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Planning round-up 22 September 2016

Published: Thursday, 22nd September 2016

Planning applications on the up. Rise in capital spend by planning departments. Liverpool housing boost. Small builders bemoan land shortages and planning barriers. And more stories...

Planning applications on the up

Latest quarterly data on planning applications made in England between April and June 2016 show that between April and June 2016, district level planning authorities in England received 132,000 applications, up seven per cent on the corresponding quarter of 2015.

During the second quarter of 2016 authorities granted 100,900 decisions, up six per cent from the same quarter in 2015; this is equivalent to 88 per cent of decisions and decided 83 per cent of major applications within 13 weeks or the agreed time, up from 79 per cent a year earlier.

These figures also showed that there were 11,900 applications for prior approval for permitted development rights during April to June 2016, up seven per cent from the same quarter of 2015.

Around 9,700 of those applications were approved without having to go through the full planning process, up eight per cent on a year earlier.

Access the statistics.

Rise in capital spend by planning departments

Capital spending by local authority planning and development services in England increased by £200m last year, according to government figures which recorded an overall spend in this area of £1.7bn. This was the second largest rise. Explanations provided by local authorities highlighted an increase in local regeneration schemes.

Statistics released by the Department for Communities and Local Government also showed that highways and transport showed the largest increase in capital expenditure, some £900m in 2015-16 to £8.3m.

Nearly 60 per cent or £0.5bn of this increase was down to Transport for London, which is responsible for more than half of England’s total transport expenditure.

Access the statistics.

Liverpool housing boost

Liverpool City Council’s planning committee has approved a slew of major new residential schemes totalling around 900 units including an £80m tower block at Princes Dock providing over 300 new private rented flats.

Small builders bemoan land shortages and planning barriers

A lack of land and under-resourcing of local authority planning departments are major barriers to development by small and medium-sized (SME) house builders, according to new research.

The latest annual survey of members by the Federation of Master Builders reveals that a lack of available and viable land is the biggest barrier to SMEs delivering more homes, with two-thirds citing this as an issue.

Members also identify under-resourcing of planning departments as the most important cause of delays in the planning process, and criticise “excessive information requirements” as a significant additional cost to applications.

Federation chief executive Brian Berry said: “The biggest challenge facing SME house builders is the planning process. Councils need to find a way of allocating and granting planning permission for more small sites. The current focus on large sites is squeezing out smaller developers, which is reducing competition in the housing market at a time when we need more, not less, choice.”

Read the news story.

Victorian buildings at risk

National architectural charity the Victorian Society has released its 2016 top ten endangered buildings list.

For the first time there are no buildings on the list in London and the South East, where the Society had comparatively few nominations.

The conservation body said that the greater number of buildings nominated from elsewhere could reflect the more difficult development position outside the South East.

The 2016 list includes an important, but derelict, Phillip Webb arts and crafts house which was the childhood home of a pioneering female Victorian explorer of the Middle East; a landmark of the Grimsby skyline where structural instability forced residents out of their homes; an abandoned Gothic seminary said to be comedian Johnny Vegas' former school; and a grade II*-listed church with stunning wall paintings and stained glass.


Development contract tendering advice

Three leading trade bodies have launched new guidance aimed at giving local authorities a better appreciation of tender procedures that can have the adverse effect of stifling development.

Public procurement rules dictated by EU legislation say that public bodies must award development contracts in a fair and transparent manner by introducing a competitive tendering process, known as "OJEU" procurement or tenders.

The complexity of determining when this process applies, however, often means that the process is used unnecessarily and acts as a deterrent to potential developers. 

The British Property Federation, Local Government Association and Local Partnerships launched the updated guidance last week. The guidance aims to help local authorities navigate the process quickly and easily, and ensure that important regeneration schemes can be brought forward more efficiently.

Read the news story

Rail freight strategy unveiled

The government has unveiled a new strategy for rail freight designed to increase capacity. This has been developed in collaboration with Network Rail, the rail freight industry and its customers.

Read the strategy

Go-ahead for Hampshire crematorium in green belt

Outline proposals for a new crematorium on green belt land in Hampshire have been given the go-ahead by New Forest District Council. The facility is earmarked for farmland grazing land north of Great Woar Copse in New Milton.

Clarification about compensation regime for schemes by transport hubs

The Department of Communities and Local Government has published a letter setting out the implications of new measures in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, just published, which codify the compensation regime for regeneration or redevelopment projects in the vicinity of transport schemes (or ‘hubs’).

Read more information

West Somerset hails Hinkley decision

A government decision to approve construction of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in West Somerset has been welcomed by the local planning authority.

West Somerset Council leader Anthony Trollope-Bellew said: “I am delighted that the government has concluded its review of the Hinkley Point C project and has confirmed its approval, it is a historic day for our area.

“Our council which will host the power station has long recognised the enormous economic opportunities that it will bring to our area.”

Meanwhile an independent planning inspector has formally endorsed the council’s proposed development strategy for those parts of the district outside of the Exmoor National Park for the period up to 2032. 

In a separate move council members have agreed to a formal merger with neighbouring Taunton Deane Borough Council which will mean the creation of new single authority. Taunton Deane voted for the merger in July.


Growth corridor asks

The Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford growth corridor requires targeted investment in infrastructure and stronger governance arrangements to maximize growth and productivity, according to evidence submitted by the RTPI to the National Infrastructure Commission’s consultation on the growth corridors.


London round-up

  • London mayor Sadiq Khan has stressed he wants to work with government ministers to ensure a far more active role for City Hall in identifying surplus public land that can be used for new affordable housing London needs.
  • Westminster City Council has granted planning permission for the extensive refurbishment and redevelopment of the London landmark the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane. The current 31-storey building comprises a high central tower sitting over a podium with commanding views over Hyde Park and central London. The upper part of the tower will be converted to residential use.
  • The compulsory purchase order needed by Hounslow Council to deliver the £200m High Street Quarter redevelopment has been confirmed. This west London mixed-use scheme in Hounslow's town centre will provide a new public square, 527 new homes and retail and leisure uses,including a new cinema and a 27-storey tower block.
  • Think-tank Locales in collaboration with Bright Blue has published a series of essays on the future of the capital. Contributors include the former mayor Boris Johnson, professor Tony Travers, director of LSE London, architect Sir Terry Farrell and Royal Society of Arts chief executive Matthew Taylor.

Post-Brexit concerns

The RTPI has joined a coalition of professional bodies representing the construction and built environment sectors in warning Brexit Minister, David Davis, that the UK’s construction skills crisis could worsen dramatically if the government does not take steps to ensure access to a skilled workforce during its post-referendum negotiations. 

The RTPI, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Chartered Institute of Building have written to David Davis outlining their concerns around skills, as well as five other priorities that the UK government should focus on in light of the UK’s Brexit vote.

The six priorities are: access to skills, common standards, research excellence, infrastructure investment, devolution commitment, and community development.

Legal round-up

  • The London Borough of Lambeth has successfully defended the latest legal challenge to its decision-making in relation to the controversial Garden Bridge over the River Thames.

Roger Milne