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Planning News - 3 May 2018

Published: Thursday, 3rd May 2018

Government to invest in modern approaches to housing design, Masterplan to prepare Runcorn for HS2, Infrastructure contract value continues to decline – stats and more stories...

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

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At a conference in London, government ministers have called on the housing industry to deliver well-designed homes, saying the government will invest in modern approaches to design and construction.

The investment is part of the government’s plans to “fix the broken housing market” and deliver 300,000 homes a year in England by the mid-2020s. It is “essential” therefore, said the government, to address the quality and design of new homes.

Ministers said this could help secure community support for new homes, ensuring that there are good-quality homes that “people can feel proud living in and next door to”.

To support its call, the government said it is investing £1 billion through the Home Building Fund to develop new, modern approaches to design and construction. So far, eight projects across 11 local authorities have been backed by government funding, and will use modern methods of construction, such as modular homes, to build good-quality homes and speed up the rate of delivery.

There are also plans to learn from other countries, including Australia, Norway and Sweden, “where good design is embedded in decision-making”, said the government.

Based on a model in Australia, the government is urging councils to set their own design quality standards so that communities can better reflect their character in local planning policy.

Additionally, the government wants to embrace new technologies, including virtual reality technology to “win the confidence” of communities before building begins. Communities will be able to see what a development might look like and before permission has been granted.

The moves come as local authority planners, developers and design professionals attended the government’s Design Quality Conference today (25 April). It aims to build on previous government action to ensure that new homes are built using quality materials and design methods, which feature in the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), currently out for consultation.

As well as ministers, the conference includes speakers from The Princes Foundation, Historic England and Homes England.

Housing secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our homes are the making of all of us, which is why today’s event on raising the bar on the quality of new homes is so important.

“This government is determined to make sure that high-quality design is the norm rather than the exception.”

25 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A consortium has been appointed to produce a masterplan and delivery strategy to enable the regeneration of the Runcorn Station Quarter area.

Both the masterplan and the delivery strategy will prepare for the forthcoming HS2 and West Mainline improvements to create a new gateway into Runcorn, Liverpool City Region and the wider area.

The consortium is led by architecture and urbanism practice We Made That. It also includes socio-economic adviser Regeneris, Steer Davies Gleave (transport and movement), and PRD (property and viability advice).

Halton Borough Council appointed the team to prepare the masterplan and strategy. The council has set aside resources to remove existing road infrastructure that is no longer needed to aid with the regeneration of the whole area.

The masterplan is set to stem from a socio-economic analysis that will consider a number of factors, including local demographics, the area’s employment and business base, labour market and skills position, and local housing. It will also look at the function and role of Runcorn town centre and its links to Runcorn Station.

Hannah Martin, Merseyside local and associate at We Made That, said: “Runcorn is an important area of the Liverpool City Region. The re-routing of traffic over the Mersey Gateway Bridge offers positive impacts in environmental terms – opening up a sustainable transport corridor and development sites. This masterplan will be instrumental in capitalising on the potential benefits to residents and businesses in Runcorn.”

A spokesperson for Halton Borough Council added: “Runcorn’s mainline station is an important asset for Halton, providing fast, frequent services to London and Birmingham, and it is a popular and convenient commuter station into Liverpool. The reopening of the Halton Curve, and increased speeds on the West Coast Mainline resulting from the HS2 project will further increase passenger numbers, so it is important that the station’s setting is similarly improved.”

25 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The value of new construction contracts in March saw a monthly increase of 8.7 per cent to £5.3 billion, but the infrastructure contract value recorded a month-on-month decrease.

Industry analyst Barbour ABI’s Economic & Construction Market Review suggests that residential housing had a contract value of £2.4 billion. This is the highest figure for seven months, Barbour ABI highlighted.

In comparison, the total infrastructure value decreased by 26 per cent compared with February, continuing the month-on-month decrease.

The two biggest projects by value were both residential. The Longridge neighbourhood centre in the North West, which includes 256 houses, is valued at just under £160 million. Taking the second spot in the top 10 valued projects in March is Hale Wharf, a mixed-use residential development in Tottenham Hale, valued at £100 million.

Education, commercial and industrial projects featured in the top 10 too, but the only infrastructure project is enabling work of phase two for Pinewood Studios. It is valued at £45 million.

Barbour ABI said all other sectors saw an increase in contract value in March, compared with February, with the biggest increase coming in medical and health construction. It reached £200 million.

The South East topped the regions, with 18.5 per cent of the contract award value, thanks – the statistics suggest – to the £70 million Cumberland Place student accommodation project and the Pinewood Studios development.

The North West had 15.9 per cent of the contract award value, while London had 14.6 per cent of the total value. Scotland has a 5 per cent of the total value, while Wales has 4 per cent.

Michael Dall, lead economist at Barbour ABI, said: “The continuous decline of infrastructure construction contracts and in particular big-ticket infrastructure projects will not help to repair the sliding confidence across the industry, which is masking better growth across the other sectors of the industry, in particular the encouraging figures coming from medical and health construction and the strong growth from residential construction.”

Economic & Construction Market Review for March can be found on the Barbour ABI website.

23 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Harrogate Borough Council has granted planning approval to proposals that will see a new two-storey clubhouse built at the CNG Stadium on Wetherby Road.

The stadium is the home of Harrogate Town Football Club.

The club was advised by Indigo Planning on its plans, which also include seated terraces, an office building, classrooms that can be used as community facilities and an improved floodlighting system.

Designed by Bowman Riley Architects, the redevelopment will increase the capacity of the ground from 2,800 spectators to approximately 5,000.

The club has used the site for training and matches since 1919, with spectator facilities updated in recent years. It has ambitions to get promoted from National League North to the National League, and eventually the Football League. To achieve this, the playing and spectator facilities need further improvement to meet the Football Association’s (FA) requirements.

Garry Plant, managing director at Harrogate Town Football Club, said the club is pleased that the planning committee supported “this sensitively designed scheme, which will help us achieve our ambitions”.

“The club is committed to delivering a high-quality facility that the local community can be proud of,” he added.

David Smith, associate at Indigo, said: “We have worked closely with the club, the council’s officers, the design team and local community to secure this permission. Given the site’s location, it was essential that we engaged with the local community throughout the planning process and respond to their feedback. The scheme has evolved over the past seven months as a result of these discussions.”

25 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Research published by Friends of the Earth has suggested that one well would need to be drilled and fracked every day for 15 years to produce enough gas to halve the amount imported to the UK.

To reduce the amount of imported gas by such an amount, 6,100 wells would be required, according to analysis by Professor Calvin Jones, from Cardiff Business School.

But if the gas produced per well was low, up to 16,500 wells would be needed.

Friends of the Earth, advocate of renewable energy, points out that the government has said fracking would provide additional supplies, “reducing our reliance on imports”, but according to this research, fracking could significantly reduce imports only if “England’s countryside was littered with fracking wells”.

Currently, fracking in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has been stopped, which means the required number of wells would need to be built in England.

Rose Dickinson, campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “One well would have to be drilled and fracked every day for 15 years to replace just half of our gas imports. This would mean an industrialisation of our countryside at a rate that nobody has yet fully appreciated and would put many more communities in the firing line of this dirty and unwanted industry.”

According to the research, the amount of land needed to support such a number of wells is “considerable”. More than 1,000 wells could cover an area of 3,500 hectares, which is equivalent to 4,900 football pitches.

When considering a low output of gas, the report suggests that more than 2,700 would be needed to reduce UK imports by half, covering 9,600 hectares, or 13,000 football pitches.

Daniel Carey-Dawes, senior infrastructure campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: “The fracking industry has always been clear that fracked gas would replace what’s currently imported, but what wasn’t clear was the scale of land take that would involve. The many thousands of wells that would be needed, peppered across our precious landscapes, would cause harm to the English countryside on an industrial scale.

“With technologies now enabling us to effectively harvest renewable energy sources, this is where our efforts, time and money should be invested. The English countryside we know and love is the breathing space for us all. It must not become an industrial testing ground for a fracking industry that has no environmental, economic or social licence.”

Taking into account current trends, the report – The Implications of Fracking in UK Gas Import Substitution – states that there “is no evidence” that fracking can be brought to the market at a “sufficiently low cost and sufficiently great volume to make any significant profit, or to make any difference to the UK energy security position”.

The report can be found on the Friends of the Earth website (pdf).

26 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A round-up of planning news

Plans revealed to convert Aylesham quarry

Plans that would see the former Snowdown Colliery site into an environmentally friendly science park and rural visitor attraction have been published.

The colliery is two miles from Aylesham, Kent.

Beekeeping equipment supplier Bee Equipment, based at Bridge near Canterbury, is leading the scheme.

The proposals aim to bring a new hub for creative and artisan businesses, as well as an international research centre studying the health and welfare of the honey bee.

Bee Equipment has worked with Dover District Council, the Plumptre Trust and the Coal Authority for past three years to get plans drawn up to transform the 100 acre site, which has lain dormant since October 1987.

The scheme is subject to planning permission.

Council approves two neighbourhood plans

Councillors at Lichfield District Council have approved Lichfield City’s ad Whittington & Fisherwick’s neighbourhood plans.

The plans were examined by independent planning inspectors last year. Both were subject to local referendums in February 2018. The saw Lichfield City saw 57 per cent vote in favour of the plan, while 90 per cent voted in favour of Whittington & Fisherwick’s plan.

Now the two plans have been approved by Lichfield District Council, they carry legal weight and will be incorporated into Lichfield District Council’s Local Plan.

Countryside to deliver 132 Hackney homes

Countryside Properties and Hackney Council have signed an agreement that will see the housebuilder deliver 132 homes at the former Tower Court estate in Stamford Hill.

The development, which has a gross development value of £82 million, will comprise 80 homes for outright sale, 33 for social rent and 19 homes for shared ownership.

It will also offer a total of 3,115 square metres of communal and accessible open space, and a new 361 square-metre depot for the Hatzola ambulance service – the local Jewish-led fast response volunteer service.

The previous residents at Tower Court will have a right to return to the new homes. The remaining social rent homes will be allocated to those on the council’s housing waiting list.

12,000 join the campaign to The Roundhouse

More than 12,000 people have joined a campaign set up to save The Roundhouse, a listed building, in Covent Garden, which is currently the subject of a planning application.

Should developers Captital & Counties (Capco) be granted planning permission from Westminster City Council to excavate the floor of the Roundhouse today (24 April), one of Covent Garden’s oldest live music venues will be evicted.

The campaign has received cross-party support from Conservative MP Mark Field and Adam Hug, leader of the Labour Group on Westminster City Council.

Brian Stein, founder and owner of The Roadhouse, said: “We are looking to Westminster Council to do the right thing and tell Capco that they cannot abuse the planning system to close down The Roadhouse.

“The Roadhouse is one of the independent live music venues that makes Covent Garden the lively and colourful place it is today. It will be a tragedy if we are forced out by a huge property development company that wants to turn our premises in to another exclusive, upmarket restaurant.

“We want Westminster Council to stand up to the property developers and to support the people who live, work and socialise in central London.”

Woolwich Reach scheme approved

The London Borough of Newham has granter permission for bptw partnership’s Woolwich Reach scheme for Nottinghill Genesis.

The 14-storey building will be built on a site that has been derelict for 20 years

It will comprise 28 London Living Rent homes, as well as 47 units for private sale. The development sits next to Pier Road, which links the site to the Woolwich Ferry, while its southern boundary overlooks the Thames. A commercial unit and three townhouses will be built on the ground level.

Two solar photovoltaics schemes approved

The Coal Authority has been granted planning permission for two solar photovoltaics (PV) schemes, one in Durham and the other in Northumberland.

The Durham scheme totals 740kW, while the Northumberland scheme will be 250kW.

Carter Jonas’ infrastructure and energy scheme helped to secure the permissions, and will assist in commissioning them.

The Coal Authority, a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy aims protect the public and the environment in coal mining areas and manages the majority of Britain’s coal mining legacy.

Bedfordshire local plan to go before full council

Central Bedfordshire Council’s local plan will go before the full council on Thursday 26 April, seeking authorisation to submit it to the Secretary of State.

The plan includes proposals for new villages at Marston Vale (up to 5,000 homes) and east of Biggleswade (around 1,500 homes), as well as town extensions north of Luton (around 4,000 homes) and east of Arlesey (around 2,000 homes).

The council said it is aiming to submit their plan to the Secretary of State on 30 April, before “changes to national planning policy that could mean government intervention and potentially more new homes than the 20,000 the council have planned for the area”. 

Nigel Young, executive member for regeneration at the council, said: “Central Bedfordshire needs growth. This local plan is the strategy that will underpin how we achieve the infrastructure, homes and jobs that our residents require. And, crucially, an up-to-date local plan will mean we can avoid government intervention that could mean many more homes imposed on us than we are planning for, and also protect us against speculative development.”

24 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner