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Planning News - 29 March 2018

Published: Thursday, 29th March 2018

Quartermain to assess three councils over lack of local plan, Javid announces £300m of housing funding, Planning reforms needed for Northern and Midlands cities to thrive, and more stories...

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

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England’s chief planner will visit three of the 15 councils threatened with intervention for not compiling a local plan in order to assess whether the government should take over the process.

Late on Friday 23 March, the government published the letters the housing secretary has sent to the 15 councils that don’t yet have a local plan.

In November 2017, the government revealed that it was considering intervening where councils had not produced one. Councils had until 31 January 2018 to submit an explanation as to why one had not been published, and to provide exceptional circumstances for why the government should not step in.

Javid said: “Whilst most councils rightly recognise their responsibilities and most have worked hard to meet the housing challenge, some have failed.

“I expect those authorities we identified in November to continue to make progress. I’m also stepping it up with three councils in particular, sending in a team of experts to make a direct assessment, ensuring they plan properly for the future or we’ll have to do it for them.”

Letters to Castle Point Borough Council, Wirral Council, and Thanet District Council state that, “in terms of our intervention criteria”, each council has “failed to make progress on plan-making, the policies for the area are therefore not up to date”.

Javid dismissed the exceptional circumstances cited by Castle Point as not being exceptional. The council said it is constrained by the green belt, the previous plan should not have been found unsound and that the council is pursuing a joint plan in South Essex. The housing secretary disagreed, saying that green belt challenges are not unique to the Castle Point area and agreed with the inspector’s reasons for finding the previous plan unsound.

Wirral Council said it is enabling development, that plan-making has been delayed by the abolition of regional spatial strategies and the removal of funding from the government, and that it will form part of the single spatial plane for Liverpool City Region. Javid noted that other councils that are members of combined authorities are producing local plans while all areas were affected by changes to regional planning.

Thanet cited its exceptional circumstances as being the local debate over the future of Manston Airport and the need to undertake more work to identify alternative sites following the failure of its previous plan. The housing secretary said other authorities have dealt with uncertainty about the future of large sites, deeming the circumstances as not exceptional.

The intervention process will continue for each of these councils. Chief planner Steve Quartermain and a “team of experts” will be sent to assess whether the government needs to take over the process of producing a local plan from the councils.

Northumberland County Council has been instructed to revise its local plan timetable, making it clearer, and to bring forward its production of its plan.

St Albans City and District Council, Brentwood Borough Council, Basildon Borough Council, Bolsover District Council, Calderdale Borough Council, Eastleigh Borough Council, and Mansfield Borough Council have committed themselves to publishing a draft plan before the end of September 2018. Javid said he will monitor their progress; any further “significant” delay to the timetable will see him reconsider intervention.

Liverpool City Council, Runnymede Borough Council, North East Derbyshire District Council, and York City Council have made progress and published their plans.

In case Quartermain reports back to say further intervention is required at Castle Point, Wirral, and Thanet councils, a procurement process is under way to secure planning consultants and specialists who will undertake the work on plan production.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) added that it will contact the county councils and combined authorities in the areas concerned about the possibility of inviting those authorities to write plans.

The 15 letters to councils can be found here on the MHCLG website.

26 March 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Housing secretary Sajid Javid has announced that £300 million is to be shared between Greater Manchester, the West of England, and Oxfordshire to deliver ‘thousands of much-needed’ new homes.

Following a deal in the Spring Statement (13 March) with the West Midlands Combined Authority worth £350 million to deliver 215,000 homes, the government says it will also invest £68 million in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to help Mayor Andy Burnham deliver his target of building 227,200 homes by 2035.

Greater Manchester’s housing package includes £50 million for a Land Fund to help councils prepare brownfield land for development.

The government will support the West of England Combined Authority as it aims to nearly double its housebuilding rate from 4,000 homes to 7,500 homes. As part of the package, the region will receive £3 million for specialist support to deliver large housing development.

Initially announced in the 2017 Autumn Budget, Oxfordshire’s housing deal has been confirmed, with £215 million to go towards building 100,000 new homes.

Of the funding, £60 million will support the delivery of 1,300 affordable homes.

Javid said: “This government is determined to build the homes this country needs. That’s why we’re working with ambitious areas across England and backing them with investment and support.

“This new housing investment in Greater Manchester, the West of England and Oxfordshire will help build much-needed homes, giving more people the opportunity to get on the property ladder.

“We’re also investing in local infrastructure like schools, roads and hospitals, so that we can help unlock even more new homes in the areas where they’re needed most and build a Britain fit for the future.”

More information on the housing packages can be found on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government website:

Greater Manchester
West of England
Oxfordshire

22 March 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


If cities in the North and the Midlands are to continue to flourish, planning rule changes are needed, in particular, to permitted development rights, according to a report published on 21 March.

City Space Race: Balancing the Need for Homes and Offices in Our Cities, a report by think tank Centre for Cities, suggests that cities in the North and the Midlands have seen the biggest growth in their city centres over recent decades, winning the struggle to rid themselves of their post-industrial hangovers.

The report suggests that Manchester has seen the highest city centre growth in England and Wales, which Centre for Cities measured by combining jobs and residential growth in central areas. Manchester was followed by Leeds (2), Birmingham (3) and Liverpool (4).

The city centre populations of the four cities grew more than 6.5 times faster than London’s between 2002 and 2015, which was ranked 20th. Growth in jobs in Manchester outpaced all cities in England and Wales, including the capital.

But, the study warns, this growth could be undermined by planning policies that prioritise residential development over commercial space in city centres. Permitted development rights only apply for offices being converted to residential properties, but for the reverse, the application must go through the planning system.

City Space Race says permitted development rights are most attractive where house prices are high because of strong residential demand. However, “cities with strong residential demand tend to also have strong business demand”.

Therefore, “take-up of permitted development rights is highest where offices most need to be protected”.

It also notes that the revised NPPF, currently out for consultation, tips the balance between commercial and housing towards the latter. “The use of explicit assessed targets for housing, but not commercial space, furthers this tendency to prioritise residential property.”

In response to the findings, the report makes the following recommendations.

  • The government should allow cities to exclude their centres from permitted development rights, to enable them to stop the ad hoc conversion of city centre commercial space into residential property. Cities would have more scope to protect their commercial centres, and to ensure that they have the office space required to attract more businesses and jobs.
  • Cities should relax planning laws in other parts of cities to allow more housebuilding. Alongside measures to promote strong city centres, cities should consider how they could free up more land for housebuilding in other areas, including allowing some controlled development of green belt land. This will be crucial for successful cities to address their housing needs, without undermining their commercial centres.

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “Thirty years ago the centres of places like Manchester and Birmingham were run-down and struggling, but since then they have undergone a dramatic transformation, and have become increasingly attractive locations for people to live and work in.

“This urban renaissance has brought opportunities for people living across these cities and their surrounding areas, and it’s vital that it continues. But for that to happen, cities need to take tough decisions on how to sustain the growth of their commercial centres, while also providing the homes their residents need.”

Rightly, Carter said, public debate has focused on housing in successful cities. Addressing those problems, though, should not come at the expense of commercial space.

“Reforming planning laws to protect the commercial heart of cities – and to encourage more housebuilding in other areas – will help cities to manage these competing demands, and to continue to prosper in future.”

* International law firm DAC Beachcroft sponsored the report.

City Space Race can be found on the Centre for Cities website (pdf).

21 March 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that rural areas will lose out on investment in affordable housing and infrastructure because of the government’s changes to permitted development.

Currently, existing agricultural buildings on a farm can be converted into a maximum of three houses.

Earlier this month though, housing minister Dominic Raab announced that this would be increased to five houses from 6 April 2018, as he made changes to permitted development rights.

According to the government, the changes are aimed at helping communities to make the best use of existing buildings to help meet local housing needs “more efficiently”.

But the LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, says the rule change may lead to a “dramatic increase” in the number of conversions without having to gain planning permission, thereby failing to contribute towards local services, infrastructure and affordable housing.

The organisation noted that there has a 46 per cent of agricultural-to-residential conversions. Further to this, recent LGA research suggested that permitted development has led to the “potential loss” of 7,644 affordable homes over the past two years.

Council leaders today called on the government to scrap permitted development rules. They want local communities to be empowered to have a say over development in their areas to ensure that it meets community needs.

Martin Tett, housing spokesperson for the LGA, said that councils want to see more affordable homes built quicker, and that barn and office conversions are one way to deliver. However, Tett insisted that it is “vital” for councils and local communities have a voice in the planning process.

“We have seen an enormous jump in the number of offices being converted into flats in our urban areas, accounting for one in 10 new homes last year and more than 30 per cent of new homes in many of our urban areas.

“Planning is not a barrier to housebuilding, and councils are approving nine in 10 planning applications. But it is essential that councils, which are answerable to their residents, have an oversight of local developments to ensure that they are good quality and help build prosperous places.”

* The LGA used government data for its analysis, which refers to England only.

21 March 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Forshaw Land & Property Group is to begin work on a £35 million ‘landmark’ Salford building.

Salford City Council approved proposals, submitted by national planning and development consultancy Lichfields, on behalf of Forshaw.

The development will comprise a mix of one, two and three-bedroom apartments, and will include a gym, community room and commercial unit.

It will be on Derwent Street, next to the River Irwell, between the Lowry Wharf development and the casino, which fronts Regent Road. It will consist of 180 apartments in a part-21, part-14 and part 11-storey building.

The development will create more than 230 jobs during the 18-month construction period, according to Lichfields. When it is complete, Lichfields estimates that the new residents will spend approximately £2.3 million a year in the local area, boosting the local economy and supporting some 25 new jobs.

Nathan Matta, planning director at Lichfields in Manchester, said: “We consider that the scheme will be seen as a landmark development and one which will positively complement the development currently taking place along the Riverside corridor.”

He added: “We welcome the support the council has shown to this high-quality development which we believe will further enhance the character and place-making ability of the Ordsall Riverside corridor.”

The s.106 contributions from Forshaw will support the funding of the new Ordsall Lane bus service and car club costs, according to Forshaw.

Other benefits will include the upgrade of an existing ramped access and public realm area, widening of the towpath and the introduction of opportunities for natural surveillance, lighting, landscaping and enhanced security.

22 March 2018
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner


A round-up of planning news

Affordable Loch Lomond homes approved

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority’s planning and access committee has approved 20 affordable homes in Balmaha, on the banks of Loch Lomond.

The development comprises 12 houses and eight flats. They will be a combination of homes for rent, shared equity ownership and properties specifically to be rented to local workers.

Two plots will be available for self-build homes.

The need for more affordable homes in the visitor destination of Balmaha was identified through consultation events with the community in 2013. Subsequently, this site was allocated for housing through the local development plan, which was adopted in 2017.

Retirement homes green-lit in Newcastle

Newcastle City Council has granted planning permission for plans to build a 63-home later-living development.

FaulknerBrowns Architects submitted the plans on behalf of PegasusLife.

Plans include shared communal facilities with a residents’ lounge and first-floor podium gardens.

Located in Jesmond, it will replace the unlisted and empty Newcastle High School for Girls. It is within walking distance of the city centre.

Brown responds to Holyrood committee city region report

Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work has responded to Deal or No Deal, by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee.

The report states that the “often confused and cluttered” policy landscape at local, Scottish and UK government levels “runs the risk of reducing the impact that can be achieved from the deals”.

Keith Brown MSP said in a letter that city region deals need to be given “some time to mature before a body of credible evidence on their impact can be assembled”.

He wrote: “I would like to be clear that just as SG is committed to achievement of inclusive growth in every part of Scotland, we are similarly committed to 100 per cent coverage of Scotland with a growth deal. We want the UKG to join us in this common purpose and work to accelerate plans to ensure every area of Scotland is given the opportunity to benefit from this extra catalytic investment.”

He said he concurs with the committee that a timetable to achieve this should be agreed between both governments.

Keith Brown’s letter can be found on the Scottish Parliament website (pdf).

* SG = Scottish Government
* UKG = UK Goverment

University appoints GVA on future of its campus

Oxford Brookes University has appointed GAV as a leading consultant for the redevelopment and sale of its Wheatley Campus.

GVA has provided planning advice and is taking the campus site to market.

Situated just off the A40, the 53.4-acre site lies seven miles south-east of Oxford city centre. It comprises a number of buildings that provide student residential accommodation, learning spaces and social venues, many of which were constructed in the 1950s and are no longer deemed fit for purpose.

The university plans to relocate functions to its Headington Campus and sell the land for residential development.

GVA’s planning, development and regeneration team assisted the university in submitting a planning application for the site. It included the development of up to 500 homes, including one to four-bedroom homes and one and two-bedroom flats. Of the total, 40 per cent have been designated as affordable.

Council approves 146 Exeter homes

Exeter City Council has approved 146 homes on Topsham Road in the St Leonard’s area of Exeter.

The approval is subject to the signing of a section 106 agreement.

Plans include 146 homes comprising a 61-bed care home and 68 assisted living units. The development is on the current site of the Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education.

The scheme is by Acorn Property Group’s Bristol office. It will complete the purchase in the next few months. The academy will continue to occupy the site until its new premises are ready. Construction is expected to start in 2019. 

Khan wants councils to stop using fossil fuels

The Mayor of London has called on the capital’s councils to join him in the fight against climate change by divesting their pension funds from fossil fuel companies.

Last year the London Pension Fund Authority agreed a climate change policy. This committed it to stop considering new active investments in fossil fuel companies that are directly engaged in the extraction of coal, oil and natural gas as sources of energy.

A number of London’s boroughs, including Waltham Forest, Southwark and Hammersmith & Fulham, have already made commitments to work with their pension funds on divestment and investments in clean projects. Khan now wants to see more boroughs sign up to the commitment and share best practice.

Liverpool airport launches strategic vision

Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LJLA) has launched its Strategic Vision to 2030, which considers how best to bring benefits to Liverpool City Region, the North West and North Wales.

Planning consultancy Turley supported the airport.

The strategy includes the ‘Airport Master Plan to 2050’, which features the potential future infrastructure developments required to deliver the forecast expansion of the business. It follows a 2017 public consultation of the draft Airports Master Plan, delivered by Turley Strategic Communications.

The economic contribution of the growth of passenger-related facilities at the airport could see it delivering land for strategic employment development, such as logistics, advanced manufacturing and offices.

Apartments approved in Leeds

Leeds City Council has approved the redevelopment of a former care home into apartments.

The Oakvilla care home in Chapel Allerton will be turned into two 14-bedroom apartments. They will be built by a local developer.

The approval follows two years of negotiations between the council and North Yorkshire planning consultancy DPA Planning.

Sam Dewar, owner of DPA Planning, explained the firm won “approval for the project on appeal, convincing planning committee members to grant permission for a scheme that’s attracting considerable interest from potential homeowners and investors”.

27 March 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner