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Planning round-up 16 July

Published: Thursday, 16th July 2015

Retail applications continue to fall. Pembrokeshire “hobbit house” wins appeal. Chippenham growth. Report says LEPs need staff and clearer status. And more stories...

Retail applications continue to fall

The number of applications to build new retail space in England has fallen for a sixth year in a row, according to latest research by commercial law firm EMW.

This showed there were 7,360 planning applications approved for retail premises in 2014/15, down from 7,420 last year and down 38 per cent from 11,900 at the peak in the expansion of the retail sector in 2008/09.

EMW said that there has been a shift of focus away from expanding store portfolios to a more concerted effort by many retailers to compete with their online rivals by introducing new services such as “Click and Collect”.

Giles Ferin, Principal at EMW, explained “The fall in retail applications reflects a seismic change in shopping habits.”

“High street retailers are opting to provide a greater range of online services as they try to adjust to this more competitive online market.”

EMW added that the changing nature of the retail sector has resulted in many premises being converted to office or residential use. There were 410 units converted from retail to residential use in 2014/15.

View the press release

Pembrokeshire “hobbit house” wins appeal

The couple who built a “hobbit-style” roundhouse in Pembrokeshire without planning permission have finally saved their eco-friendly dwelling from the threat of demolition.

This week a planning inspector allowed their appeal against Pembrokeshire Council’s refusal of retrospective planning permission for the building constructed from straw bales and other natural material.

The inspector decided that the building was acceptable because it satisfied the Welsh Government’s policy on so-called One Planet Development.

The building has been the focus of a long drawn-out planning wrangle involving refused permissions, enforcement action and legal action.

View more information on the One Planet Development policy

Chippenham growth

Wiltshire Council’s cabinet met this week to approve proposed amendments to the Chippenham Site Allocations Plan which outlines proposed strategic sites to ensure the delivery of housing and employment growth for the town by 2026 in line with the requirement of the Wiltshire Core Strategy.

The plan allocates 2,500 new homes and approximately 28 hectares of employment activity in three mixed use developments on the edge of the town.

The proposed developments include substantial country parks focused on the river corridor, the completion of an eastern link road between the A350 to the north and the A4 to the south of Chippenham and new primary schools.

View the press release

London round-up

  • Architects Allies & Morrision has revealed plans for up to 1,000 flats and a new campus for the London College of Communication on the site of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre. The new plans have gone on public display 18-months after the 50-year-old south London shopping centre was sold by developer St Modwen to current owners, property investor Delancey and pension fund APG, for £80m. Under the latest proposals, the shopping centre will retain its ‘retail heart’ with a ‘three-tiered open area’ forming part of a new town centre. A 36-storey tower will anchor the southern edge of the site and new east-west links will open up the development and link the public space to the railway station.
  • Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis have officially launched the London Land Commission. Real estate research firm Savills has been appointed to compile the preliminary stages of a so-called‘Domesday Book’ of all brown field public land in London, to be completed by the end of 2015.
  • Residents of Fortune Green and West Hampstead have voted in favour of a neighbourhood plan for their wards following a referendum held last week by Camden Council. The referendum was only the second of its kind yet held in the capital.
  • Wandsworth Council has launched an investigation into the unauthorised demolition of a landmark Victorian-era public house in Battersea and could order the developer responsible for its disappearance to rebuild it brick by brick.

Report says LEPs need staff and clearer status

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) could play a critical role in devolution to cities and regions and in promoting economic growth, but their potential is being held back by their unclear status and unfamiliarity with town planning, as well as a lack of personnel, a new study by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has concluded.

The first comprehensive analysis of the roles of all LEPs showed that they have considerable potential to work across different policy areas such as planning, and to shape strategy and implementation from housing to employment across local authority boundaries.

But the analysis by the RTPI highlighted that LEPs operated with an opaque remit and lacked firm institutional foundations. This limited their effectiveness as brokers of cross-boundary, strategic planning issues, the report found.

View the press release

West of England councils urge devolution

Council leaders across a West of England sub-region have agreed to work up a case for more powers from Whitehall under the government’s devolution agenda.

At a meeting of the region’s Strategic Leaders’ Board last Friday, the Mayor of Bristol and Leaders of Bath and North East Somerset Council, North Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council agreed that a governance review should be the next step as the partners look together at developing a detailed local case for devolved powers.

A Strategic Review of Governance is a formal process looking at the governance structures that would best fit the devolution of certain functions to the four authorities. It is not a review of governance arrangements of the four local authorities. The review is expected to take between nine and 18 months.

View the joint statement

New salt marsh project makes waves

Sea defences on an island off the Essex coast have been deliberately breached to create new habitat for wildlife. It is the latest phase of the Wallasea Island Wild Coast project, which aims to create salt marsh on 670 hectares of former farm land.

The RSPB, the UK’s biggest wildlife charity, is behind the scheme, which has been helped by the London Crossrail project which has provided soil excavated from its tunnelling work under the capital. The aim is to attract wading birds, seals and plants such as samphire.

View more information about the Wallasea Island Wild Coast project

Solent waterfront scheme

Proposals for a multi-million pound revamp of part of Southampton’s waterfront have been unveiled for public scrutiny.

The Royal Pier Waterfront development includes plans for 730 flats, restaurants, up to 50 shops and a 250-bed hotel.

It would also involve a casino, which has been granted a licence by the government for up to 150 slot machines and 30 blackjack and poker tables.

The scheme would see an enlarged Mayflower Park with a new larger than life-size Spitfire sculpture in the city where the plane was first built.

The waterfront proposals have been drawn up by RPW (Southampton) Limited, Southampton City Council’s development partner for the scheme.

View more information

Liverpool Chinatown revamp

Developer North Point Global and BLOK Architecture’s plans for the regeneration of part of Liverpool’s historic Chinatown quarter have gone on show on Merseyside.

The project has a £200m price tag and would involve development along the frontage of Great George Street. The concept is for a new urban quarter comprising up to 1,000 homes and 18,580 sq metres of new commercial and retail space. One of the elements is a Chinese themed retail area as well as a substantial number of live-work spaces providing accommodation for new Chinese businesses to set-up in the city.

Although the proposals are at an early stage, the developers are hoping to submit a planning application for the first phase of the project before the end of the summer.

View the press release

Green belt helicopter base project

Plans to build a new helicopter base on green belt land have been backed by South Gloucestershire Council. Approval for the base near the M4/M5 interchange at Almondsbury is conditional on government ministers deciding not to intervene.

The National Police Air Service (NPAS) and Great Western Air Ambulance Charity welcomed the decision and hoped for a “positive outcome” from the government. Critics said the new base would “destroy the rural character” of the village.

The proposals include a hangar, car park, Met Office weather station and new access to the A38. The NPAS and Great Western Air Ambulance are currently both based at Filton Airfield which is to be redeveloped.

View the press release

Capita snaps up GL Hearn

Business services and out-sourcing specialist Capita has announced it has acquired GL Hearn, a leading UK property and planning consultancy for £25m.

GL Hearn’s client list includes some of the UK’s largest retailers and developers, as well as a number of blue chip companies. The consultancy reported an operating profit of £5.8m on turnover of £31.2m in its last financial year up to 31 May 2015.

The company is a market leader in planning, development and regeneration. It employs over 250 staff, and has a head office in London and seven regional offices including Glasgow, Manchester and Southampton.

View the press release

Peers probe built environment

The new House of Lords Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment has begun taking oral evidence for its first inquiry. Last week the peers quizzed experts specialising in planning and design.

They included Professor Rachel Cooper OBE, Professor of Design Management, Lancaster University; Dr Richard Simmons, former Chief Executive of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) and Professor Mark Tewdwr-Jones, Professor of Town Planning, at Newcastle University.

The committee is considering the legacy of the last 30 years of commercial and residential developments and whether there should be a greater focus on retrofitting than new-build. The peers are also keen to find out why the UK is so poor at meeting house-building targets.

View the press release

Legal round-up

Dorset coastal path route proposed

Proposals for a further section of Dorset’s Jurassic coastline to form part of the England Coast Path have been revealed by Natural England (NE). NE wants to develop a new route along a 67 kilometre long stretch of the coast between Lyme Regis and Rufus Castle.

The path would join up with the section between Rufus Castle and Lulworth Cove where work is currently underway.

View the consultation

Kent theme park land deal

Developers behind the proposed £2bn Paramount Park theme park have bought seven hectares of land in North Kent.

A former landfill site, known as Bamber Pit, and a sports ground on the Swanscombe Peninsula have been purchased by London Resort Company Holdings.

The theme park, proposed for 400 hectares of land near Dartford, is due to be the subject of an application for a Development Consent Order, the first project of its type to be a candidate for treatment as a nationally significant infrastructure project under the Planning Act 2008 regime.

View the press release

Norfolk local plan examination held up over habitat issues

The examination of the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk’s local plan has been adjourned following concern voiced by the planning inspector over flood risk and habitat issues surrounding housing site allocations.

The Inspector needs reassurance that either mitigation can be provided at the new housing sites where required or that the council has a fall-back position in the event that mitigation cannot be successfully achieved.

The planning authority expects to take three months providing further information and will work with the Environment Agency, the Internal Drainage Board and conservation groups like the RSPB and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

View the press release

Dorset dig finds pre-Roman settlement

A pre-Roman town of 150 roundhouses has been found by university students during an archaeological dig in Dorset.

The discovery of the town lying along a hill-slope near Winterborne Kingston has been described as “extremely significant” by archaeologists who said that what had been found was “one of the earliest and largest open settlements in Britain.”

View the press release