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Planning News - 13 April 2017

Published: Thursday, 13th April 2017

Lower Thames Crossing preferred route announced, 43% of councils yet to publish draft local plan and Developers support government pledge to free up brownfield land. And more stories...

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

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Lower Thames Crossing preferred route announced

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has announced the preferred route for a new Lower Thames Crossing, which he said could create more than 6,000 jobs and boost the economy by more than £8 billion.

The crossing will create a new link between the A2 and the M25. It is expected to reduce the burden on the Dartford Crossing and carry 4.5 million heavy goods vehicles in its first year.

The planned route will run from the M25 near North Ockendon, cross the A13 at Orsett before crossing under the Thames east of Tilbury and Gravesend. The government said a new link road would then take traffic to the A2 near Shorne, near to where the route becomes the M2.

A consultation on options for the route saw most of the 47,000 respondents identify this route as the best solution for reducing traffic and congestion on the Dartford Crossing as well as improving links to London and the Channel ports, according to the government.

Another £10 million will be used to improve traffic flow at and around the existing crossing as well as studying ways to further tackle congestion.

Grayling said: “The new Lower Thames Crossing, and other improvements in and around Dartford and Thurrock will further strengthen our economy while also creating thousands of jobs.”

Grayling also announced that the government is investing £66 million in widening the A13 Stanford-le-Hope bypass from two to three lanes. This should create more than 4,000 jobs and unlock the development of hundreds of new houses, he said.

12 April 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Report: 43 per cent of councils yet to publish draft local plan

New research has suggested that 36 per cent of planning authorities have seen a local plan through examination to adoption, but 43 per cent have not even published a draft local plan.

The report, by planning consultancy Lichfields, considers the progress of local plans under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) since it was launched five years ago.

The inability of some councils to make progress with their local plans could expose them to government interventions announced in the housing white paper, the consultancy warned.

Planned and Deliver notes a number of policies included in the housing white paper that might have implications for plan making and delivering planned housing, such as the housing delivery test.

Statistics in the report

  • 161 local plans examined or submitted for examination since the introduction of the NPPF
  • 105 local plans found sound with 36 per cent of local planning authorities boasting an up-to-date local plan against the NPPF
  • 30 per cent of sound plans subject to an ‘early review’, all related at least in part to housing matters
  • 71 per cent of early reviews subject to a deadline or time limit, with eight local plan areas already missing that timescale
  • 23 tools and tests Lichfields have identified within the housing white paper that could help improve plan-making

The research also suggests that in aggregate, adopted post-NPPF local plans, when combined with the London Plan, are not providing for sufficient housing to match the number of homes implied by household projections. The shortfall could be 3,945 dwellings per annum. This is without the consideration of improving affordability.

Lichfields said that with many plans yet to be prepared in locations with restrictive policies, including policies relating to the green belt, there is likely to be a need for upward pressure on housing requirement figures in emerging and next generation plans.

Matthew Spry, senior director of Lichfields and an advisor on the Department for Communities and Local Government Local Plans Expert Group in 2016, said: “As it has been from the beginning, the major factor slowing the local plan process is the debate and disagreement over housing numbers. Indeed, almost half of plans found sound have needed to adjust their housing targets before making the grade.

“Our research has identified 222 local authority areas (56 per cent) may fail these tests and face the consequences of needing an action plan or application of a 20 per cent buffer on their five year land supply.”

The government is currently legislating to make having a plan a statutory requirement. If a council does not have an up-to-date local plan, the government may intervene by directing a local planning authority to review its existing plans or directing councils to prepare a plan.

Spry said: “Despite some frenetic plan making activity over the past 12 months, our research shows that getting these plans to formal submission remains over the horizon for many areas.

“There are clear signs that the prospect of the housing white paper’s reforms has caused a hiatus, but with net housing completions reaching almost 190,000 last year despite poor plan coverage, it is perhaps better to apply one comprehensive set of reforms now, rather than have constant tinkering.”

Planned and Deliver can be found here (pdf). 

* Lichfields formerly operated under the name Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners. The name Lichfields came into use on 14 February 2017.

10 April 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Developers support government pledge to free up brownfield land, says survey

The biggest opportunity arising from the government’s housing white paper is the proposal to release more publicly owned land for development, according to a survey of developers.

Short-term property lender Amicus Property Finance commissioned the research. It was conducted with 51 UK property developers.

The top four most popular measures in the housing white paper were:

  • Increasing the availability of brownfield sites (69 per cent);
  • The proposed reduction in the time permitted by local authorities to approve planning applications from three to two years (49 per cent);
  • The continuation of the Help to Buy scheme (45 per cent); and
  • Increasing the focus on building more homes in the affordable housing sector (41 per cent).
  • Despite suggesting that they support elements of the housing white paper, developers have expressed scepticism that the government will meet its target to build a million homes by 2020. Just one in five (21 per cent) think this target is realistic.

The research also considered what property developers would like to see the government introduce to address the housing crisis. More than three-quarters (78 per cent) would like to see a repeal of the stamp duty rises and tax relief reductions on landlords; 44 per cent wanted to see incentives for elderly people to downsize, and 37 per cent called for a suspension in capital gains tax to encourage more land to come on to the market.

Keith Aldridge, founder and managing director at Amicus Property Finance, said: “Property developers appear highly supportive of a number of the ideas in the white paper, particularly releasing more brownfield land to the market and the greater focus on affordable housing. The existing ‘Help to Buy’ initiative has also been well received by many developers and we have already financed a number of successful developments in the South-East.

“Though large-scale government investment plays a part in stimulating supply, developers see the current tax laws as one of the biggest obstacles to solving the housing crisis, particularly repealing the recent stamp duty increases for landlords.”

10 April 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Stansted expansion approved

Uttlesford District Council has granted planning permission for a new £130 million arrivals building at London Stansted Airport.

The 34,000 metres squared building, designed by architects Pascall+Watson, comprises three floors and forms part of the Manchester Airports Group’s (MAG) multi-million pound programme to transform the airport to cater for future growth in passenger numbers.

Located next to the current terminal, the building will feature larger immigration and baggage reclaim areas, new retail facilities, improved access for all onward travel options and a public forecourt.

The existing terminal will be altered so that it is dedicated to departing passengers. This will mean increased space for check-in, security and the departure lounge.

The first phase of work is expected to begin later this summer to create some additional capacity in the short-term, including extra check-in desks.

Construction of the arrivals building will take place outside of the current terminal and will take up to three years to complete once work begins late next year.

Andrew Cowan, chief executive at Stansted Airport, said: “Stansted is a national asset and our investment will continue to boost competition and support economic growth, jobs and international connectivity for London and the East of England.

“At a time when airport capacity in the country is at a premium, Stansted is playing a vital role in supporting both the regional and national economy. This project will strengthen our ability to do this by enabling us to make the most efficient use of our single runway.”

Once work is complete, Cowan said that Stansted will be the only airport to operate dedicated arrivals and departures terminals.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, aviation minister, said: “Plans for a dedicated arrivals building will ensure that Stansted can meet growing demand, improve the experience for passengers, create new jobs, and boost economic growth in the region.”

6 April 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

12 enterprise zones launched

The government has announced that 12 new enterprise zones aimed at boosting economic growth have been initiated.

The zones were announced in the 2015 Spending Review to support existing businesses and help new businesses start up. They offer business rate discounts and are backed by a simplified local planning process.

Two enterprise zones – the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the New Anglia LEP – have been expanded to benefit more places and communities, said the government.

These latest enterprise zones bring the total number to 48 in England. Government statistics suggest more than 29,000 jobs across a range of industries have been created through LEPs since they were launched in 2012.

Local growth minister Andrew Percy said: “Our modern industrial strategy is about creating the right environment for businesses to grow – enterprise zones are making sure this happens across the country.

“This is a key part of our plan for Britain, creating a stronger economy that works for everyone. These 12 new Enterprise Zones will help even more businesses to set up and grow. I’m confident they will build on the success we’ve already seen over the past five years.”

The new zones include:

  • Cornwall Marine Hub – Located over three sites, Hayle, Tolvaddon and Falmouth Docks, it is intended to establish Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as a global centre for the marine renewable energy sector.
  • Brierley Hill – A new tech office hub for the Black Country aims to support development of Britain’s advanced manufacturing heartland in the Midlands Engine. It will have easy access to surrounding industrial sites as well as central Birmingham, national and international connections.
  • M62 Corridor Leeds City Region – In a boost to the Northern Powerhouse, the zone is expected to capitalise on the area’s manufacturing industry and focus on digital technology, automotive engineering, textiles and glassmaking.

5 April 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

News round-up

A round-up of planning news

WYG secures approval for two developments

Planning consultancy WYG’s Newcastle team has secured planning approval for 327 homes in Choppington and 16 homes in the Newbrough green belt.

Northumberland County Council recommended the Choppington scheme for approval. WYG prepared and submitted the applications, acted as project manager and undertook public consultation for the scheme on behalf of Dysart Developments Ltd and Arch Developments.

A viability appraisal submitted with the application suggested that an affordable housing contribution would make the scheme unviable, so the council didn’t seek a contribution.

The planning committee at the council unanimously approved the 327 homes.

At Butt Bank in Newbrough, WYG submitted a proposal for 12 affordable and four open market homes on behalf of Partner Construction Ltd. A local family had bequeathed a dowry of £400,000, but it was restricted to providing affordable housing only within Newbrough.

The council’s planning officer recommended the scheme for approval, concluding that the “requirement for affordable housing in this location and the circumstances outlined in relation to this above outweighed the potential harm caused by the visual impact on the development”.

The permission is subject to a section 106 agreement to secure the provision of 75 per cent affordable rented accommodation for the lifetime of the development.

Costain wins A40 Westway contract

Transport for London has chosen engineering firm Costain to undertake investigation works and to plan the refurbishment of the A40 Westway dual carriageway and the Marylebone flyover.

The company has already contributed to the first phase of the project. This new £6 million contract is for a two further preparatory stages – a feasibility study and concept design.

Costain will undertake a number of investigations of the 21 structures along the 4.6km route that runs through Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham and the City of Westminster.

They will assess the condition of key parts of the existing structures and identify the potential scope for future refurbishment work.

Brentford build-to-rent scheme approved

The London Borough of Hounslow Council has granted Essential Living planning permission for 221 homes.

The scheme has been designed specifically for rent by HTA Architects. Essential Living is a developer and operator of homes for rent.

Under the plans, the existing Morrisons supermarket on Brentford High Street will be redeveloped into rental housing at various prices. A quarter of the homes will be offered as affordable housing.

The development also comprises a residents’ lounge, a rooftop terrace, a supermarket and a café. The 221 apartments will be spread across two blocks ranging from 10 to seven storeys in height, featuring studios, one, two and three-bedroom homes.

Welborne Garden Village receives funding

Fareham Borough Council has been awarded over £228,000 in capacity funding that aims to progress work to bring forward the Welborne Garden Village proposal.

The funding was confirmed in a letter to the council by the Homes and Communities Agency.

The capacity funding is one of a number of funding schemes available to support the government’s garden village initiative.

At the beginning of the year, the government announced its first garden village locations, including Fareham.

Seán Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, said: “The funding received can be used to progress the council’s Welborne Delivery Strategy to help bring forward the garden village proposal, and this is something we are very much focused on so we can provide much-needed homes and jobs for our residents and their families.”

Fifth of London’s music venues could close as business rates rise

Twenty-one of London’s grassroots music venues are at risk of closure because of the increase in business rates, suggests research commissioned by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

An additional 18 of the capital’s 94 venues are expected to experience significant financial challenges, it notes.

The research, compiled by Nordicity, an analysis consultancy, states that these 39 venues account for up to 530 jobs and £21.5 million of the capital’s economy.

The total business rates bill for music venues rose overnight by 26 per cent when the new charges came into effect on 1 April – from £3.2 million to £4 million, according to the research.

Venues most at risk include the Lexington and the Macbeth, both in Islington.

Khan said: “The way in which the business rates are evaluated for London’s grassroots music venues doesn’t make sense – it is completely unfair to bill a business based on the size of its building and not to take its profits into account. At the very least, I want to see Transitional Rate Relief being prioritised for small businesses like grassroots music venues, which contribute so much to London’s reputation as a powerhouse for culture and music.”

The mayor has also asked the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to hold an urgent meeting with his Night Czar, Amy Lamé, and the music industry to address the impact of business rates rises on the survival of music venues

Bath Quays development approved

Working on behalf of Bath and North East Somerset Council, with Penoyre & Prasad Architects, planning consultancy Turley has helped to secure planning and listed consent for the Bath Quays South redevelopment.

The scheme is a part of the wider Bath Quays project, which aims to realise the significant development and regeneration opportunities that exist as part of the Bath & Somer Valley Enterprise Zone in Bath, a World Heritage city.

The development features 9,500 square metres of new employment space, including a new office building of 5,017 square metres, up to 60 new homes, small-scale retail and leisure uses, and new public realm.

Under the plans, the grade II listed Newark Works will be refurbished and brought back into use separately by developer TCN to provide 4,503 square metres of small-scale creative workplace opportunities.

Work is expected to start this summer.

Harbour Lofts development approved

Poole Borough Council has granted planning permission to Acorn Property Group for nine apartments and a ground floor retail unit at Harbour Lofts.

The apartments will be a mix of one, two and three-bedroom apartments.

Acorn held “lengthy and detailed” consultation with Poole Borough Council in an attempt to achieve a high quality landmark building as the site is located in a conservation area.

11 April 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner