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Planning News - 10 August 2017

Published: Thursday, 10th August 2017

Report: Sharma's top priorities, International status of Wales’s national parks and AONBs under threat, Clark approves East Anglia offshore wind farm. And more stories...

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

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As we look to the immediate and long-term future, new housing and planning minister Alok Sharma has a lot on his plate – a housing shortage (market, affordable and social), a lack of supporting infrastructure, and a growing skills shortage that is expected to get worse with Brexit.

What should Sharma’s priorities be? The Planner spoke to a number of planning and housing professionals to find out.


Not surprisingly, adequate resources for local planning authorities tops the list. 

Richard Blyth, the RTPI’s head of policy, pointed to the institute’s research that suggests that many planning authorities are “surviving on the goodwill and professional integrity of their officers but this may not be sustainable in the longer term”.

“We need greater investment in planning services to ensure we are able to deliver the homes, schools, hospitals and other major infrastructure this country needs.”

Property consultancy Daniel Watney LLP, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), the New Local Government Network (NLGN) and property consultancy Rapleys are all in agreement.

Although the industry needs policy stability, Charlotte Goodrum, associate partner at Daniel Watney, said one area that should see change is funding.

“Local authority planning departments are massively under-resourced, and whether it’s through higher fees or more funding from government, they need additional cash if Britain is to get the homes and infrastructure it needs.”

In order to build housing of all types and tenures, with more affordable and social housing across the country, the NLGN wants to see planning departments “properly resourced”. This would enable councils to deliver not just the number of homes needed, but also high-quality, healthy, attractive communities where people want to live, said Claire Porter, head of external affairs at the NLGN.

Rent/Build to Rent

The housing white paper included changing the planning system to support the growth of build to rent, something Matt Willcock, development director at PLATFORM_, a developer and operator of private rented housing, said should be a key focus, alongside delivering housing white paper proposals overall.

He said there are billions of pounds of institutional capital looking to move into the UK rental market that could deliver thousands of new quality homes.  However, “planning and development risk is something few institutions are willing to take on”.

“Amending the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to encourage councils to proactively plan for private rental housing, and to give build to rent its own affordable housing classification, will go some way to making them more comfortable with actually building the homes themselves, as many insurers and pension funds did at the turn of the 20th century.”

Housing associations will satisfy a significant part of the housing need and at the same time provide affordable housing, said Fergus Charlton legal director at law firm TLT.

The business model for housing associations relies on their ability to borrow cheaply and readily against their receipts but “recent changes to the rent regime have presented some challenges here”.

“The minister would do well to move quickly to provide clarity over future rent levels so that housing associations can continue to maximise their delivery potential,” he added.

Land value

Margaret Baddeley, planning director at planning consultancy Lichfields, said in the long term it could help the planning system to evolve if the government researched the impact of ideas such as land pooling, as well as looking at how land value capture could have a positive impact on providing infrastructure.

She said it is “widely acknowledged” that Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and Section 106 have issues providing infrastructure and affordable housing.

“Using land value capture is the single most useful instrument to channel value generated by development towards infrastructure and housing without incurring more public debt"

For Baddeley, both could be remodelled in the interim, “particularly CIL because of the ongoing unintended consequences of its overly complex methodology – and also because having to pay the levy can impact on affordable housing”.

To understand the potential impact of policies like land pooling, land value capture and zoning, comprehensive analysis needs to be undertaken to consider costs and benefits.

Although interesting, “the key thing to understand first would be if and how any of them could work with or affect the existing planning regime, and then if they would work, how there could be a smooth transition to their introduction”, she added.

Blyth said new sources of funding for infrastructure need to be looked at so that it can be built at the speed and scale the country needs.

“Using land value capture is the single most useful instrument to channel value generated by development towards infrastructure and housing without incurring more public debt.”

Tool for calculating OAN

At the time of going to print, the government had not published a consultation on a standardised mechanism for calculating Objectively Assessed Need (OAN). Charlton noted that councils and developers needed to be able to confidently rely on housing supply policies in the local housing plan.

The standardised mechanism for objectively calculating housing numbers identified in the housing white paper is “central” to housing policies.

“The minister should swiftly begin the consultation on this mechanism, what it is and how it works.”

Baddeley said such an approach would mean local authorities wouldn’t have to work for so long on calculating their OAN and then working out their housing target, only for it to be questioned by inspectors, landowners and applicants.

“Calculating OAN and then working out housing requirement are the elements of local plan-making that slows the progress of the whole thing.”

Small sites

FMB chief executive Brian Berry also nodded to the housing white paper as something Sharma should focus on, particularly the availability of small sites.

“FMB research shows that limited availability of small sites and difficulty in getting planning for these is the most significant barrier to growth for SME house builders. The white paper set out a number of measures designed to address this, most radically proposing that 10 per cent of sites allocated within local plans be sites for fewer than 10 units.”

Although a good start, this would only present a limited number of opportunities. For the FMB, the policy can and should go further, so 10 per cent of all allocated plots are on small sites.

“This would ensure a steady pipeline of small sites which have been effectively de-risked.”

Other considerations for Sharma

  • Lifting the borrowing cap and allowing councils to keep 100 per cent of the receipts from the Right to Buy sales – Local Government Association
  • Heritage wasn’t mentioned in the housing white paper and while the “UK grapples with delivering new homes and infrastructure it should not lose sight of the past” – Dean Clifford, co-founder of heritage developer Great Marlborough Estates
  • Retaining places for people to work a sustainable distance from where they live “will require some imaginative thinking by developers and local authorities. The government and Mr Sharma need to be actively encouraging and facilitating this” – Jason Lowes, partner in the planning team at Rapleys
  • “Devolving more planning powers to give city-regions more control over the types of homes being built would be a good first step for the new minister” – James Blakey, planning director at rental developer and operator Moda Living

07 August 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas has warned that Wales's national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) risk forfeiting their status as internationally recognised protected areas if contemplated reforms to the existing planning and designation regime are implemented.

That warning has been voiced by the organisation’s UK Assessment Panel. Its concern centres on the Future Landscapes report, commissioned by the Welsh administration and published three months ago.

The panel complained that the main thrust of that report diluted a key element of an earlier review carried out by Professor Terry Marsden of Cardiff University, that stressed the primacy of the conservation purposes underpinning the landscape designations.

It said the latest report represented a big retreat from the clear messages and recommendations of the Marsden report. “There is no discussion of the purposes of designating these areas, and their conservation purpose is hardly mentioned at all. While the report does not disown the Marsden recommendations, its silence about most of them means that they now appear to be in limbo.”

The panel is particularly critical that the Future Landscapes document talks about national parks and AONBs as “catalysts for regional development in rural areas”. This was “a much less environmentally sensitive aim,” said the panel.

It concluded that the new report raised serious concerns. “It conspicuously fails to endorse the core recommendations from Marsden about the primacy of conservation, and sets out a questionable view of these designated areas as ‘catalysts for regional development’. If acted upon, the recommendations in the Future Landscapes report would make it impossible for the panel to continue to accord international recognition to Wales’s national parks and AONBs as protected areas.”

The panel stressed: “If Wales desires to maintain and strengthen the international recognition currently accorded to these areas, then we suggest that the Welsh Government base future policy towards national parks and AONBs on the recommendations developed in the Marsden report.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson, quoted in Wales Online, said: “We will consider the comments made by the UK Assessment Panel of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. They will also be forwarded to the Future Landscapes Wales chair, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, and the wide range of stakeholders involved in the Future Landscapes Wales programme so they may consider them as part of their ongoing deliberations”.

Ministers have insisted that the administration is considering whether legislation on designated landscape areas needs to be changed and if greater weight should be given to the importance of these areas and their ecosystems in decision-making. Also under discussion is whether governance arrangements should evolve to reflect local circumstances, rather than the current one-size-fits-all system. 

07 August 2017

Roger Milne, The Planner

Energy secretary Greg Clark has granted development consent to the East Anglia THREE offshore wind farm given the ‘national need’ for such a development.

The development consent order will see ScottishPower Renewables build up to 172 wind turbines 46 miles off the coast of East Anglia. Turbines will reach up to 247 metres to the tip.

It will have an output capacity of up to 1,200 mega watts (MW) and could produce enough electricity to power the annual demands of nearly one million homes, according to the developer.

The East Anglia THREE project is one of four the firm wants to develop off the East Anglia coast and the second to receive planning permission. East Anglia ONE is underway and pre-construction work is taking place.

ScottishPower Renewables has said this next generation technology will help to ensure that offshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of low carbon electricity.

As well as the turbines, the development also includes two meteorological masts; a network of inter-array sub-sea cables; underground electrical connections and six offshore electrical stations.

Keith Anderson, CEO of ScottishPower Renewables, said: "With the support of a highly-skilled supply chain, East Anglia THREE will further enhance the UK’s leading position in offshore wind. No other sector ticks all of the boxes in its ability to support the Government’s plans for rebalancing the economy and promoting economic diversity through the industrial strategy.”

Emma Pinchbeck, executive director at RenewableUK, said the approval is a “vote of confidence” for of the offshore wind sector.

“This huge clean energy project is a great example of how offshore wind can enable the government’s industrial strategy. The project is expected to create thousands of skilled jobs throughout its 30-year lifetime. Not only will the wind farm use the latest, innovative turbines, but it will also provide a massive boost for local businesses to grow.”

The consent order and full supporting documents can be found on the National Infrastructure Planning website.

07 August 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) have approved housing plans that include a cash boost for 11 affordable housing schemes across the region to accelerate housing delivery.

The long-term strategy for housing for the region aims to support the combined authority’s ambition to deliver over 100,000 new homes by 2037.

Strategy objectives include delivering 40,000 affordable homes, supporting new types of building construction, such as modular homes, and helping to boost small and medium sized enterprises by exploring ways to make sites more financially viable.

The combined authority £4.56 million of grant funding to go towards 11 schemes that are expected to deliver 253 affordable homes. All 11 schemes are expected to be under construction before the end of March 2018.

Peter Topping, CPCA portfolio holder for new homes and communities, and leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “We know that housing, together with skills and infrastructure, are critical to maintaining growth and prosperity in the region. Our strategy is to accelerate house building, that is a given, but also to build houses that are of good quality, in communities where people want to live. We are committed to creating healthy and sustainable communities.”

James Palmer, mayor for the region, added: “We believe that our approach to housing in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough requires a short and long-term plan. This allows us to tackle the problems we face at the moment, whilst planning for the future needs of our area. The targets set for the combined authority are ambitious and will require working with partners both in the private and public sector to deliver this ambition.”

07 August 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A round-up of appeal decisions.

Colchester set for £17m boost as Javid approves retail scheme

Sajid Javid has upheld an inspector's decision to approve a mixed use scheme near Stanway, Essex that could add £16.9million to the Colchester economy, ruling that the proposal had passed the sequential test required for large out-of-town retail developments.

Blues Brothers allowed to stay in Bedford conservation area

An inspector has approved two life-size Blues Brothers statues adorning a nightclub in Bedford Conservation Area, ruling that although the Blues Brothers have no historical association with Bedford, 'there should always be some place for the unexpected’.

Dementia care unit in business park would create 'onerous' living conditions

A 63-bed dementia care unit proposed for a business park in Cornwall has been blocked despite local need, after an inspector ruled that noise from a nearby roundabout would create 'onerous' living conditions for particularly sensitive future occupants.

Modular Timpson’s ‘pod’ too small to harm local businesses

An inspector has granted permission for a modular Timpson’s ‘pod’ in a Sainsbury’s car park despite its proximity to Spalding town centre, ruling that its small scale meant it would be unlikely to affect other businesses.

426-room student halls scheme allowed in business district despite policy conflict

Plans for a 16-storey student accommodation block in Bournemouth’s business district have been approved despite conflict with the local development plan, after an inspector found the office use preferred by the council would be financially unviable.

Microbrewery in suburban garage ‘not disruptive’ to neighbours

An inspector has granted permission for a microbrewery to continue operating in suburban Nottingham despite objections from neighbours, after technical assessments of noise and odour output returned acceptable results.

Antisocial behaviour threat dismissed as children’s care home gets go-ahead

A proposal to convert a house in Stockport into a care home for four children has been allowed, after an inspector dismissed the council's concerns relating to increased antisocial behaviour because it failed to present convincing evidence.

95 homes approved in light of south Oxfordshire’s ‘dire’ housing shortfall

An inspector has granted outline permission for a 95-home scheme near Shiplake, Henley-on-Thames, despite sustained local opposition, as the area’s housing land supply of less than three years rendered its neighbourhood plan out of date.

Herts zoo refused permission 12 months after opening

A zoo in Ware, Hertfordshire that did not seek planning consent until three months after it opened has been refused permission at appeal, after an inspector ruled that no special circumstances existed to exempt it from green belt rules.

 ‘Hazardous substances’ GPDO exception halts 65-flat scheme

Plans to convert an office in Kennington, South London, into 65 flats under GPDO rules cannot go ahead, after an inspector ruled that the building lies within a safety hazard zone and is therefore exempt from permitted development.

Affordable housing condition removed on 17-home scheme

A 17-home scheme in Reading can go ahead without affordable housing, after the appellants successfully used a 'benchmark approach' to demonstrate that including it would render the scheme unviable compared to existing permissions totalling eight homes.

07 August 2017
Matt Moody, The Planner

A round up of planning news.

Developer for Birmingham Smithfield sought

Birmingham City Council and property consultants Cushman & Wakefield have launched the search for a developer to transform Birmingham Smithfield.

The selected developer will work with the city council to deliver the plans for the 17-hectare site set out in the Smithfield masterplan. These include a mixed-use building that comprises a family and leisure hub, retailers, restaurants, hotels and a public square, a residential neighbourhood and transport facilities.

It is expected to deliver 300,000 square metres of new floor space, 2,000 new homes and 3,000 new jobs.

The deadline for submitting a participation request is 12 September, 2017. The city council plans to select the preferred bidder by March 2018.

50 Slough homes approved

Epsilon Real Estate Partners has secured planning permission for its plans for 39 converted homes in the centre of Slough.

The development, Elvian House, will be delivered through permitted development rights. It will also consist of 11 new-build properties.

The £15 million scheme sits within the Sussex Place and Clifton Road Conservation Area and plans will see the Gothic façade of original mid-Victorian structure retained.

Epsilon were given permission for the conversion of the disused building into 39 flats under a Prior Approval Agreement but applied for planning permission for a further 11 flats, which was granted.

 £75m for road improvements

Transport minister Jesse Norman has announced that councils in England will be awarded funding to refurbish bridges, improve junctions and boost flood defences.

Nineteen projects across the country will receive a share of £75 million from the government.

Local authorities put forward schemes to try to get a share of the money.

The government said the winning schemes will cute congestion, reduce journey times and improve reliability.

Among the projects to receive funding is a £4.6 million refurbishment of the A589 Greyhound Bridge in Lancashire so HGVs can access the bridge.

 Whitehaven homes approved

Copeland Borough Council’s planning committee has approved 110 family homes on the edge of Whitehaven, Cumbria.

Local planning consultancy Taylor & Hardy, which is part of professional services firm WYG and is set be fully integrated with it shortly, secured the permission.

WYG provided transport and drainage services for the site at Harras Moor, which was an open cast mine in the 1960s but is now agricultural land.

Government responds to Help to Buy reports

The government has said it remains committed to the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme to 2021, following stories in the media on the scheme’s future.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said: “We remain committed to the Help to Buy equity loan scheme to 2021, ensuring it continues to support homebuyers and stimulate housing supply.

“The government also recognise the need to create certainty for prospective home owners and developers beyond 2021, so will work with the sector to consider the future of the scheme.”

Application submitted for 240 homes in Oxfordshire

Planning consultancy Barton Willmore has submitted an outline planning application for 240 homes to the Vale of White Horse District Council on behalf of Radley College.

The plans are for land outside of designated green belt and is an allocated site within the recently adopted local plan, part one. The land is to the north west of Radley village and owned by Radley College.

Barton Willmore said the plans respond to the form and character of Radley and its surrounding countryside. Space around the housing has been designed to encourage walking and cycling.

Thirty-five per cent of the 240 homes have been designated as affordable.

61 homes approved in Penwortham

South Ribble Borough Council has granted reserved matters approval for 61 homes on the former Maltings site in Penwortham.

Planning consultancy Nexus Planning secured the approval on behalf of Galliford Try Partnerships.

The site, on Hill Road South, has been vacant for a number of years after a former Places for People social rented scheme was demolished.

Of the 61 homes 50 per cent will be starter homes. The other half will be available for private market sale.

Nexus Planning also acted on the outline planning application on behalf of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). The HCA then selected Galliford Try Partnerships as the preferred development partner.

Grayling opens Cambridge station

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has opened the Cambridge North station.

The station is expected to serve up to 3,000 commuters a day, cut congestion in the city centre and make journeys to the Cambridge Science Park quicker and easier.

Meliha Duymaz, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said: “This station brings a welcome boost to the local economy as part of our railway upgrade plan.

“It has improved the way people travel around the city with better connections to both Cambridge city centre and to London, and provides vital rail links to the science and business parks, to support jobs and create new opportunities.”

Social housing provider issue funding

Social housing provider Stonewater has signed a $150 million (£115,101289 million) funding facility to help drive its housing development programme.

The programme is set to deliver 2,765 new homes across England by 2021.

Stonewater secured the loan facility from Pricoa Capital Group, the principal asset management arm of the US financial services group Prudential Financial.

Stonewater said it will initially issue £100 million of notes from the facility with a maturity of 30 years and a weighted average life of 28 years. Stonewater can issue the remaining notes at any time over the next three years with a choice of maturities.

8 August 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner