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Planning news - 27 July 2017

Published: Thursday, 27th July 2017

SME construction growth slows, Night czar offers recipe for saving London’s LGBT venues, Welsh minister clarifies aspects of mandatory regional planning regime. And more stories...

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

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The small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) section of the construction sector grew in the second quarter of 2017, but at a slower rate than the first three months of the year, according to a Federation of Master Builders (FMB) trade survey.

The second quarter of 2017 was the 17th consecutive quarter that has seen positive growth.

The FMB’s State of Trade Survey for Q2 2017 also found that the almost one in two construction SMEs predict a rise in workloads in the coming three months. Just 9 per cent think workload will decrease.

Eighty-three per cent of builders think that material prices will rise over the next six months.

Other statistics from the survey include:

  • 60 per cent of construction SMEs are struggling to hire bricklayers;
  • 57 per cent are struggling to hire carpenters and joiners;
  • 47 per cent are struggling to hire plumbers; and
  • 62 per cent expect salaries and wages to increase over the next six months.

Brian Berry, chief executive at the FMB, said: “Rising material prices and salaries could be starting to dampen growth among construction SMEs. However, it is encouraging to see that the sector has continued to grow despite the recent snap general election and the resulting hung Parliament.”

He said the construction SME sector is particularly vulnerable to any dips in consumer confidence that might come from periods of political uncertainty and therefore homeowners may have decided to delay any spending on new extension or loft conversions. This would account for the slowdown in growth seen in the second quarter of 2017, he said.

Most construction SMEs are struggling to recruit key tradespeople and there are shortages in other trades, such as plumbers and plasterers, starting to creep up, he noted.

Going forward, as Brexit is negotiated, the construction has urged ministers to “bear in mind their strategic housebuilding and infrastructure targets before pulling up the drawbridge on EU migrant workers”.

State of Trade Survey for Q2 2017 can be found on the FMB website (pdf).

* In Q2 2017, 349 construction SMEs responded to the survey.

24 July 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Planners can take the lead in arresting the decline of London’s LGBT venues and protecting its cultural spaces, according to London’s night czar.

A suite of tools already available to planners, combined with new tools that are being readied for introduction to the capital may be enough to halt an alarming 58 per cent fall in LGBT venues in London over the last decade.

“I knew it was bad but I didn’t realise it was that bad,” Amy Lamé said at the first birthday celebrations for Planning Out, the LGBTQ+ planning networking group, at City Hall.

Citing a new UCL report into London’s LGBTQ+ cultural infrastructure (pdf), she said: “Actually venues are thriving. They are successful businesses […] This report shows that LGBT venues are closing because of external measures – development, lack of safeguarding measures in the planning system, business rates, change of use by landlords (see below: Reasons for LGBT venue closures).”

Particularly at risk, the report found, were venues catering to women and Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.

The closures have also come against against a general backdrop of losses of night-time venues across the UK: over a similar period, 44 per cent of the UK’s nightclubs have closed (2005-2015) and 25 per cent of UK pubs (2001-2016).

According to Lamé, “planning policy in London Plan and local plans have a really important role to play” in arresting the decline and protecting venues. Indeed, the London Plan’s Draft SPG – Culture and the night-time economy (pdf) states: “Facilities that meet the needs of particular groups (for example, LGBT+ community) should be protected. The loss of these facilities should be resisted.”

Planners already have many of the tools available, Lamé argued. Citing the example of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, London’s oldest gay venue which she campaigned to protect, the night czar listed the steps that had saved it from development: first it had been registered as an asset of community value; then listed; then reclassed as a sui generis building. At this point the owner gave up plans to demolish and redeveloped he site as a hotel and agreed to support its continued use as an LGBT venue.

Reasons for LGBT venue closures

  • 2% became a different LGBTQ+ venue.
  • 30% continued to operate, sometimes under a different name, as a non-LGBTQ+ specific venue.
  • 21% influenced by development ,with 6% linked to large-scale transport infrastructure development and 12% to mixed-use or residential development.
  • 6% of closed venues have been demolished, and 2% remain derelict following closure.
  • 9% lease renegotiations, frequently featuring unfavourable terms or disproportionate rent increases.
  • 6% business-related financial issues, including business rate increases and brewery price
  • 5% licensing dispute or a license revoked.
  • 2% due to a choice made by the owner/manager
  • 25% no information available
  • 10% of venue closures affected women’s or BAME-specific LGBTQ+ venues.

Source: LGBTQ+ Cultural Infrastructure in London: Night Venues, 2006–present

However, Lamé identified the ‘agent of change’ principle as the tool that could be most effective at arresting closures - many of which are due to complaints from residents of new residential developments. The agent of change makes it incumbent on the newcomer to an environment to make the necessary adaptations to that environment, not vice-versa. London’s draft night-time economy SPG has an entire chapter dedicated to agent of change.

“Lets build on agent of change principles,” said Lamé. “It’s coming into the London Plan. It was in the government’s housing white paper. It’s agreed upon across all political spectrum. If at all possible bring that into your plans.”

"Put culture front and centre of your thinking when considering planning applications"

The former broadcaster and Mayor of Camden went on to share her own five point plan for ‘pubcos’ and planners to follow to protect LGBTQ+ venues specifically:

  1. A rainbow flag should be displayed on the side of the venue
  2. It should be marketed as an LGBT venue
  3. It will provide a welcoming and safe environment  for all
  4. Management and staff should be LGBT-friendly
  5. Programming should be LGBT-focused.

“It’s voluntary,” she conceded. “However, if included in a 106 agreement it has the potential to become legally enforceable…”

Lamé finished by urging the audience to “put culture at the front and centre of your thinking when considering planning applications. Does the application impact our pre-existing cultural infrastructure? Or does it create new cultural infrastructure? I urge you to help us to make London have the most diverse and vibrant nightscape in the world.”

24 July 2017
Simon Wicks, The Planner

Cabinet secretary for local government Mark Drakeford has confirmed further details of the promised legislation that will see mandatory regional working between Wales’s 22 councils on issues such as economic development, strategic land use planning and strategic transport.

Drakeford said that under the provisions of the new Local Government Bill these services will all be undertaken in three large regions: North Wales, Central and South West Wales and South East Wales. 

There will be scope for sub-regional working as part of these larger groupings.

The minister said councils would also be required to work regionally on other services such as education improvement, social services, additional learning needs and other aspects of land-use planning but have more flexibility on the footprint in which they work together.

Certain specific functions would have to be undertaken regionally, for example, social services being aligned with the local health board boundaries.

The administration has also signalled that there will be a root-and-branch review of town and community councils.

A panel chaired by former assembly members Gwenda Thomas and Rhodri Glyn-Thomas will conduct the evidence-based review. The review is expected to start this summer and will take a year.

20 July 2017
Roger Milne, The Planner

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has outline 10 principles that aim to help the capital ‘become a trailblazing city at night‘ as he pledges to plan for life at night in the same way the city does for the day.

Khan said the plan would enable London to become a leading 24-hour global city, competing with Berlin, Tokyo and New York.

The 10 principles focus on building a night-time culture that “serves the needs of all Londoners and visitors to the capital”. These include:

  • Be a global leader.
  • Promote vibrant forms of culture, leisure, retail and service activity.
  • Take account of future global and domestic trends in leisure, migration, technology, employment and economics.

Night Czar Amy Lamé and the new Night Time Commission chaired by Philip Kolvin QC, which will include planners, licensing experts, venue owners, the police, and leaders of major cultural organisations, will work to bring Khan’s plans to fruition.

Lamé and Kolvin will support local authorities to plan for life at night in their planning, licensing, culture, regeneration, community safety and economic strategies to bring a diverse night-time culture to every borough. They will also work with cultural organisations, international stakeholders and investors to open up more opportunity for London after-hours.

Khan’s 24-hour vision seeks to address challenges facing the prosperity of the capital’s night-time economy, including the supply of workers from across the European Union and rising business rates.

Kolvin said the vision gives the commission the guiding principles needed to ensure that decisions around planning, licensing and building for the future make the night-time economy a priority.  

The mayor’s 24-hour vision can be found on the Greater London Authority website.

26 July 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A round-up of planning appeals.

Javid grants housing permission after West Sussex call-in

Communities secretary Sajid Javid has approved a 400-home development in West Sussex after deciding that the local authority could not demonstrate a supply of housing sites.

Javid backs inspector on Swindon housing scheme

The communities secretary has granted permission for a 103-home scheme near Swindon after deciding the local authority has failed to demonstrate a supply of housing sites.

Communications company wins one kiosk appeal but loses seven

A company which launched eight appeals against refusals by the London Borough of Islington to install payphone kiosks has had one of them upheld and seven dismissed.

Golf club wins permission to build homes

Outline planning permission has been granted to build 13 homes at Sonning Golf Club after an inspector decided that Wokingham Borough Council had underestimated housing need.

Inspector dismisses Swansea concerns over 'undesirable precedent' 

A proposal to replace a detached barn and livestock shelter in Reynoldston, Swansea has been granted planning permission after an inspector considered its impact on an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Inspector dismisses Cornish homes and primary school development

Plans for a primary school and 190 homes at Wadebridge, Cornwall have been rejected after conflicting with an emerging neighbourhood plan with the council demonstrating it had allocated enough land for homes.

Inspector backs cycle parking in Greenwich development

An inspector has upheld an appeal to provide parking facilities for cyclists in Greenwich, south London.

Javid approves Milton Keynes shopping centre redevelopment

The secretary of state has granted planning permission to a redevelopment within the Intu Milton Keynes shopping centre.

Business park sign approved so the public can see it

A totem sign aimed at attracting custom to a business park in Gloucester has been granted planning permission after an inspector ruled that people would need to see it.

Inspector grants granny flat approval

Planning permission has been granted to a Keyworth householder to demolish a garage and replace it with a granny annexe.

Inspector orders Enfield to pay costs after unreasonable behaviour

The London Borough of Enfield has been ordered to partially pay the costs of an appellant for unreasonable behaviour that led to “unnecessary and wasted expense”.

Cambridgeshire service centre housing development allowed

An appeal has been granted to develop 180 homes with open space and a children’s play area near a key service centre in Cambridgeshire after the council persistently under-delivered housing. 

Development allowed on edge of historic Chartist settlement

Planning permission has been granted to build 27 homes and associated infrastructure on the edge of one of the original Chartist settlements.

Javid overturns hybrid scheme for neighbourhood plan conflict

Sajid Javid has rejected an inspector’s recommendation and blocked a hybrid scheme near Buckingham after finding it conflicted with a neighbourhood plan.

24 July 2017
Huw Morris, The Planner

A round-up of planning news.

RTPI chief executive announces resignation

Trudi Elliott, chief executive of the RTPI, has announced that she is standing down from the position.

Elliott, who has led the organisation since 2011, gave her resignation to the Board of Trustees at the Institute’s June board meeting.

In a bulletin released last week to RTPI members, board chair Graham Stallwood said that Elliott had stepped down with no new position on this horizon, but that she was looking forward to returning to living full-time in the West Midlands, where she is based.

Councils launch consultation on Rugeley Power Station site

Lichfield District Council and Cannock Chase District Council have launched a joint consultation on the future of the Rugeley Power Station site.

The power station, which straddles the border between the two councils, was decommissioned in 2016.

The consultation asks residents from across both areas how the site should be used. The Rugeley Power Station Development Brief Supplementary Planning Document proposes developing the land for a minimum of 800 homes and employment use, along with supporting infrastructure, including a school, open space, play facilities and public art.

Ian Pritchard, Lichfield District Council’s cabinet member for economic growth, development & environment, said: “The site is ideally located for a new housing and business development with its links to Rugeley and Lichfield, while being close to open countryside and with easy access to two railway stations.

“We will share the representations we get between both councils, and will consider all the comments together and feed them into our plans for the area.”

When adopted, the Rugeley Power Station Supplementary Planning Document will sit alongside both district councils’ local plans and help inform development proposals for the site.

The consultation can be found here.

London council secures affordable housing

The London Borough of Southwark has secured the return of nine more designated affordable housing units to affordable housing use following litigation in the High Court.

The nine flats are part of the Signal Building development at Newington Causeway in Elephant and Castle.

A section 106 agreement required the flats be used as affordable housing, but the defendants said a complex scheme of interconnected transactions freed the flats from the agreement. This would see the flats let out at market rent.

The 15 leasehold owners and five banks conceded the claim and consented to orders declaring that the flats were bound by a planning obligation designating them as affordable housing. The High Court judge approved the declarations.

NHS Property Services secures planning permission

NHS Property Services has secured planning consent on appeal for 290 new homes on the former St George’s hospital site in Hornchurch.

The consent includes the provision of 15 per cent affordable housing.

NHS Property Services is currently in the process of disposing of the property to generate funds to reinvest in the NHS.

A 1.6-hectare section of the 11.7-hectare site is being kept for a new 3,000 square metre health facility.

Marketing has started to find a buyer for the site. Savills has been appointed to handle the sale.

Cardiff pub to be converted

A disused Cardiff pub will be converted into terraced homes after Cardiff Council approved the scheme.

Planning permission was secured by planning consultancy WYG’s Cardiff planning team. Gower (Cathays) Limited instructed the team to provide planning and urban design support after a previous scheme was refused following strong opposition.

WYG said it supported Grasshopper PR with re-engaging the community on a redesign that is sensitive to the former pub’s heritage and the area’s character.

The scheme comprises 10 family homes in the Cathays area of the city.

Government publishes plans for UK aviation

The government has launched a consultation on how the aviation sector should respond to a range of technological, security, environment and customer service challenges.

The consultation considers new forms of compensation for noise or designing targets for noise reduction, and how to make the best use of existing capacity at all airports around the country.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “Our new aviation strategy will look beyond the new runway at Heathrow and sets out a comprehensive long-term plan for UK aviation. It will support jobs and economic growth across the whole of the UK.

“Our vision puts the passenger at the heart of what we do, but also recognises the need to address the impacts of aviation on communities and the environment.”

The consultation can be found on the UK Government website.

Grayling backs Crossrail 2

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has said he is a ‘supporter’ of Crossrail 2 as he and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announce they will look at what can be learned from Crossrail 1 ahead of the Autumn Budget.

A joint statement from the Department for Transport and the mayor’s office states that last week Grayling and Khan had a “productive” meeting to discuss the way forward for Crossrail 2.

The two have agreed that “there is no doubt” that London needs new infrastructure to support its growth and ensure that it continues to boost productivity and attract investment to the UK.

In the coming months they will examine ways to improve affordability while maximising the key benefits of the scheme, learning lessons from Crossrail 1, ahead of the Autumn Budget, says the statement.

25 July 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner