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Planning News - 5 April 2018

Published: Thursday, 5th April 2018

Historic farm buildings receive a £2m grant, Government failing rural communities say Lords, Lambeth estate regeneration projects receive green light and more stories...

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

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A £2 million grant scheme is being rolled out this year in five national parks, offering funding for land managers to restore their historic farm buildings, the government has announced.

The Historic Building Restoration Grant is being piloted in Dartmoor, Lake District, Northumberland, Peak District, and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.

The scheme aims to help save iconic historic farm buildings in the English National Parks from falling out of use. Owners of these buildings can apply for a grant, which offers 80 per cent towards restoration costs.

The scheme aims to replace roofs, weatherproof the exterior, or other restoration works, which enable the building to be used again for farming purposes.

Sir Laurie Magnus, chairman of Historic England, said: “Many farm buildings, in my view, are as important as churches in contributing to the beauty and the character of the English landscape.”

He added: “The partnership approach being piloted by Historic England, Natural England and upland National Parks will be of immense value in helping owners to maintain and conserve these buildings and to retain their significance for future generations.”

The scheme is open for applications until 31 January 2019, and once it is approved holders will have two years to complete the works.

The grant is supported by an implementation plan which is fully funded so that applicants can work with national park advisers on developing a management plan to deliver the restoration, working with conservation consultants as necessary.

Lord Gardiner, minister for national parks at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), said: ”I am delighted that we are able to open this new set of grants supporting the restoration of traditional farm buildings.”

He added: “Land managers who apply for this scheme will not only be safeguarding our rural history and culture, but also regenerating traditional buildings for use today and for future generations.”

29 March 2018
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

There has been a ‘consistent failure, over a number of years, to prioritise the ‘rural affairs’ element of the remit of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' (Defra), according to a report by the Lords Select Committee on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.

While the current minister and rural ambassador for the department have been working to address this, the report acknowledges, the focus of Defra has been “consumed by its important work on agriculture and the environment”. There has been a lack of emphasis on rural communities as a whole, as well as the rural economy.

Brexit will compound the issue, resulting in “fundamental changes” to the way in which agriculture and environment policy is developed and implemented.

To address this, the Lords committee recommends that responsibility for rural policy should be transferred to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

“Local authorities deliver many of the key services that support rural vitality and, given the evidence, we think it is more logical that responsibility for rural communities should rest within the central government department that is responsible for communities as a whole,” states the report.

The Lords note that Natural England has been on the end of “severe” budget cuts, leading to concerns about its ability to perform its core function. Its remit was widened when the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2016 brought about the abolition of the Countryside Agency and English Nature.

“We recommend that Natural England should be funded to a level commensurate with the delivery of its full range of statutory duties and responsibilities.  This situation should be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Lord Cameron of Dillington, chairman of the committee said: “It is clear that the government are failing to take proper account of the needs of rural communities. Departmental decisions and policies continue to demonstrate a lack of rural understanding among Whitehall policymakers. Each and every government department should be required to think about the ways in which their policies affect rural people, and the government must take action to ensure that this ‘rural-proofing’ of policy happens.

"The committee's overall vision is for balanced protection and promotion of the natural environment and a reversal of the biodiversity decline. This must be coupled with better recognition of the potential of rural communities and the rural economy, and a greater effort from the government to ensure that policy changes do not work to the detriment of rural areas."

The Lords committee also recommends:

  • Assigning responsibility for promoting and embedding rural proofing across government departments to the Cabinet Office, within a single purpose unit that has the necessary resources and experience required to exert influence on all departments.
  • The NERC Act should be amended so that it includes a reporting requirement to the biodiversity duty.
  • Natural England should review its standard advice to planning authorities to ensure that it is up to date. It should be reviewed more regularly in the future. Natural England should also review the extent of its reference to standard advice when considering planning applications, as well as reviewing its approach to considering landscapes when offering planning advice and considering planning applications.

The Countryside at a Crossroads: Is the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act Still Fit for Purpose can be found on the UK Parliament website (pdf).

26 March 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The London Borough of Lambeth has given the go-ahead for two estate regeneration projects creating more than 354 new and replacement homes in the borough.

EstatesThe two applications were front runners in the estate regeneration programme brought forward by Homes for Lambeth on behalf of Lambeth Council.

Both schemes are led by Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design. The design team has been working across these estates since spring 2016, bringing forward design-led schemes developed through working with estate residents and neighbours, said the company.

Hilary Satchwell, director of Tibbalds planning and urban design, said: “We have focused on working closely with the local community and using the principles of good design to create proposals that will deliver high-quality, mixed-tenure homes on public land for the long term.

She added: “The team’s coordinated approach has helped secure planning approval in good time and we will be continuing to support Homes for Lambeth in moving the schemes forward to delivery on site.”

The focus of the schemes has been providing high-quality new homes for existing and new residents, with the main objective being delivering as many affordable homes as possible, according to the company.

Other considerations included making sure that the proposals are highly energy efficient and are low cost in use for those that will live in them, and creating inclusive new and improved open spaces, streets and play opportunities for all residents.

The approved Westbury Estate outline planning application proposes up to 334 homes in total, of which 270 are new and replacement mixed-tenure homes for existing residents. Eighty-nine homes will be lost to make way for a masterplan that aims to create a legible framework of new streets, spaces and connections. The masterplan covers nine buildings that form four new urban blocks, together with a 10-storey tower.

The new development at Knight’s Walk on the Cotton Gardens Estate will deliver 84 mixed tenure homes, 14 of which are for existing residents. The design of the scheme is in two phases – the first phase sits between Knight’s Walk and Renfrew Road, creating an “inviting and clear” set of routes for residents and passers-by.

The second phase will look to complete a new urban block that bridges between the north and the Cotton Gardens Estate to the south-west, and will reach seven storeys along Kennington Lane.

Paul McGlone, Lambeth Council’s deputy leader, investment and partnerships, said: “I’m pleased that planning permission has been given for the rebuilding of the Knight’s Walk and Westbury estates, providing a new home for every council tenant and additional council-rent homes for local families.

“We are delivering on our guarantees to existing tenants and resident leaseholders to provide them with a brand new home built to the highest standard on their estate – and the overall scheme will provide dozens of new, genuinely affordable homes for local people.”

29 March 2018
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

Thornton Hall Hotel has won a High Court case against Wirral Council and Thornton Holdings that sees planning permission for a marquee development in the green belt quashed.

Law firm Weightmans represented Thornton Hall Hotel in the case against Thornton Holdings’ nearby Thornton Manor. They both host weddings and functions.

In 2011, the council’s planning committee approved a five-year temporary permission for the marquees in the grounds of Thornton Manor, which would be located in the green belt. The permission should have expired in December 2016.

Weightmans explained, though, that an error was made and an unconditional planning permission was issued to Thornton Manor for the marquees without time constraints.

The marquees remained in place after December 2016, with bookings still being taken. The law firm said attempts were made to get the council to take enforcement action to remove the marquees once the error became publicly known in July 2017.

Therefore, Weightmans moved on behalf of the claimant to bring a judicial review challenge seeking to quash the original 2011 planning permission and the errors within it.

The council conceded the error and agreed to the permission being quashed. However, the owners of Thornton Manor Estate, Thornton Holdings, joined the proceedings in order to defend it.

On 23 March, Mr Justice Kerr allowed the claim and granted a time extension for this to take place, despite the case being brought after the normal time limit for a judicial review due to exceptional circumstances. He said that Thornton Holdings is responsible for the lateness of the claim because it knew of the error and remained silent about it.

“I think justice requires that the extension of time be granted so that the interest of the public in the integrity of the planning process is not excluded from consideration by this court. The public interest lies in the court having power to rectify the error.

“In my judgment, the court should now exercise its power to rectify the error by quashing the permission.”

Lee Gordon, partner and head of planning at Weightmans, said: “The judge’s decision reinforces the integrity of the planning process and highlights the risks of relying on a planning permission issued in error.”

Thornton Hall Hotel Ltd, R (On the Application Of) v Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council can be found here.

28 March 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A new deal for Cardiff's bus station site has been agreed between the city council, developer Rightacres Property Ltd and the Welsh Government.

The deal secures offices as part of the mixed-use scheme and will enable the development to move forward without having to wait for an office tenant.

The council's cabinet approved the new arrangements on Wednesday afternoon (28 March). These involve the transfer of the leasehold interest in land owned by the council at Central Square and set aside for the bus station development to the Welsh Government. This will enable the full site to be assembled before the development is ready to be sold to an institutional investment firm on the same terms.

The deal will also see government-run Transport for Wales take a lease to operate the bus station part of the new development.

Transport for Wales views the bus station as a core element of a new integrated transport hub that will be realised through the Metro Central project. This project recently secured a £40 million in-principle commitment from the city deal.

In prospect is a partnership agreement between the City of Cardiff Council, the devolved administration and the developer, which will oversee the whole Metro Central project and enable work to begin very soon.

The bus station scheme has been reviewed, but will still deliver the same 14-stand bus station with 930 square metres of retail space on the ground floor. The car park will now be built over two levels – significantly reducing the build cost – and there are plans for 300 flats facing Wood Street and 7,900 square metres of grade A office space, facing Saunders Road, on the top level of the new building.

Although a new planning application will be required for the changes that are being made to the building, the development does have planning permission, so work can start on the foundations of the development once a contractor has been appointed.

Russell Goodway, cabinet member for development, said: "Through the arrangements that have been put in place since May, the new bus station will now be built on a commercial basis.

“Cardiff will have a new bus station and the council will recover the lion’s share of the money spent on the scheme to date. Bringing the government and Transport for Wales in as partners has enabled the council and the developer to get to a position where the construction will now be delivered on a fully commercially basis without any further need for council investment.”

29 March 2018
Roger Milne, The Planner

In the year to December 2017, annual new-build starts totalled 162,180, up 5 per cent when compared with the year to December 2016, according to the latest government statistics.

Completions for the same period have been recorded at 163,250, an increase of 16 per cent compared with the year to December 2016.

In the December 2017 quarter (October, November and December), new-build starts have been estimated at 41,280, which is 5 per cent higher than the previous three months, but 1 per cent down on a year earlier.

According to the statistics, there were 42,860 completions, 7 per cent higher than the previous quarter and 17 per cent higher than the December 2016 quarter.

Private sector new-build dwelling starts have been recorded as being up 8 per cent in the December 2017 over the December 2016 quarter. Completions were up by 7 per cent.

Housing associations also increased the number of new builds they started, up 2 per cent in December 2017 when compared with December 2016. Completions were 1 per cent higher.

The statistical report states that all starts are now 141 per cent above the March 2009 quarter, but 16 per cent below the March 2007 quarter peak.

House building; new build dwellings, England: December Quarter 2017 can be found on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government website (pdf).

26 March 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner