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Planning news - 25 May 2017

Published: Thursday, 25th May 2017

UK councils 'increasingly unable' to meet affordable housing demands, Value of new construction contracts down – new figures. And more stories...

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

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UK councils 'increasingly unable' to meet affordable housing demands

Councils in the UK are increasingly unable to meet demands for affordable housing, with 98 per cent now describing their need as either severe or moderate, according to new research.

The report, published by the Association for Public Service Excellence, and researched and written by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), considers 166 local authorities in Britain. It suggests that just one per cent of councils rate their need for affordable homes as not substantial.

Building Homes, Creating Communities notes the pressure on councils to meet the growing demand for affordable housing because of a lack of new homes being built, and that those that are being built are not affordable to those in need.

It looks at how the cumulative impact of existing housing and planning policies in England – such as the “continued deregulation and reform of the planning system” – has reduced the ability of councils to secure “genuinely affordable homes” for social rent.

Kate Henderson, chief executive at the TCPA, said the incoming government must make tackling the housing crisis a priority.

“An ambition to increase housing numbers is not enough; we need to ensure that the homes that are built are affordable and well designed.”

The study looks at how local authorities are taking a more active role in housing delivery through entrepreneurial approaches, such as setting up local housing.

Paul O’Brien, chief executive of APSE, said more council homes would help to support local economic growth, jobs and skills in the economy.

“Housing could be an effective driver for a renewed industrial strategy, but to achieve this we need to place local councils at the heart of delivery on housing need. That means the future government of whatever political make-up must provide the financial freedoms and flexibility for councils to deliver solutions to our chronic housing shortage.”

Building Homes, Creating Communities makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • The new government must invest in building new homes available for social rent to house essential low-paid workers whose employment underpins an economy on which we all depend. This should be in addition to the need for continued government support for low-cost home ownership, the rented sector and a range of affordable housing products.
  • The new government should continue to support the development of effective strategic planning as part of a clear and logical narrative of local plans in England.
  • The new government should ensure that the definition of an affordable home set out in the NPPF is based on a measure of income and not pegged to an arbitrary proportion of market price.
  • Consideration of local flexibility of fee recovery in the housing white paper is welcome; however, the new government must ensure that sufficient resources are available for the planning service in lower demand areas in order to maintain an adequate, minimum standard of delivery.

23 May 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Value of new construction contracts down – new figures

The value of new construction contracts commissioned in April fell by 16 per cent when compared with March 2017, new figures have suggested.

The latest Economic and Construction Market Review by industry analysts at Barbour ABI notes that £5.4 billion worth of construction contracts were commissioned in April, lower than in any month in 2016.

There were decreases in contract values across every major sector in the industry, except for infrastructure.

As the snap general election draws closer, funding for the NHS has been a major focus area for the political parties. Barbour ABI’s report suggests that medical and healthcare construction only generated £84 million worth of construction, the lowest for almost five years and considerably lower than its last peak in January 2016 of £319 million.

In the three months to April, the value of medical and healthcare contracts decreased by 21 per cent on the previous three months and was 41 per cent down on the same period in 2016.

The residential sector suffered a decrease of 30 per cent in April to £1.7 billion, after six months of generating contracts worth more than £2 billion each month.

The infrastructure sector saw some big contract wins, including the £300 million Thirlmere to West Cumbria water mains contract and the Avonmouth 33-megawatt waste-to-energy plant in Bristol, which has been valued at £252 million.

Michael Dall, lead economist at Barbour ABI, said the timing of Easter this year may have halted activity in April, however, the fall is larger than in other years meaning other factors could be at play.    

“As the residential sector failed to continue its strong performance in recent months, it only highlights the need for other sectors to pick up the slack, as a strong construction industry cannot rely on one sector to perform each month. Although a comparatively small sector, it was interesting that the value of contracts in the medical and healthcare sector fell to a five-year low in April. A sector that is largely dependent on capital investment from the government, these figures will ramp up the pressure on all political parties to respond to calls for additional capital spending in the NHS.”

Read the report. (pdf)

22 May 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Further delay as government ponders whether to guarantee Circuit of Wales project

Welsh ministers have accused the developers of the Circuit of Wales project of providing "inaccurate" information, as it faces further delays.

The company behind it, Heads of the Valleys Development Company, has asked for a £210 million taxpayer-funded guarantee – about half the cost of the scheme. The rest would be privately funded.

The firm said it had responded to every question on a "complex project with thousands of pages of information".

A decision on whether the project can go ahead or not was initially expected in March, but the government now says the process will take “a final few weeks”.

In a written answer to the Welsh Assembly this week, economy secretary Ken Skates said officials and external advisers “identified many material gaps and inaccuracies in the information contained within the Circuit of Wales application”.

Final submissions have now been received, which should allow an assessment of the plans to be completed.

"This further delay has meant the timescale asset in March has slipped," said Skates.

"I am advised that the remaining process will take a final few weeks, following which cabinet will consider the project as soon as is practicably possible."

In February, the minister said the plans would be looked at thoroughly as part of a due diligence process that would take four to six weeks.

Later, he said no decision could be made before mid-May because the company had not provided all the information required. It has been claimed that the track could create up to 6,000 jobs in one of Wales’s poorest areas.

The Circuit of Wales backers said in a statement: “The development is a complex project with thousands of pages of information and we have responded to every additional question asked by the Welsh Government during the due diligence process, a process that is complex and time-consuming and amounts to a forensic scrutiny of every aspect of the company's proposal.

“We look forward to a positive announcement in the coming weeks that will allow us to commence construction on a destination that is being fully funded by the private sector and will have a transformational impact on the South Wales valleys region and deliver investment and new full-time sustainable jobs."

18 May 2017
Roger Milne, The Planner

£1.4bn Brent Cross redevelopment plans submitted

A detailed planning application has been submitted to Barnet Council for a £1.4 billion regeneration of the Brent Cross Shopping Centre in North London.

The submission is in accordance with existing outline planning consent given in 2010 to developers Hammerson and Standard Life Investments.

Plans suggests the current centre – built in 1976 as the UK’s first out-of-town indoor shopping centre – will be refurbished with an extension to the site introducing more than 200 retail stores, 60 restaurants, a cinema, hotel accommodation and a new town square.

The bus station will be relocated and increased in size and public spaces improved, should planning permission be granted.

Brent Cross London is part of the £4.5 billion regeneration plan for Brent Cross and Cricklewood.

The scheme has been designed by architects Callison RTKL and Chapman Taylor. It could see Brent Cross Shopping Centre double in size to around two million square feet as well as provide 7,600 car parking spaces.

Community and stakeholder consultation was undertaken in the Brent Cross area in November 2016 and, on average, 88 per cent of people who commented on different aspects of the scheme said they supported proposals.

If approved, preliminary work on the development could start as early as summer 2018.

24 May 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Appeals round-up

A round-up of appeal decisions

Southampton university welcome sign 'not a precedent'

An inspector has allowed the erection of a 'sense of arrival' sign at the entrance to the University of Southampton, ruling that his decision should not be seen as a precedent, but was informed by the "immediate context" of the proposal.

Acoustic report does not cover nursery’s ‘peak noise events’

An inspector has granted permission to convert a home in Bromley into a day nursery, after ruling that although the appellant’s acoustic report did not cover ‘peak noises’ such as children shouting, noise disruption could still be mitigated through conditions.

Dudley pub will make way for convenience store after High Court ruling

Following a High Court ruling quashing a previous decision, an inspector has approved plans to replace a pub in Dudley with a convenience store despite local opposition, after deciding it would not threaten the vitality of other nearby businesses.

Flats approved in Plymouth despite parking concerns

In order to meet ‘urgent’ demand for housing in Plymouth, an inspector has granted permission for 59 apartments in Plymouth despite parking, outlook and design concerns raised by local residents.

Harm has edge over benefits of service station and 60-room hotel

An inspector refused outline plans for a motorway service station complex in Hampshire, after deciding that the scheme's benefits would not outweigh its harm to landscape character and a nearby heritage asset.

Dog grooming parlour would cause no more noise and odour than family pets

An inspector has granted retrospective permission for a dog grooming parlour in South Shields because the limited scale of the business meant it was no more likely to disrupt neighbours' living conditions than dogs kept as pets.

Nine-home scheme would ‘unacceptably urbanise’ area with housing supply of under three years

An inspector has refused a proposal for nine homes in Mid Sussex, after ruling that the scheme would cause unacceptable harm to the area’s character, despite a considerable housing supply shortfall.

Council defeated on off-site contribution for sheltered housing scheme

An inspector has granted permission for 30 sheltered housing apartments in Sutton, South London, with a reduced contribution to offsite affordable housing, after ruling that the figure required by the council would render the scheme unviable.

No evidence that HMOs caused ‘proliferation of lettings boards’

An inspector has allowed plans for a change of use to HMO in Pontypridd, after rejecting the local authority's ruling that HMOs are the main cause of ‘a proliferation of lettings boards’ and other harmful visual factors.

150cm high car park floodlights would harm green belt openness

An inspector has blocked a proposal for five freestanding floodlights to illuminate a car park near Warwick, ruling that they would harm green belt openness and finding no evidence of 'very special circumstances' required to make an exception.

Loss of employment land precludes housing scheme at bus depot

An inspector has blocked plans to build 14 homes in place of a bus garage and workshop in Worcestershire, ruling that the loss of employment land would be unacceptable after the appellant failed to demonstrate that the business is no longer viable.

22 May 2017
Matt Moody, The Planner

News round-up

A round up of planning news

140-room hotel approved in Oxford

Oxford City Council has approved a 140-room hotel that will be built on Paradise Street in central Oxford.

Dominvs Group will develop and operate the hotel under the Courtyard by Marriott brand and it will be arranged over six storeys, replacing the existing Cooper Callas building.

The scheme comprises food and beverage facilities for hotel guests and the local community, a roof garden and terrace.

Oxford City Council had identified the site for redevelopment in the West End Area Action Plan.

Commercial Ebbsfleet scheme approved

Ebbsfleet Development Corporation has approved a commercial scheme that aims to support a new garden city in Kent.

WYG secured outline planning permissions for the scheme, which is set to be the first large employment scheme in the borough of Gravesham for 10 years.

The development will provide up to 231,000 square feet of space, including commercial units and workshops to accommodate small and medium-sized local businesses. A business hub with office space and small food and drink outlets is also proposed for Ebbsfleet garden city development.

The scheme includes plans to redevelop the Northfleet Power Station and the project is expected to create 700 new jobs in a variety of roles.

Heritage mill redevelopment green-lit in Stroud

Stroud District Council has approved a heritage-led residential scheme in the Stroud Valleys in Gloucestershire.

The scheme, which has been designed by Assael Architecture, is seen as a catalyst for the regeneration of other disused industrial sites within the 13-mile conservation area that runs along the Stroud Valleys.

It includes the refurbishment and conversion of the grade II listed Ham Mill, an operational cloth mill from 1608, with a carpet manufacturer occupying the site from 1900 until 2000. The mill will be converted into 22 homes and 10,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor.

It also comprises the creation of 55 two-storey town houses and four apartment buildings, as well as commercial and community space.

Welborne Garden Village ecology consultancy appointed

Ecology consultancy Thomson Ecology has advised the developer of Welborne Garden Village, Hampshire, on environmental and animal surveys.

The garden village is expected to comprise 6,000 residential units, retail and employment space, school, community facilities and public green space.

A team from Thomson Ecology carried out an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) and prepared the Ecology Chapter of the Environmental Statement (ES) for the scheme for Buckland Development Limited.

The team also conducted a range of surveys including those for bats, badgers, birds, invertebrates, otters, water voles and reptiles, and a National Vegetation Classification (NVC) survey of woodland.

The final masterplan includes proposals for 78 hectares of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) which aims to provide recreational areas to mitigate the potential negative impacts of increased visitor numbers on off-site designated sites for nature conservation, especially those sites designated for wintering birds that could be disturbed by walkers and dogs.

The application has been submitted to the local council.

65-homes approved in South Devon

South Hams District Council has granted outline planning permission for 65 homes on a greenfield site in Chillington, a coastal village in South Devon.

The site lies on the edge of South Hams Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Permission was secured by Acorn Property Group’s Bristol office. The team said it undertook extensive landscape testing and modelling, and is committed to delivering a sensitive landscape scheme.

The team exchanged an Option Agreement for the land in 2015. They will now progress the detailed design and deal with the reserved matters.

23 May 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner