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Planning news - 14 December 2017

Published: Thursday, 14th December 2017

LGA says councils are hampered by planning fee increase delay, Dover AONB homes stopped by Supreme Court, Brownfield registers don’t consider small sites – CPRE. And more stories...

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

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By the end of this financial year, local authorities will miss out on an extra £70 million if the government does not bring forward long-awaited measures to increase planning fees, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

This is hampering councils’ ability to process applications, it added.

Last week, the House of Lords debated the regulations set to bring a rise in planning fees, along with other measures to the planning fees system, including a new fee for prior approval for a variety of new permitted development rights.

The Lords approved the proposals, which will now be debated in the House of Commons.

Now councils are warning that an immediate increase is needed to make sure that applications are processed as efficiently and effectively as possible. They point out that although chancellor Philip Hammond said in his Budget that he would introduce measures to speed up development, he did not pledge new money to help resource planning departments.

The LGA has campaigned for councils to be able set fees locally to help cover the cost of processing planning applications.  

The representative body for councils in England and Wales said councils were expecting to be able to raise fees by 20 per cent in July, but the date was been pushed back. They are also awaiting the results of government consultation to raise them again by another 20 per cent. The LGA said it is crucial December’s Local Government Finance Settlement includes the ability for them to make this first rise immediately.

In August, The Planner reported on LGA analysis suggesting that planning applications would cost local taxpayers £1 billion over the next five years to 2022.

Since 2012, which was the last time national fees were increased, communities have paid for up to a third of all planning applications, diverting “desperately-needed resources” away from other “vital” local services.

Martin Tett, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said that while council planning departments are doing “an incredible job”, the “simple fact is that if the government is serious about speeding up the delivery of new homes, they must provide more resources for our planning departments”.

He urged the government to bring forward the increases in planning fees as soon as possible.

“Our planners both protect local environments and ensure appropriate and affordable homes are delivered for our communities. That’s why ultimately, council planners should be able to set fees that reflect the needs of their local area.

“As a minimum first step, however, the government needs to deliver those fee increases that they have already committed to. By April next year, if the fees are not forthcoming, planners will have missed out on £70 million, which is money that would help us approve applications, safeguard our environments, and deliver homes and communities to be proud of.”

11 December 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Supreme Court has upheld a decision by the Court of Appeal against plans to build 521 homes in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The application also included a 90-apartment retirement village for land in Farthingloe, and 31 homes and a hotel and conference centre at Western Heights.

Those who supported the application, which was submitted by China Gateway International Limited, said it would bring a much-needed boost to the local economy, while organisations including the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) were opposed.

CPRE Kent said the proposals would “irreparably damage this nationally protected landscape”.

Planning officers at the Dover District Council initially put forward proposals reducing the number of houses to 365, recognising the harm to the AONB posed by the application. They recommended that the plans should be approved.

In June 2013, Dover District Council planning committee carried a motion to follow this recommendation, but with the original number of homes.

An updated planners’ report, contrary to their earlier report, noted that the section 106 agreement did not require the developer to provide the hotel but instead served “to provide the opportunity for a quality hotel to come forward”. This was executed in April 2015.

CPRE Kent sought a judicial review of the decision to approve this development, but was unsuccessful at the first try in the High Court.

The Court of Appeal allowed the subsequent appeal and quashed the permission in September 2016, on the grounds that the planning committee did not give legally adequate reasons for approving the application. The Court of Appeal noted that the planning committee had gone against officer advice.

The council chose to challenge this in the Supreme Court. It was not in dispute that the council had breached a specific requirement under the Town and Country Planning (Environment Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 to provide a statement on the main reasons it based its decision. The issue considered was whether the Court of Appeal was right to quash the decision on that basis.

Lord Carnwath, with agreement from Lady Hale, Lord Wilson, Lady Black and Lord Lloyd-Jones, upheld the decision by the Court of Appeal.

Emma Marrington, senior rural policy campaigner at CPRE, said the decision sends a “powerful message to councils” about how they exercise their duty to protect “our most cherished landscapes”.

Hilary Newport, director of CPRE Kent, said: “This level of harm to the AONB cannot be justified and the judges at the Court of Appeal last year, and now at the Supreme Court, agreed with us. This case is not just important to the people of Dover but for the principles of planning law; AONBs merit the highest possible level of protection.”

The full case – Dover District Council (Appellant) v CPRE Kent (Respondent)/CPRE Kent (Respondent) v China Gateway International Limited (Appellant) – can be found on the Supreme Court website (pdf).

7 December 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has said brownfield land registers are failing to record the small plots that could deliver an extra 188,734 homes across the country.

A more “proactive process” and access to Land Registry data could help to build homes without “wasting precious countryside,” added the campaign group.

Local authorities have until 31 December 2017 to produce an up-to-date register of brownfield sites that are both available and suitable for development.

CPRE noted that in the Autumn Budget, chancellor Philip Hammond said 20 per cent of new homes be built on small sites so that brownfield land is used “as efficiently as possible”.

However, the organisation feels that the government should amend brownfield policy and guidance so that it encourages the identification of the full range of appropriate brownfield sites for housing if that aim is to be met.

CPRE has undertaken an initial audit of already submitted brownfield registers, which it said suggested that less than 4 per cent of current registered brownfield land is on small sites of up to 10 homes. If councils are to meet the chancellor’s 20 per cent small site target on brownfield, an additional 188,734 homes across England could be unlocked.

CPRE also commissioned Unlocking Potential – research investigating how local authorities are identifying brownfield sites for the new registers. It says that local authorities “routinely” disregard small brownfield sites, despite the fact that these usually have existing infrastructure such as good rail and road links, access to local amenities and are near existing communities. They are particularly valuable in rural areas where much-needed development could be provided without encroaching on the surrounding countryside.

CPRE said the reasons given for not including these sites include a lack of local authority resources to identify small brownfield sites and the perception among builders that the planning system is too burdensome and complex when considering small sites.

Rebecca Pullinger, planning campaigner at the CPRE, said: “Up and down the country tens of thousands of small brownfield sites are not included in brownfield land registers and their housing development potential is missed. The current system of collecting this data must be improved if we are to unlock the potential of brownfield, and stop developers finding an excuse to build on greenfield areas.”

The CPRE’s research contrasts with a report The Planner considered yesterday (11 December). It suggests that just two regions taking part in the pilot have sufficient capacity to accommodate their five-year housing requirement once planning attrition has been factored in.

“Brownfield land can make a significant impact on the housing crisis, but it cannot solve it.”

The report – Brownfield: The Housing Crisis Solved? – says greenfield land will be necessary if housing demand is to be met.

CPRE, which supports a ‘brownfield first’ policy, wants the government to amend brownfield policy and guidance to encourage the identification of the full range of appropriate brownfield sites for housing, including small sites.

12 December 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Hundreds of hectares of mostly vacant land designated in Housing Zones will be neglected for housing as a result of new regulations in Mayor of London’s Sadiq Khan’s London Plan, says London Assembly member Andrew Boff.

Published in late November, the draft London Plan includes increased regulation on Strategic Industrial Land.

This means councils will have to provide like-for-like alternatives if the sites are used for housing.

Andrew Boff AM stated that according to his own research, in London’s 13 designated Housing Zones, introduced by previous mayor Boris Johnson, 491 hectares of under-used Strategic Industrial Land could deliver 27,000 homes.  

Using mid-range estimates, he said, Strategic Industrial Land in Southwark has the potential to provide 6,000 homes, while Hillingdon could deliver 4,000 and Brent 3,000.

Boff wants the mayor to capitalise on this land and scrap plans for additional Strategic Industrial Land regulations within London’s Housing Zones, allowing local authorities to free up the sites for developers.

He said: “London absolutely needs a percentage of designated industrial land. However, when an area is listed as a Housing Zone it seems counter-productive to block homes being built on parts of it that are otherwise sitting vacant.”

The new draft London Plans makes its easier for someone to build a small block of flats in their back garden but made it more difficult to build on a large area of wasteland, Boff added. “It’s a backwards approach to solving the housing crisis.”

“This underused land sits within zones specifically designated for housing. The mayor needs to make the most of this opportunity and reconsider these unnecessary regulations. The London Plan shouldn't ignore the contradictions between housing and industrial policy – it should help to resolve them.”

11 December 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Cardiff City Council has begun consulting on an economic blueprint for the capital that includes a spatial strategy designed to concentrate investment in specific areas.

Under these proposals the intention is to encourage the continued expansion of the city centre southwards beyond the railway lines through office-led mixed-use development.

In the case of Cardiff Bay, the document highlighted investment in leisure-led infrastructure. In respect of north Cardiff, the blueprint has made the case for further growth at the Heath Hospital site and at the knowledge cluster around Coryton.

The document argued that in east Cardiff, south of the railway line, there is an existing industrial centre primed for expansion and with the potential to deliver more manufacturing, distribution and trade related jobs.

In west Cardiff, already home to some of the city’s premier sporting and recreational facilities, the aspiration is to provide a cluster of sporting infrastructure for the benefit of both elite sport and for local community use.

Russell Goodway, cabinet member for investment, said: “There is no doubt that we need to be better connected by improving the transport infrastructure, create more better-paid jobs, tackle the issues of inequality and be smart both by embracing technology improvements as well as responding intelligently to the issues that a city has to deal with.

“Working with the private sector, government and our partners, the new strategy will need to set out the council’s intended focus of investment which is in the city centre, Cardiff Bay, innovation in North Cardiff, a western sport cluster, and industry in the east of the city.”

The consultation can be found on the Cardiff City Council website.

8 December 2017
Roger Milne, The Planner

A round-up of planning news.

Hampshire hotel approved

East Hampshire District Council has approved a new 73-bed hotel and resort, as well as 14 lakeside lodges and a family holiday cottage, in Bordon.

The permission will see the former 24-bed Headley Park Hotel site, closed since 2015, redeveloped.

The site is in a secluded woodland setting near Picketts Hill, just beyond the boundary of the South Downs National Park.

The surrounding woodland is designated as a Site of Importance to Nature Conservation (SINC) and adjoins a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Area (SPA).

Grace Mollar, senior planner at consultancy Planning Potential, which secured the permission on behalf of developers Landcorp London Ltd, said: “Through our planning application, we worked hard to secure an uplift of more than 8,000 square metres of usable floor space, which clearly makes the new development much more attractive and viable.”

Development site sold in South Derbyshire

Development agency Fisher German has sold development land in Melbourne, South Derbyshire, which has planning permission for 34 dwellings, to housebuilder Miller Homes.

The company acted on behalf of the landowners to tender for a strategic land promoter before selecting Investin plc, before gaining planning permission for the site.

Planning permission was initially refused by South Derbyshire District Council, but Fisher German appealed the decision, which was approved.

The development will feature three to five-bedroom family homes, with Miller Homes expected to start work on site in January.

Iconic York factory to be converted into homes

Latimer, part of Clarion Housing Group, has purchased the Cocoa Works building in York, and plans to transform the derelict site into 258 apartments.

Located on Haxby Road, the Cocoa Works building has been empty for about a decade after Nestlé relocated to alternative premises.

The scheme is expected to comprise one, two and three-bedroom homes, a concierge, and a variety of community facilities.

The site comes with planning permission.

Yorkshire battery storage approved

East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s planning committee has approved the construction of a 49.5 megawatt battery storage facility.

Harmony Energy Storage Ltd is the developer, while Cater Jonas’ infrastructure and energy team advised on the application.

The new facility, which will comprise 17 battery units, will be built on a two-acre site on land adjacent to Creyke Beck substation, Cottingham, near Hull.

Search on for design ideas for Old Street

Islington Council has launched an open call for design ideas to create an “iconic gateway” for Old Street, as Transport for London (TfL) announced work will start to transform the area late next year.

The 1960s roundabout is set to undergo major work as part of plans by the Mayor of London and TfL, in partnership with Islington and Hackney Councils.

It will see the roundabout removed and replaced with a safer layout, while segregated cycle lanes and traffic signals, and the reintroduction of two-way traffic in line with the Mayor's Healthy Streets Approach, will be built. A public consultation supported initial plans.

Islington Council is looking for innovative design ideas for the public space that encompass public art and embrace the spirit of ‘Tech City’ – the technological, economic and cultural powerhouse around Old Street. Design ideas are being sought from different disciplines including architecture, urban planning, transport, art, smart cities and technology.

More information about the open call can be found on Islington Council’s website. 

Cash boost for Welborne Garden Village

Housing and planning minister Alok Sharma has announced that Welborne Garden Village will receive £275,000 from the government.

Fareham Borough Council said it would use the money to bring forward the new 6,000 homes community planned for north of the M27 at Fareham.

It will go towards funding staff and studies that are “vital” to the delivery of the garden village.

Welborne is one of 14 garden villages announced by the government in January 2017.

Wolverhampton Interchange gets £50m

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has signed off £50 million of support for the Wolverhampton Interchange project.

Led by a consortium of partners including the City of Wolverhampton Council, the interchange will create a new railway station connected to an extended tram network, via a stop outside this new station.

It is expected to enable the delivery of 30,000 square metres of office, retail and leisure space, as well as £80 million of private sector funding and the creation of 1,300 jobs.

City of Wolverhampton Council leader Roger Lawrence said: “This key funding contribution means everything is now in place for the Wolverhampton Interchange Partnership to push ahead with the development of the city’s new railway station.

"It has major significance by better connecting Wolverhampton to the UK's high-speed rail (HS2) network, in turn helping create jobs, opportunities and growth in the city.”

12 December 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner