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Planning news - 5 October 2017

Published: Thursday, 5th October 2017

May commits £2bn extra to affordable housing, Garden towns get cash boost, HBF: Help to Buy has driven record rise in planning permissions. And more stories...

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

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Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that the government will spend an additional £2 billion on affordable housing, as she commits to renewing the British dream of owning a home.

Closing the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, May acknowledged that while the boom in the housing market had benefited some, “for many, the chance of getting onto the housing ladder has become a distant dream”.

Just over 10 years ago, 59 per cent of 25-34 year olds owned their own home, she said. Now, though, only 38 per cent do.

Referencing the fact that she and husband Philip don’t have children, she said that she nevertheless believes in “the dream that life should be better for the next generation as much as any mother. Any father. Any grandparent”.

Dedicating her premiership to restoring hope, to “fixing the broken housing market”, she said she would use her “privileged position” bring the home ownership dream to life.

She noted measures and work already being undertaken – the Help to Buy scheme, introduced because it will take time to translate more housebuilding into more affordable house prices, and plans in the housing white paper, announced in February.

“But the election result showed us that this is not nearly enough. We’ve listened and we’ve learned,” she told the conference.

Another £2 billion is to go towards affordable housing, taking the government’s total affordable housing budget to £9 million.

The government, she said, would encourage councils as well as housing associations to bid for the money to provide certainty over future rent levels. “And in those parts of the country where the need is greatest, allow homes to be built for social rent, well below market level … A new generation of council houses to help fix our broken housing market.”

It would not be quick or easy, said May, but she had made it her “mission” to solve the housing crisis, taking charge of the government’s response, to “make the British dream a reality by reigniting home ownership in Britain once again”.

“And let me say one more thing. I want to send the clearest possible message to our housebuilders. We, the government, will make sure the land is available. We’ll make sure our young people have the skills you need. In return, you must do your duty to Britain and build the homes our country needs.”

4 October 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Communities secretary Sajid Javid has announced a £2.5 million cash injection in an attempt to speed up the delivery of more than 155,000 new homes in proposed garden towns across England.

Nine garden town developments across the country will receive new funding aimed at fast-tracking construction of these large housing projects.

It should support local authorities and communities to deliver garden town proposals, “speeding up the process of developments through additional dedicated resources and expertise”.

The nine designated garden towns are in Bicester, Didcot, Basingstoke, Otterpool Park in Kent, Aylesbury, Taunton, Harlow-Gilston, North Northamptonshire, and North Essex.

Javid said: “Locally led garden towns have enormous potential to deliver the homes that communities need. This new funding will help support the construction of more than 155,000 homes in nine places across the country.

“New communities not only deliver homes, but also bring new jobs and facilities and a big boost to local economies.”

4 October 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner


A report produced by the Home Builders Federation (HBF) in association with construction market analyst Glenigan has suggested that the Help to Buy scheme is having a significant impact on the housing market.

According to Stepping Up, a report produced to assess its impact so far, Help to Buy now accounts for one in every 12 first-time buyer transactions and is such a success that it is “driving industry confidence to invest in new sites at a time when activity in the market generally remains stubbornly slow”.

The study, which uses figures from the HBF and Glenigan’s Housing Pipeline reports, suggests that the number of planning permissions granted in the first half of 2017 was the highest for new homes on record. In total, permissions for 321,982 new homes have been granted in the 12 months to June 2017.

The Help to Buy scheme was introduced four years ago, and the organisation calculates that more than 200,000 people – most of them first-time buyers – now live in a new-build home as a result of the scheme.

The HBF credits Help to Buy as having helped the new-build and first-time buyer segment of the market to “buck the generally slower wider housing market”.

Figures from the Stepping Up report:

  • 228,000 – estimated number of people to have used the scheme
  • £44,000 – median household income for Help to Buy purchasers
  • 74 per cent – increase in homes granted planning permission between 2013 and 2017
  • £217,000 – average Help to Buy purchase price
  • 185,000 – Estimated number of first-time buyers getting on the ladder using Help to Buy

But the HBF notes that Help to Buy is set to end in 2021 and has used its report to ask for clarification from government on the scheme’s future. The body also expresses concern about the time taken to process permissions through to construction stage, with some projects taking up to four years.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman at the HBF, said: “These figures are a clear indication that house builders are committed to increasing housing output. We’ve seen 50 per cent growth in output over the last three years and these figures indicate that progress can continue.

“Ultimately, if people can buy, builders can build, and confidence in demand is crucial to future build rates. The figures show that if demand for new homes remains strong and the planning system processes applications efficiently, further increases in build rates can be delivered in the coming years.

“We need confirmation from government as to the future of the scheme post-2021. We also need to see the proposals to improve the planning system outlined in the white paper moved forward and implemented.”

Allan Wilen, economics director at Glenigan, said: “The residential development pipeline continues to strengthen. The number of new homes securing planning approval during the first half of 2017 was 22 per cent up on a year ago. The increased supply of sites available for development demonstrates housebuilders confidence about market prospects with the industry well placed to meet the demand for new homes.”

Stepping Up can be found on the HBF website (pdf).

3 October 2017
Martin Read, The Planner


The Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru have agreed a two-year budget worth £210 million, which will see money go towards a third Menai bridge crossing.

Finance secretary Mark Drakeford said the agreement builds on the 2016 agreement.

Adam Price, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for finance, business and the economy, said: “This is a Budget Agreement that will deliver for people and communities in all parts of Wales.

“This is a pan-Wales budget agreement, from the Cleddau to the Menai from Wrexham to the Rhondda, from culture to agriculture, from energy and transport to education and health – new ideas for a new Wales.”

The budget allocations for 2018-19 and 2019-20 include:

  • Third Menai bridge crossing – £1 million in 2018-19, and £1 million (from 2018-19) plus £2 million in 2019-20, to support its design and development.
  • Electric charging points - £1 million a year.
  • National transport infrastructure for north-south links, dualling where possible and particular focus on A487. Improvements will also be made to the A470. £15 million has been allocated for 2019-20.

The refreshed work programme for 2018-19 will see further work to explore extensions to the South Wales Metro network take place, including connecting Maerdy and Rhondda Fach.

Additionally, an exploration of the commission an energy atlas for Wales will take place, which will see a national inventory of green energy potential in Wales.

The budget outlines a commitment to fund the development of the strategic outline case for the Swansea Bay and Western Valley Metro proposal.

The Budget Agreement can be found on the Welsh Government website (pdf).

2 October 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner


A round-up of appeal decisions.

Horse insemination ‘not a sporting activity’

Plans for an equine reproduction and rehabilitation centre in Hertfordshire’s green belt have been refused, after an inspector rejected claims that it would be ‘in support’ of sporting activity and therefore exempt from green belt restrictions.

Phone mast in place of football floodlight would be ‘incongruous’

Plans to address a coverage black spot in West Sussex by erecting a new mobile phone mast in place of one of Steyning Football Club’s pitch floodlights have been rejected because the top-heavy mast would look ‘incongruous’.

142 homes allowed on industrial estate in light of fallback scheme

A plan to convert a vacant car showroom on an Essex industrial estate to offices and flats has been allowed, after an inspector considered that its smaller but immediate affordable housing provision would be preferable to an uncertain extant permission on the site.

Digital advert less distracting than five traditional billboards

An inspector has allowed plans to replace five traditional billboard adverts with a single animated digital display, ruling that the new display would be less distracting to motorists negotiating a busy nearby roundabout.

Roof terrace approved for grade I listed Westminster building

An inspector has allowed plans to alter a grade I listed building in Westminster to create a new roof terrace, ruling that it would not disturb neighbours despite concerns about a noise-amplifying ‘canyon effect’.

Innovative ‘paragraph 55’ home refused in national park

Plans for an isolated home in the South Downs national park have been blocked after an inspector ruled it would be 'inappropriate development' despite a 'highly commendable' design endorsed by Design South East.

85-home scheme would harm setting of Harper Adams University

Outline permission to build 85 homes near Edgmond, Shropshire, has been rejected after an inspector said the scheme would close the gap between the village and Harper Adams University ‘to the detriment of both’.

Mixed-use scheme refused on historic Dunblane battleground

Plans for a large mixed-use scheme including 165 homes near Dunblane have been blocked after a Scottish reporter concluded that the proposals would harm the ‘intimate character’ of the surrounding landscape.

Takeaway refused because of local child obesity concerns

An inspector has ruled that controlling the proliferation of fast-food outlets ‘has a role to play’ in addressing childhood obesity in Wallsend, North Tyneside, where at least 25 per cent of year-six pupils are considered ‘very overweight’.

You can access the full decision letter and supporting documents relating to the appeal stories by searching the Planning Inspectorate's Appeals Casework Portal.

Search Appeal decisions

29 September 2017
Matt Moody, The Planner


A round-up of planning news.

Public realm study for Oxford

Transport consultancy Phil Jones Associates (PJA) and sustainable transport firm ITP are to undertake a movement and public realm study of Oxford city centre on behalf of the city and country councils.

The study is expected to inform the new Oxford City Council’s local plan to 2036 as well as inform a future update of Oxfordshire County Council’s Oxford Transport Strategy.

It is anticipated that within the plan period there will be significant growth within the Oxford City Council administrative area and also in surrounding Oxfordshire districts. Therefore, the study aims to develop a strategy for city centre transport and public realm to ensure that it is served by adequate infrastructure.

The councils want to increase the use of public transport and cycling, as well as the number of people walking.

PJA and ITP will review traffic data, pedestrian footfall, public transport routes and future development plans to inform the vision for Oxford city centre for years to come. The implications of emerging technologies such as automated vehicles and e-bikes will also be carefully considered.

Birmingham skyscraper application submitted

Developer Moda Living has submitted plans for 481 apartments to Birmingham City Council.

The £183 million scheme is for the site of the former Tramps nightclub and forms part of the wider regeneration of Broad Street.

Named 2one2 Broad Street, the development comprises apartments ranging in size from studios to three-bedrooms units, which will be managed by Moda Living, which is also an operator of private rented homes. Plans include 30,000 square feet of communal space, such as a residents’ gym.

Mixed commercial, retail and leisure space also features on the plans.

If approved. it will be Birmingham’s tallest tower.

Architects pH+ and Walbury Estates receive go-ahead

Planning permission for Architects pH+ and Walbury Estates Ltd’s 24 new homes in Stockwell Green has been granted.

The development is located within a conservation area in a dense urban site sandwiched between student housing and a grade II listed community resource centre.

It comprises three blocks that step up incrementally from the adjacent Hudson House to address the taller Glassyard building.

The two companies said the façade of the building references the traditional materiality of the area; buff brick, light bronze zinc cladding, and decorative back-lit panels are layered throughout the project to fit the building within the surrounding context.

Tunbridge Wells bus depot to be transformed

Retirement living developer PegasusLife has been granted planning permission to redevelop the Arriva Bus Depot in Royal Tunbridge Wells into retirement apartments.

Plans include 89 apartments, which will be a mixture of one, two and three bedrooms.

The site will also feature a number of communal areas, including a rooftop sitting room, a café, a gym and gardens.

Howard Phillips, CEO of PegasusLife, said: “We have worked hard to ensure the design of the site contributes sensitively to the surrounding area and we look forward to starting work on creating a development, which will provide homes exclusively for those over 60.”

The project team for the site includes Barton Willmore as planning consultant, and architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris.

Affordable home scheme approved in Dunstable

Central Bedfordshire Council has approved Catalyst’s plans for 61 new affordable homes at Brewers Hill Road in Dunstable.

The scheme is 100 per cent affordable and will comprise 43 homes for shared ownerships and 18 for affordable rent.

The plans show there will be 38 two, three and four-bedroom houses, and 23 two-bedroom apartments.

Architects Levitt Bernstein designed the development.

Contractors are expected to be appointed later this year, with work on site due to start in early 2018.

Council terminates procurement process for creative deliver for Welborne

Fareham Borough Council has announced that it is to recommend the termination of its procurement process to appoint a creative delivery partner for Welborne.

This will be made to the executive committee on Monday 9 October.

It follows the announcement that Buckland Development Ltd has completed the purchase of Dean Farm and has said it wants to act as both landowner and developer in delivering Welborne Garden Village.

Buckland Development Ltd lodged a planning application for the garden village, which features proposals for 6,000 homes, with Fareham Borough Council in March 2017.

Javid announces £10bn for Help to Buy

The government has committed an extra £10 billion for the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme, communities secretary Sajid Javid has said.

The new funding means, according to the government, that the Help to Buy Equity Loan could help around 135,000 more people to buy homes by 2021.

Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, said: “Extending Help to Buy is the wrong priority at a time when over a million renters are struggling with crippling housing costs. Help to Buy has barely helped the first-time buyers it is targeted at and has done nothing to help those worst affected by our broken housing market and those at risk of homelessness. Moreover, it has increased house prices and propped up a speculative development model in need of reform.”

Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, said: “Extending Help to Buy is the wrong priority at a time when over a million renters are struggling with crippling housing costs. Help to Buy has barely helped the first-time buyers it is targeted at and has done nothing to help those worst affected by our broken housing market and those at risk of homelessness. Moreover, it has increased house prices and propped up a speculative development model in need of reform.

3 October 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner