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Planning news - 14 September 2017

Published: Thursday, 14th September 2017

Sharma launches shop for land, Green belt shrinks owing to inclusion in eight local plans, Westminster plans for 1,700 new homes, And more stories...

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

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Housing and Planning Minister, Alok Sharma, has opened the UK’s first ‘plot shop’ in Bicester.

The shop will sell plots of land on the Graven Hill site in Oxfordshire to people who want to build their own home from scratch, or through customised design.

Graven Hill is set to deliver up to 1,900 new self and custom-build homes. The development was approved in 2014.

The shop aims to make it easier to access land and expert advice, and to help pioneer custom and self-build as a mainstream choice for aspiring homeowners.

Sharma said: “We need to get creative with how we build our housing in this country, to deliver more of the right homes in the places people want to live.

“With the opening of the UK’s first ‘plot shop’, the journey to building your own home can now start on the high street.

“As confirmed in our housing white paper, we are committed to doubling the number of custom and self-build homes by 2020 – so that anyone who wishes to design their dream house can do so.

“Through diversifying the housing market in this way, we can give people greater choice over the homes they live in – whether that’s buying on the open market or by commissioning and building their dream home.”

Karen Curtin, managing director of Graven Hill, said: “The shop’s town centre location has proven to be integral to its success since our soft launch this summer, and we invite anyone thinking of building or customising their next home to visit the shop for an informal chat on the options available or arrange a visit to site.”

Curtin announced that those opting for a tailored finish home may be able to access the government’s Help to Buy scheme.

She added that over 81 per cent of plots released in phase 1a have been sold.

7 September 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The green belt has decreased by 790 hectares because of the adoption by eight local authorities of their local plans, according to Department for Communities and Local Government statistics.

The statistics cover the period between 31 March 2016 and 31 March 2017.

At the end of that period, the designated green belt in England was estimated to be 1,634,700 hectares. It continues to account for 13 per cent of the land area of England.

During that time, eight local authorities adopted new plans that involved a change in area of the authority’s green belt:

  • Birmingham – a decrease of 10 per cent, from 4,150 to 3,730.
  • Bromsgrove (Worcestershire) – a decrease of 1 per cent, from 19,480 to 19,300 hectares.
  • Hertsmere (Hertfordshire) – a decrease of 1 per cent, from 8,040 to 7,990 hectares.
  • High Peak (Derbyshire) – decreased by less than five hectares.
  • Redditch (Worcestershire) – decreased by 2 per cent, from 1,830 to 1,800 hectares.
  • South Derbyshire – revised its green belt in 2015/16, resulting in a net increase of one hectare.
  • Stratford-on-Avon (Warwickshire) – a decrease from 22,370 to 22,360 hectares.
  • Vale of White Horse (Oxfordshire) – a decrease of 1 per cent, from 8,310 to 8,230 hectares.

The decrease of 790 hectares during 2016/17 is smaller than the 1,020 hectares reported in 2015/16.

Local Planning Authority Green Belt: England 2016/17 can be found on the UK Government website (pdf).

11 September 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Westminster City Council has published its plans to build 1,700 new homes in the Church Street area, near Marylebone, as well as to deliver a community hub.

The council is looking to local residents and businesses to supply feedback on its draft masterplan, which identifies nine regeneration sites in the area and aims to build on current development sites over the next 15 to 20 years.

It forms part of the council’s overall bid to create a “city for all” by building more affordable homes for local residents, showing it is still possible to deliver homes of all types in the centre of London, said the council.

Of the 1,750 homes, 35 per cent have been designated as affordable. Existing council homes will be re-provided at social rent, with the option for all existing secure tenants to be rehoused in the scheme, taking the number of affordable homes to 50 per cent.

The masterplan comprises four themes: health and well-being; homes; market and enterprise; and making connections.

It looks to deliver up to a 40 per cent increase in publicly accessible open space, a new community hub, an improved street market with up to 220 stalls, and 3,600 square metres of storage facilities, 3,500 construction-related jobs, and 530 retails jobs.

Westminster City Council’s cabinet member for housing, Rachael Robathan, said: “Church Street is a vibrant and diverse neighbourhood and the masterplan looks to meet the needs of today’s and future generations in the area.

“The proposals set out together are the council’s largest regeneration scheme to date, which will deliver over 1,700 new homes including 50 per cent affordable housing overall, alongside new spaces and facilities for the community. Because of this, we genuinely want to understand the views of residents and local businesses so that they can continue to shape and influence their neighbourhood for the benefit of everyone who works and lives in this great part of Westminster.”

The public consultation will run for seven weeks, closing on 29 October 2017.

The masterplan and exhibition times can be viewed on the Church Street Masterplan website.

11 September 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Proposals to build one of Europe’s longest indoor ski slopes as part of an ambitious leisure complex and regeneration project in Merthyr Tydfil have surfaced.

Marvel Ltd bought the 233-hectare former coalmining site at Rhydycar West four years ago. As well as a 500-metre long ski-slope, the scheme would involve two hotels, a spa, a water and surfing park and log cabin and yurt accommodation.

In addition, the developer has suggested an equestrian centre, an indoor bike and skate park, a survivor adventure park and a residential element.

The company has been working with Snowsport Cymru Wales on the scheme, which has a £450 million price tag.

Marvel’s Leigh Large said: “We believe our scheme’s exciting sport and adventure facilities will attract more visitors to Merthyr, and the high-quality accommodation options will help keep them in the area for longer, addressing the current lack of local accommodation.   

“The site has unfortunately been closed to the public for a very long time due to legacy mining hazards, but our proposals would see large areas of the site opened up, including a series of heritage and nature trails.

“It is important to emphasise that the overall plans for the site are still in development. We will be consulting with the local community this autumn so we can deliver the best possible scheme for Merthyr.”

7 September 2017
Roger Milne, The Planner


A round-up of planning appeals.

Two bathrooms between 16 HMO residents would be ‘inappropriate’

An inspector has refused plans to convert a vacant house in Wisbech into a nine-bedroom HMO accommodating up to 16 people, ruling that although kitchen facilities would be ‘just about adequate’, the provision of just two bathrooms would not be appropriate.

Home on busy main road ‘not suitable for families’

An inspector has allowed plans to convert a large home in Barnes into four flats despite the need for family housing in the area, after calling the house unsuitable for families because of its position on an ‘extremely busy’ road.

80% increase in footprint will not harm green belt openness

An inspector has approved plans for a replacement industrial unit in the Rotherham green belt with an increase in footprint of 80 per cent, citing a judge’s ruling that green belt openness is not only a volumetric matter, but also one of visual impact.

Further work required on listed chapel conversion plan

An inspector has refused plans to restore a ‘highly significant’ listed convent complex in Malvern by converting it to residential use, ruling that although the scheme carries ‘considerable merit’, outstanding issues must be solved before consent can be granted.

71-flat extension to five-storey Romford building blocked

Plans to add an extra five storeys to an existing block of 115 flats in Romford have been blocked after an inspector decided that the scheme would create unacceptable living conditions for occupants and would not meet local design standards.

Prefabricated former church hall saved from demolition

An inspector has refused permission to demolish an asbestos-contaminated concrete former church hall in Essex and replace it with six homes after the appellant failed to prove that reusing it as a community facility would be unviable.

Housing shortfall need not always trigger NPPF tilted balance, says Inspector

An inspector has refused plans for 165 homes on greenfield land near Harrogate, after ruling that the ‘tilted balance’ of NPPF paragraph 14 should not automatically be engaged when there is a housing supply shortfall because housing need ‘does not always override other material considerations’.

New AONB offices for charity are ‘in the public interest’

An inspector has allowed plans for a major redevelopment of international charity CABI’s headquarters, funded by building 91 homes on the same site within the Chilterns AONB, after concluding the scheme would be in the public interest.

Mothballing favoured over demolition of historic hospital buildings

An inspector has blocked plans for major redevelopment of an Edwardian hospital that would involve partial demolition of its historic core, ruling that the developer had not shown ‘sufficient alacrity and flair’ in justifying the loss of the heritage asset.

142 homes approved after council withdraws its evidence at inquiry

Outline permission has been granted for 142 homes near Furness Abbey in western Cumbria, following Barrow-in-Furness Council’s decision to abandon its position mid-inquiry because of evidence demonstrating a shortfall in its five-year housing supply.

8 September 2017
Matt Moody, The Planner


A round-up of planning news.

Khan refuses New Scotland Yard development

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has rejected plans to redevelop the former New Scotland Yard site as the scheme didn’t include enough affordable housing.

The site at 8-10 Broadway, Westminster, was sold by previous mayor Boris Johnson, who approved a development that included a £10 million payment and 10 affordable houses.

Developer BL Developments then sought to increase the total number of homes by 27, from 268 to 295, with no increase in the number of affordable units or payment in lieu.

Khan said: “A shortage of affordable homes is at the heart of the housing crisis in our city. The scheme put forward for this site is simply unacceptable: it fails to provide the maximum amount of affordable housing that could be delivered on this landmark site, and follows a previous application in which the affordable housing provision agreed by the previous mayor was already appallingly low.

“This is a site which has only recently been transferred from public ownership and sits within one of the most expensive areas of the country. Having carefully considered the evidence available to me, I have decided to refuse permission for this amended application.”

Exeter Gateway phase two approved

East Devon District Council has granted outline planning permission for a development that will create 110,000 square metres of logistics and distribution floor space.

The development is the second phase of the Exeter Gateway distribution facility.

Tim Western, lead director at property developer JLL, said: “A project of Exeter Gateway’s calibre is something we have been waiting for in Exeter for some time; a piece of the jigsaw that has been missing. This project represents a huge vote of confidence in our region, will create hundreds of jobs and will put the city and surrounding area on the map as the South-West's leading distribution hub south of Bristol. We expect to see plenty of interest in this site, which will undoubtedly attract investment into the area, complementing the activity at Skypark and Exeter Science Park."

The site is next to where Lidl UK's regional distribution hub is being constructed, which forms phase one of Exeter Gateway. JLL advised Lidl UK on the purchase.

Sheffield to make student accommodation flexible for conversion

Sheffield City Council has announced that it will make sure all new purpose-built student accommodation developments will have the capacity to be converted into residential accommodation at a later date.

The council already has a Student Accommodation Strategy to ensure that the right numbers of student homes are being built, and are a mix of tenures and sizes to create mixed communities.

The council, which is under Labour control, want to ensure that Sheffield’s housing market is adaptive enough to meet the city’s needs for future generations.

Ben Curran, cabinet member for planning and development, said: “We know that there needs to be flexibility in the housing market. For instance, if student numbers go down it is essential that properties aren’t left empty but can be used as residential homes.

“This is why Labour will be looking to change planning requirements so that all new purpose-built student accommodation be capable of conversation to residential accommodation, should a need for this arise”.

HCA appoints planners for Northstowe

The Homes and Communities Agency has appointed Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design and Proctor & Matthews Architects to provide long-term planning support and architectural services for phase 2 of Northstowe.

Northstowe is a Cambridgeshire town that is part of the NHS’s and the government’s Healthy New Towns initiative.

The work follows from Tibbalds’ original role in preparing the Design Code for phase 2, and will centre on what is considered to be the very heart of Northstowe town.

Proctor & Matthews Architects, supported by the Tibbalds CampbellReith JV, will produce the detailed design for the initial parcel of 380 homes, the first homes to be delivered by the HCA. Homes will range from starter and young family homes to urban, family housing and homes for the elderly and those who require extra care.

The HCA said it expects to deliver the first of the scheme’s 3,500 homes in 2019 and start on the town centre and future phases shortly after.

66 homes approved in Burscough

West Lancashire Borough Council has approved 66 homes in Burscough for former industrial land.

Nexus Planning secured the consent on behalf of Taylor Wimpey.

The scheme comprises a combination of two, three and four-bedroom homes and apartments. The development will be located on Briar Lane, adjacent to the recently completed Taylor Wimpey North West development at Delph Green.

The development is due to start this autumn.

Racetrack approved for Coalisland

Mid Ulster District Council has granted planning permission to proposals to create an international motorsport racetrack in Coalisland.

The 57-acre site, Lake Torrent, formerly known as the ‘clay pits’, is to become a venue for regional, national and international competitions, aiming ultimately to host events like the World Super Bike Championships and British Touring Car Championship, attracting up to 30,000 spectators.

The track is expected to be a 3.59km circuit, offering 12 turns and a mix of technical and high-speed sequences. The development will also comprise associated pit garages, a spectator gallery, hospitality facilities and new access and public link roads.

Taylor Wimpey acquires Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant site

Dentons has advised Taylor Wimpey on its £193.5 million acquisition of Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant site in central London.

Planning was secured in March 2015. Plans feature 681 residential units, of which 163 have been designated as affordable. They also comprise 23,000 square feet of retail and leisure space as well as community facilities and public areas.

Richard Budge, partner in Dentons' London Real Estate team, led on the deal. He said: “The redevelopment of the Mount Pleasant site will enable the provision of more public facilities and retail/leisure amenities along with the delivery of a landmark residential development."

Royal Mail has retained its operational facilities at Mount Pleasant.

Regeneration development in Bristol green-lit

Bristol City Council has granted outline planning permission for the regeneration of the former Brooks Laundry, in St Werburghs, Bristol.

Acorn Property Group has been appointed to deliver the site of behalf of joint venture partners Galliard Homes and Follan Ltd, with support from DJ Foley Property Consultants.

The four-acre site been derelict since operations ceased in 2007.

Plans will see the site deliver open market and affordable homes, allocated parking, new public realm and improvements to the surrounding road network.

Acorn will now focus on securing detailed planning permission, with a reserved matters planning application due for submission in the autumn.

12 September 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner