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Planning news - 26 October 2017

Published: Thursday, 26th October 2017

Government think tank demands review of London planning, Funding awarded to improve local roads and unlock housing, Demolition of Scarborough’s Futurist Theatre moves forward. And more stories...

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

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London’s planning system needs radical reforms to significantly reduce bias against development, according to a think tank.

The Housing and Finance Institute, launched by the government in 2015, said councillors are in a “near impossible position” of being responsive to electorates who are opposed to development yet having responsibility to future generations who need homes. Consultation is “deeply flawed” by giving too much weight to articulate groups “who make a lot of noise and not enough weight to the ‘have-nots’,” it says.

The institute’s findings, compiled by former City of London Corporation policy chairman Sir Mark Boleat calls for small panels of members trained in planning to engage with developers from the earliest pre-application to the final decision.

It also says planning conditions should be rigorously assessed to see if they are appropriate and necessary, with the cost in time and money given to committees. These should be discharged “within seven days of certification by the developer, unless the local authority has clear evidence that the conditions have not been complied with”.

Other recommendations include a review of green belt policy, allowing higher density development, particularly in central London, and simplifying section 106 viability assessments.

19 October 2017
Huw Morris, The Planner


A total of £244 million has been awarded to 76 projects across England to improve local roads and public transport as well as supporting housing development.

The cash is part of a £345.3 million package under the National Productivity Investment Fund and the Large Local Majors fund.

Among the schemes to benefit are £101.3 million for two new major roads in Middlewich, Cheshire, and Worcester.

Other projects include a new link for buses in Plymouth providing access to Derriford hospital and improvement on the A66 in Darlington to unlock the development of 2,600 houses and 4,300 jobs.

Details of the schemes are available here.

20 October2017
Huw Morris, The Planner


The demolition of Scarborough’s iconic Futurist Theatre has moved a step closer after the local authority approved plans.

The Futurist, which once hosted The Beatles and Shirley Bassey, has been boarded up since 2013.

Flamingo Land has been selected as Scarborough Council’s preferred bidder for the site, where the developer wants to build a tourist attraction including rides and a space shot tower. The council had already agreed to the £3.91 million cost of the demolition.

The move will now go to the National Planning Casework Unit, which will decide whether it should be called in by the secretary of state.

23 October 2017
Huw Morris, The Planner


Housebuilders’ land banks are ‘reasonable’ and it is ‘too simplistic’ to say they are not pulling their weight, says the author of a new report .

The Role of Land Pipelines in the UK Housebuilding Process, produced by ChamberlainWalker and commissioned by Barratt Developments, notes that many point to increasing numbers of planning permissions, which stands at more than numbers built.

This leads to housebuilders being blamed for the housing shortage.

The economics consultancy said this is too much of a “simplistic” view of the situation. The report features new data, it continued, suggesting housebuilders’ land banks are “reasonable given a number of factors”.

The company explained that planning permissions are not always a green light to build.  “Not all ‘detailed’ planning permissions are ‘implementable’ – for example, they often come with strings attached by planning authorities, notably ‘pre-commencement conditions’, or other non-planning requirements must be fulfilled before a single brick can be laid.”

The reports states that at any one time, builders have started to build 60 per cent of their detailed planning permissions, which suggests there are hold-ups with the other 40 per cent. Of a total 685,000 planning permission on sites comprising 20 homes or more, 130,000 are outline approvals.

Additionally, not all land is controlled or owned by builders; public bodies, land promoters and other stakeholders own it. The report suggests that builders hold less than half of all planning permissions, with 55 per cent held by non-builders.

ChamberlainWalker said this “goes some way” in explaining why not all permissions are being built out.

The report says the size of land banks depends on the length of the development pipeline, which includes four phases: pre-planning application; planning application to planning permission; planning permission to start on site; and under construction to completion.

The pipeline is usually expressed in the number of years it takes to navigate land through the phases. Previous estimates suggested that it took up to 3.2 years to go through the post-permission phases, but new data suggests it now takes four years for sites of 20 homes and more.

The increased length of time for post-permission phases could be a result of the increasing number of pre-commencement conditions.

The report notes government statistics that suggest that 10 per cent to 20 per cent are not started on because the permission has expired, with 15 per cent to 20 per cent submitted as a fresh application.

“This goes some way to explaining why new planning permissions are higher than new-builds. It also explains why ‘land banks’ need to be higher than the pipeline to allow for planning permissions that don’t make it through. Data in the report suggest – alongside a post-planning permission pipeline now of four years – a post-planning permission land bank of 5.4 years.”

Richard Blyth, head of policy at the RTPI, said: “We welcome a systematic look at the issue of land banking. It is clear that a variety of tenures, a variety of kinds of sites and variety of providers are essential as we try to tackle the housing issue. Our key position paper shows that 35 years of ‘planning reform’ has not delivered and we need new answers.”

The report can be found on the ChamberlainWalker website (pdf).

24 October 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner


A round-up of appeal decisions.

‘Inadequate detail’ halts 133-home Denbighshire scheme

An inspector has blocked 133 homes near Prestatyn, North Wales, ruling that although the site had been allocated for new housing in the local development plan, the detail of the proposal was ‘inadequate’.

Urgent personal circumstances justify green belt traveller site

An inspector has ruled that the ‘urgent and profound’ personal circumstances of a Nottingham gypsy traveller family fulfilled the ‘very special circumstances’ needed to permit stationing their caravan on green belt.

Subterranean ‘eco-home’ would be ‘too isolated’

An inspector has refused plans for an underground ‘eco-home’ in the Derbyshire Dales that would be partially shielded from view by a recently approved agricultural barn, considering it too far from the nearest service centre seven miles away.

Condition restricting outdoor play at Romford nursery is ‘unreasonable’

An inspector has ruled that a 2002 planning condition limiting a nursery’s use of its garden by 10 children at a time is ‘unreasonable’, and increased the limit to 40 children at a time despite objections from neighbours about noise.

95 homes allowed on employment land in Cornwall

An inspector has granted outline permission for 95 homes near Wadebridge, north Cornwall, ruling that the surplus of employment land and shortage of housing amounted to a ‘very strong argument’ in favour of the scheme.

300 homes refused 20m from sustainable location

An inspector has refused permission for 300 homes in Suffolk because the appeal site was unsustainably located, despite it being just 20 metres away from the town of Kesgrave, found to be a sustainable location in the local development plan.

Council must pay costs for favouring emerging local plan over national policy

An inspector has ordered Fylde Borough Council to pay costs for favouring its emerging local plan over national policy in requiring an affordable housing contribution for a scheme of 10 bungalows, before dismissing the scheme on design grounds.

60m limestone bridge approved for Bristol protected parkland

A classical-style limestone bridge that will improve access to Clifton Downs for cyclists and pedestrians is the first of its kind to be approved for construction in over a century after an inspector was swayed by the scheme's sensitive design.

London short-term let allowed despite ‘acute’ housing shortage

An inspector has allowed plans to let a Lambeth flat for a maximum of 180 days a year, using a planning condition to strike a balance between short-term letting and permanent housing.

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

20 October 2017
Matt Moody, The Planner


A round-up of planning news

Brookside creator calls for transparency in C4 relocation

The TV producer and screenwriter behind Brookside, Grange Hill and Hollyoaks has called on the government to be transparent about plans to relocate Channel 4.

Phil Redmond said that any debate about its location should be “conducted transparently, in the daylight and with academic rigour – as it was when Channel 4 was first established in 1980”.

The broadcaster’s future is part of the government’s industrial strategy to “rebalance the economy”.

Channel 4 is currently located in Horseferry Road, Westminster. Liverpool, Sheffield and Birmingham are among the cities bidding to host the company's headquarters.

Feedback sought by RTPI on apprenticeship scheme

The RTPI is seeking feedback from employers on its proposed apprenticeship degree scheme.

Working with employers, the institute is looking to establish a Degree Apprenticeship for Chartered Town Planners in England.

The aim is to start courses from as early as September 2018, subject to government approvals and delivery arrangements with accredited universities.

The apprenticeships would combine academic education with vocational training to equip future employees with vital skills as well as a degree.

If you are an employer, you can respond to the survey here.

If you work for a university, you can respond to the survey here.

Chester University unveils plans for £40m medical school 

Plans for a £40 million medical school have been revealed by the University of Chester to tackle shortages of doctors.

The move aims to tackle national and local shortages of medics, particularly GPs and specialists in mental health and treating the elderly.

The plans envisage a 12,000 square metre facility as part of an extension of its Parkgate Road campus. The preferred location is on the university’s land at Glenesk, off Parkgate Road.

The scheme comprises four lecture theatres, six science laboratories, eight seminar rooms, a clinic with consulting rooms focusing on older people, a library, offices and an anatomy and dissection room as well as a mortuary.

Externally, the scheme includes a tunnel link under the Sustrans cycleway for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to campus, parking for 250 vehicles and landscaping, including two lakes.

The school would create 90 jobs for academic and professional services staff.

Demolition of Scarborough’s Futurist Theatre moves forward

The demolition of Scarborough’s iconic Futurist Theatre has moved a step closer after the local authority approved plans.

It has been boarded up since 2013.

Flamingo Land has been selected as Scarborough Council’s preferred bidder for the site, where the developer wants to build a tourist attraction including rides and a space shot tower. The council had already agreed to the £3.91 million cost of the demolition.

The move will now go to the National Planning Casework Unit, which will decide whether it should be called in by the secretary of state.

Funding awarded to improve local roads

A total of £244 million has been awarded to 76 projects across England to improve local roads and public transport as well as supporting housing development.

The cash is part of a £345.3 million package under the National Productivity Investment Fund and the Large Local Majors fund.

Among the schemes to benefit are £101.3 million for two new major roads in Middlewich, Cheshire, and Worcester.

Flow test for oil application submitted in Sussex

Fracking company Cuadrilla has announced plans to submit a planning application to West Sussex County Council to flow test and monitor in existing exploration oil well at its site in Lower Stumble, Balcombe.

Planning permission was granted for the site in May 2014 for flow testing and monitoring of the exploration well, which was drilled in the summer of 2013. This permission has now expired.

Cuadrilla said it was unable to complete the permitted exploration testing works in the allocated time because of the length of time and resources spent starting operational works at its Lancashire exploration area. There were also changes to the environmental permitting requirements for the Lower Stumble site that required assessment.

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, said: “The new planning application will cover the same scope of work as the previous permission: a flow test of the existing exploration well followed by plugging the well with cement, and fully restoring the site.”

The well at Lower Stumble requires no hydraulic fracturing because the rock is naturally fractured. The flow testing Cuadrilla is looking to undertake will measure the rate at which oil flows from the well.

£35 million to be reinvested into the railway

Network Rail has announced that it has generated £35 million from the sale of its National Logistics Centre in Ryton, Coventry, to the West Midlands Pension Fund, following a competitive sales process.

Funds generated from the sale will be reinvested into the railway, said Network Rail. It will contribute to delivering the Railway Upgrade Plan.

As part of the sale agreement, the National Logistics Centre will be leased back to Network Rail with a 15-year term.

The sale follows external analysis that suggested introducing a new inventory and order system, meaning the site would eventually no longer be needed by Network Rail.

David Biggs, managing director of Network Rail Property, said: “Investment is crucial to improving the railway in Britain. Improvements lead to longer, faster, more frequent trains, a better, more reliable infrastructure, and better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.

“The sale of the National Logistics Centre in Ryton is part of this plan to build a bigger, better and more reliable railway which benefits all rail users, and delivers the best value for money for taxpayers.”

London council says no to ‘super-home’ conversions

Westminster City Council’s planning committee has rejected plans to convert two penthouse apartments in the Knightsbridge Apartments development into a 10-bedroom £180 million ‘super-home’.

Ashley Tabor, owner of Classic FM, submitted an application to knock his two penthouse flats together, but the proposals did not meet the council’s policy to protect homes and deliver more housing, and exceed its target of creating 1,068 homes every year.

The council’s policy allows development that converts one-bedroom properties into family homes, but does not allow two family homes to be amalgamated.

There have been more than 200 similar applications in Westminster since 2013, which amounts to a potential loss of nearly 300 residential properties, said the council.

Daniel Astaire, Westminster City Council cabinet member for planning and public realm, said: “This case raises issues which cut to the heart of our planning policy. It is unconscionable to accept this kind of proposal when we face a pressing housing shortage. In fact, it is the exact opposite of what we are trying to do.

“Our aim is to ensure fairness and opportunity in housing and we refuse to sell golden postcodes to the highest bidder. For the future, we intend to strengthen our policy to prevent this kind of loss of homes in the city.”

Plans submitted for 147 homes in Exeter

Acorn Property Group and Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education have submitted plans for 147 homes on the current school site in the Topsham area of Exeter.

Plans comprise two, three, four and five bedroom homes across the 8.5 acres site. The existing pre-school will be re-housed, and a care home and assisted living units delivering in partnership with retirement specialists Castleoak.

The sale of the site facilitates the academy’s move to a new purpose built facility in Exmouth. The site is next to two conservation areas.

Local architects Clifton Emery worked on the design for the site.

24 October 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner