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Planning News 29 June 2017

Published: Thursday, 29th June 2017

Raynsford review aims for ‘fairer’ planning system, Government urged to press ahead with infrastructure plans, Help to Buy helps more than 240,000 first-time buyers. And more stories...

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

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A root and branch review of the English planning system aims to see how it can be made ‘fairer, better resourced and capable of tackling the major challenges which confront the nation’.

The review, led by former Labour housing and planning minister Nick Raynsford, has been motivated by “widespread concerns” that the planning process is unable to deliver places that successfully balance the needs of economy, environment and community wellbeing.

Housing and climate change were identified as particular areas where the current planning system was failing to meet the needs of communities.

Launching a call for evidence, Mr Raynsford - who is also president of the Town and Country Planning Association - said: “More than ever we need a planning system which commands the confidence of the public and delivers outcomes of which we can feel proud.

“After too many years of piecemeal changes and tinkering with the system, we need to go back to first principles and seek to develop a practical blueprint for the future of planning in England. That is the objective of this review.”

The review is kicking off with a formal call for evidence and the promise of a series of ‘engagement events’ over the next 18 months – with the first in York on 11 July.

Overall, the Raynsford review has three aims:

  • To engage constructively all those interested in the built environment about how we can deliver better place making through a fairer and more effective planning system
  • To set out a positive agenda following the outcomes of the general election and planning hiatus
  • To set out a new vision for planning in England and rebuild trust in the planning process by communicating with the public as well as professionals.

Raynsford is being supported in his work by a ‘task force’ that includes:

  • Lord Kerslake, former head of the civil service and chair of Peabody
  • Kate Henderson, chief executive of the TCPA
  • Anna Rose, incoming head of the Planning Advisory Service
  • Yvonne Rydin, professor of planning, environment and public policy at the Bartlett School
  • Chris Shepley, former chief planning inspector for England and Wales
  • Tom Fyans, interim chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England

Task force member – and Planner columnist – Chris Shepley said: “There has been a period of rapid change in the planning system but this has not always been accompanied by a strategy or vision for its future. We need a longer-term focus in order to produce a strong and stable planning system.”

The RTPI said it supported the review. Planning policy officer Harry Burchill, said: “The effective and efficient functioning of the planning system is the cornerstone of a fair and prosperous society. The RTPI welcomes this review and is pleased to contribute its policy and research expertise which demonstrates how better planning can contribute to a range of challenges, notably the housing crisis.”

Read more about the Raynsford Review on the TCPA website

27 June 2017
Simon Wicks, The Planner

Lord Adonis and three business organisations have called on the government to progress a number of key infrastructure projects, including a third Heathrow runway, HS3 and flood defence infrastructure.

Speaking at the Institute of Civil Engineers, the chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission said Britain’s “historic weakness” has been to under-invest in infrastructure.

Adonis said Brexit must not lead to “dither and delay” on the key infrastructure challenges facing the country.

“We need to press on with decisions on Heathrow, HS2 to the north of England, new electricity generating capacity and radical improvements to digital communications, to underpin jobs and economic growth.”

He has published a list of the 12 immediate priorities on which ministers must make progress during the next year.

“Rapid progress in the next year on these top 12 major projects and priorities is an acid test of the government’s commitment to the ‘jobs first Brexit’ which the chancellor, Philip Hammond, argued for last week.

“All of these have been agreed in principle, but require decisive action to get them moving in the new Parliament. They ought to be at the top of ministers’ in trays, and they ought not to linger there a day more than necessary.”

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have all come out in support of Adonis.

Dr Adam Marshall, director-general at the BCC, said both small and large infrastructure projects give real confidence to business communities across the UK.

“They ‘crowd in’ additional business investment, generate skilled jobs, and support stronger two-way trade with customers and suppliers all across the world. The best possible Brexit deal won’t be worth the paper it is written on if we don’t have the right infrastructure to support business growth here at home.”

Josh Hardie, deputy director-general at the CBI, said the government and the country itself has “golden opportunity to transform the backbone” of the UK.

“But this once-in-a-generation moment to fix a cornerstone of our economy can only be a success if words are turned into action, if pens are put down and diggers are started up. From Heathrow to HS2, we can build our way to a new era of growth, productivity and shared prosperity, so it’s absolutely vital the government doesn’t put the brakes on.”

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the FSB, added: “Day to day, small businesses rely particularly on a well-maintained local road network. For flagship projects, procurement should be opened up to small businesses. Taxpayers will want to know their money is backing the UK’s hardworking entrepreneurs. Improving broadband, delivering the Northern Powerhouse and investment in flood defences are all non-negotiable in this Parliament.”

The top 12 priorities are:

  1. A third runway at Heathrow, including a House of Commons vote on any finalised national policy statement on airport capacity in the south-east of England no later than May 2018.
  2. HS2: Introduce hybrid bill for phase 2a (Birmingham to Crewe) and publish route for phase 2b (Crewe to Manchester, and Birmingham to Leeds) by the end of July 2017.
  3. HS3: By the end of 2017 the government should publish a single integrated plan for the first phase.
  4. Crossrail 2: Publish a plan that has been agreed with the Mayor of London for the funding and phased construction.
  5. Eastern crossings of the River Thames, including taking a decision on planning permission for the Silvertown Tunnel by the end of October 2017.
  6. Flexible power systems, including publishing its plans for smart energy systems by September 2017.
  7. Plans for renewable energy at least to 2025 to be agreed by October 2017, and long-term goals to be published in the Autumn Budget.
  8. Decarbonisation of energy strategy to be published by October 2017.
  9. Hinkley Point C, including publishing a strategy for replacing services provided by the UK’s membership of Euratom to support delivery of the nuclear power station.
  10. Broadband and mobile – the government should publish its final broadband Universal Service Obligation decision by the end of 2017.
  11. 5G, including setting out a comprehensive plan for rolling it out.
  12. Water and flood defence infrastructure, including the government publishing its proposals for the management of surface water flooding by the end of 2017.

26 June 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

At least 240,000 first-time buyers have been able to purchase a home using Help to Buy, according to government statistics.

The Help to Buy: ISA has in total helped more than 960,000 people save towards their own home, according to the government.

The statistics also suggest that at least 285,000 completions have taken place using one or more of the Help to Buy schemes, with 90 per cent of them taking place outside of London. More than 240,000 first-time buyers have purchased their first home using the schemes.

The Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme has seen more than 120,000 completions. This scheme offers buyers up to 20 per cent of a newly built home’s costs so they only need a 5 per cent deposit.

Alok Sharma, housing and planning minister said: “As set out in our housing white paper, we’re committed to helping those aspiring homebuyers currently locked out of the market to turn their dreams of home ownership into reality.

“These figures show that Help to Buy: Equity Loan continues to be hugely successful, supporting thousands of households across the country to take their first step onto the housing ladder.”

According to the statistics, the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the South West have seen the most property completions using the Help to Buy: ISA.

In the capital, 3,249 buyers used the London Help to Buy equity loan scheme between February 2016 and March 2017 to buy their own home.

The average house price across the schemes is £193,826, which is below the average UK house price.

Help to Buy: ISA statistics can be found on the UK Government website.

26 June 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Transport for London (TfL) needs to accelerate its transition from landowner to property developer if it is to meet its ambitious homebuilding targets, a new report by the London Assembly’s housing committee has stressed.

The transport body – a major London landowner – has set itself the target of starts on sites by 2020 to deliver 10,000 homes, more than 50 per cent of them affordable. Describing this goal as a “sprint”, the London Assembly’s housing committee has warned that it must take “radical” steps if it wants to succeed.

Among the recommendations made in ‘Homes down the track – how TfL can use its land to build more homes, more quickly’ (pdf) are the quick creation of pilot schemes for small builders and the appointment of a property professional to its board.

The committee’s report also recommends that TfL works more closely with London mayor Sadiq Khan and the 32 London boroughs to streamline procurement of builders and speed up planning permissions. “TfL has set itself the target of starts on sites by 2020 to deliver 10,000 homes,” said the Assembly’s housing committee former chair Andrew Boff. “Our evidence suggests this is something of a sprint, and we don’t think it’s going to make it unless it takes some more radical steps. Either way, we need to be clear about the trade-offs TfL’s making, to be sure its land is delivering the best deal for Londoners.”

Transport for London is one of the capital's biggest landowners, with some 5,700 acres – 1.5 per cent of London’s footprint – in its portfolio. Much of this is in operational use, however, and it is unclear how much is developable. The report asserts that many of the sites, though well located next to transport hubs, are small and difficult to access.

TfL’s own analysis has identified a set of around 100 sites from a shortlist of 400 that have rapid development potential. Collectively, they cover approximately 300 acres. But the committee has expressed concern through the report that the transport body has not been working closely enough with other public bodies and landowners, or with builders.

In particular, the report notes the potential for TfL to support small builders and help many of London’s small building firms step up from the likes of loft conversions to full housebuilding. TfL could also be working with, for example, Network Rail, which owns land next to TfL sites and which has its own property development plan.

The report notes that TfL also has the opportunity to “create public value through visionary schemes which will stand the test of time”. But it must take more steps to bring on board the expertise to develop its available land in line with this goal. “Journeying in that direction takes time and money, and implies organisational change with long-lasting consequences,” the report says. Overall, the report makes eight recommendations to TfL.

In the first instance, the transport body needs the London Land Commission to analyse and classify its land in order to identify suitable sites.

It must then:

  • work with the Mayor of London and the London to “align development objectives for each site”
  • build relationships with relevant boroughs, as planning authorities, to accelerate delivery and create certainty
  • ensure effective joint working between its property development and operational and technical staff
  • consider whether it needs to add a property professional to its board membership
  • work with the Mayor to consider a more rapid approach to procurement on a first set of sites
  • prioritise identifying and analysing smaller sites so that more of them come forward quickly
  • put together a pilot approach to working with smaller builders by the end of 2017
  • appoint a small builder champion to its property development team.

Read the report.

22 June 2017
Simon Wicks, The Planner

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has published long-term plans for the capital’s transport network, which includes expanded and more frequent services to help unlock housing developments.

The draft strategy features investment in new and improved services for passengers as well as a focus on walking and cycling.

Khan has also pledged to make the entire transport system zero emission by 2050; provide new tube trains with more reliable services; extensions to the Tube, DLR and Overground and green buses.

Crossrail 2 features, with the draft strategy outlining how Crossrail 2 is essential to the capital’s future economy, jobs and homes.

As the capital’s population is expected to rise to 10.5 million people by 2041, he says it is vital that action is taken to avoid growing congestion, overcrowding, pollution and ill health.

The draft strategy proposes:

  • Investment across the entire tube network – the completion of new signalling and more frequent services on the Metropolitan, District, Circle and Hammersmith & City lines. Improvements on the Jubilee, Northern and Victoria lines so they offer “one of the most frequent services in the world” by 2023. Modernisation of the Piccadilly, Central, Bakerloo and Waterloo & City lines will begin by the mid-2020s, including new trains and more frequent services.
  • Expansion of the network - the Elizabeth line will open next year. Transport for London (TfL) will take forward extensions to the Bakerloo line to Lewisham and beyond, the London Overground to Barking Riverside, the Northern line to Battersea and the DLR across the Thames to Thamesmead. New river crossings in East London, such as the public transport-focused Silvertown Tunnel, will “deliver significant boosts to the capital”.
  • Transform London’s streets and cut car journeys by three million each day – The Healthy Streets Approach will change the face of London’s streets, making them better places to walk and cycle, cleaner, safer and quieter. There will be a record investment in walking and cycling, Liveable Neighbourhoods, and building developments designed around walking, cycling and public transport.
  • Working to ensure London’s entire transport system is zero emission by 2050 – TfL will work to make London’s entire road transport system zero emission by 2050 at the latest. This is proposed to be delivered through a phased approach, following widespread public consultation and building on the forthcoming introduction of the ultra-low emission zone and the T-charge.
  • Creating a London suburban rail metro service to radically improve rail travel in outer London and maintain investment in London’s bus network to keep it one of the finest in the world and fully zero emission by 2037
  • Improving accessibility across London to enable all Londoners, including disabled and older people, to travel spontaneously and independently.

Khan said that as London continues to grow it is vital to take a bold approach to ensure that the transport network works for all.

“We simply cannot afford to take the same old approach to travel as our growing population puts increasing pressure on our network,” he said.

“While we are delivering affordable, reliable and accessible transport through the improved services and new infrastructure that we need, we’re also changing the whole way we look at transport as a whole.

“Only by focusing on active travel, providing efficient zero-emission transport and reducing our dependency on cars, can we improve the health of Londoners, support economic growth, deliver homes and jobs, and make our city an even better place to live.”

Annabel Osborne, RTPI London chair, said: ‘We are pleased to see the mayor using transport to unlock areas for new housing – affordable housing is the number one issue for Londoners. The institute has been calling on governments, at all levels, to use infrastructure to act as a catalyst to unlock large scale housing, jobs and economic growth.”

Khan’s draft transport strategy is open to public consultation until 2 October 2017. It can be found on the TfL website.

22 June 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A round-up of planning news

Highlands affordable housing fund

Scottish housing minister Kevin Stewart has announced a £10 million fund to build affordable homes across the Highlands.

The Highland Infrastructure Fund is a partnership between the Scottish Government and the Highland Council. It aims to support and accelerate the delivery of affordable housing across the region.

It forms part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal, which also includes plans to improve transport networks and digital connectivity.

The government will provide £9 million to the pot, while the council will contribute £1 million.

Using the fund, the council should be able to provide support in the form of either an infrastructure grant or loan to facilitate housing sites to moved forward to construction.

170 homes approved in East London

The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham has approved a neighbourhood renewable scheme comprising 170 homes.

The site, known as Beacontree Heath, is in Dagenham, near the grade II listed Art Deco Dagenham Civic Centre.

The approval, which is subject to section 106 agreements being finalised, also includes a replacement bus terminus and retail space for a local pharmacy.

With support from the Greater London Authority (GLA) for the project, developer Countryside submitted a plan that will comprise 124 privately owned homes (82 apartments and 42 houses) and 46 shared-ownership apartments.

Lancashire residents oppose Tory fracking plan

Two out of three Lancashire residents oppose the Conservative manifesto proposal to allow non-fracking drilling without planning permission, suggests a YouGov survey.

Friends of the Earth commissioned the survey of Lancashire residents.

The Conservative manifesto featured proposals to allow fracking companies with exploration licences to carry out drilling for shale gas under permitted development, meaning planning permission would not be required.

Sixty-six per cent of respondents are opposed to this proposal, with 46 per cent strongly opposed, according to the survey.

Friends of the Earth has called on the government to drop controversial deregulatory fracking and non-fracking drilling proposals, implement an immediate ban on all fracking and invest in renewable energy.

Cornish jail regeneration plans green-lit

Cornwall Council has approved plans that aim to transform the Civil and Naval wings of the grade II listed Bodmin Jail into 63-bedroom hotel with a car park.

The project involves alteration, extension, repair and restoration of the building. The planning and listed building consent submission was led by Montagu Evans, on behalf of developer Mallino Development Ltd.

The remains of the jail’s former hospital wing will be demolished and replaced with a new building containing a ‘Dark Walk’ visitor attraction, which will expand an existing visitor attraction and explain the history of the jail, Bodmin and Cornwall. A second new car park will be provided on land near the jail, to be used by visitors of the ‘Dark Walk’ attraction.

Application submitted for Bristol’s MacArthur’s yard

The Guinness Partnership has submitted an application to the city council to redevelop MacArthur’s Yard on Bristol harbourside.

Plans for the site, which has been vacant for over 20 years, include the development of 147 homes, mixed commercial workspace and a café.

The Guinness Partnership provides homes for affordable rent and sale across England.

Built environment consultancy Nash Partnership provided the planning, urban design and architectural work.

Extensive discussions with key stakeholders and the local community have helped to shape and evolve detailed planning and design work to ensure that the tone of the development complements and enhances the local environment, Nash Partnership said in a statement.

27 June 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner