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Planning News - 17 May 2018

Published: Thursday, 17th May 2018

Grayling approves Silvertown Tunnel DCO, More than half of councils say affordable housing need is ‘severe’, 17 homes in Yorkshire Dales green-lit and more stories...

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

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Transport secretary Chris Grayling has approved a development consent order (DCO) for a road to be built under the River Thames in East London.

The application for the Silvertown Tunnel project, which went through the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) system, was made by Transport for London (TfL).

The DCO application was for a twin-bore road tunnel to be constructed. It is set to provide a new connection between the A102 Blackwall Tunnel approach on the Greenwich Peninsula in the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the Tidal Basin roundabout junction on the A1020 Lower Lea Crossing/Silvertown Way in the London Borough of Newham.

Approximately 1.4km in length, the tunnel will be able to accommodate large vehicles, including double-decker buses. A lane dedicated to buses, coaches and goods vehicles will be built.

The DCO allows for the introduction of free-flow user charging on both the

Blackwall Tunnel, the northern portal of which is located in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, and on the new Silvertown Tunnel.

According to a report containing the decision, Grayling agrees that the Silvertown Tunnel scheme conforms with the National Policy Statement for National Networks (NPSNN) policies in relation “to relieving congestion, supporting growth and economic development, providing resilience and connectivity”.

The application was accepted for examination on 31 May 2016 and it was completed on 11 April 2017. Grayling received the report on 11 July 2017, which meant a decision was due three months later. The decision was delayed twice, first in October and then November, to take into account the government’s plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide.

A “number of concerns” were raised about air quality, the document states, but Grayling agreed with the inspector at the Planning Inspectorate that the impact of the construction stage on air quality, such as dust emissions and odours, “would be kept to a minimum through implementation of the Code of Construction Practice”.

Bridget Fox, sustainable transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, said: "This is a bad decision for Londoners and sets a poor precedent for the rest of the country. Committing billions to build this six-lane road in East London will generate new traffic, worsen the environment, and undermine the many positive goals in the mayor's Transport Strategy.

“The £1 billion cost could be so much better spent: it could fund over 2,500 electric buses, build over 300 miles of cycle superhighway or pay for the Barking Riverside rail link four times over. Bland assurances that future pollution can be controlled by varying the user charge will not allay the concerns of communities affected by the proposal.

"Permission to build is not an obligation to build: we urge the Mayor and TfL to think again and abandon these damaging plans."

All documents associated with Silvertown Tunnel project can be found on the NSIP website.

10 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A report published by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) has found that 63 per cent of UK councils rate their affordable housing need as severe.

Of the 141 councils that responded to a survey question about characterising their affordable housing need, a further 35 per cent said it was moderate.

Written and researched by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), the report – Delivering Affordable Homes in a Changing World – says that a lack of investment in “genuine affordable housing” alongside “deregulation of planning” is reducing the ability of local authorities to deliver the homes the nation needs.

It says over two-thirds of councils in England state that statutory homelessness levels have increased in their local area in the past 12 months and 57 per cent state that rough sleeping has also increased during this period.

It notes that in an attempt to deliver more housing, the government has introduced permitted development rights, which requires a prior approval process but not a full planning application to the local authority. As a result, more homes have been created, but it has not enabled councils to secure much-needed affordable housing or help them to deal with rising homelessness.

Delivering Affordable Homes in a Changing World makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • The social housing green paper should not just be “tinkering”. It should represent a step change in the role of central government as a powerful enabler of social housing, leaving delivery in the hands of local authorities and their delivery partners.
  • The government should make clear that right to buy rules do not apply to local authority housing companies. However, if the right to buy rules are going to apply to homes built by local authority housing companies they must be able to replace them on a 1:1 basis to ensure that the long-term investment programme is not undermined.
  • The government should reverse the central imposition of permitted development and give powers back to local authorities to reflect local circumstances.  
  • The government should not extend permitted development rights to allow commercial buildings to be demolished and replaced with homes.

Paul O’Brien, chief executive at APSE, said: “Decent housing in a well-planned environment provides a foundation for helping people to maximise their contribution to society, and to create areas that are economically prosperous. What our report highlights is the extent to which insecure tenancy arrangements in the private rented sector are directly contributing to the rise in homelessness. We need local councils to act as ‘market disruptors’; bringing stability and capacity to the social rented sector which in turn will help to stem these almost unprecedented rises in both statutory homelessness and rough sleeping.”

Investment in high-quality social housing can also save public funds, O’Brien continued. It can reduce poor physical and mental health outcomes “currently experienced by those living in an unstable private rented sector or those in temporary accommodation”.

He said the government must be “bold and ambitious” in addressing the housing issues for those most in need. Part of the solution is to help councils return to providing homes.

Kate Henderson, chief executive at the TCPA, said the ability of councils to address the lack of affordable housing is being “undermined by planning deregulation”.

Henderson explained that if applicants aren’t obliged to obrain full planning permission, councils are unable to secure a contribution to affordable housing from the developer, while “little or no thought is given to the most basic issues, such as where children can play or whether there are enough doctors’ surgeries in the area”.

“We are calling on the government to reverse the central imposition of permitted development and give powers back to local authorities to reflect local circumstances.”

Delivering Affordable Homes in a Changing World can be found on the TCPA website. (pdf)

10 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee has approved full planning permission for 17 homes in West Witton in Richmondshire.

The development is the largest to be granted planning permission in the Yorkshire Dales National Park since 2014.

The homes will be located next to the Old School Close at the west side of the village.

Nine of the homes will be available for sale on the open market, with the remaining eight designated as affordable housing.

Six of the affordable housing units will be sold for 70 per cent of their market value. The other two will be rental properties retained by the developer Swale Valley Construction and managed in conjunction with Richmondshire District Council.

Robert Heseltine, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority member champion for development management, said: “Our message to developers is simple: if you bring forward high-quality schemes for the sites allocated in the local plan, we will approve them. Half of the homes in this development will be affordable and for local people. That is good news. As an authority we wish to help local young men and women, and hopefully their families, stay put in the Dales.”

At the same meeting on 8 May, the planning committee also approved plans that will see a Swaledale cycling business more than double in size.

Stuart and Brenda Price of Dales Bike Centre in Fremington, near Reeth, have received planning permission to build a new accommodation block, an extension to their café, as well as other facilities.

9 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced that Val Shawcross CBE is retiring from her role as the deputy mayor for transport. She will be replaced by Heidi Alexander.

Shawcross will be stepping back from a full-time public life after 18 years at the Greater London Authority (GLA). She has been the leader of Croydon Council and a London assembly member for 16 years, including eight years as the chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. Shawcross was the deputy mayor for transport since Khan became mayor in 2016.

Alexander has been the Labour MP for Lewisham East since 2010, but will step down to take up the deputy mayor for transport post. She is a previous mayor of Lewisham and member of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee.

This means a by-election will take place for her South London seat, where Labour won by more than 20,000 votes in last year's general election.

Shawcross will retire in the summer, with Alexander to take over then. Khan also intends to nominate Alexander to succeed Shawcross as the deputy chair of Transport for London.

Shawcross said: “It’s been a huge honour to work as deputy mayor for transport under Sadiq’s leadership, working with colleagues at the GLA and TfL to make our city a better and fairer place for every Londoner. Working as an assembly member and then deputy mayor, I hope I’ve played my part ensuring our city has a high-quality, affordable and accessible transport network that serves the needs of every Londoner, whatever their background.”

Alexander said: “After eight years as the member of Parliament for Lewisham East and six years as a local councillor, I know just how important it is we ensure everyone has access to a high-quality and affordable public transport network, with safe cycling routes across the capital. London is a fantastic city. I know Sadiq wants its transport system to be the envy of the world and I am looking forward to playing my part in making that happen.’

8 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Merthyr Tydfil’s Cyfarthfa Castle, its park and the surrounding areas should be developed as an industrial heritage centre of international significance, according to a report published this week by the Design Commission for Wales.

The report follows an initiative last year that brought together more than 60 people – architects, landscape architects, planners, museum and heritage specialists and artists, as well as local community groups – to assess Cyfarthfa’s regeneration potential.

The document said the castle, and the estate east and west of the River Taff, needs investment on a scale that recognises its historical importance nationally and internationally, as well as its potential to act as an anchor project for a Valleys Regional Park. 

The Cyfarthfa ironworks, together with three other works in the town – Dowlais, Penydarren and Plymouth – employed thousands and propelled Wales into a global industrial economy, characterised by investment in new ideas, technologies and techniques, making Merthyr Tydfil’s name in the late 18th and 19th centuries synonymous with innovation.

 The report’s proposals include:

  • an investment of at least £50 million over the next decade to develop a modern interpretive centre that would showcase Merthyr Tydfil’s standing as the world’s largest centre of iron production in the 18th and 19th centuries;
  • a visitor attraction capable of quadrupling the current annual 60,000-plus visitors to the castle by combining high-quality historical narrative and visual spectacle, using the latest technologies and CGI to create immersive displays;
  • a high-quality landscape development plan to upgrade the existing Cyfarthfa Park and the area west of the River Taff stretching from the historic Crawshay furnaces to the Cefn Coed-y-Cymmer viaduct – giving Merthyr an open space that could function as a major venue for open air events; and
  • an architectural competition for the design of a new museum/exhibition centre adjacent to the castle.

The blueprint argued that a development on this scale would be timely, responding to wider policy developments such as the Valleys Taskforce’s recent proposals for a Valleys landscape park, the emergence of a Cardiff Capital Region and emerging tourism strategies.

The proposals were presented to Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, heritage bodies and other stakeholders at a special meeting in the town on 9 May.

Geraint Thomas, the council’s cabinet member for regeneration, said: “This report sets out a really bold vision for Merthyr’s industrial heritage that befits our place in the history of Wales and of the industrial revolution as a whole. It shows a level of ambition for Merthyr Tydfil and the heritage of all the South Wales valleys to which I am sure the council and the whole community will respond positively.

“This is a project of national significance and we are working towards realising it alongside a range of funding organisations, including the Welsh Government.”

The Welsh Government’s cabinet secretary for local government, Alun Davies AM, said: “The report sets out a powerful case for a visitor attraction that could be transformative in its effect on the image and economy of the town and a powerful addition to Wales’s tourist industry.”

11 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

If the north of England is to thrive in a post-Brexit world, growth and investment must be strategically planned across the region, but emerging plans for delivering this need to be better coordinated, the RTPI has said.

Currently, local authorities are working on their own local plans, which will set out what will be built and where.

The institute said it is “critical” that these plans are properly aligned with each other, along with emerging regional plans from bodies like Transport for the North (TfN).

For the institute, a unified approach to where homes, jobs and infrastructure will go is necessary. It has launched an invitation to tender to develop a spatial framework to show how individual plans for place in the North can be aligned to maximise potential.

James Harris, policy and networks manager at the RTPI, said: “There are a wide range of plans and strategies being developed by bodies across the North at the local and city-regional level. These will help determine the success of individual places, but to meet the aspirations of the Northern Powerhouse, they need to be joined up through a broader framework. This project will set out how this can be done.”

The plan aims to build on the RTPI’s Blueprint for a Great North Plan, which suggested how to turn the Northern Powerhouse into a reality over the next 35 years. It will complement the Strategic Transport Plan from TfN, and the work of bodies like the Northern Energy Task Force, said the RTPI.

The invitation to tender can be found on the RTPI website (pdf).

9 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner