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Planning News - 31 May 2018

Published: Thursday, 31st May 2018

Planning authorities should consult fire & rescue services when considering applications, Shale gas development is of ‘national importance’, and more stories...

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

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Local planning authorities should consult with a newly created body on high-risk residential buildings (HRRB) to ensure that in the event of a fire, the building is accessible to rescue services.

The recommendation forms part of the final report by Dame Judith Hackitt, which was called for after the fire last June at Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster Estate in West London.

The Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety calls for the creation of a joint competent authority (JCA) to hold landlords and building managers to account. It will oversee safety within higher-risk residential buildings (HRRBs), which are defined in the report as being more than 10 storeys in height.

The JCA would comprise the Local Authority Building Standards, fire and rescue authorities and Health and Safety Executive. They will not be merged.

The report states that while the planning system “clearly needs to focus on swift throughput of all planning applications” if the government is to meet housing supply needs, “there are some minimum requirements around fire safety that will need to be addressed when local planning authorities are determining planning applications and will require input from those with the relevant expertise”.

There is a need, the report continues, for “upfront consideration” of fire service access to HRRBs to ensure that if there is a fire, the building “is sufficiently accessible”.

This would apply to new HRRBs and to other new buildings that fall within a particular radius of a HRRB where it could affect fire service accessibility.

In order to address the risk for all HRRBs, local planning authorities should consult with the JCA “so that the fire and rescue authorities can advise on fire service accessibility issues at that point”.

Guidance detailing what issues should be considered by the JCA at the planning stage with a clear focus on, for example, emergency vehicle access to the building, is required to “ensure clarity of approach”.

This should not have a significant impact on local planning authorities, according to the report.

Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Final Report can be found on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government website (pdf).

21 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The housing and energy secretaries have issued a joint statement declaring that the development of shale gas is of ‘national importance’ and that mineral plans should not place restrictions on its extraction.

James Brokenshire and Greg Clark said the government expects mineral planning authorities to give “great weight” to the benefits of mineral extraction. “This includes shale gas exploration and extraction,” they explained.

Mineral plans should set out that applications must be assessed on a site-by-site basis.

Further, “plans should not set restrictions on thresholds across their plan area that limit shale development without proper justification”.

Once published, the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will sit alongside this written ministerial statement.

The government also plans to publish revised planning practice guidance on shale development once the NPPF has been published, “ensuring clarity on issues such as cumulative impact, local plan making and confirmation that planners can rely on the advice of regulatory experts”.

An early stage consultation will be held this summer, on whether non-hydraulic fracturing shale exploration development should be treated as permitted development and the circumstances in which this might be appropriate. The government will also consult on “the criteria required to trigger the inclusion of shale production projects into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime”.

To support local authorities and build capacity so they can deal with shale development, Clark and Brokenshire launched a £1.6 million support fund. A new planning brokerage service will be created for shale applications that the statement says will “provide guidance to developers and local authorities on the planning process to help facilitate timely decision-making”.

They added that the service would not have a role in the appeals process.

The written ministerial statement, which applies to England only, can be found on the UK Parliament website.

Reaction:

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said: “Imported gas currently costs over £13 million a day – money that is not generating jobs or tax revenues in this country. To achieve greater home-grown energy production, Britain also needs a policy framework and a planning and permitting system that allows industries like ours to be able to get decisions within timescales that work for all concerned including the local communities we work in. This announcement goes some way to ensuring that our energy security is protected and the benefits we have already seen flowing into communities become much more widespread.”

John Galloway, planning and infrastructure associate at law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, said: “The joint ministerial statement will go a long way to reassure UK oil and gas companies that government support for the shale revolution is more than just words. It shows that the government is committed, and at a decision-making level planning authorities will be expected to consider the national importance of shale gas development.

“The delay to planning applications, even for early survey work and exploratory test drills, was in danger of slowing down the entire industry at a critical early stage. It is also likely that this statement has been made in response to pressure from local government, who have found themselves committing significant resources to these planning applications when their own budgets are under serious pressure.”

Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport and development at Sheffield City Council, said: “We need a revolution in renewable energy, not more dirty fossil fuels. But it is clear that the government wants to press on with a reckless dash for gas, regardless of evidence, public opinion or the impacts on local communities. This approach is an unwelcome mix of caving into the fracking industry and ploughing ahead with existing plans for fracking regardless of local views.

“Despite their empty words about local consultation, the government is setting a dangerous precedent in taking away local decision-making on planning decisions, and putting it in the hands of Tory ministers. This could see fracking unfairly imposed on areas against the will of local communities.”

Update:

Appearing before the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee on Monday (21 May), housing minister Dominic Raab said the proposed planning law changes, which could see fracking projects go through the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime, would only be applied to applications at the production stage.

21 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


North West Leicestershire District Council’s (NWLDC) planning committee has approved an application to redevelop the former Snibston colliery site on Ashby Road in Coalville.

The approval is in line with the recommendation from the planning officer.

Leicestershire County Council (LCC) closed the visitor attraction in 2015 to save money, despite campaigners fighting to keep it open.

The museum has since been demolished.

Outline permission was granted for up to 144 homes on 5.8 hectares to the west of the site.

The approved application also includes extending the Century Theatre to create a café, visitors centre and an office for rangers, as well as play facilities.

The colliery’s historic pithead buildings will remain on the site to form part of a heritage trail.

The county council has also submitted a separate application to create a new cycle link and footpath from the colliery site to the centre of Coalville along a former railway line.

The county council has been asked to contribute around £750,000 towards services, including healthcare and education.

David Stevenson, chair of the planning committee, said: “We value the heritage of Coalville’s mining past and are pleased to be able to support the development that will not only protect the monuments and listed buildings on the site, but will provide a country park and links to the town centre. We look forward to the development, which will continue Coalville’s urban renaissance.”

The land will now be sold to a developer.

23 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, has detailed two initiatives to help build more homes on derelict brownfield land and fill the region’s growing construction skills gap.

Street launched the West Midlands Combined Authority’s new £5 million regional construction training fund at the Construction Futures conference in Wolverhampton.

The initiative aims to recruit local people to help fill the 2,800 additional jobs, which have been created each year by the region’s booming construction industry.

Street announced plans for a National Brownfield Institute to be built on the University of Wolverhampton’s Springfield campus.

The institute will support the authority’s drive to use brownfield land for new developments, and will research methods of construction such as modular housing.

Street said: “The institute and training fund will help safeguard and nurture our region’s most important assets – its people and land – helping to give everyone the opportunity of a decent job and an affordable home.”

The training programme would focus on the unemployed and low-waged to help boost the region’s productivity and underpin continued economic growth.

Professor Geoff Layer, vice-chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton, said:

“There is a huge amount of brownfield land across the Black Country and wider West Midlands and we are looking forward to helping play an integral role in identifying and unlocking that land’s potential for regeneration and in particular supporting ways to address the housing shortage."

The authority has set aside £200 million to prepare former industrial sites, many of which are in the Black Country, for development.

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) found that the West Midlands will have around 215,000 people employed in the construction sector by 2020, an increase of 10,000 since 2015.

22 May 2018
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner


A High Court judge has ruled in favour of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s threshold approach to delivering affordable housing in the capital, a decision welcomed by the mayor's office.

Khan’s policy allows developments to be fast-tracked through the planning system if they provide at least 35 per cent affordable housing.

Four retirement home developers – McCarthy & Stone, Churchill Retirement Living, Renaissance Retirement and PegasusLife – launched a judicial review of the threshold approach at the end of 2017. The group was initially refused permission for this, but won the right for a High Court hearing in March.

Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that the policy is consistent with the adopted local plan. He did, though, support the claimants on one part of their challenge.

Ouseley said Khan’s Supplementary Planning Guidance “represents a substantive new policy, which should have been subject to an independent examination”. He said the guidance is “not consistent” with the London Plan.

The claimants contended that the higher build costs for retirement housing makes it harder to provide as much affordable housing as a standard development, but the judge supported the mayor on the grounds that the approach doesn’t discriminate against the elderly.

Jules Pipe, deputy mayor for planning, skills and regeneration, said: “Tackling the capital’s housing crisis is the mayor’s top priority and this ruling is an important moment for thousands of Londoners who are desperate for genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy.

“Our guidance sets out a clear approach that makes the planning system in London clearer, quicker and more consistent. I am pleased that the judge has backed this approach, which will help us to turn around years of neglect when it comes to building the homes Londoners so desperately need.”

The group though, said the response to the judgement from the mayor’s office is “extremely misleading”, saying that their challenges were not on the affordable housing threshold.

A spokesperson on behalf of the retirement developers’ consortium said: “The judgement shows the extent to which planning policy at the national and local level is not sufficiently supportive of the housing needs of older people.” 

The group believe the mayor’s new policy would “exacerbate” the situation by “effectively making it economically impossible to bring forward private retirement development in London”.

“Older people are the fastest growing demographic in the capital and the London Plan calls for around 4,000 new retirement housing units to be built each year. However, supply is currently in the low hundreds.”

“If the mayor’s target is to be met, a proper planning and affordable housing policy is required that fully recognises the unique viability model of specialist retirement housing. This was why we brought this case to the court. We need a positive planning policy for London’s elderly population and the mayor now has the opportunity to review his approach. We look forward to working closely with him and his team to agree a resolution and increase much-needed housing options for older Londoners.”

24 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


A round-up of planning news:

Fund launched to restore coastal landmarks

Coastal communities minister Jake Berry has announced a £1 million Coastal Revival Fund, which aims to support the restoration of some of the UK’s most iconic and best-loved coastal architecture.

This includes places like the Pavilion Theatre within the grade II* Winter Gardens building of Blackpool and Swanage’s historic Victorian pier in Dorset, which received money in a previous round.

The fund, now in its third year, will provide grants to at-risk coastal heritage sites to fund repairs and restoration, or support large scale projects to see them through to completion.

The government is inviting bids from local communities, charities and councils to receive up to £50,000 for each project.

Details of how to apply can be found on the UK Government website.

Plans for Woking development revealed

Proposals to regenerate Sheerwater, Woking, have been put forward by Thameswey Developments Ltd on behalf of Woking Borough Council.

The masterplan for the largely deprived area sees the existing number of homes on the 30 hectare site double from 570 to around 1,200. Half of the homes are expected to be affordable, while community facilities, public parkland and gardens feature in the proposals. The homes will be built over five neighbourhoods.

To maximise public space, car movement will be restricted to the perimeter of the site. Instead of multi-car forecourts to the homes, ground-level car parks will be located central to the development, with housing and ‘podium gardens' set above. Schools, shops, a GP surgery, a community centre and a nursery will be within walking distance of the homes.

TfL makes urbanism panel appointment

Walking and cycling charity Sustrans has been appointed to Transport for London’s (TfL) second Architecture Design Urbanism Panel (ADUP).

The Architecture and Urbanism Panel is the Mayor of London and TfL’s re-approved panel of built environment consultants. The panel aims to make it “quicker and easier for organisations like councils and housing associations to commission high quality consultants for certain types of project”.

The appointment follows a detailed and rigorous vetting process.

Partnership announced for Reading rental development

Lochailort, M&G Real Estate and Watkin Jones Plc have signed a development partnership for 315 apartments at Thames Quarter, Reading.

The 1.23 acre site is located near the north side of the railway station and the town centre, with views across Kings Meadow Park and the River Thames.

Planning permission for the development was approved in November last year. It includes a 22-storey landmark tower, which will be Reading’s tallest residential building.

The Build to Rent development also comprises a 24-hour concierge, private dining rooms, lounges, tech-hub, private cinema, and a several rooftop terraces.

CBRE UK Development business advised Lochailort throughout the process.

Wolverhampton offices approved

Plans for a modern office development in the centre of the City of Wolverhampton Interchange have been given the green light.

The development, to be built by property developer Ion, will be located on Railway Drive.

The i9 building is set to provide 50,000 square feet of grade A office space.

The City of Wolverhampton Council and Ion selected Glenn Howells Architects’ design for i9 as the winner from a field of 10 UK architects and urban design practices.

Call for sites in Worcestershire

Councils are asking for information on land that might be suitable for future housing and employment developments in south Worcestershire.

The call forms part of the review of the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP), which is being undertaken by Malvern Hills District Council, Worcester City Council and Wychavon District Council.

The review will take into account the government’s new guidance for setting housing requirements, as well as changes in the population, demands for housing and employment, among other factors, so that the SWDP period can be extended until 2041.

It will build on the current SWDP, which includes policies to enable the development of nearly 300 hectares of employment land and the building of 28,400 new homes between 2006 and 2030.

The call for sites is open until 5pm on 2 July 2018. Full details can be found here.

Network Rail chief announced

Network Rail has announced that Andrew Haines OBE has been appointed as its new chief executive after Mark Carne announced that he would retire.

Haines has had a wide-ranging career in the rail industry and transport sector, and joins from the Civil Aviation Authority, where he was chief executive.

Announcing the appointment, Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy CBE said: “Andrew will drive delivery of the railway improvements set out in the strategic business plan for 2019/2024, ensuring Network Rail’s continuing focus on safety, performance and cost effectiveness, and thus delivering a better experience for the millions of passengers who travel every day on our railways.”

Haines will join Network Rail later this year.

22 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner