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Planning News - 12 April 2018

Published: Thursday, 12th April 2018

Councils and developers ‘must’ work together to improve housing quality, Land reform could save ‘billions’ for councils building homes, says think tank and more stories...

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

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The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has launched two new resources that aim to help developers and local authorities boost housing standards and improve social value outcomes.

The Housing Standards Playbook (pdf) is intended to support local authorities in driving up the sustainability of new homes through policy.

It urges local authorities to set a standard for all new homes to be built to 19 per cent improvements compared with the current national minimum on carbon reduction. Additionally, they should commit to a policy for all new homes to be net zero in operation by 2030 at the latest.

The playbook suggests that developers should demonstrate that they have acted to mitigate the risk of overheating as well as to close the performance gap.

Social Value in New Development (pdf) is aimed at local authorities and developers. It considers social value, its stakeholders, strategies for driving positive outcomes and measuring success, as well as the current barriers to success.

It includes an overview of the outcomes and opportunities available if the social value of development is considered across three areas: jobs and economic growth; health well-being and the environment; and strength of community.

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UKGBC, said: “Raising the bar on standards for new homes and tackling energy and climate change are fundamental to delivering the high-quality, efficient, and healthy new homes we need.

“Sustainable development can deliver a wide range of benefits not only to residents, but to communities and cities at large.”

She said this comes through boosting local economies and the quality of life through activities like providing jobs and apprenticeships and upgrading social and community facilities.

“We hope that these resources can help drive further collaboration between local authorities and developers to deliver truly sustainable development,” concluded Hirigoyen.

3 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Reform of the land market could reduce the upfront cost of an affordable housebuilding programme by more than a third, according to cross-party think tank Civitas.

The majority of the cost of housing development comes from the price of land, which is much higher when planning permission is granted for new homes, notes the think tank.

It contends that if councils had the power to acquire land at fairer prices, before planning permission is awarded, the cost of building 100,000 homes could fall by about £9 billion.

Calculations by Civitas suggest that a 100,000-housebuilding programme could cost £23.5 million under the existing framework, but if the framework was revised and landowners were only paid a 50 per cent premium on the current value of their land, this could drop to £14.5 billion.

According to Reform of the Land Compensation Rules: How Much Could It Save on the Cost of a Public Sector Housebuilding Programme? 10,000 homes could be built in inner London boroughs and 10,000 in outer London boroughs, with the remaining 80,000 spread out across England for this revised price.

Daniel Bentley, editorial director at Civitas, said: “It is clear that the only way to consistently build 300,000 homes a year is for the public sector to supplement market provision with a steady supply of new affordable homes. This would provide a much-needed alternative to the insecure private rented sector for low-income families, and by stepping up supply it would bear down on housing costs for everybody.

“Ministers have repeatedly suggested that council building needs to be part of the solution, but seem to be put off by the upfront costs. But these costs could be dramatically reduced if landowners were prevented from pocketing the unearned windfalls that arise when sites are designated for new housing.”

Official estimates note that residential land in England is worth an average of £2.1 million a hectare, but in agricultural use the land would be worth £21,000 a hectare. Brownfield land would be worth £514,000 a hectare.

The revised framework suggested by Civitas (existing use value plus 50 per cent) would see the cost of land in the South East fall from a residential land cost of £233,000 a unit to £123,000 a unit.

The residential value of the land reflects the market value of the homes that can be built on that land, minus construction costs and the developer’s margin. The landowner’s entitlement to that residential value is currently enshrined in case law and legislation dating back to the 1961 Land Compensation Act, therefore local authorities can’t buy the land for less than the residential value.

Reform of the Land Compensation Rules: How Much Could It Save on the Cost of a Public Sector Housebuilding Programme? can be found here on the Civitas website (pdf).

4 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


North Wales Police, North Wales Fire Rescue Service and Denbighshire County Council have launched a joint investigation following a massive blaze at a listed former Victorian asylum at Denbigh, which is at the centre of competing redevelopment proposals.

Earlier this week multi-millionaire businessman and hotelier Lawrence Kenwright signalled that he was prepared to invest £100 million to restore the abandoned grade II complex and turn it into two luxury hotels, as well as new homes,

The Prince’s Regeneration Trust has already obtained planning permission to convert, restore and part-demolish the main range of buildings for flats and allow a mixed-use scheme in the grounds, including up to 200 residential and business units.

The complex is owned by an offshore company based in the British Virgin Islands. In 2013, Denbighshire County Council, the planning authority, voted to compulsorily purchase the former asylum after the owner, Freemont (Denbigh) Limited, failed to comply with a repairs notice that required it to carry out significant repairs to the buildings on site.

Two years later the Welsh Government confirmed that the CPO requires the current owner to sell the building to the county council, which would in turn transfer ownership of the site to the North Wales Building Preservation Trust – a not-for-profit registered charity.

In March 2016, an application by the site owner to overturn the CPO was refused by the High Court, while in May 2016, the site was put up for auction by the current owner but not sold.

The planning authority said: “Trying to save the important listed buildings and the site has been a long and complicated issue. Our main concern has always been to preserve the main range historic buildings on the site. The works that we have already undertaken, including the securing of the CPO, have been the most complex ever undertaken on a listed building in Wales.”

Hugh Evans, leader of the county council, said this week: “We are truly saddened to hear about the fire on Wednesday and the fact it was started deliberately beggars belief.

“The council has been progressing with a CPO process to obtain the land. That process is lengthy and not yet complete. This means that the site continues to be owned by an offshore company based in the British Virgin Islands and issues around the site’s safety are the responsibility of the landowner.

“However, the council would like to reassure residents and those interested in the future of the site that it is fully committed to continuing with the completion of the CPO process, to protect this historic site for future generations.”

In a further statement the county council told The Planner: “We are currently going through due process to ensure the best option for the site.

“No decision has been made and due to the commercially sensitive nature of the proposals, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.

"However, the council has invested a significant amount of time, money and energy into bringing this now-derelict property back into public ownership, so that the site can be redeveloped and that commitment remains as strong as ever. We hope to be in a position to reach a decision in the near future.”

6 April 2018
Roger Milne, The Planner


Shropshire Council’s North planning committee has approved a development comprising up to 600 homes on land north of Shrewsbury Road in Oswestry.

The outline application also features associated infrastructure, including areas of open public space, with all matters reserved except access.

The decision is in line with the planning officer’s recommendation, but is subject to the applicant, J Ross Developments, entering into a section 106 agreement for the provision of affordable housing, and open space provision and management.

The development will be located on land known as the Eastern Gateway Sustainable Urban Extension. The site covers 24.4 hectares.

The officer’s report states: “In respect of the three dimensions to sustainable development in the NPPF, the delivery of housing is a contributor to economic growth. The proposals will fulfil a social role by delivering a mix of affordable and open market housing to meet current and future needs with a range of tenures. There are environmental issues that are affected by the proposals, however, which weigh against the sustainability credentials of the scheme, although some mitigation is proposed that will redress the balance.”

The planning officer's report can be found on the Shropshire Council website (pdf).

5 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Housing minister Dominic Raab has announced that the government will review the law and powers that deal with unauthorised caravan sites and developments.

Unauthorised sites can cause “significant” distress for both the settled and nomadic communities, said the government.

The issue has been increasingly raised in Parliament recently, with many local residents concerned about antisocial behaviour, such as fly-tipping and noise. The government said evidence suggests that living on unauthorised sites can have a negative impact on people’s health and education.

Since 2010, the number of traveller caravans on authorised sites has increased, however, the government noted that the latest figures suggest that approximately 16 per cent of all caravans – around 3,700 – are on unauthorised sites.

Raab said: “The vast majority of the travelling community are decent and law-abiding people. But we are particularly concerned about illegal traveller encampments, and some of the antisocial behaviour they can give rise to.

“We must promote a tolerant society and make sure there are legal sites available for travellers, but equally the rule of law must be applied to everyone.”

The government is seeking views on what more can be done to ensure that local authorities, the police and landowners can deal with unauthorised sites and developments efficiently. Additionally, it wants to know about any barriers to the provision of authorised sites.

The consultation document states that views are welcomed on "barriers that prevent some local authorities from utilising existing enforcement powers effectively, and whether there are ways in which government can assist in overcoming these barriers".

"In addition, while we consider the current planning enforcement powers are extensive, we would welcome views on what, if any, further powers and capabilities might be useful in dealing with unauthorised development, and may help to bring proceedings to a swifter conclusion."

The consultation – carried out jointly by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Home Office and Ministry of Justice – also covers police powers as well as local authority's, the provision of legal sites, and the impact on settled and nomadic communities.

The consultation can be found on the MHCLG website.

5 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


A round-up of planning news

1,000 homes approved for Greater Manchester

Rochdale Borough Council’s planning committee has granted approval for a hybrid planning application that will provide 1,000 new homes in South Heywood in Greater Manchester.

Russell Homes’ plans for the 129-hectare site also include 1.45 million square feet of employment space, a primary school, a local community centre and landscape infrastructure.

A new 2 kilometre link from the M62 will be built to serve new and existing employment areas.

The South Heywood masterplan is a long-term development that is estimated to create around 2,850 jobs.

IBI Group, a design and technology practice, has been engaged to provide a number of services, including masterplanning and urban design.

Development site in Leicestershire purchased

Wheatcroft Land has purchased a former warehouse site in Moira, Leicestershire, which will now be turned into a residential development.

The ‘high end’ development, situated in the National Forest, will comprise nine homes.

They will be a mixture of two to four-bedroom family homes, including semi-detached and detached properties. They are subject to detailed planning permission. The 0.99 hectare site currently has outline planning permission.

The site overlooks Ashby Canal.

Catherine Haward, director of Wheatcroft Land, said: “This is a really attractive area of Leicestershire with many country and outdoor benefits, including walking and cycling within the forest, which will make it a really lovely place to live and we are excited about bringing it forward.

“The redevelopment is in a beautiful location and our intention is to implement the planning consent of two to four-bedroom homes, three of which will be detached and six semi-detached, with a view to completion in spring 2019.”

£86m for Fife council homes

Fife Council has announced that it will spend £86 million on its housing stock over the next two years.

A further £42 million will fund the new-build affordable housing programme in 2019.

The council said £51 million of the £86 million is to be used to fund a number of projects, including retirement housing and regeneration work, while £6 million will be spent on installing new heating systems to help meet government energy-efficiency targets “three years early”.

The council is also committed to providing 3,500 new affordable homes by 2022 in partnership with Fife Housing Association Alliance. The aim, said the council, is to build homes of the right size and type where they are needed most.

Acorn to build in Duporth

Acorn Property Group’s Devon and Cornwall office, Acorn Blue and Somerston Healthcare Properties Limited have completed on the purchase and been granted planning permission to build 38 new homes on the site of a former holiday park in Duporth, Cornwall.

The Courtyard at Duporth comprises the conversion and refurbishment of existing stone buildings as well as new-build properties that will provide two and three-bedroom houses and apartments.

Acorn will lead the development, which benefits from access to private woodland and a private beach that overlooks St Austell Bay.

The development, which is expected to be complete in 2019, is for over-55s.

WSP to work on Quorn manufacturer project

Service and engineering consultant WSP has been appointed by Marlow Foods to carry out work on a new fermentation tower project in Billingham, County Durham.

The company will work on the design and construction of the tower, which is part of a £35 million project called BQ5.

On completion, the tower will form part of the production site.

3 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner