Latest news

Planning News - 10 May 2018

Published: Thursday, 10th May 2018

NPPF consultation deadline looming, James Brokenshire announced as the new housing secretary, Welsh draft National Development Framework published and more stories...

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

RTPI logo
Planner jobs

There is less than a week to respond to the consultation on the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which aims to help the make planning rules fairer, and close the gap between planning permissions granted and homes built out.

Launching the draft NPPF Prime Minister Theresa May said the rewrite will help local authorities and developers to build more properties and therefore restore the dream of home ownership. The new rules will streamline the planning process and cut red tape to make it fairer and more effective, she said.

The consultation on the draft NPPF and the accompanying Planning Practice Guidance, closes on Thursday 10 May. The consultation documents and information on how to submit a response can be found on the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government website.

A few quick points on the draft NPPF:

  • It retains strong protections for green belt land. Boundaries can only be altered in “exceptional circumstances”.
  • Opportunities to improve air quality (traffic management and green infrastructure) should, as far as possible, be considered at the plan-making stage.
  • The housing delivery test measures net additional dwellings provided in a local authority against the homes required, using national statistics and local authority data. The secretary of state will publish Housing Delivery Test results every November. Helpfully, the government has published a ‘rule book’, which you can find here.
  • It states that development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland, should be refused “unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable mitigation strategy exists”.
  • Local planning authorities should ensure that at least 20 per cent of the sites allocated for housing in their local plans are of half-a-hectare or less, says the draft.
  • Where major housing development is proposed, planning policies should expect at least 10 per cent of the homes to be available for affordable home ownership.

Speaking to The Planner, Richard Blyth, head of policy at the RTPI, said: “Our members have contributed their expertise from across England to the institute’s official response. We’ve held 11 round tables up and down the country to gather input from our members, who are working at the coal face of the planning system. We will be publishing our response to the consultation on 10 May along with an update to our keynote research on the sustainability of planning permissions. We look forward to continuing to work with government to ensure our planning system is fit for purpose.”

4 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced James Brokenshire, MP for Old Bexley & Sidcup, as the new housing secretary as Sajid Javid becomes the new Secretary of State for the Home Department following the resignation of Amber Rudd.

An MP since 2005, Brokenshire previously worked as journalist on local radio before pursuing a career as a solicitor.

He became immigration minister in 2014, and was then made the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland after Theresa May was appointed as prime minister in 2016. He resigned from this position in January 2018, citing health reasons.

Brokenshire tweeted his reaction to his appointment earlier (30 April):

Honoured to have been asked by the Prime Minister to serve as Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government. Looking forward to taking the Government’s agenda forward especially on building the homes our country needs.’

Brokenshire’s appointment follows the resignation of Amber Rudd as home secretary and Sajid Javid’s subsequent appointment in the role.

Rudd resigned following mounting pressure over the Windrush scandal, after, she said, she “inadvertently misled” MPs over targets for removing illegal immigrants.

Javid became the housing secretary in 2016, before which he served as business secretary. He was elected to Parliament in the 2010 general election.

30 April 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Consultation has begun on the first draft of the Welsh Government’s National Development Framework (NDF).

The blueprint outlines a 20-year land use framework. In its final form the document will underpin the country’s strategic development plans and local development plans.

The NDF highlights 12 policy elements and their attendant objectives. These include: housing; transport; city regions & growth deals; economic principles and regeneration; climate change, decarbonisation and energy; the Welsh language; and digital infrastructure.

The document identifies the spatial issues and the strategic direction of the NDF policies in terms of placemaking and Wales’s regions. It also echoes themes identified in the recently published 10th edition of Planning Policy Wales.

RTPI Cymru has welcomed the consultation. Director Roisin Willmott FRTPI said: “An NDF for Wales could be a powerful tool to guide strategic land use development and the provision of infrastructure in an integrated, sustainable and economically viable manner. 

“RTPI Cymru believes the NDF should set the framework for decision-making on major spatial planning policy and infrastructure at the national level. The content of the NDF needs to be strategic in nature, setting the context for taking difficult national decisions at a much earlier stage than is currently the case.

“It should inform long-term investment goals and identify the strategic development consequences of major infrastructure, and the infrastructure consequences of strategic development. Importantly, the NDF should lead on integrating major investment decisions and support strategic and local development planning across Wales.”

The National Development Framework: Issues, Options and Preferred Option consultation can be found on the Welsh Government website.

4 May 2018
Roger Milne, The Planner

Research has suggested that office-to-residential conversions under permitted development rules produce a higher number of poor-quality homes than applications that go through the full planning process.

According to the study, in Glasgow, where conversions require full planning permission, such conversion schemes were of a higher quality and had better space standards.

But in England, where permitted development rights were extended in 2005, 2010, 2013 and 2015, the research reveals an inconsistency in the quality of developments.

Local authorities that have seen a high level of permitted development schemes – Camden, Croydon, Leeds, Leicester and Reading – were considered as part of the research, which was commissioned by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and undertaken by University College London and the University of Sheffield.

Although examples of extremely high-quality housing conversions were found, the research notes that there were developments that didn’t have any amenity space, design was of a low quality and they were located in poor locations for residential amenity.

The research also considers the impact on local publicly funded infrastructure, given that permitted schemes don’t make section 106 contributions. It found that local authorities lost £4.1 million because of reduced planning fees and a further potential loss of £10.8 million. They also lost out on1,667 affordable housing units.

Stakeholders cited a number of benefits from the policy, such as delivering more housing units, regeneration of town and city centres, and quicker implementation.

But they also expressed concerns, including local authorities not being able to weigh up costs/benefits of a specific development and refuse permission if necessary, and rural residential developments not being sustainable owing to added road traffic.

Assessing the Impacts of Extending Permitted Development Rights to Office-to-Residential Change of Use in England makes a number of recommendations including amending Community Infrastructure Levy regulations so that all development creating new residential units are liable. 

The government should introduce safeguards to prior approvals process, or regulate to ensure that minimum space standards are adhered to.

The report also advises local communities and civic groups to monitor office-to-residential conversions and notify their local planning authority if they are aware of any inadequate housing provision or where evidence may qualify an area for an Article 4 Direction.

Abdul Choudhury, policy manager at RICS, said that although permitted development rights do have the potential to reduce regulatory burdens and speed up delivery, regulatory safeguards “are necessary to mitigate negative aspects of development and to uphold minimum standards”.

“By bypassing regulations, the policy may create more problems than it solves,” Choudhury explained.

“Particularly with office or agricultural to residential, government needs to balance the competing priorities of housing, infrastructure and need for commercial spaces. In some areas, over-conversion has produced a shortage of office units which has pushed up their costs. Central government policies can dilute local planning authority powers, which seems contradictory to the localism agenda government have championed in the past.”

Choudhury concluded that the government needs to re-examine the policy and ask itself, “how useful are different iterations of permitted development to local communities as a whole, rather than blindly focusing on numbers”.

Assessing the Impacts of Extending Permitted Development Rights to Office-to-Residential Change of Use in England can be found on the RICS website (pdf).

2 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Arora Group has revealed its plans for the expansion of Heathrow Airport, as it bids to undertake the development of new terminal buildings.

A private hotel and property company owned by Surinder Arora, the Arora Group said the new terminals are designed to provide capacity for more than 50 million additional passengers and transform experience and efficiency at the airport.

In July 2017, the company submitted its views to the Department for Transport as part of the consultation on the expansion plans. It suggested that £1.7 billion could be saved if the terminal and taxiway system was redesigned. Not expanding the terminal would save £1.1 billion.

A report by the Airports Commission states that a new Heathrow runway would cost £17.6 billion to deliver, but recommended these plans over expansion at Gatwick.

Now, the company has published its plans for the terminals, as it looks to make expansion at the airport cheaper than plans by the airport's owner.

Architects Corgan designed the company’s Western Hub proposals, which concentrate on new terminal capacity on the western side of Heathrow, between the existing Terminal 5 (T5) and the M25. A statement on Arora Group’s website explains that this avoids the need to redevelop existing terminals in the Heathrow central area (Terminals 2 and 3) which would be far more expensive and disruptive.

Rather than build new terminal buildings, the Western Hub integrates new passenger facilities with T5 into a single hub campus. A central concourse would provide fast and easy access to both T5 and to the new Terminal 6.

BQ recently reported that Heathrow Airport Ltd has asked UK businesses and entrepreneurs to register their interest in delivering a variety of infrastructure at the airport. Arora Group said this is a step in the right direction but “does not yet go far enough in guaranteeing a truly competitive expansion”.

Surinder Arora, founder and chairman of the Arora Group, said: “Our approach has been to work closely with airlines and to employ the world’s best and most experienced airport designers and these benefits are clearly evident in our Western Hub plans. Heathrow has been in monopoly control for too long and our proposals show what can be achieved through an alternative approach and Heathrow fully welcoming competition.”

4 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A round-up of planning news

Port Talbot not UK’s dirtiest town after all

Following a challenge by Neath Port Talbot Council the World Health Organisation (WHO) has admitted its database incorrectly named the South Wales town last week as the UK’s dirtiest for air pollution. 

In a letter to the council the agency said the air pollution level for Port Talbot was just under half of the figure originally published and below WHO air pollution guidelines.

Focus should be on delivering communities, conference hears

A seminar hosted by the Scottish Land Commission has heard that stronger leadership is required to encourage more public interest-led development in Scotland.

Delegates including planners, developers, local authorities, architects, surveyors and investors agreed that the focus should be on delivering places and communities rather than houses.

To achieve this, the placemaking process needs to be represented at the highest level of decision-making, both locally and nationally.

A poll held at the seminar found that 64 per cent of delegates felt that more leadership is needed at both local and national levels to encourage public interest-led development, while 23 per cent said ‘leadership’ was the most significant barrier to public interest-led development.

Delegates also noted that the role of planning needs to be enhanced in the development process to enable the state to play a more proactive role in delivering the kind of places people want to live.

Severn Trent sells land for development

Severn Trent’s property arm Midlands Land Portfolio Ltd, working with Gedling Borough Council, has sold 135 acres of land to Persimmon Homes.

The land is at Teal Close, which is five miles east of Nottingham between Netherfield and Stoke Bardolph. It will be used for a development that will feature affordable housing, with plans including 830 homes, new leisure areas including play pitches, allotments and children’s play areas. A primary school will be built, as well an ecology park.

Following planning approval for the first phase of the housing scheme for 199 units including much-needed affordable houses, Persimmon will soon be starting work on site.

Central Bedfordshire submits local plan

Central Bedfordshire Council has submitted its local plan to the secretary of state and a planning inspector will examine it.

The plan outlines the council’s strategy for growth “in the right places” and of the “right character”, and that this will be delivered alongside supporting infrastructure, including roads, schools and health facilities.

Nigel Young, executive member for regeneration at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “While this is not the end of the process, it is an important milestone towards delivering the homes that residents and their families can afford to buy and to rent, the jobs they need, along with the roads, schools, community facilities, services and other infrastructure that will continue to make Central Bedfordshire and great place to live and work.”

DfT appoints team to revamp cycling design guidance

The Department for Transport (DfT) has appointed professional services consultancy WSP to revise and update its cycling infrastructure design guidance.

Refreshing Local Transport Note 02/08 Cycling Infrastructure Design featured in the government’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, which aims to increase cycling and walking and make both the natural choices for shorter journeys.

WSP has brought together a combined team of technical expertise from across WSP, Phil Jones Associates, Mott MacDonald and academic support from the University of West England, Bristol.

WSP said its team would work with the DfT, as well as engaging with cycling bodies and a key stakeholder steering group, to review the current guidance and to recommend and implement changes to the document to ensure that it aligns with current practice.

8 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner