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Planning round-up 4 June

Published: Thursday, 4th June 2015

Research into planning department cuts and economic development. Energy Secretary won’t determine controversial gas storage project. CIL delays Berkshire homes. And more stories...

Research into planning department cuts and economic development

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has commissioned major new research into whether cuts to planning departments are undermining economic recovery across the North West region.

This is the first time, since budget cuts took place in 2010, that any study has looked at links between development investment, economic growth, housing delivery and the resourcing of planning.

The research will be carried out by Arup, the global engineering, design and planning consultancy.
Arup will be inviting every local planning authority in the region to participate in a survey over the coming weeks. Findings are due to be published at the end of September 2015.

Joanne Harding, chair of RTPI North West region, said: “The study is very timely with the new Government announcing plans for a Northern Powerhouse to redress the North-South economic imbalance, and to attract investment into northern cities and towns.

“Arup will aim to quantify the impact of development pressures on public sector planning resources across the region and the consequences for the regional economy if this is not addressed.”

View the press release on the RTPI website

Energy Secretary won’t determine controversial gas storage project

The Department of Energy and Climate Change has confirmed that Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, its minister in the Upper House, will be handling the redetermination of development consent for Halite Energy’s proposed underground gas storage scheme earmarked for land near Wyre on the Lancashire coast.

Last year the energy company mounted a successful High Court challenge over the decision by the then Climate Change Minister Greg Barker to refuse the project despite planning inspector’s having recommended that the project should get the go-ahead. Lord Bourne is the new minister overseeing planning issues in the department.

The department has played down speculation that the reason Bourne rather than Energy Secretary Amber Rudd is dealing with the redetermination of the scheme is because of a possible conflict of interest. Rudd’s brother Roland is chairman of the lobbying group Finsbury which works for Halite Energy.

More information on the project can be found on the Halite Energy Group website

Oxfordshire arsonist sectioned as trial ends

The man who admitted causing the fires which resulted in major damage to the joint planning office operated by South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils has been detained indefinitely in a secure mental health unit.

47-year old Andrew Main had admitted setting fires but pleaded not guilty to a charge of arson with intent to endanger life.

When the resumed case was considered at Oxford Crown Court last Friday the prosecution decided not to proceed to trial with the charge at Oxford Crown Court, and it will lie on file.
The estimated cost to the councils of repairing damage from the fires on 15 January was about £20m, the court heard.

Sentencing, Judge Ian Pringle said: “We will never know why you picked on the targets you did, but we will always know that the consequences were utterly, utterly devastating.”

It was revealed in court Main had mental health issues, most likely a severe bi-polar disorder.

The court was told he intended to kill himself after setting the fires.

The councils’ joint planning department is due to relocate to new offices near Didcot, Oxfordshire, by the end of this month.

London round-up

  • London Mayor Boris Johnson has published Draft Interim Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) for public consultation. The draft Housing SPG provides revised guidance on how to implement the housing policies in the London Plan. Proposed revisions take account of the Further Alterations to the London Plan, which was published by the Mayor in March.
    In addition, the draft guidance shows how London’s standards will be affected by the introduction of the Government’s new national technical standards and provides clarity on what standards apply in the transition period before the adoption of the Minor Alterations to the London Plan (MALP). Other proposed revisions to the SPG have been made to reflect updated evidence, mayoral strategies and national guidance.
    View the Draft interim Housing Supplementary Guidance
  • Croydon Council’s planning chief Mike Kiely is set to leave the South London Local Authority to set up his own planning consultancy.
  • Developer Eco World Ballymore has launched the second phase of its London City Island ‘mini-Manhattan’ scheme at Canning Town in East London which makes provision for over 400 new flats, rehearsal facilities for the English National Ballet, shops, restaurants and an arts club.
    View more information about the London City Island
  • Changes in the law have kicked-in which remove planning restrictions on short-term lets in the capital.

Legal round-up

  • Islington and Camden councils have applied for a judicial review of London Mayor Boris Johnson’s planning approval for the redevelopment of the Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant site near Farringdon Station. The action is being taken on the grounds that the Mayor failed to secure the maximum affordable housing and did not fulfill the requirements of policy and fair process when he assessed the scheme’s viability.
  • A landlord and his planning agent who tried to deceive Brent Council and the Planning Inspectorate by submitting forged tenancy agreements in support of a planning application in north-west London have been fined thousands of pounds by Willesden Magistrates’ Court.
  • Last week Belfast High Court was told that Northern Ireland Environment Minister Mark H Durkan had no authority to approve the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan on his own.
  • Westminster City Council has won a challenge in the Court of Appeal to an inspector’s decision to quash a planning enforcement notice.
    View the appeal

CIL delays Berkshire homes

Proposals for a 550-home development at Binfield, Berkshire have been approved after being reconsidered by the planning committee of Bracknell Forest District Council. The council has now adopted a Community Infrastructure Levy tariff which was not in place when the scheme was originally supported, subject to completion of a s106 agreement.

London council plans ‘direct action’ enforcement

Redbridge Council is proposing to trial a system involving direct action linked to enforcement procedures, which could mean speedy demolition of unlawful structures.

The planning authority is consulting on its proposals and aims to trial them this autumn. The option of direct action will be used alongside prosecution and/or injunctions to stop lengthy negotiations and to resolve planning breaches, the east London local authority explained.

This means that the council will be able to deal more effectively with planning breaches such as substandard, poor quality housing.

View the press release on Redbridge Council’s website

Basement bill introduced in the Lords

A bill to curb planning permission for subterranean development where certain conditions apply has been introduced into Parliament by Lord Dubs, the former Battersea Labour MP.

View more information about the planning (subterranean development) bill

Consent order for Norwich bypass

Norwich’s northern bypass has been granted development consent by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

The Northern Distributor Road (NDR) is planned to run from Postwick on the A47 and go around the east and north of the city, to connect with the A1067. The 20-kilometre dual carriageway will cost about £148m.

View more information about the NDR on the Norfolk County Council website

New target for release of surplus public land for homes

Communities Secretary Greg Clark has urged Whitehall departments and local authorities to redouble their efforts to release surplus publicly-owned land and property for new residential development.
His call came as he and fellow ministers announced a new target to release sufficient public land for the building of 150,000 new homes by 2020.

Over the past five years enough public land was released to allow for 103,000 new homes, the Department for Communities and local Government has revealed.

View the press release on GOV.UK

Cross Border power line project

Scottish Power Energy Networks has unveiled proposals to modernise the overhead power line network stretching from Ayrshire across Dumfries and Galloway and into Cumbria.

The energy transmission company says it needs to replace much of the ageing system with a new higher voltage line.

It has published its preliminary thinking on the route corridor for a new 400kV power line between Auchencrosh in South Ayrshire and Harker across the border in Cumbria which would replace the existing 132kV link which is now at the end of its operational life.

Publication of the proposed route comes in advance of public consultation on the details of the scheme.

View more information on the project

Hull threat underlines climate change risks says TCPA

The threat of coastal cities like Hull being wiped off the map is a real one, according to environmental charity the Town and Country Planning Association. The TCPA fears coastal erosion and rising sea levels are not being taken seriously enough by the government.

Dr Hugh Ellis, head of policy at the TCPA told the Hay Festival that sea levels could be at least a metre higher by the year 2100. “We need to be thinking, does Hull have a future?” said Dr Ellis.

View more information about the Hay Festival

Roger Milne