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Planning News - 19 April 2018

Published: Thursday, 19th April 2018

Consultation on new building safety rules, Havering to establish second planning committee to cut applications overturned at appeal, Landscape Institute calls for green belt review 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 published a consultation on proposals that aim to strengthen fire testing for cladding systems on residential buildings.

The consultation follows the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety by Dame Judith Hackitt, which was called for after the fire last June at Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster Estate in West London.

The interim report published in December 2017 states that current regulations and guidance are “too complex and unclear”, which can “lead to confusion and misinterpretation in their application to high-rise and complex buildings”.

Additionally, “the clarity of roles and responsibilities is poor” and even where “there are requirements for key activities to take place across design, construction and maintenance, it is not always clear who has responsibility for making it happen”.

The government said this consultation looks at restricting or banning the use of ‘desktop studies’ as a way of assessing the fire performance of external cladding systems. If such studies are deemed appropriate, the proposed changes include improving the transparency of assessments and enabling proper scrutiny of results. Changes also include ensuring that only properly accredited bodies can carry out studies.

Javid said: “We have listened carefully to Dame Judith Hackitt and we are taking action to strengthen building regulations guidance, which could mean that the use of ‘desktop studies’ are either significantly restricted or banned altogether.

“This demonstrates the tough measures we are prepared to take to make sure that cladding tests are as robust as possible and people are safe in their homes.”

Lord Porter, chairman at the LGA, said: “Currently, if no fire test data exists for a particular cladding system, a desktop study can be submitted. We have consistently said that desktop studies cannot substitute for real-world tests of cladding systems – including in our evidence to the Hackitt Review. We urge the government to hold firm against industry pressure that seeks to allow their continued use.”

Porter also said that while council will do what they need to do and are ready for a leading role in making a new building regulation system works, “significant” funding concerns remain.

“The government needs to meet the unexpected exceptional costs for councils arising from conducting fire safety and major remedial work and for any essential fire and safety measures needed.”

The consultation on Approved Document B, which closes on 25 May 2018, can be found on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government website.

11 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The governance committee at the London Borough of Havering has agreed to establish a new strategic planning committee to deal with strategic applications and other strategic planning matters.

A separate planning committee will deal with any other planning applications and planning matters.

New proposals for the governance of planning matters at the council have been under review since October 2017.

According to its report, Havering has a “higher than normal rate” of major applications refused by the council’s Regulatory Services Committee that are then allowed at appeal – nearly 10 per cent. Nearly 85 per cent of these decisions went against officers’ recommendations over the past two years.

“Government uses this indicator as a measure of the quality of decision-making and because of this poor performance Havering was at risk of being designated” by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), says the report.

Should a local planning authority lose more than 10 per cent of appeals over a two-year period, the government warned that applicants for major developments would be able to go straight to the Planning Inspectorate.

At the end of 2017, Havering had lost six appeals out of 65 cases, equating to 9.23 per cent. Five went against the recommendations of planning officers. Although this was just below the 10 per cent designation threshold, and the report was written before these figures had been confirmed, the council felt it would nevertheless be “scrutinised”.

“It is therefore important that the council can demonstrate that it has recognised the problem and are actively addressing it so that such a poor performance in the quality of decision-making is not likely to re-occur,” states the report.

The Planning Advisory Service (PAS) surveyed the Regulatory Services Committee in operation and suggested that members “make decisions on borough-wide issues rather than ward issues”.

PAS also recommended that committee members be “adequately trained” and that the planning committee needs to operate as enabler and facilitator of development instead of trying to control or prevent it.

A suggestion of seven members of the strategic planning committee is put forward in the report, while the planning committee would comprise of 11 members.

The report states that to achieve the quality of development that is both desired and needed in the borough, the council is “changing to be a more proactive, delivery-focused planning authority”.

The changes will be implemented at the May 2018 local elections.

9 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Green belt policy should be addressing issues such as flood risk and air pollution, as well as biodiversity enhancement, according to the Landscape Institute.

The chartered body for the landscape profession has called for “fresh thinking” on green belt policy in a briefing that seeks to address the housing crisis, and lead the debate on the UK Government’s 25-year environment plan and England’s revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The briefing notes that green belt policy pre-dates the 2012 version of the NPPF, which advocates the presumption in favour of sustainable development, and was not updated following its publication.

Therefore, the briefing states, “as a single-issue designation, green belt does not sit well with current evidence-based policy-making and decision-making”.

The revised NPPF, currently out for consultation, is an opportunity to update its green belt guidance. The Landscape Institute points out that many emerging plans propose the release of land from the green belt, but there isn’t any best practice or nationally accepted procedure for how green belt boundaries should be reviewed.

“In our view, any local green belt review should take account of the range of planning mechanisms that are available to protect and enhance the potential functionality of green belt land.”

Green belt policy should address issues such as flood risk, air pollution, and health and well-being, as well as consider societal need for climate change mitigation and biodiversity enhancement. The policy should be clear on what the green belt is, and what it is for.

The Landscape Institute’s briefing also calls on the Welsh Government to undertake a strategic review of green belt policies and guidance as part of the consultation on the next iteration of Planning Policy Wales, which closes on Friday 18 May. It wants the Scottish Parliament to review green belt policies and guidance as the Planning (Scotland) Bill evolves.

Merrick Denton-Thompson, president at the Landscape Institute, said the public deserves a system that protects the green belt and that they can trust.

“We all want beautiful, functional green land around our towns and cities. A review that firmly re-establishes green belt principles might allow new development in some areas. But it equally could mean new green belts in places that don’t have them.”

“Open land is a finite and irreplaceable asset in the UK,” added policy committee chair Kate Bailey.

“The Landscape Institute urges people to move away from the idea that green belt is good simply because it is there. Green belt policy has been very effective in many locations over many years, but if redefined as natural capital, green infrastructure or strategic open space, its transformation and enrichment could deliver far greater benefit.”

The briefing can be found here on the Landscape Institute website (pdf).

In short, the briefing calls for:

  • A Natural Capital Accounting approach to the green belt.
  • A nationally accepted methodology for green belt boundary reviews.
  • The UK Government to undertake a strategic review of green belt policies and guidance as part of the proposed revisions to the NPPF and National Planning Practice Guidance (2018).
  • The Welsh Government to undertake a strategic review of green belt policies as part of the proposed revisions to Planning Policy for Wales.
  • The Scottish Parliament to undertake a strategic review of green belt policies and guidance as part of the passage of the Planning (Scotland) Bill.

The RTPI’s green belt policy

The RTPI’s policy statement Where Should We Build New Homes? states that “green belt boundaries may well need to change, but only through careful reviews over wider areas than single local authorities, and where safeguards are put in place to ensure that development is sustainable, affordable and deliverable in a timely manner, and without prejudice to the renewal of brownfield land”.

It notes that a brownfield first policy will fail to deliver the land’s full potential if there is insufficient funding for the treatment and assembly of land.

10 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Network Rail has submitted plans to Crawley Borough Council to redevelop the train station at Gatwick Airport.

The plans have been submitted in partnership with Gatwick Airport Ltd, Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, and the Department for Transport (DfT).

The station is located at the airport’s North terminal.

As the station now serves 19 million passengers a year, compared with 7.5 million 20 years ago, Network Rail said the plans aim to reduce congestion and improve passenger experience.

The scheme will also upgrade connections between the railway station, airport terminals and onward travel destinations.

Proposals include almost doubling the size of the rail station concourse, widening platform 5 and 6 to reduce overcrowding, and better connections to the South terminal.

Eight escalators, five lifts and four stairways will be installed to “improve accessibility and passenger flow”.

According to Network Rail, the proposals will accommodate rail growth up to 2036.

Guy Stephenson, chief commercial officer at Gatwick Airport, said: “More than a million local commuters and business people also use the station each year and will benefit from this fantastic example of the public and private sector working together to deliver a world-class transport hub.

“The new station also complements the transformation of train services at Gatwick. Later this year trains will start leaving Gatwick for London with Tube-like frequency – every three minutes – and new direct services will start to Cambridge and Peterborough for the first time ever.”

John Halsall, Network Rail manager director for the South East route, added: “The proposals will transform passenger experience, support airport growth and, along with other upgrades of the Brighton Main Line – the £300 million reliability fund and our proposals for Croydon – improve journeys and provide a boost to the local, regional and national economy.”

11 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Homes England has completed a £74 million deal it says will unlock the next phase of development at Ebbsfleet Garden City in Kent.

The Homes England money has been loaned to Henley Camland, the landowner, and will go towards preparing the land for housing development on both the Castle Hill site and the Eastern Quarry.

The money, which comes from the government’s £3 billion Home Building Fund, will enable a variety of infrastructure works, including earthworks to fill in a lake to prepare 657 hectares of land for more than 5,290 homes.

This accounts for about a third of the total homes planned for Ebbsfleet Garden City. More than 1,000 of the homes are expected to be completed by 2021, with the full scheme due to be completed over the next decade.

Alongside the housing, the money unlocks around 180,000 square feet of commercial development.

Henley Camland, a residential infrastructure and placemaking firm, recently bought the Eastern Quarry site from Landsec.

It has simultaneously agreed land deals for 2,900 homes to be developed. Of these, 2,600 will be delivered by Countryside Properties and Clarion Housing Group in a new joint venture. Barratt Homes will build 300 homes on this part of the wider site as a direct result of the works funded by Homes England.

The loan will also facilitate the delivery of a secondary school and a fast-track route to be created through the site to connect Bluewater Shopping centre to Ebbsfleet International Station.

Ian Piper, chief executive of Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, which is overseeing Ebbsfleet Garden City, said: “This [money] from Homes England, when combined with the investments already made by Ebbsfleet Development Corporation in key utilities infrastructure, is key to delivering the new homes that are required to create our vision for the garden city. It is a good example of public bodies working together to deliver great places.”

Ian Rickwood, CEO of Henley, which has secured the delivery of 2,900 homes through a series of simultaneous deals, commented: “Following Homes England’s investment and our quick succession of deals with various housebuilders, £1 billion worth of quality homes will be delivered at a time when the UK is in dire need of them. We’ve worked hard alongside our partners to unlock these homes, as well as the new senior school and remain committed to bringing forward more homes and infrastructure at Ebbsfleet Garden City.”

12 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

500 Birmingham homes approved

Birmingham City Council has granted permission for 406 build to rent apartments and 98 homes for private sale.

The development will be located on a 2.25-acre site of the former Kent Street Baths, which is in the Southside of Birmingham.

There will be a mix of studio, one, two and three-bedroom apartments delivered across five buildings that range from seven to 19 storeys.

Plans also feature a private residents’ courtyard, a central three-storey community hub and commercial space on the ground floor.

Planning consultancy Turley provided planning, viability and heritage advice on the scheme, and conducted a public consultation prior to submission through its strategic communications team.

Estate agent market to be improved

Housing secretary Sajid Javid has announced that new measures will be introduced to drive up standards in the estate agent market.

He wants to bring an end to ‘rogue managing agents’.

According to government research, more than six out of 10 buyers and sellers have experienced stress. Additionally around a quarter of sellers said they would use a different estate agent if they were to go through the process again.

Estate agents will now be required to hold a professional qualification and to be transparent about the fees they receive for referring clients to solicitors, surveyors and mortgage brokers.

Other measures set out by the government include:

Encouraging the use of voluntary reservation agreements to help prevent sales falling through and crack down on gazumping.

Setting a timeline for local authority searches so buyers get the information they need within 10 days.

The measures follow a consultation that ended in December 2017.

£18m Salford plans green-lit

Plans for a new housing scheme in the Middlewood Locks areas of Salford have been approved by Salford City Council.

The scheme will be delivered by Tyneside firm Rodus Developments, with the permission secured by planning consultancy Lichfields.

It comprises a U-shaped blocking fronting onto Liverpool Street, and will be staggered in height from nine storeys to six storeys. There will be 62 one-bedroom apartments, 57 two-bedroom apartments and eight apartments with three bedrooms.

Lichfields to deliver masterplan near Edinburgh Airport

The transformation of land adjacent to Edinburgh Airport will see Lichfields’ Edinburgh office deliver the masterplan and permissions for the site.

The planning consultancy will work with Crosswind Developments Ltd to finalise proposals for the mixed-use development.

The closure of the airport’s secondary crosswind runway means the 100-acre site has become available for redevelopment.

As planning adviser, Lichfields will initially be advising on the masterplan

process, planning policy position and will also be providing socio-economic

analysis of the masterplan. Later in the process, it will be advising on environmental impact and future planning applications.

Work will involve ensuring that the masterplan dovetails with emerging Edinburgh City Council development plans and planning policy emerging from the Scottish Government.

Scottish planning awards open for entries

The Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning 2018 are now open for entries, says the Scottish Government.

As well as the usual four categories – Partnership, Place, Plans and Process – there is a new category for Children and Young People.

The closing date is 24 May 2018.

More information can be found on the Scottish Government website.

21 homes receive the go-ahead in Nottingham

Nottingham City Homes has been granted planning permission for 21 homes that will be located in Top Valley.

The site, on Knights Close, is currently occupied by a block of derelict flats and shops.

Plans feature 12 two-bedroom houses, two two-bedroom flats, six four-bedroom split-level homes, and one two-bedroom split-level home.

The completed properties will be owned by Nottingham City Council and will be built and managed by Nottingham City Homes. Local company Pelham Architects has designed the site, and a contractor will be appointed in the coming months.‏

Work is expected to start in early autumn

Nottingham City Homes is an arm’s length management organisation of Nottingham City Council.

BXB Ltd sells 10-acre Tintwistle site

Land development company BXB Land Solutions Ltd has agreed the sale of a 10-acre site at the former Bridge Mills site, in Tintwistle, to Barratt Homes Manchester.

The development is situated just off the New Road on the banks of the River Etherow.

The site, which has been derelict for more than 10 years, has outline planning approval for up to 165 residential units, which was granted in March this year. Barratt will now submit a reserved matters application to deliver new homes.

The developer expects work to start on site in Tintwistle in summer 2018.

Acton development to go ahead

The London Borough of Ealing has approved Barratt London’s Western Circus development in Acton.

The scheme is now subject to mayoral approval and signing off of the section 106 agreement.

The location is the former Homebase site at Savoy Circus. Barratt Homes will deliver 333 new homes, 114 of which have been designated as affordable. The homes will be spread out across a four to six-storey building, and three taller buildings ranging from eight to 16 storeys in height.

The scheme also comprises a 2,000 square metre supermarket and a community café.

Architect tp bennett designed the scheme, and worked to mitigate the busy location by setting the development back from the road, behind a “dense buffer of green planting”.