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Planning News - 7 June 2018

Published: Thursday, 7th June 2018

LGA warns against NPPF changes to housing targets, Two energy NSIP projects submitted, Merging of two Somerset councils approved, Developers not meeting affordable housing demand and more stories...

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

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The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the government not to implement planned changes to the National Planning Policy Framework that will ‘impose often undeliverable’ housing targets on councils.

In its response to the government consultation on the NPPF, the council representative said that if from 2020, private housebuilders have not built more than 75 per cent of the government’s targets, calculated through the standardised methodology, just under 165,000 homes in 42 per cent of council areas - could be built by bypassing local plans by the end of the decade.

The consultation asks whether responders agree with the “application of the presumption in favour of sustainable development where delivery is below 75 per cent of the housing required from 2020?”

The LGA response states: “The application of the presumption in favour of sustainable development when delivery of housing falls to 75 per cent of the target rate is not a proportionate response to a situation that is out of the immediate control of a local planning authority.”

For the LGA, the presumption in favour rule bypasses the wishes expressed by communities in developing local plans. It means housebuilders will be able to “avoid” key factors sectors out in local plans, such as ensuring new homes have appropriate infrastructure and are built to high standards.

A “renaissance” in housebuilding by councils is required, the LGA said, and can be achieved by enabling them to borrow to build.

Martin Tett, housing spokesperson for the LGA, said: “The planning system is not a barrier to housebuilding – the opposite is true. Councils are approving nine in 10 applications and last year worked with developers to approve 350,000 new homes, the highest in more than a decade.

“It is completely unfair to impose targets on communities which can only be met by private developers, and then to penalise those local communities if those builders do not deliver.

“This risks leading to a housebuilding free-for-all which will bypass the needs of local communities and could damage trust in the planning system. The government needs to scrap these plans to avoid this alarming scenario playing out across the country.

“Councils are committed to ensuring homes are built where they are needed. It is vital that they have an oversight of local developments and are given the powers needed to play a leading role in solving our national housing shortage.”

The LGA’s NPPF consultation response can be found on the LGA website (pdf).

29 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has received an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) for a gas generation and battery storage project in Yorkshire, and a second application for the Abergelli Power Project.

PINS has 28 days from submission to consider whether or not to accept the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) applications for examination.

Drax Power Station plans to replace its two remaining coal-generating units in North Yorkshire with up to 3.6 gigawatts (GW) of “high efficiency” gas-fired power generation and up to 200 megawatts (MW) of battery storage.

First set out in September 2017, the company has now worked up engineering and environmental reports for the application, and conducted an “extensive” consultation programme.

Drax said upgrading its existing infrastructure to use gas will provide the firm with more capacity, stability and essential grid services, to keep costs low and meet the government’s target to stop coal power generation by 2025.

Andy Koss, CEO at Drax Power, said: “With our gas Repower plans and the conversion of a fourth generating unit this summer to use biomass instead of coal, we intend to extend the life of the plant, protect jobs and deliver the flexible and reliable power millions of households and businesses need.

“Working with the communities local to the power station has been an integral part of the process. The Repower project could secure the future of the power station beyond 2025 when the government says coal must come off the system.”

Abergelli Power Ltd (APL), a subsidiary of Drax Group, wants a DCO to deliver power generation plans, and its electrical and gas connections, on land at Abergelli Farm, south of Felindre.

The plant has been designed to provide back-up generation capacity that can operate flexibly to respond quickly and efficiently to both short-term variation in customer demand and intermittent output from renewable power generation, according to the Abergelli Power website.

31 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Housing secretary James Brokenshire has signed a Structural Change Order paving the way for Taunton Deane and West Somerset councils to become one unitary authority.

The two councils will become one in April 2019, with elections scheduled to be held in May.

The single authority will cover the geographical area of the two councils.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the existing councils, John Williams (Taunton Deane) and Anthony Trollope-Bellew (West Somerset), said: “This has been a long – and not always easy – process. We both have long affiliations to our respective areas and we remain proud to have led Taunton Deane and West Somerset through some turbulent times.

“Our focus is – and always has been – on our people: our residents, businesses, partners and our staff. The single new, modern and fit-for-purpose council will enable us to make savings of at least £3.1 million for the taxpayer and help us to protect services people value, cut red tape, reduce duplication and keep council tax bills low.”

“While savings are important, this is also about being stronger together. Our shared, single team of staff has increased our capacity and made us more resilient. The creation of a new council will strengthen this. And we need that resilience and purpose to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.”

Williams and Trollope-Bellew said the merger won’t be one of old, but that identity “lies in our people, our landscape and our character”.

“That will not change.”

Until next April, a shadow council will be in place, which aims to ensure the “safe transition from the two existing councils” to the new council.

30 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


A new report has suggested that just 2 per cent of councils in England feel new development in their area meet policy requirements for affordable housing.

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) research, supported by the Nationwide Foundation, was compiled from 88 councils’ responses to a survey. It highlights, the TCPA said, the lack of resources at local authorities trying to meet demand for affordable homes.

It suggests that 70 per cent of respondents saying that they are forced to rely “substantially” on developer contributions to affordable housing.

There have been a number of calls, including from the Local Government Association (LGA), for the government to lift the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) borrowing cap to allow councils greater freedom to tackle the housing shortage in their area.

In the 2017 Autumn Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond outlined plans to lift the HRA borrowing cap for councils in areas suffering pressure on housing affordability.

This was criticised though for only being available in high-value areas.

The report – Planning for Affordable Housing – also found that 39 per cent think their local plan is “not sufficiently ambitious” to meet the community’s affordable housing need. “The government needs to show leadership in the final revised NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) to help councils create ambitious but realistic planning policies for affordable housing,” the report states.

On the new definition of affordable housing in the revised NPPF, 70 per cent of councils said it will not meet the need for affordable housing in their local area, because it omits social rent and links affordability to market prices rather than local incomes.

Henry Smith, projects and policy manager at the TCPA, said: “The current model of delivering affordable housing isn’t ever going to work. Low-paid workers are being pushed further and further out of their towns and cities, enduring longer and costlier commutes and enjoying less time at home. Where will they go? There will be a time when people just stop travelling such long distances to get to work and whole sectors become critically understaffed.

“The government must lift the HRA borrowing cap not only in high-value areas but everywhere. The only way we can ease the demand for all housing types is if councils are given the responsibility to manage their own stock and finally provide some competition for the private sector.”

Richard Blyth, head of policy at the RTPI told The Planner: “The RTPI is not satisfied with the continued definition of affordable housing for rent as only 20 per cent less than market rent.

“Our work on the renaissance of council building homes shows there are other ways outside of ‘developer contributions’.”

1 June 2018,
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Environment secretary Michael Gove has launched a review of national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) sites, which will be conducted by writer Julian Glover.

The review was first announced in January, when the government published its 25-year environment plan. It said the review would consider coverage of designations, how designated areas deliver their responsibilities, and whether there is scope for expansion.

Sir Arthur Hobhouse’s report in 1947 bought about the creation of England’s network of designated landscapes, with the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act passed in 1949. There are 10 national parks in England and 34 AONBs.

Glover will lead a panel that is set to look at how national parks and AONBs meet the public’s needs in the 21st century. They will investigate how access to these landscapes a can be improved; how those who live and work there can be better supported; and their role in growing the rural economy.

The review will also focus on how designated areas can boost wildlife, support the recovery of natural habitats and connect more people with nature.

Gove said: “The creation of national parks almost 70 years ago changed the way we view our precious landscapes – helping us all access and enjoy our natural world.

“Amid a growing population, changes in technology, and a decline in certain habitats, the time is right for us to look afresh at these landscapes. We want to make sure they are not only conserved, but enhanced for the next generation.”

Glover said the system that created national parks and AONBs has been a “strength” but it “faces challenges too”.

“I can’t wait to get started and learn from everyone who shares an interest in making England’s landscapes beautiful, diverse and successful.”

Margaret Paren, chair of National Parks England, welcomed the review and said the organisation will play a full part.

“Our National Parks offer so much to the country, and as we approach the 70th anniversary of the founding legislation we look forward to a future where their beauty is enhanced; they are loved and accessible for everyone; and they continue to support thriving communities in these working landscapes.”

Philip Hygate, chair of the National Association of AONBs, said the requirement for “beautiful, inspiring places in which to live, work, and relax is probably greater now than ever before”. he said the associations will work with the panel to make sure all of “England’s special landscapes are equally recognised for the value they provide to the nation, and their fundamental importance to future generations”.

The Terms of Reference for the review can be found on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website.

29 May 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


A round-up of planning news:

Fresh release date for revised Greater Manchester Spatial Framework

The second draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) will now be released in July, a month later than previously announced.

The framework’s release, which will be followed by a twelve week public consultation, has been delayed as a result of extra work to consider the implications of recent local election results and to maximise the opportunities for town centre and brownfield development.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, called the GMSF “vital for the success of our city region” and “our best chance to solve the housing crisis".

“It will be a bold, ambitious plan to ensure that we have the right homes and jobs in the right places, and the transport connections and infrastructure to support developments.”

RTPI challenges apprenticeship body’s assessment plan ruling

The RTPI has challenged the Institute for Apprenticeships’ (IfA) ability to assess professional standards following the the latter institute's rejection of the assessment plan for a degree-level apprenticeship developed by the Chartered Town Planner Apprenticeship Trailblazer Employer Group alongside the RTPI.

The group has lodged an appeal against the IfA’s decision and is expecting a ruling in the summer. It means that universities will not be able to recruit students as planned this September.

The government approved the principle of a Chartered Town Planning Apprenticeship in May 2017, developed by the Trailblazer Group with help and support from the RTPI.

Victoria Hills, RTPI chief executive, said that "there is widespread concern in the built environment professions that the IfA lacks good understanding of the role of chartered professional bodies and their well established and rigorous assessment methods.

Responsibilities for English Borderlands Champion set out

The UK Government has confirmed the responsibilities of John Stevenson MP as the Borderlands Deal Champion.

Stevenson, MP for Carlisle, was announced earlier this month as Champion for the Borderlands Growth Deal. In this unpaid and entirely advisory role, he will work with the UK government and local partners to help progress the Deal towards agreement, acting as ‘champion’ for the English Borderlands councils. (Growth Deal proposals to government will continue to be led by the five Borderlands local authorities.)

Northern Powerhouse minister, Jake Berry, believes Stevenson will be “a strong voice for a Growth Deal which will supercharge growth, boost tourism and create new economic opportunities for communities across the region”.

Deal negotiations were started in January 2018 by the Secretary of State for Scotland, Rt Hon David Mundell MP, and the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry MP.

Air pollution set to hit dangerous levels in Scotland

Scotland’s air quality forecasting service has warned that this week is likely to see levels of toxic ground level ozone break World Health Organisation and Scottish regulatory safety standards across most of the country.

The warning results from air masses from Northern continental Europe increasing pollution levels across the UK, and the expectation that ground level ozone will form in rural parts of Scotland because of the sunny weather.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, commented: “Traffic is a key culprit of today’s pollution, so the Government needs to get serious about making it easier for us to walk, cycle, and use public transport, and delivering on its Low Emission Zone promises.”

Planning Applications Wales website goes live

A new platform for the submission of planning applications or associated consents to Local Planning Authorities in Wales has gone live today (29 May).

The new site includes simplified forms and is designed to meet the needs of all users of the Welsh planning system.

Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths, said: “We’ve made sure the service meets the needs of Welsh users.” PortalPlanQuest Ltd, operators of the Planning Portal, won the tender to produce this Wales-specific online application service. The site can be accessed at www.gov.wales/planningapplications and www.llyw.cymru/ceisiadaucynllunio.

Planning permission for Fish Island mixed-use scheme

Architects pH+ and developer City & Suburban have received planning permission for a mixed-use scheme on Fish Island in Hackney Wick as part of the Wickside Masterplan.

Drawing on the concept of shared space where residential, working and public uses meet; The Trego Road mixed-use housing scheme is designed around a series of communal tiered yards, parks, and gardens.

The scheme, which will provide 52 new homes, has been developed to respond to the ‘scale and materiality of the existing and emerging context whilst ensuring the building possesses a character of its own within the streetscape’.

Plans approved for museum collections management facility

Swindon Borough Council has approved plans to build a collections management facility for The Science Museum Group (SMG) at its national centre in Wroughton, near Swindon.

Pegasus Group submitted the application on behalf of SMG for a facility that will transform how SMG manages, cares for and shares its world-leading collection.

Objects from the Science Museum Group collection will be stored, researched and prepared in the new facility before they go on display across the Group’s family of museums (the Science Museum in London, the National Railway Museum in York, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford and Locomotion in Shildon).

Construction is due to start next year, with the first collections arriving in 2020. The facility, which will be open to the public, will cover a footprint of 26,000 sq m. Storage halls, conservation laboratories, research spaces and photography studios are included within the facility.

Bingham land sale moves new housing development closer

The Crown Estate has completed the sale of land north of Bingham to Barratt and David Wilson Homes, meaning that the developer can now start on-site.

The 225-acre site, which has outline planning permission for 1,050 homes, forms part of a substantial extension to the north of the Nottinghamshire town.

When built, the new homes will be a short walk from the town centre and connected to it by a network of footpaths.

The Bingham North masterplan, adopted by Rushcliffe Borough Council in 2013, sets out plans for a new community to the north of the town, with space for new local shops, a primary school, a community centre, and public space including a park and lake.

29 May 2018
Martin Read, The Planner