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Planning round-up 16 June 2016

Published: Thursday, 16th June 2016

Dark skies. Leeds housing allowed on appeal. Report calls for older person priorities in local plans. Oxfordshire and Kent local plan developments. Wolverhampton station development. And more stories.

Dark skies

The most detailed ever satellite maps of England’s dark skies have been released by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE)

They show that the Isles of Scilly, West Devon and Eden in Cumbria are England’s darkest districts and that the very darkest spot in England is a secluded hillside on the East Kielder Moors in Northumberland.

CPRE’s interactive maps also show where light pollution is most invasive. Nineteen of the brightest 20 skies are above London boroughs, while Manchester is the only non-London district in the top 20. The very brightest spot is above a Tata Steel foundry in Rotherham, followed by the Thanet Earth greenhouse complex in Kent and the space around Wembley Stadium in London.

Nationwide, the maps show that just 22 per cent of England is untouched by light pollution, and that 53 per cent of the darkest skies are over National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Northumberland National Park enjoys 96 per cent pristine night skies, while the South Downs, granted Dark Sky Reserve status in May 2016, is London’s closest expanse of dark skies.

View the press release


Leeds housing allowed on appeal

Communities Secretary Greg Clark has allowed on appeal outline proposals by developer Miller Homes for up to 104 new homes at Boston Spa, Leeds, originally refused by the city council. The inspector who held the recovered appeal had recommended that consent should be given.

The site was not currently allocated for development under the emerging Leeds Sites Allocation Plan (SAP) but was identified as having potential for future housing development.

In the draft Clifford Neighbourhood Plan the site was treated as a so-called Protected Area of Search. However Clark’s decision letter argued that as the neighbourhood plan was at a relatively early stage this should be given limited weight.

Clark made it clear that the deciding factor was the lack of evidence of a five year supply of deliverable housing sites, a position which was likely to remain the case for at least another year as the SAP was refined.

The SoS said that taking the policies of the development plan and the National Planning Policy Framework as a whole “the adverse impacts of granting the proposed development are limited” and did not outweigh the benefits of a boost to the supply of new housing.

View the recovered appeal: land at Grove Road, Boston Spa


Report calls for older person priorities in local plans

A new All Party Parliamentary Group report on housing and care for older people has called for more explicit policies in local plans targeting the needs of older people. The report also argued that government policy should move away from concentrating simply on support for first time buyers and adopt measures to boost housing supply for older people.

The ‘Housing our Ageing Population: Positive Ideas’ (HAPPI 3) report, just launched, argued that councils should ensure local plans give “the necessary priority” to older people’s housing needs “not least as a core component of any new settlements”. The report also said new developments of retirement housing should involve the latest design principles.

In addition the document made the case that retirement housing schemes should be exempt from the requirement to build starter homes.

The report pointed out that council and housing association developments for older tenants could help free up affordable under-occupied family homes.

View the report

Think-tank talks up the economic contribution of small and medium-sized towns and cities

A new report from think-tank IPPR North has argued that the role of small and medium sized cities (SMCs) in driving northern prosperity needs to be acknowledged and factored into regional and sub-regional strategies.

The report highlighted that up to now England’s big cities in the North have been viewed as the primary means of rebalancing the national economy with the growth of Manchester and Leeds regularly presented as evidence of an emerging counterweight to an overheated Greater London.

The think-tank has questioned the dominance of this ‘agglomeration narrative’. It argued that “the empirical evidence for agglomeration effects in Europe (and in the UK in particular) is at best mixed, and is even negative in some studies. In this context, the role of SMCs is too often overlooked.”

The report said that SMCs such as Warrington, Wakefield and Durham all have growth rates that exceed their core city neighbours.

The think-tank urged HM Treasury, the National Infrastructure Commission and Transport for the North to ensure their appraisal methodologies take proper account of the contributions that SMCs make to the urban ecosystem, and the mutual benefits of better connectivity between the larger and smaller cities and towns.

View the press release


Oxfordshire and Kent local plan developments

The inspector examining the Vale of White Horse District Council’s local plan has recommended that the draft strategy axes proposals to remove 15 parcels of land from the existing green belt at Botley, Chawley, North Hinksey, Cumnor, Wootton and Appleton.

Also for the chop are plans for housing provision at two sites in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

However in his interim findings the inspector concluded that exceptional circumstances justified the removal of four sites from the green belt to allow housing to the north of Abingdon and at Radley and Kennington.

Meanwhile John Cotton, leader of neighbouring planning authority South Oxfordshire District Council, has confirmed that land at Chalgrove airfield, a former MoD facility now being transferred to the Homes and Communities Agency could be allocated for a 3,500-home development in the council’s draft updated local plan, consultation on which is scheduled to begin at the end of June.

Over in Kent, Ashford Borough Council is poised to start consulting on its draft local plan which proposes a lower rate of annual housing provision than in its existing core strategy approved when it was a nationally-designated Growth Area. The council stressed that the new target was designed to meet “our objectively assessed housing needs (and more)”.

View more information on the Vale of White Horse District Council’s local plan

View more information on the South Oxfordshire District Council local plan

View more information on the Ashford Borough Council local plan


Wolverhampton station development

The building of a new multi million pound Wolverhampton railway station has moved a step closer now plans have been submitted to the city council to demolish the existing station and replace it with a new one.

Work is due to begin on the new railway station next year following the extension and refurbishment of the station’s multi storey car park, which is expected to be completed by Christmas 2016.

It forms part of a £120m Interchange project that will also see a Metro line extension, including a new stop at the station.

The new station will also benefit from an enhanced ticket office, larger passenger concourse, improved retail and café facilities, and increased taxi rank provision.


More time for South Northamptonshire plan

South Northamptonshire Council has extended the deadline for comments on its updated local plan by a week, until 17 June.

This strategy will establish a rural settlement hierarchy for settlements within the district and consider amendments to the existing town and village confines and the identification of areas of important green space within those settlements.

In a separate but related move Barwood Developments has submitted an outline application to the local authority for a 1,900-home scheme on a 105 hectare site at Duston to the west of Northampton.



London developments


  • Camden Council is considering controversial proposals to establish an area of north London as a Jewish eruv delineated by fishing wire suspended from tall poles. The proposed area would have a six-mile perimeter and would be one of the largest in England. Two years ago a similar scheme for a nearby West Hampstead triggered fears the neighbourhood would become a 'ghetto'. Plans have also been submitted to construct similar areas in other parts of London including Highgate, Brondesbury and North Westminster.
  • Southwark Council has drawn up an Article 4 Direction designed to remove permitted development rights from over 800 railway arches in the south London borough. The direction would mean the arches couldn’t be converted into housing without planning permission. The arches are currently used for a mix of retail, industrial and storage activities as well as for community purposes and as cafes.
  • Croydon Council has published a five-year action plan which includes a target of 9,500 new homes and the creation of 23,500 new jobs through development, help for small businesses and regeneration.



Shepway’s garden settlement move

Shepway District Council’s Cabinet has formally agreed to submit a declaration of interest to the government’s new garden settlement initiative with a proposal for a 12,000 home scheme centred on land just south of the M20 around Otterpool Manor Farm near Folkestone in Kent.


MPs quiz HCA chair

Sir Edward Lister, statutory London deputy mayor under Boris Johnson, was quizzed about his proposed appointment as chair of the Homes and Communities Agency by the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee this week.

CLG committee chair Clive Betts MP said: “The Homes and Communities Agency has an important role to play in ensuring that the government meets its targets to build one million new homes before the end of this parliament.

“We take our role in the appointment of the HCA’s chair very seriously, and will want to be sure that the secretary of state’s preferred candidate has the requisite skills, experience and vision.”

View more information


Reynolds fights for beauty

Former National Trust director Dame Fiona Reynolds has published a book which argues that the human spirit is not satisfied by material progress alone. In ‘The Fight for Beauty: Our Path to a better Future’ Reynolds insists we need to reconnect with nature and beauty.

Reynolds, who also worked for the Council for National Parks and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Imagine how the world would look if we revived the fight for beauty. We would care more for the world around us.

“We’d build our cities, towns and infrastructure beautifully – imagine the debate about HS2 if we had set out to make it the most beautiful new railway in the world. We’d protect nature and the countryside, while still producing enough food.

“We’d care for our cultural inheritance and focus on improving our quality of life rather than striving for unsustainable levels of growth.”

View the opinion article in the Guardian


Queen’s honours

RTPI members Cliff Hague, Past President of the Institute and a former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP), and Tony Thompson, a senior civil servant in the Communities department, have been awarded OBEs in the Queen’s Birthday list announced at the weekend. They were honoured for ‘services to planning’.

The list also included a knighthood for Terence Morgan, the non-executive chairman of Crossrail Ltd for services to UK infrastructure, David Cameron, director at Community Land Scotland, was recognised with a CBE for services to community land ownership in Scotland.

View the Birthday Honours lists 2016


Legal round-up


Roger Milne