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Planning News - 2 March 2017

Published: Thursday, 2nd March 2017

Neighbourhood Planning Bill: Tight vote as Lords seek to make plain government’s intent on conditions. Council leader outlines garden village proposal. And more stories...

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

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Neighbourhood Planning Bill: Tight vote as Lords seek to make plain government’s intent on conditions


The House of Lords has voted in favour of an amendment that seeks to make it clear what clause 13’s intention is and to clarify whether or not the government plans to restrict the capacity of local authorities to put into force relevant conditions.


More than 30 amendments were tabled for debate as the House of Lords met for the first report stage of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, following four committee stages.


Lord Stunell moved amendment 18, which concerns clause 13, alongside Baroness Parminter (LD). Clause 13 gives the secretary of state the power to intervene in, and direct, the planning conditions imposed on a grant of permission by a local authority.


He said all of clause 13 is out of place in the bill – out of context. “It has a very strong power for the secretary of state to interfere with, change, direct or – as it puts it – ‘regulate’ the kind of planning conditions local planning authorities can use.”


Stunell said the minister – Gavin Barwell – responded to a number of his questions during the committee stage, including on whether the government planned to introduce limitations on local authorities regarding the introduction of planning conditions which they can do thanks to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).


“The minister’s reply, as I understood it, was that there is no intention to restrict the capacity of local authorities to put into force relevant conditions that are themselves in conformity with the NPPF.


“I suggested to the minister at that stage that redrafting to simply say that might make it much simpler and less challenging for those of us reading the legislation – and amendment 18 says just that.

“In other words, amendment 18 puts in plain language what I understand to be the government’s real intent."


Although ‘co-pilot’ Lord Young of Cookham (Con) asked him to withdraw the amendment, Stunell decided to “test the opinion of the house”. The amendment was agreed to, 113-107.


Baroness Cumberlege (Con) moved amendment 6, which sought to ensure that the secretary of state upheld the decision of the local planning authority unless it contravened a development scheme of national importance, where an application for planning permission has been refused by a local planning authority on the grounds that it is not in accordance with an adopted local development plan, including neighbourhood plans.


Cumberlege said the amendment sought to “clarify the respective responsibilities of the secretary of state and local neighbourhood planners”.

“It is all a matter of trust,” she said.


Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con), parliamentary under-secretary of state, Department for Communities and Local Government and Wales Office, said the amendment would “create a situation where all appeals which are contrary to the local development plan must be dismissed”.

He did not accept that it is helpful for planning inspectors to be told what their conclusion should be.


“I accept that that is probably not the intention of the amendment, but it is dangerously close to the effect the amendment would have. Nor should we tell planning inspectors how to exercise their discretion in terms of the weight attached to particular matters in the consideration of an appeal.”

He asked that the amendment be withdrawn, which Cumberlege did.


On behalf of Lord Taylor of Goss Moor (LD), Parminter moved amendment 10A. She explained: “Where a new town development corporation is established by an order under section 1 of the New Towns Act 1981 (designation of areas), on request of the local planning authority the secretary of state must delegate to the authority the powers to appoint the board and to approve expenditure in applying the compulsory purchase provisions and subsequent development of the new town and its administration.”


She said the success of the garden towns and villages programme, with the government already in support of 14 such developments, “will be greatly enhanced by the ability of local authorities to ensure quality by using the New Towns Act to guarantee that new garden villages and towns all meet the policy objectives of the government”.


The amendment was well supported by the House of Lords, but Bourne asked Parminter to remove the amendment. He said: “There are lessons that need to be learned, but strong examples of what can be achieved [from the debate]… I would be very happy to discuss the issue further with the noble lords, Lord Taylor and Lord Best, and indeed any other noble lord, with a view to coming back on third reading with at least a report on the discussions, and perhaps firmer action based on them.”

Amendments 1, 3, 7, 11, 15, 16 and 19 were withdrawn.


Amendments 4, 6a, 7, 8, 8a, 10, 10A, 12, 13, 14, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 28a, 32 and 34 were not moved.


Amendments 31 and 33 were agreed.


The full transcript of the report session can be found here


Laura Edgar, The Planner
27 February 2017


Council leader outlines garden village proposal


The leader of Tandridge District Council, Surrey, has outlined his plans for a strategic approach to development as part of the area’s creation of a local plan, including a new settlement.


Martin Fisher said at a council meeting last week that a new settlement of about 4,000 houses, developed around garden village principles, will be pursued as part of the local plan.


This was just one option put forward during the 'Local plan: Issues and approaches regulation 18 consultation', which took place from 18 December 2015 to 26 February 2016 and then the site consultation, which took place between 4 November 2016 and 30 December 2016.


The council wants to provide a mix of affordable and starter homes in the village, which would also comprise new schools, a doctor’s surgery, supermarket and investment in roads.


The aim is to have a local plan that is infrastructure-led and that seeks to relieve the pressure on existing facilities.


The Tandridge district is currently 94 per cent green belt and, the council explained, development has been concentrated within the remaining 6 per cent. These areas however, “are now at risk of unsustainable levels of infilling”.


The creation of a garden village is expected to require the release of 1 per cent of the green belt and is considered to be an “appropriate and proportionate approach to the government’s requirement to significantly boost the supply of housing”.


“Releasing this small amount in one particular area would make it easier to protect the rest and prevent a scattergun approach to the release of green belt,” said the council.


Without considering the green belt, the council stated it would be able to deliver just over a third of the housing needed. It noted this would neither boost housing supply in the area, nor pass local plan examination.


Fisher said: “The vision I have outlined, if agreed by the planning policy committee, will aim to meet the requirements of the district over the next 20 years and help the council retain control over future development. We have to be realistic about our ability to meet future housing need. We have the largest amount of green belt in the entire country and will fight to maintain this position.”


He said that by releasing a small amount the council would have a better chance of deciding where development can go and protect the green belt into the future.


“As a passionate defender of the green belt, I would find its wholesale and uncontrolled loss unacceptable, this approach has to be the best way forward,” he said.


He noted that house prices in the area are 14 times the average earnings – “that is unsustainable”.

Without a different approach, young people would have to find homes elsewhere, while the population would become increasingly elderly, causing a knock-on effect on the economy and on public services, he said.


“We have to ensure this district continues to be a vibrant place to live, work and visit.”

The proposal is due to be considered by the council’s planning policy committee in March.


Laura Edgar, The Planner
28 February 2017


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Data: One in three London permissions not built


More than one in three homes (36 per cent) with planning permission in London are not built out, according to analysis from the Fifty Thousand Homes campaign.


At the current rate of building, the analysis suggests that it takes around three years on average from planning approval to front doors opening, with building beginning 13 months after planning permission is granted. From then, on average, it takes another 20 months for a development to be completed.


The Fifty Thousand Home campaign was set up in an attempt to address the capital’s housing shortage. It works with businesses, policy and housing experts to “convene expertise and energy to start build for London now”.


A steering group that includes Shelter and the Federation of Small Businesses leads the campaign group. London First holds the secretariat.


According to the campaign, some 50,000 flats and houses have been granted planning permission each year since 2014.


Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of London First, who launched the Fifty Thousand Homes campaign, said the figures will be updated every six months. The campaign, she continued, would track London’s progress and “work with planners and developers to get to the bottom of what’s holding up house building in the capital”.


The analysis, which was developed by accountant Grant Thornton UK, also part of the steering group, considered the pipeline of housing development and uses Ordnance Survey data.

It suggests:


  • The number of homes approved but not built out is increasing, from 28 per cent in 2010 to 36 per cent in 2013.
  • Developments of 100-149 homes are most likely to be built, with 88 per cent either under construction or successfully completed within three years.
  • On average, 30 per cent of new homes being built in London are “affordable” homes, including social housing, affordable rent, shared rent and shared ownership.

Graeme Brown, interim chief executive at housing charity Shelter, said: “With renters facing huge housing costs, meaning more young people are packing their bags to leave the capital, there is a mountain to climb when it comes to fixing London’s broken house building system.


“It seems clear that the Mayor of London needs to start getting tough with organisations who have planning permission but simply don’t get on with building the homes that ordinary Londoners so desperately need.


“We are encouraged by the mayor’s commitment to build more homes and make sure they are genuinely affordable. It’s crucial he delivers on those plans if we are to give Londoners a place to call home.”


Sacha Romanovitch, chief executive at Grant Thornton UK, said solving London’s housing crisis could be key to unlocking future growth in the capital at a time when the economic outlook has weakened.

“Additional house building projects in themselves will help to create jobs and stimulate growth, and pivotal to achieving this is working collaboratively with the 32 London boroughs and the City of London Corporation.”


Speaking to The Planner, Annabel Osborne, chair of RTPI London, said: “This new data reinforces the urgency for the mayor to increase the supply of affordable housing, across a range of tenures, in the city. London’s housing need reaches beyond the M25, so his approach must include working with the surrounding regions, particularly the South-East."


She suggested that the mayor should work with planners to identify a series of growth corridors and target them for investment in infrastructure to unlock land for housing and future growth.


In November 2016, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan set out a funding programme for how £3.15 billion, allocated to City Hall in the Autumn Statement, will support the building of 90,000 affordable homes.


Khan has said that his Draft Affordable Housing and Viability Supplementary Planning Guidance 2016 is the “first step” to raising affordable housing levels. It was developed following discussions with the housing industry and councils.


A public consultation on his proposals ends on 28 February.


Laura Edgar, The Planner
27 February 2017


Report: 400,000 workers needed to bridge construction skills ‘gulf’


British construction needs to recruit more than 400,000 workers each year between now and 2021 if it is to deliver the homes and infrastructure the nation needs.


Report author Arcadis, a design and consultancy for natural and built assets, said the Arcadis Talent Scale has been developed to measure the true extent of the skills crisis across the infrastructure and housing workforce.


On house building, the report states that if the UK is to “increase output to 270,000 new homes over the next five years, it will need to employ in excess of 370,000 new people”.


An additional 36,500 people need to be employed each year to meet the forecast national infrastructure requirements.


The need is greatest for carpenters and joiners, where demand accounts for nearly a sixth of all national resource requirements, suggests the report. Plumbers, electricians and bricklayers are also in high demand, while at least 7,400 and 7,300 civil engineers and quantity surveyors respectively are required.


London and the South-East are expected to have to employ more than other parts of the UK – 110,000 people, which equates to 30 per cent of demand. Elsewhere, the East of England is projected to require 43,000 workers, and the South-West 41,000. Northern Ireland is expected to need just 3 per cent of the national total.


As infrastructure projects like HS2 and Crossrail 2 progress, Arcadis says it is to be expected that companies will draw heavily on the common talent pool of transferable skills if delivery targets are to be achieved.


Arcadis said the figures are independent of any Brexit deal, “which is likely to further increase the strain”.


James Bryce, director of workforce planning, Arcadis, said: “What we have is not a skills gap; it is a skills gulf. Systemic underinvestment in the nation’s workforce has contributed to a reduction in UK productivity. Construction employment is already down 15 per cent on 2008 and, quite simply, if we don’t have the right people to build the homes and infrastructure we need, the UK is going to struggle to maintain its competitive position in the global economy.”


He said overcoming such a skills shortfall can’t be achieved through education and technology alone. While more talent need stop be brought into the industry, in the short term, construction will also need to look at those currently working in other industries and “dramatically improve” its efficiency.

“On top of this, as part of any Brexit deal, the government can help by looking to secure the rights of EU workers currently operating in British construction, simplifying the visa system and minimising the tax burden on workers and business,” he said.


If this does not happen, many of the projects that the British government has earmarked for economic stimulus could “prove more difficult and costly to resource”. They might, he concluded, in the worst-case scenario not be delivered at all, “reducing our ability to grow the economy and limiting investment in the industry”.


The report can be found here (pdf).


Laura Edgar, The Planner
28 February 2017




New 1,500-home community for Pontypool makes waves

Public consultation has started on a development of more than 1,500 homes planned for a brownfield site near Pontypool.

Property company Johnsey Estates UK wants to transform a 52-hectare site at Mamhilad into a new community comprising more than 1,500 homes, a neighbourhood centre with shops and leisure facilities, a primary school and enhanced employment opportunities.

The 52 hectares includes the vacant former Parke-Davis site, the former Nylon Spinners factory and the Mamhilad Park Estate site.

The site, which runs alongside the A4042, is located within the Mamhilad Strategic Action Area, which is allocated for mixed-use redevelopment in the adopted Torfaen County Borough Council local development plan.

The proposed development will include about 22 hectares of residential development including a range of family homes and significant percentage of affordable homes.

The development will also include a series of open spaces linked by tree-lined streets to create walking and cycling routes while providing amenity areas.

The proposed green spaces include a neighbourhood park at the heart of the site, various children’s play areas, allotments, playing fields, recreational open space and areas of native planting.

Roger Milne, The Planner
23 February 2017


News in brief

A round-up of planning news

Guide for international working published

The RTPI has published its first guide to working internationally.

A guide to working internationally contains general information, tips and relevant contacts for working in planning around the world.

The guide is aimed at individual members and independent consultancies looking to expand beyond the UK and Ireland.

Peter Geraghty, chair of the RTPI international committee, said: “Planning is an international profession and our members’ skills and experience are highly sought after around the world. We’ve noticed a growing interest from our members in working outside of their home country and think they’ll find this guide an incredibly valuable resource.”

The guide can be found here (pdf).


Coal Exchange plans set to be approved


The first phase of work on the conversion of Cardiff’s Coal Exchange building into a new hotel and spa is set to be approved by councillors tomorrow (1 March).

Signature Living, the developer, has submitted a listed building application for work on the grade II listed property in Cardiff Bay.

Work started on site last year to restore and preserve the existing structure of the building after Signature Living signed an agreement with the City of Cardiff Council to acquire the property in April 2016. The change-of-use application was approved in July.

The company’s latest application covers internal and external work to create about 170 hotel rooms, a reception area, function space, restaurants, bars and spa.

A report about the application states that the works proposed would be “beneficial to the building”.


Peckham brownfield development approved


The London Borough of Southwark has granted planning permission to Collado Collins to redevelop an underused brownfield site on the west side of Rye Land in Peckham.

The 1,160 square metre site will provide a mix of 22 homes as well as two communal gardens.

The plans will maintain the site’s existing retail and commercial frontage and develop the unused space behind.


Work to start on large Somerset scheme


Taunton Dean Borough Council has approved the reserved matters for the first two phases of a major development on the edge of Wellington in Somerset. The scheme, at Jurston, is part of a mixed-use urban extension.

Planning consultancy WYG secured the permission, which follows on from the company gaining approval for outline planning permission for the whole scheme.

The full scheme consists of 650 homes, 25 per cent of which have been designated as affordable, new roundabout access served from the A38, a new primary school and shops.

Work is expected to start on site this summer.


Funding announced for Derry air link


The UK Government has announced £3.8 million of funding for a Londonderry to London air route.

This follows the decision by current operator Ryanair to stop serving the link at the end of March.

BMI Regional has been chosen as the preferred operator for the route between the City of Derry Airport and London Stansted, following a tender process by Derry City and Strabane District Council.

The service will include two return flights each day, except Saturdays, when there will be one flight each day.

Tickets will go on sale from 9 March 2017 and flights will begin on 2 May 2017.


Laura Edgar, The Planner
28 February 2017