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Planning News - 2 February 2017

Published: Thursday, 2nd February 2017

Government’s neighbourhood planning policy challenged. Guidance published to drive forward local growth. Report: Focus should be on releasing land through planning system. And more stories...

This weeks planning news in association with ThePlanner, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

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Government’s neighbourhood planning policy challenge

A growing group of claimants has sent a judicial review application letter to the High Court in relation to the government’s ministerial statement on neighbourhood plans.

Among the claimants are land promoter Richborough Estates and house builders Redrow Homes and Linden Homes.

A letter compiled by law firm Eversheds LLP states that each claimant is concerned and “directly prejudiced” by housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell’s ministerial statement on 12 December 2016.

This said that when neighbourhood plans make provision for housing, the plans should not be deemed out of date. Additionally, such plans can only be considered out of date if there is a significant lack of land for housing in the wider local authority area.

A neighbourhood plan would also not be considered out of date if the local authority can demonstrate a three-year supply of deliverable housing sites.

In a statement on Richborough Estates’ website, the company said this is at odds with current policy, detailed within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The NPPF states that local planning policies should be considered out of date if a local authority can’t demonstrate a five-year housing land supply.

Further to this, the claimants state the government has introduced a major piece of planning policy without consultation, when normally “major changes to national planning policy for housing have always been the subject of public consultation”.

The full response, which has been sent to the government, can be found here (pdf).

Laura Edgar, The Planner
26 January 2017


Guidance published to drive forward local growth

Advice that aims to enable pro-growth councils, the real estate sector and central government to development more innovative ways of driving forward local growth together has been published.

The guidance is published in a report by the British Property Federation (BPF), representing the UK commercial real estate sector, and the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales.

The report updates Unlocking Growth Through Partnership, which was published in 2012.

The organisations said the report had been produced as a result of the significant policy change in the past few years.

It aims to encourage local authorities to take a number of steps to foster stronger public-private sector partnerships by:

  • Creating ongoing political dialogue
  • Using land assembly tools at their disposal
  • Being committed to improving infrastructure.

The retail estate sector should, the report states:

  • Get to know an area, its priorities and history before development;
  • Remain open and accessible to local authorities; and
  • Develop a compelling housing and public realm offer.

In addition, the BPF and LGA have called on central government to:

  • Allow the pooling of funds;
  • Demystify local plans; and
  • Simplify the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

The report includes case studies from Milton Keynes and Southampton, where local authorities are working with the real estate sector at a time when public funding is not guaranteed. It discusses remaining challenges for these authorities, including the upfront costs of land assembly and ongoing infrastructure requirements.

Martin Tett, economy spokesman for the LGA, says: “We hope this paper will further the debate on how local authorities, the real estate sector and central government can do their upmost to create thriving partnerships and packages of support which are able to fund the infrastructure and development critical to the country’s growth.”

Melanie Leech, chief executive at the BPF, added: “In a period of uncertainty, the need to forge effective public-private partnerships to maintain economic activity and investor confidence has never been more important. A local authority’s ability to engage with the real estate sector and make meaningful improvements to its town or city will shape the quality of people’s lives for years to come.”

Laura Edgar, The Planner
25 January 2017


Report: Focus should be on releasing land through planning system

Efforts should be focused on improving the release of land through the planning system to boost building levels, says a planning consultancy.

In its report Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners (NLP) also says the problems of land banking seem “largely illusory”.

To deliver 200,000 new homes a year, the number of homes with planning permission needs to total almost 600,000, “a 25 per cent increase on the level that the Local Government Association (LGA) claimed last year was evidence of land banking”.

Stock and Flow: Planning Permissions and Housing Output states that to hit an ambitious target of delivering 300,000 homes a year, the country needs to grow its planning permission stock to more than one million.

The planning consultancy says the debate about land banking and what can be done to speed up delivery of individual sites, “is undermined by insufficient understanding of the relationship between planning permissions and completions and of the commercial drivers of land promoters, house builders and other developers who bring forward land for housing development”.

Matthew Spry, senior director at NLP, said: “Our research shows that across the country there is no big incentive to land bank given current market trends and recognising the inherent uncertainty in the housing market over the economic cycle.

“While a snapshot in time shows the number of units with permission is higher than its output, we must recognise that not all units can or will be built in the year that permission is granted. Hoarding land or choking off supply is not rational behaviour for developers.”

NLP’s report says developers do hold stocks of land, but much of this does not have any planning status. Therefore, this can only be developed if a local authority agrees to allocate the land and/or grant permission.

Spry added: “For the vast majority of the sites in these strategic land banks, it will prove extremely difficult and costly to move through the planning process, without any guarantee of being able to develop, which can mistakenly lead to the charge of land banking.”

The report notes that there are circumstances in which planning permissions lapse and are not implemented. It suggests that for every 100,000 homes granted permission, 50,000 could be expected to be completed in the first year of development, 25,000 in year two and 14,000 in year three.

The report also suggests a national planning policy and regulatory environment that de-risks planning but says effective and positive plan-making needs to be created.

Richard Blyth, head of policy at the RTPI, said the housing crisis is due to a number of factors and so a number of ways are required to solve it.

"During 2016, planners in England consistently delivered higher numbers of planning permissions despite the ongoing resource constraints faced by local authorities. We know many local planning services are surviving on the goodwill and professional integrity of their planners – some have faced planning staff reductions of up to 40 per cent since 2010."

Blyth told The Planner that solving the housing crisis is more than a supply problem and it isn’t just about planning permissions.

"It’s also about where homes are built. National figures do not give the full picture. There are a number of different housing markets around the country and different solutions are needed in different places. Better planning can ensure homes are built where they are needed and in a suitable manner."

The report can be found here.

Laura Edgar, The Planner
26 January 2017


Cardiff region city deal delivery plan approved

The City of Cardiff Council’s cabinet has approved a report setting out how the 10 local authorities in South East Wales involved with the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal will work together to ensure the £1.2 billion package delivers for the sub-region.

City of Cardiff Council leader Phil Bale, said: “This report not only lays out just how the city deal will work, it also points towards a step change in collaboration in the areas of economic development, skills and training, regeneration, strategic planning, housing and transport.

“Wales will have seen nothing on this scale before. This report points towards a fundamental shift in how councils do business together. Of course there have been partnership arrangements in the past, but this is taking things to an entirely new level. By agreeing this report we will fire the starting gun on a Welsh local government revolution.”

The report spells out how the local authorities involved will work together to manage the spend, bringing jobs and improved transport links to the region.

It also stresses that the city council is committed to delivering a significant number of nationally-significant facilities and attractions including:

  • A new 15,000-seat indoor arena
  • Improved city centre open spaces
  • The redevelopment of Cardiff Central Station
  • Stronger connections between the city centre and Cardiff Bay
  • A range of improvements to bus, car, cycle and pedestrian networks.

More information can be found here (pdf).

Roger Milne, The Planner
26 January 2017


Dorset councils seek to merge

Six councils in Dorset have supported plans to change local government structures in the county and merger together.

All nine councils in the county considered a report and a package of evidence setting out a proposal that would see the county’s local authorities replaced with two unitary authorities.

Unitary A would include Bournemouth Borough Council, Christchurch Borough Council and the Borough of Poole Council.

Unitary B would include East Dorset District Council, North Dorset District Council, Purbeck District Council, West Dorset District Council and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council.

Bournemouth, Dorset County, North Dorset, Poole, West Dorset and Weymouth & Portland councils have backed the proposals. East Dorset, Christchurch and Purbeck councils voted against the proposals.

An eight-week public consultation, which ran from 30 August to 25 October, suggested that the majority of residents supported councils merging together.

Dorset’s council leaders will meet on 8 February, at which those that support the merger will agree the formal proposal that will go before Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.

If Javid agrees and the change is approved by Parliament, it would start from April 2019.

Matt Prosser, Chairman of the Dorset Chief Executives Group, said: “We now have a mandate from our councils and we have the backing of the public and other stakeholders. That is clear from the consultation results. Now, we have a duty to respond to that mandate and secure a sustainable and even brighter future for Dorset. We are resolved in our commitment to a county that is healthy, prosperous, vibrant and inclusive for generations to come.”

Laura Edgar, The Planner
1 February 2017


News in brief

A round-up of planning news


Employers to develop planning apprenticeship

The RTPI has submitted a proposal to the government to develop a Town Planner Degree Apprenticeship.

In an attempt to take advantage of the government’s Trailblazer Degree Apprenticeships scheme, the RTPI gathered interested employers, including local government and private consultancies that confirmed the need for a degree apprenticeship for town planning.

If it is approved, employers and universities may start to train the first apprentices from as early as spring 2018.

Currently, most planners enter the profession after graduating from RTPI-accredited undergraduate or post-graduate planning degrees.

Andrew Close, head of careers, education & professional development, said: “The proposal will be designed by employers to ensure that graduates gain the practical skills and academic training to succeed in the workplace. We hope more talented young people will be attracted to embark on a town planning career through this pathway.”



17th century Monmouthshire building to be restored

Monmouthshire County Council is set to restore a 17th century grade II listed building in Caerwent.

Caerwent House has been acquired by the council through a compulsory purchase order.

Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, and the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust will work with council to restore the building.

Council Leader Peter Fox said: “Caerwent House is within an attractive conservation area so it’s very pleasing to see the restoration of a fine building in one of Monmouthshire’s historic and picturesque villages.”



275,000 sign petitions to save Nottinghamshire forest from fracking

Two petitions signed by 275,000 people to save Sherwood Forest from fracking have been handed to environment minister Andrea Leadsom.

Actor Phil Rose, who played Friar Tuck in the 1980s TV production of Robin of Sherwood, has joined the campaign.

The petitions have been organised by Friends of the Earth and 38 Degrees.

According to Friends of the Earth, INEOS, a chemical and oil manufacturing company, is in negotiations with landowners to carry out seismic surveys in Sherwood Forest and other public forests in Nottinghamshire, the Nottingham Post reported.

Lorna Greenwood, campaigns manager at 38 Degrees, said: “Huge numbers of people across the UK are coming together to protect our heritage. From people who have childhood memories playing in the forest to those who think fracking is the wrong direction to be going in, they are demanding that Sherwood Forest be left alone. It's now up to the government to decide whether they will listen to the public, or a big company.”



UK cities report record levels of construction

The biggest UK regional cities have reported record levels of construction activity, according to The Telegraph.

Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Belfast have seen an increase in development across a number of sectors, suggests the latest Deloitte crane survey.

The amount of office space in Birmingham under construction has increased by 50 per cent since last year, the survey notes, from 960,000 square feet to 1.4 million square feet.

Twenty-two residential projects started construction in Manchester last year while Leeds saw the highest levels of office space delivered to the market since 2007, says the report.

In Belfast, 19 projects, including offices, hotels and student halls, are under construction.

Read more from the Telegraph.



Challenge to Heathrow third runway halted

Campaigners have failed in a legal bid to block plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

Greenpeace UK and a number of councils were seeking a judicial review of the government’s support for the expansion of the airport, announced in October.

The group, which included Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils, claimed there was a failure to consult before it abandoned a previous promise that a third runway would never be built. The group also argued that ministers failed to recognise unlawful air quality impacts.

Lord Justice Cranston said: “Once the secretary of state adopts and publishes a National Policy Statement the court will have jurisdiction to entertain the challenges the claimants’ advance.

“For the present, this claim must be struck out.”

Read more on the Sky News website.


Laura Edgar, The Planner
31 January 2017