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Planning News - 15 June 2017

Published: Thursday, 15th June 2017

Alok Sharma appointed as planning minister, Khan plans to turn London into world’s leading smart city, Go-ahead for key Swansea city redevelopment. And more stories...

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

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Alok Sharma appointed as planning minister

The government has announced that Alok Sharma, the MP for Reading West, is the new housing and planning minister.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid confirmed the appointment on Twitter: "Congratulations to my friend @AlokSharma_RDG, our new Housing & Planning Minister @CommunitiesUK. Great to have him on board."

Sharma replaces Gavin Barwell, who lost his Croydon Central seat in the General Election. He tweeted: "Honoured to be appointed Minister of State for Housing & Planning to work on building the homes #Britain needs @CommunitiesUK."

Stephen Wilkinson, president of the RTPI, welcomed Sharma.

"The RTPI has a long history of working closely with previous ministers and looks forward to working with the new one. The delivery of affordable housing, built in the right places with the appropriate infrastructure and services, will be a key priority for the new minister. We look forward to working with him to ensure planners continue to play a central role in delivery."

The RTPI will be writing to Sharma to seek a meeting with him, as soon as possible, to discuss planning’s role in delivery and the implementation of the measures contained within the housing white paper, which was published in February this year.

Sharma is an Indian-born politician who has represented the reading West constituency since 2010. He retained the seat in this election with a majority reduced from 6,550 to 2,876.

A chartered accountant by profession, Sharma worked in corporate finance for Nikko Securities and then Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken before entering politics.

He has recently served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and been a member of the Science and Technology Select Committee and the Treasury Select Committee.

He is a vocal supporter of Heathrow Airport expansion and has campaigned to reduce overcrowding on trains from Reading to London by removing first class carriages.

According to the website They Work For You, Sharma typically votes with the party line on most issues, although he voted against an investigation into the Iraq War and for a wholly elected House of Lords. He has voted in favour of HS2, and charging market rents to high-earning council house tenants. He has generally voted against measures to prevent climate change.

Sharma was opposed to Brexit at the 2016 referendum.

13 June 2017
The Planner

General Election 2017: Javid keeps post as communities secretary

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that Sajid Javid will remain in post as the communities secretary, with Greg Clark staying on as secretary of state for the business, energy and industrial strategy.

Following last week’s general election, in which she lost her majority and is now building a government with the support of the Democratic Unionists Party (DUP), May has been reshuffling her cabinet.

Both Javid and Clark became secretaries of state of communities and energy respectively last year, when May took over from David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister.

Stephen Wilkinson, president of the RTPI, said: “We will continue to work constructively with the secretary of state [Javid] to ensure the homes, jobs and infrastructure communities across the UK need are delivered through the planning system. Developing and implementing a way to capture the rise in land value following public investment is critical to this delivery to ensure everyone benefits from development. I hope to discuss this and the other priorities outlined in our manifestos as soon as possible.”

The RTPI said it will write to the Javid to discuss planning’s role in delivery and the implementation of the measures contained within the housing white paper.

Michael Gove has been appointed as the environment, food and rural affairs secretary, with former environment secretary Andrea Leadsom becoming Leader of the House of Commons.

Philip Hammond is still the chancellor, while Chris Grayling also remains in post as the transport secretary.

Former housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell, who lost his 165 majority in Croydon Central, has been appointed as May’s chief of staff.

12 June 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Khan plans to turn London into world’s leading smart city

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced that digital technology and data lie at the heart of his vision to make London the world’s leading smart city.

As part of his plans, Khan has unveiled a new £1.6 million clean tech incubator called Better Futures. This aims to help 100 London-based small businesses to deliver low-carbon and clean tech products to tackle the causes and effects of climate change.

The scheme should be the start of a clean-tech cluster in the capital.

According to the a report by IESE Centre for Globalisation and Strategy, London is the leading European smart city. It is second in the global rankings behind New York.

Speaking at the launch of London Tech Week today (12 June), Khan said: “New technologies are having an enormous impact on our way of life – reshaping our societies, our economies and our culture.

“My ambition now is to harness the new technologies that are being pioneered right here to transform London into the world’s leading smart city.”

For the mayor, the potential for technology to tackle social, economic and environmental challenges is “immeasurable”.

“From air pollution and climate change to housing and transport, new technologies and data science will be at the heart of the long-term solutions to urban challenges.”

Khan added that recruitment has started on finding London’s first chief digital officer. Further to this, the mayor’s office is considering the potential for a London office of technology, where the capital’s boroughs would be able to meet to share best practice.

Also at the launch, Khan opened Plexal, based in Hackney Wick, Europe’s newest technology innovation destination, forming Europe’s biggest business innovation ecosystem at Here East.

London Tech Week concludes on 16 June, with events being held across the city.

12 June 2017
Laura Edgar, the Planner

Go-ahead for key Swansea city redevelopment

The first phase of the proposed Swansea Central scheme at the former St David's site has been given outline planning permission by city councillors.

The plans were submitted to the City and County of Swansea Council in March 2017.

The 11.5-hectare site north and south of Oystermouth Road will be developed by Rivington Land, the company that successfully bid for the land last year. It is proposing shops, a hotel, an indoor arena, flats, a cinema and associated new public open space. Also planned is a pedestrian bridge link across Oystermouth Road.

All existing buildings will be refurbished, altered or demolished except St Mary’s Church and St David’s Church.

Nearly 125,000 square metres of new development is involved, most no more than seven storeys high, although there is provision for one 13-storey tower block.

The council insists the proposals will act as another catalyst for the regeneration of the city centre.

The second phase will mean the demolition of the civic centre and the creation of a city beach, which may also include an aquarium and digital science centre.

8 June 2017
Roger Milne, The Planner

Appeals round-up

A round-up of appeal decisions

Permission for Airbnb let could cause permanent loss of housing stock

An inspector has refused permission for a Hammersmith flat to be let for more than 90 days per year on Airbnb via a change of use to Class C3 (bed and breakfast accommodation), ruling that it could lead to the loss of permanent housing stock in the borough.

Infill extension to 14th century cottage would harm ‘historic core’

An inspector has blocked plans for a small extension to a grade II* listed cottage in Dane End, Hertfordshire, ruling that the works would not respect the building’s original layout plan and would put its historic fabric at risk.

Rural coach house conversion ‘not isolated’, gets go ahead

An inspector has granted permission to convert a former coach house into a home, ruling that it would not be ‘isolated’, which the NPPF stresses is a reason for refusal, and so would be sustainably located.

Broader obligation preferred for split 28-home development

An inspector has ruled that two separate but adjoining housing schemes should be considered part of the same development, despite one having already been granted permission without planning obligation – thus requiring the appellant’s new Section 106 agreement to cover both schemes.

Unclear daycare centre plan can’t justify employment land loss

An inspector has blocked plans to convert a workshop into a community daycare centre in Richmond-upon-Thames, ruling that the ambiguous proposal had not persuaded him to allow the loss of employment land in an area with a short supply.

Convenience store can't replace pub’s social opportunities

An inspector has blocked plans to demolish an unprofitable pub and replace it with a convenience store, ruling that the pub had not been properly marketed, and its loss would be harmful to local people accustomed to meeting there.

Dilapidated barn conversion would be ‘effective rebuild’

An inspector has blocked plans to convert a former agricultural barn near St Albans into two homes, ruling that its dilapidated condition meant extensive construction work would be required, resulting in an ‘effective rebuild’ rather than a true conversion.

12 June 2017
Matt Moody, The Planner

News round-up

A round-up of planning news

New homes needed to stimulate ‘stagnating Scottish economy’

Building new homes could fill the economic gap left by large and soon-to-be-completed infrastructure projects, such as the Queensferry Crossing, Homes for Scotland has suggested.

This is what the trade body said in response to the EY Scottish ITEM Club summer update. It predicts that growth in the Scottish economy for 2017 will be half of that for the whole of the UK.

Nicola Barclay, chief executive at the Homes for Scotland, noted that the report emphasises the important of business and government working together to “de-risk investment, build confidence and drive economic growth”.

“As well as helping to deliver the biggest return in terms of skills, jobs, productivity and the other measures highlighted by the ITEM Club, building the homes of all types that are needed to meet the requirements of our growing population also offers vital social benefits such as improved health and education outcomes.”

A supportive policy framework that encourages housing investment and development is needed, enabling Scotland to reap the economic and social rewards, Barclay concluded.

New dwellings in Wales up by 2%

During 2016-17 the number of new homes started in Wales totalled 6,871 – an increase of 2 per cent compared with the previous year.

This is according to reports by local authority building inspectors and the National House Building Council.

The statistics suggest that the number of new dwellings completed fell by 1 per cent to 6,833 in 2016-17.

Other statistics collated include:

  • 5,590 new dwellings were completed by the private sector. This accounts for 82 per cent of all completions during the period.
  • 1,243 new social sector dwellings were completed, with registered social landlords responsible for 98 per cent of them. The remaining 2 per cent were built by local authorities.

More information about new housebuilding can be found on the Welsh Government website (pdf).

Offshore wind could power 20m homes by end of decade, says report

The UK’s offshore wind capacity can be expanded to almost five times its current level by 2030, powering 20 million homes, suggests a recent report.

Unleashing Europe’s Offshore Wind Potential, by independent consultants BVG Associates, suggests that a total capacity of at least 25 gigawatts (GW) can be installed in UK waters by the end of the next decade, which is enough to power more than 20 million homes – 75 per cent of all households in the UK.

The reports says that would see the UK retain its global lead in offshore wind, with Germany remaining in second place with 14GW by 2030.

This can be achieved by using larger offshore wind turbines, each with a capacity of 13 megawatts (MW), 5MW more than the current largest, according to the report.

Trade body WindEurope commissioned the report.

Giles Dickson, CEO at WindEurope, said: “The report confirms that the cost reduction seen in offshore wind over the last two years could translate into significant volumes of clean, competitive and reliable power for the UK by 2030. The UK should factor this into their long-term energy planning. We need to see a deployment of at least 4GW per year in Europe for offshore wind to maintain its cost reduction trend. This would allow offshore wind to be competitive with conventional power before very long.”

RHS Garden Bridgewater approved

Plans for the £30 million RHS Garden Bridgewater will move forward after communities secretary Sajid Javid decided not to call in the green belt development.

Salford City Council’s planning committee approved the development in principle in May, but had Javid had to consider the plans because of their green belt location – the former Worsley New Hall.

The plans for the garden include designs for a new welcome building, by architects Hodder+Partners and an 11-acre walled garden designed by landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith.

City mayor Paul Dennett said: “RHS Garden Bridgewater will not only bring the historic grounds of Worsley New Hall back to life, but will also create jobs and business opportunities for the local area.

“The fifth national garden will be a national and a community asset, a key example of green infrastructure in Greater Manchester, creating a real public amenity within our green belt.”

Call for sites issued in Dover

Dover District Council has issued a call for sites as reviews its local plan.

The council is undertaking a Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) to support the preparation of a new local plan.

The HELAA aims to identify a future supply of land in the district that is suitable, available and achievable for housing and economic development uses over the local plan period to 2037.

As part of the HELAA, the council has issued a call for sites for a period of eight weeks, which closes on 7 August.

The form to submit a site for consideration can be found on the Dover District Council website.

13 June 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner