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Planning News - 22 February 2018

Published: Thursday, 22nd February 2018

Backlog of more than 400,000 homes with permission says LGA, Khan gives green light to factory-built scheme, Birmingham to build 1,000 homes in Commonwealth Games village and more stories...

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

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According to research by the Local Government Association (LGA), there are more than 450,000 homes with planning permission waiting to be built in England and Wales.

Construction data analysts Glenigan undertook the research on behalf of the LGA, taking into consideration financial years 2015/16 and 2016/17. The analysis uses data taken from Glenigan’s database of construction projects.

It suggests that the backlog has grown by almost 16 per cent in the past year.

In 2015/16, there were 365,146 unimplemented planning permissions in England and Wales, increasing to 423,544 in 2016/17.

The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, said the research also suggests that developers are taking longer to build new homes, with 40 months on average being cited as the time period taking schemes to move from approval to completion. That is an increase of eight months compared with 20134/14.

For the LGA, the planning system “is not a barrier to building”. Councils, it is said, are approving nine in 10 planning applications – 321,202 homes were approved in 2016/17 compared with 204,989 in 2015/16.

The analysis underlines the need for councils to be given greater powers so they can take action on undeveloped land that has planning permission, said the LGA, including compulsory purchase powers.

Additionally, councils should be able to charge developers full council tax for every development not built out from the point at which the original planning permission expires. The borrowing cap should be scrapped too.

Martin Tett, housing spokesperson for the LGA, said: “These figures prove that the planning system is not a barrier to housebuilding. In fact the opposite is true.”

“Our national housing shortage is one of the most pressing issues we face. While private developers have a key role to play in solving our housing crisis, they cannot meet the 300,000 housebuilding target set by the government on their own.

“We have no chance of housing supply meeting demand unless councils can get building again.”

Jason Lowes, partner in the planning team at Rapleys, questioned the feasibility of the LGA’s proposals.

“Given the costs involved in securing a planning permission, it is just not credible to imagine that developers would then sit twiddling their thumbs once permission is actually granted – however, that seems to be the starting assumption of the LGAs position.”

Noting that every council is different, Lowes said that the LGA’s plans would require a “quantum leap forward in terms of skills, funding and strategy”.

He said the proposal to apply council-tax on unimplemented development raises a number of questions, including who would pay. It “could open up a number of unintended consequences; for instance, rather than encouraging the implementation of development, it might discourage developers/landowners from seeking planning permission in the first place, particularly on marginal sites”.

19 February 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Mayor of London has approved plans for a 21-storey residential building in Croydon that will be constructed off-site in a factory.

The building is set to be the tallest of its kind, according to a statement from Khan.

The development is planned for Addiscombe Grove in Croydon, and comprises 153 units, 70 per cent of which have been secured as affordable for first-time buyers to buy at a discount below the market price.

Developer Pocket Living has agreed in principle to make the remaining homes available for shared ownership.

In 2017, Pocket agreed a deal with Khan for £25 million of City Hall funding to support 1,059 new Pocket homes. A third of these are expected to be built in a factory.

The homes are set to remain affordable for the lifetime of the Croydon building, with Pocket marketing and selling to residents and workers in the borough. All units would meet the space standards in the draft London Plan.

Khan said off-site construction is an “innovative way to speed up building the affordable homes our city needs”.

“I invested in Pocket Living to help them build genuinely affordable homes that are sold to local people first.”

Marc Vlessing, CEO of Pocket Living, said: “At Pocket, we always aspire to lead the way. Addiscombe Grove is a great example of this, where we are aiming to use modular construction to deliver homes faster and increase the genuinely affordable housing provided from 73 per cent to 100 per cent.”

14 February 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Birmingham City Council has announced plans to build around 1,000 homes to accommodate up to 6,500 competitors and officials for when it hosts the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

As well as the housing, the Games Village is also expected to comprise dining, medical, transport and other essential services.

It will be located on a 24-hectare site at Perry Barr off the A452 Aldridge Road. The site is current home to the old University of Central England and Birmingham City University campus, a mile from Alexander Stadium.

The homes will consist of one and two-bedroom apartments, and three and four-bed town houses.

After the games, the accommodation will be converted and become available as a mixture of homes for sale, market rent, and social and affordable rent. This will be done through the city council’s Birmingham Housing Trust and In-Reach rental initiative.

There are plans to invest in the wider infrastructure network as part of the development of the Games Village, including local access improvements and a new bus interchange.

The city council says the development will act as a catalyst for “significant” housing growth in Perry Barr as the first phase of a wider programme to deliver up to 3,000 new homes. The homes will help the council to meet its housing target of 50,000 new homes, laid out in the Birmingham Development Plan, adopted in January 2017.

Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council and chair of the Birmingham 2022 bid team, said the development of the Games Village will help rejuvenate Perry Barr and the wider surrounding area, “meaning there will be a meaningful and lasting legacy for the people of Birmingham, in particular those living near the heart of the action in 2022”.

“We have a desperate need for high-quality housing in the city and it would have been much trickier to meet that demand if we had not been successful in our bid to host the games,” continued Ward.

A programme of public engagement is being developed that aims to ensure those living and working near the site will have full information on all aspects of the project as it evolves.

15 February 2018             
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has said the government is 'slow in taking decisive action' to address the UK’s infrastructure needs, as it calls for a parliamentary vote on a third Heathrow runway ‘no later than this summer’.

The commission’s first Annual Monitoring Report notes its concerns about the government’s failure to establish a firm timetable or funding plan for both Crossrail 2 and the Northern Powerhouse Programme.

The NIC is also perturbed about mobile phone coverage and digital connectivity on the UK’s roads and railways, saying urgent action is required to address this.

After the 2017 election, the NIC set out 12 infrastructure priorities on which it thought urgent government action was required, including a third runway for Heathrow, HS2 and HS3, and plans for renewable energy. The Annual Monitoring Report measures the government’s progress against the priorities

Sir John Armitt, chair of the NIC, said: “Alongside progress, there is a disappointing lack of pace in several areas. Much greater urgency is needed in tackling the poor quality of mobile phone signal coverage on the UK’s major roads and railways lines.

He said it is “hugely disappointing” that nearly two years on from the publication of the commission’s report on Crossrail 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, the government still has not firmly committed to a timetable for funding or got a clear plan for delivering either of these nationally significant projects.

“It is vital that decisions on both schemes are made this year and that the government commits to the long-term vision that supports the recommendations we made.”

Armitt said it is also important that the government makes decisions on immediate priorities.

“‎It is imperative that a parliamentary vote on the expansion of Heathrow takes place no later than this summer. Any further delay would be irreconcilable with the government’s commitment to deliver the infrastructure the country needs.”

However, he observed the progress made on transforming the UK’s energy networks, digital connectivity and regional planning. He said there had been moves to implement NIC recommendations set out in its Connected Future report, with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport “significantly” increasing its digital capability. The 2017 Autumn Budget also allocated money for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford growth corridor.

The commission warns that the UK’s “historic weakness” in strategic infrastructure planning could have damaging consequences for economic growth and international competitiveness if left unaddressed. Therefore, it has called for a ‘marked improvement’ to the UK’s transport and energy systems, digital capabilities and mobile coverage; “all of which are imperative for economic success and for our quality of life”.

20 February 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Welsh Government has announced that it will proceed with plans to impose a tax on landowners who fail to develop sites that are ripe for development.

Mark Drakeford, cabinet secretary for finance, said ministers would take forward a vacant land tax to test taxation powers conferred by the Wales Act 2014.

The measure could work in a similar way to a vacant site levy in the Irish Republic. Local authorities would draw up a list of vacant land suitable to be developed.

Since announcing a shortlist of new tax ideas alongside the draft Budget in October, the administration has been examining the case for a social care levy, a vacant land tax, a disposable plastics tax and a tourism tax.

Although the vacant land tax idea will be used to test the Wales Act powers, work will continue on each of the other three options.

Drakeford said: “Housing is a priority for the government. A tax on vacant land could prevent the practice of land banking and land not being developed within the expected timescales.

“The Republic of Ireland vacant sites levy provides a useful starting point for how a vacant land tax could work in Wales.”

16 February 2018
Roger Milne, The Planner

174-home scheme in Bolton submitted

Developer Bellway Homes has published proposals for a £21 million development of 174 houses near Bolton.
The plans, for a 10-hectare site at Bowlands Hey, were submitted to Bolton Council by planning consultancy Lichfields on behalf of Bellway Homes.
The scheme comprises 51 four-bed detached, 35 three-bed detached, 44 three-bed semi-detached, 22 three-bed semi-detached mews and 21 two-bed semi-detached mews homes. Of the 174 homes, 61 have been designated as affordable.
This scheme is the second phase of development for Bellway Homes, with the first taking place on adjacent land that has approval for 129 homes, secured on appeal in 2017.

Consultation launched on housing ombudsman

Housing secretary Sajid Javid has launched an eight-week consultation on proposals to shape a simpler and better complaints service for tenants and homeowners.
Its aim is to solve disputes faster and allow consumers to be able to access compensation where it is owed.
The consultation considers introducing a single housing ombudsman to cover the whole of the housing market, whether homebuilders should be required to join an ombudsman scheme, and shaming poor practice to help tackle the worst abuses.
It can be found on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government website.

Green light for 140 Skipton homes

Craven District Council has granted outline planning permission for 140 homes in Skipton. The approval is subject to a Section 106 agreement.
The scheme, which includes 30 per cent affordable housing, cycle and pedestrian links and public open space, will be located on fields off Knaresborough Road. Pegasus Group secured the permission on behalf of a private landowner.

Waterside complex approved in Birmingham

A 404-home scheme in Birmingham’s Gun Quarter has been approved by the city council.
The Snow Hill Wharf project, at Shadwell Street, will see property firm St Joseph build the homes overlooking the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. Building works are due to begin on site this summer.
A mix of one, two, and three-bedroom apartments will be built across five buildings. The scheme also features a gym with a sauna, a residents’ lounge and a cinema room, as well as a 24/7 resident concierge service.

i54 business park to expand

A planning application for a western extension to i54 South Staffordshire is set to be submitted this spring.
The park’s development and investment is the result of a partnership between the City of Wolverhampton Council, Staffordshire County Council and South Staffordshire District Council.

An initial planning application to South Staffordshire District Council would include the development of 60 acres of land between Wobaston Road, Pendeford Hall Lane and the current i54 site. There is also potential to extend the park by over 100 acres, which could deliver up to 2,700 jobs.
i54 South Staffordshire Partnership will hold a public consultation on the proposals before they are submitted. More information can be found on the i54 website.

CPO powers approved to unlock Birmingham development

Birmingham City Council has resolved to use its compulsory purchase powers to unlock the Axis Square development site, which includes the redevelopment of The Axis building on Holliday Street in the city centre.
London & Continental Railways’ (LCR) plans for Axis Square were granted planning permission last year, and will create a million square feet of new grade A office accommodation and a new public square.
The site is currently home to a 1970s office block. The development is set to create a new city centre destination with four modern office buildings with cafés, a restaurant and retail opportunities at ground floor, formed around public open space.
LCR development manager, Nick Clough, says the council’s resolution to grant the use of a CPO “is a fundamental step forward in delivering this important development for the city”, and that work on the development can now move forward.

Review of South Worcestershire’s development plan starts

A review of the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) has begun with a consideration of the government’s guidance for setting housing requirements.
It will also look at the latest population growth figures so that the SWDP period can be extended until 2041. It will also appraise what infrastructure will be needed by 2041.
The current plan includes policies to facilitate the delivery of 28,400 new homes between 2006 and 2030.
The plan will be prepared by Malvern Hills District Council, Worcester City Council and Wychavon District Council.
An “issues and options” document will be published for public consultation towards the end of this year. A further consultation and a public examination will follow over the following three years. The three councils aim to adopt the revised SWDP in November 2021.

Swimming pool approved in Derby

Planning consultancy Turley, acting on behalf of Derby City Council, has secured planning permission for a new swimming and leisure facility in the city.
The complex will be on land at Osmaston. It is being delivered through Mace, with Faulkner Browns leading on design.
Plans will see a 10-lane, 50-metre swimming pool built, as well as leisure water for families and a learner pool. A gym will be built, as will fitness studios, a sauna, steams rooms and hospitality space.

19 February 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner