 81-hectares of land to the south of the former Harworth colliery close to junction 34 of the A1 (M).

The £200m project comprises some 2.5 million square feet of business units. It is one of the largest economic development projects in the North. It will provide starter units for small local businesses wishing to expand, as well as a range of larger space buildings for regional and national occupiers.

View the press release

HCA review

Housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis has announced a review of the Homes and Communities Agency.

The agency is the national housing, land and regeneration agency and the regulator of registered social housing providers in England.

The review of the non-departmental public body will cover how each of the agency’s functions contributes to government objectives, whether each function and the body are still required and the best future delivery options. The exercise will examine the capacity of the Agency to deliver more efficiently and effectively.

View the written statement

Midlands stalled homes scheme fund

Housing developers in the Greater Birmingham, Solihull, South Staffordshire and North Worcestershire areas can now access a new £9m fund to unlock stalled housing sites which are ready for development.

Launched by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), the Unlocking Housing Sites Programme aims to help bring forward at least 500 new homes in the area.

The funding is available as grant, loan or equity. Consideration will also be given to funding for site specific feasibility studies. The programme is designed to support mixed tenure schemes of between 10 and 100 homes and is open to private sector developers, local authorities and registered providers for developments in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership’s geographical area.

View the press release

Boost for ‘pocket parks’

More than 80 neglected urban spaces across the country are set be transformed into green oases for public use thanks to a share of a £1.5m dedicated fund, Communities Secretary Greg Clark has announced.

Some 87 community groups, from Newcastle to Penryn in Cornwall, will have the money to create their own ‘dream’ pocket parks, developing small parcels of land, sometimes as small as the size of a tennis court.

View the press release

Estates regeneration panel named

The panel set up to advise the Government on regenerating some of England’s most deprived estates has met for the first time.

The 17-strong group, co-chaired by Lord Heseltine and housing minister Brandon Lewis will report to the Prime Minister and Communities Secretary Greg Clark.

It will develop a national estate regeneration strategy and work with the residents of up to 100 estates. The administration has announced £140m to jump-start the regeneration.

Members of the group include councillor Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council; Nicholas Boys Smith, director of Create Streets; Tony Pidgley, chief executive of Berkeley Homes; Peter Vernon, chief executive of Grosvenor Estates; Jane Duncan, RIBA president; Ben Bolgar, senior director of the Princes Foundation; David Budd, Mayor of Middlesbrough; Natalie Elphicke, chief executive of the Housing & Finance Institute and Graham Allen, MP for Nottingham North.

View the press release

Leeds makeover

Plans to transform an historic former manufacturing site in Leeds into a major £80m mixed-use development have been approved by the City Council.

Developer Carillion’s proposals to redevelop part of the Tower Works site in Holbeck involve 10 new buildings providing some 160 new homes as well as restaurants, licensed premises, shops and more than 11,800 square metres of commercial floor space.

The site includes a number of listed buildings, which are being preserved as part of the redevelopment: the Engine House on Globe Road, and the three ornate Italian Towers which are a distinctive element of the city centre townscape near the railway station.

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Reading redevelopment risks setting of Grade 1 listed church

Historic England has warned that the latest proposals for an expanded Station Hill development in the centre of Reading around Friars Street near the railway station risk “serious harm” to the settings of the Grade 1 listed Greyfriars Church and 39 Friar Street, a Grade 11 listed property.

The latest version of the scheme now includes redevelopment of the existing Telecom House site which like other existing buildings covered by the reworked proposals is set to be demolished.

Outline planning permission for the enlarged site was granted by Reading Borough Council last week. The amount of potential retail floor space has now risen to a maximum of 13,500 square metres while the housing figure could be as much 41,050 square meters. Potential office floor space has nearly doubled to 122,000 square metres while car parking now has a maximum figure of 1,000 vehicles

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Lyon Commissioners urge action on housing supply

Members of the Lyons’ Housing Review Commission have reconvened and published a new independent report setting out key actions to tackle the nation’s housing challenges.

They argued that the housing strategy needs to be broadened beyond the Government’s current focus on home ownership to increase supply of both market and affordable homes for rent.

The report also called for a more “ambitious approach” to direct commissioning by capturing land value to fund infrastructure.

In addition the commissioners highlighted that the Government should work more closely with the industry in developing the model for ‘starter homes’ to ensure an overall increase in homes. The initiative must not result in a reduction of affordable homes to rent, the commissioners insisted.

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Brighton City Plan ‘sound’

An independent planning inspector has found Brighton & Hove City Council’s development plan legally sound and compliant with national planning policies.

The final report of the planning inspector who examined the City Plan concludes that, with the recommended modifications consulted on from 2013 to 2015, the strategy is sound.

Brighton & Hove’s housing target is 13,200 new homes to 2030. This does not meet the city’s assessed housing need in full, but the Inspector acknowledged it reflects the city’s significant land constraints. Councillors will decide whether to adopt the Plan at a meeting of the full council next month.

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Cheshire local plan makes waves

Cheshire East Council’s revised local plan strategy is due to be approved by the full council later this month before a further round of public consultation is carried out. This will include additional and amended strategic site allocations.

The strategy revisions reflect a revised housing requirement of 36,000 homes (up from 29,000) and an increased employment land requirement, up from 300-hectares to 380-hectares, to reflect the stronger anticipated jobs growth rate of 0.7 per cent per.

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Renewable developments

  • Communities Secretary Greg Clark has dismissed an appeal over a three-turbine wind farm project proposed for Brightenber Hill near Skipton originally refused by Craven District Council. Developer Energiekontor UK Ltd had successfully challenged an earlier appeal refusal, triggering the project’s redetermination. The Secretary of State agreed with the inspector who considered the appeal that the scheme would result in unacceptable harm to the living conditions of some local residents as well as harm to heritage assets in the vicinity
  • Clark has refused another solar power project which was the subject of a recovered appeal. His stance was in line with the recommendation of the inspector who considered plans by Green Switch Developments for a 4.7 megawatt scheme on green belt farmland at Nempnett Thrubwell in Somerset originally refused by Bath and North East Somerset Council. Clark agreed the scheme represented inappropriate development and that the very special circumstances necessary to justify the proposals did not exist.
  • The Borough Council of King’s Lynn &West Norfolk has approved a five megawatt solar farm proposed by RES UK for a 10-hectare site at Barmer some 15 kilometres west of Fakenham.
  • Two Devon district councils who are producing a joint local development plan have published a draft policy on wind development for consultation as part of work for the North Devon and Torridge Local Plan.

Didcot development approved

South Oxfordshire District Council has approved its own outline proposals for a mixed use deployment of a 4.35-hectare site in the centre of Didcot designed to provide 300 new homes (mainly flats), a 70-bed hotel, a gym, both retail and commercial floor space, a multi-storey car park and a replacement nursery school.

Controversially the master plan for the scheme, known as Didcot Gateway, does not include any affordable housing. The proposals will involve the demolition of existing buildings including a pub which dates from the arrival of the railway in the town. Last December ministers announced that Didcot is to become a ‘garden town’.

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London round-up

  • Business lobby group London First has published a new report with planning consultants Turley urging greater clarity and transparency over the system of off-site construction of affordable homes and payments by developers to planning authorities in lieu of building affordable housing.
  • The London Assembly has raised concerns about a number of altered policies in the latest Minor Alterations to the London Plan. Highlighted were the loss of housing standards within the strategy and the impact of the introduction of minimum car parking standards on air quality.
  • More than 10,000 people have objected to the proposed controversial redevelopment of the Bishopsgate Goodsyard in east London about the over-shadowing effect of the proposed eight towers up to 177 metres high.

Welsh round-up

  • Proposals for 1,600 new homes have been approved for two sites in Cardiff by the City Council. The schemes form part of larger developments known as Plasdwr and Churchlands.
  • Concern is growing about the restoration of the former Margam opencast mine site after a planning application was delayed.
  • An independent review of tidal lagoon energy will examine its feasibility, the UK government has announced amid delays to an agreement on the power deal for the £1bn Swansea project.

Swindon broadband blocked

Proposals to roll-out wireless broadband across Swindon have hit a glitch after the planning committee rejected applications for five of the necessary 15-metre high masts in North Swindon.

The Wiltshire local authority has signed a deal with UKB Networks to provide superfast broadband for nearly 20,000 homes currently without the service.

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Legal round-up

Roger Milne