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Planning news 18 January 2018

Published: Thursday, 18th January 2018

Homes England launches, Panel to review barriers to building announced, Agent of change bill for music venues proceeds to second reading. 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 secretary Sajid Javid has launched national housing agency Homes England, the successor to the Homes and Communities Agency.

The move was set out in 2017’s Autumn Budget.

The government said Homes England will bring together the body’s existing planning expertise and its new land-buying powers to play a “major role” in securing land in areas where people want to live, support SME builders into the market and resource brownfield sites.

Homes England will work with the government as it looks to deliver its target of 300,000 homes a year and “fix the broken housing market”.

Javid launched Homes England while on a visit to Alconbury in Cambridgeshire, a former airfield that is expected to deliver 5,000 new homes.

Javid said: “This government is determined to build the homes our country needs and help more people get on the housing ladder. Homes England will be at the heart of leading this effort.

“The development at Alconbury is a prime example of how the agency has worked to deliver thousands of new homes, as well as improve roads and create space for local businesses.

“The new agency will be key in replicating this approach right across the country and will help us build a Britain fit for the future.”

Sir Ed Lister, chairman of Homes England, added: “We will take the lead in delivering better-quality homes and great places that set the bar high for others. We will also stimulate demand for Modern Methods of Construction and ultimately disrupt the housing market.”


Melanie Leech, chief executive at British Property Federation, said: “We welcome the launch of the new Homes England, and we look forward to working even more closely on the delivery of much-needed new homes across the UK. It’s clear there is growing momentum behind the government’s housing agenda and we are delighted with the continuing policy support for a multi-tenure approach to housing supply, creating great places and the remediation of land. This will be vital if the housing white paper and the changes to the National Planning Policy Framework have any chance of making a significant impact on volume and affordability.”

Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman, said: “We are pleased to see the launch of Homes England with a focus on building more homes.

“For it to be a success, it is crucial that the agency works positively with local government to deliver the mix of homes, infrastructure and places that people want to see. Every local housing market is different and councils must be able to combine and use Homes England funding flexibly to meet local need and take local opportunities.

“Councils must be part of the solution to our chronic housing shortage and able to resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes. All councils need to be able to borrow to invest in desperately-needed new homes and keep 100 per cent of Right to Buy receipts to replace sold homes.”

11 January 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has announced who will sit alongside Sir Oliver Letwin to review housing build-out rates.

The review was announced in chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Budget in November last year.

After planning permission is granted, a government statement noted that a “variety” of factors can prevent development from starting, thereby slowing down delivery.

The panel has been tasked with reviewing the gap between housing completions and the amount of land allocated for permission, and consider how to avoid interventions that might discourage housebuilding.

It will then make recommendations on how to reduce the gap between permissions given and the number built out, thereby increasing the speed of build-out.

The panel comprises:

  • Richard Ehrman – author, small commercial property developer and former journalist. Former special adviser to the Secretary of State for Employment and subsequently Northern Ireland, one-time chief leader writer of the Daily Telegraph, and former deputy chairman of Policy Exchange.
  • Lord Jitesh Gadhia – Member of the House of Lords and investment banker.
  • Lord John Hutton – (Labour) Peer and former secretary of state.
  • Rt Hon Baroness Usha Prashar CBE, PC – (Crossbench) Peer with a career spanning public, not-for-profit and private sectors, currently deputy chairman at the British Council and a non-executive director of Nationwide Building Society.
  • Christine Whitehead – emeritus professor of housing economics at the London School of Economics.

Sir Oliver Letwin, chairman of the review panel, said: “This government is serious about finding ways to increase the speed of build-out as well as tackling the complicated issues surrounding it.

“That’s why we have set up this diverse panel to help me test my analysis and to make practical, non-partisan recommendations as we look to increase housing supply that’s consistent with a stable UK housing market.

Housing secretary Sajid Javid said the review is “vital” in helping the government understand how we can build more homes quickly.

Richard Blyth, head of policy at the RTPI, said the institute “welcomes the opportunity to work with Sir Oliver on the review”.

“We appreciate that the issue is complex and requires a deep and evidence-based discussion. We also appreciate the government’s acknowledgement that simply having more planning permissions is not the whole of the answer. We will be helping the team with our own evidence, including the Delivery and Affordability of Housing in the South West of England published last autumn.”

15 January 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The House of Commons has given its approval to the Planning (Agent of Change) Bill, which would require property developers to take account of pre-existing businesses, such as music venues, before moving forward with a project.

The proposed legislation is supported by a number of people in the music industry, including Sir Paul McCartney, who told Sky that without pubs and music venues, his “career could have been very different”.

“If we don't support music at this level, then the future of music in general is in danger,” he added.

John Spellar MP moved the bill in the House of Commons, saying the bill is “designed to protect existing music venues from closure or crippling costs arising from the new development of new residential properties in their vicinity, especially over questions of noise”.

He noted that the Music Venues Trust and UK Music estimate that one third of all music venues have been lost in the past decade, and that the conversion of empty properties or former commercial buildings into residential properties is part of the regeneration of towns and inner cities.

However, Spellar said this can sometimes lead to the loss of what makes parts of those areas attractive in the first place, particularly to younger residents.

The bill, which will enshrine the agent of change into planning law, aims to give “much greater clarity and power for local councils and the planning inspectors to incorporate this principle into planning decisions”.

Khan has said he will be introducing an agent of change principle in his London Plan, while Wales has already introduced the agent of change principle into planning law.

Shain Shapiro, CEO of Sound Diplomacy, said to The Planner: "It's a terrific achievement to have made it through the first reading of the private members bill to introduce agent of change. It's been proven that the UK would benefit from this legislation. It will protect cultural venues and spaces, create more synergies with developers and the creative community and address issues before they become problems and cause further strain on the planning system.  I'm hoping it will pass and become law and if it does, the UK will become a global leader in this regard.”

The bill was also brought by Kevin Brennan, Sir Greg Knight, Pete Wishart, Jo Stevens, Ed Vaizey, Kerry McCarthy, David Warburton, Connor McGinn, Nigel Evans and Thangam Debbonaire.

A second reading of the bill will take place on Friday 19 January.

10 January 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Construction firm Carillion has gone into compulsory liquidation after the firm, its lenders, and the government failed to reach a deal to save it.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange Carillion said: “Despite considerable efforts those discussions have not been successful, and the board of Carillion has therefore concluded that it had no choice but to take steps to enter into compulsory liquidation with immediate effect.”

Carillion, which employs more than 40,000 people worldwide, including nearly 20,000 in the UK, has lost money on big contract and run up huge debts. It is not clear how staff will be affected.

In July 2017, The Planner reported that the Department for Transport had announced the firm as among the consortia awarded contracts to build the first phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham.

Carillion is the second biggest supplier of maintenance services to Network Rail and it maintains 50,000 homes for the Ministry of Defence (MoD). It also manages public services, including schools, hospitals and prisons.

With thousands of jobs at risk, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington has said all employees should continue to go to work and that they will “continue to get paid”. The government is to provide the necessary funding to maintain public services carried out by Carillion and its subcontractors, according to The Guardian.

Lidington defended the government’s decision not to bail out the highlighting contingency plans drawn up following Carillion’s first profit warning in July last year. Other contracts were drawn up in case Carillion failed, which would see other firms take over its responsibilities.

Pension Protection Fund is managing the firm’s pension funds, which the BBC said amounts to a deficit of £600 million.


Responding to the collapse of Carillion, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has urged to the government to assess its “over-reliance” on major contractors.

“Carillion’s liquidation is terrible news for all those who work for the company and it will have serious knock-on effects for the many smaller firms in its supply chain, some of which will be in serious financial danger as a result of Carillion’s demise,” said Brian Berry, chief executive at the FMB.

“The government needs to open up public sector construction contracts to small and micro firms by breaking larger contracts down into smaller lots. That way, it can spread its risk while also reaping the benefits that come from procuring a greater proportion of its work from a broad range of small companies. Construction SMEs train two-thirds of all apprentices and are a sure-fire way of spreading economic growth more evenly throughout the UK.”

Mike Cash, general secretary at the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, said the news is “disastrous” for both the workplace and transport and public services in Britain.

"The blame for this lies squarely with the government, who are obsessed with outsourcing key works to these high-risk, private enterprises.

"RMT will be demanding urgent meetings with Network Rail and the train companies today with the objective of protecting our members’ jobs and pensions.”

He added that infrastructure and support works must be immediately taken in-house, with the workforce protected.

Infrastructure support provider Amey has incorporated joint ventures with Carillion to deliver the Regional Prime and National Housing contracts for the MoD, through the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO). These contracts maintain the MoD of estate in the UK.

The terms of the arrangement will now see Amey continue the services.

The company said that for the past few weeks it has been working on detailed contingency plans with the DIO and the cabinet office to ensure that it can effectively continue to manage the contracts and these are being implemented today.

Amey confirms that it is “fully prepared” to continue the service obligation of the contracts without adverse effect on the employees of the joint ventures or the supply chain.

In a statement Balfour Beatty said it is in joint venture with Carillion on three projects: the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, the A14 in Cambridgeshire, and the M60 Junction 8 to M62 Junction 20 scheme.

It will continue to work with its customers and will meet its contractual commitments, said the company.

The cash impact to Balfour Beatty “is likely to be an outflow in the range of £35 million to £45 million in 2018”. The profit impact of Carillion’s compulsory liquidation would be recorded as an exceptional non-underlying charge in the income statement.

Balfour Beatty does not have any other material financial exposure to Carillion, the statement concluded.

15 January 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

West Sussex County Council’s planning committee has approved Cuadrilla’s application to flow test and monitor an existing exploration well at the company’s site at Lower Stumble, Balcombe.

The company said the permission covers the same scope of work as the previous permission, which was granted in 2014, against great opposition.

The company scrapped its plans to flow test but recently applied for permission.

Cuadrilla said the well does not require hydraulic fracturing as the rock is naturally fractured.

“The flow testing Cuadrilla is looking to undertake will measure the rate at which oil flows from the well.”

Planning permission has to be implemented by 2021. Once work begins, it must be completed within two years, including plugging the well with cement and fully restoring the site.

“We will establish a local Community Liaison Group and consult with residents, at the appropriate time, before work commences,” added the company.

Campaigners at Friends of the Earth noted that the site is located in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Brenda Pollack, South East campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said the approval is “devastating news” for villagers.

“Where is the democracy when over 2,700 people objected to Cuadrilla returning to this beautiful rural part of Sussex?

“Whether it’s fracking or not, dirty fossil fuels must be left in the ground. Allowing companies to drill underground for ever more difficult-to-extract oil and gas reserves is crazy when it won’t help keep polluting emissions down. We need to see a much bigger push for a cleaner future without an over-reliance on oil. Cleaner transport measures and reducing car and lorry movements is the way forward.”

10 January 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A round-up of planning news.

MHCLG confirms ministerial responsibilities

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has confirmed that Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton, will have responsibility for both housing and planning.

All other ministers have been appointed as Parliamentary Under Secretaries of State, alongside additional ministerial duties.

Heather Wheeler, MP for South Derbyshire, has been named as the minister for housing and homelessness.

Jake Berry is the minister for the Northern Powerhouse and local growth; Rishi Sunak is the minister for local government; and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth has been named as the minister for faith.

Neighbourhood plan submitted in Lichfield

Alrewas Parish Council has submitted a neighbourhood plan to Lichfield District Council, which is the seventh community within the district to reach this stage of the process.

The council is now holding a six-week consultation for local people, organisations and agencies to give their views.

The comments will be collated by the council and passed on to an independent examiner that will look at the comments and the neighbourhood plan to assess whether it meets national requirements.

If the inspector deems that it does, it can proceed to a referendum within the neighbourhood area.

The consultation closes on Wednesday 27 February.

The plan can be found on Lichfield District Council’s website.

Wolverhampton regeneration plans announced

The City of Wolverhampton Council’s planning committee will be asked to approve the establishment of an East Park Gateway Regeneration Programme today (16 January).

The council is aiming to deliver better employment and residential opportunities in the area by investing in new industrial development and housing, as well as by making road and environmental improvements.

The programme covers the area north and south of the Willenhall Road/Horseley Fields, from the Wyrley and Essington Canal to Monmore Green.

It also links to other regeneration areas, including the Canalside Quarter and Heath Town.

External funding for the scheme will be sought from the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership.

279 homes approved in Tottenham Hale

Haringey Council has approved plans for a 32-storey tower comprising 279 homes to be built as part of the Hale Village regeneration project.

London residential developer Anthology’s plans, designed by Hawkins Brown Architects, are subject to referral to the Mayor of London.

Anthology used funding from the mayor’s Housing Zone Programme to acquire the land from Lee Valley Estates in 2016, which is the final component of the 11-phase mixed-use redevelopment of the area. It includes 50 per cent affordable housing.

The housing will be a mix of private and affordable, with the ground floor of the tower offering 12,500 square feet of mixed commercial and employment space, as well as improved access to Tottenham Hale station. 

Offices approved in Bristol

Bristol City Council has approved 4 Glass Wharf, a 210,000 net square feet grade A office development in Bristol’s Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone.

The project has been designed by architecture studio Darling Associates for developer Salmon Harvester Properties Ltd.

The eight-storey building will be built on a brownfield site next to 3 Glass Wharf, currently under construction by Salmon Harvester.

Chris Darling, managing director at Darling Associates, said: “The architecture of 4 Glass Wharf will directly respond to the design of its neighbour, ensuring a strong architectural integrity and coherence on this important development site. The design will celebrate Bristol’s industrial heritage, and especially glass production, with the concept for 4 Glass Wharf carefully developed in close consultation with Bristol City Council.”

4 Glass Wharf will also include basement car parking and cycle storage, landscaping and associated public realm improvements.

BAME networking group launched

The Built Environment Communications Group (becg) has launched BAME in Property, a networking group for black, Asian and minority ethnicities, as well as non-BAME professionals in the property and planning sector.

Account manager Priya Shah initiated the group, which aims to increase ethnic diversity in the built environment sectors and promote inclusivity through discussions, round tables and networking events.

Speaking on the launch of BAME in Property, Shah said: “I decided to set up BAME in Property after reading that only 1.2 percent of the built environment sector was from a BAME background, and seeing that a networking group of its sort did not already exist.”

She said she took inspiration from other sectors where similar groups have been set up. Shah has also supported Planning Out, which is a network for LGBT+ planners that aims to raise awareness of the importance of equality for all in the sector, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Acorn to develop Falmouth coastal scheme

Acorn Property Group has exchanged contracts to purchase the former Falmouth Beach Hotel site.

The scheme - The Liner - has been granted full planning permission for 53 apartments, a restaurant bar and village shop by Falmouth Town Council’s planning committee. Acorn had made minor amendments to the planning application.

The site was previously owned by the adjacent St Michael’s Hotel and Spa, who chose Acorn as the developer.

Melton Mowbray village site sold

Strategic land company Richborough Estates has, in conjunction with Wells McFarlane, completed the sale of a 2.7 hectare site in the village of Frisby on the Wreake, near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire to housebuilder, Bellway Homes.

Richborough Estates acquired the plot, which sits on the eastern edge of the village, from a private landowner via Trevor Wells of Wells McFarlane in Lutterworth.

Richborough Estates secured outline planning permission for residential development on the site.

Bellway Homes will now deliver the scheme, which has been masterplanned for a combination of two, three, four and five bedroom family homes and 40 per cent affordable housing.

The plans also include areas of landscaping and open green space.

16 January 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner