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Planning news - 21 June 2018

Published: Thursday, 21st June 2018

Council challenges inspectorate’s decision for 350 homes, Government considering 41 new marine protections, Illegal HGV business owner pleads guilty to planning breaches. And more stories...

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

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South Gloucestershire Council has announced that it will challenge a planning inspector’s decision to approve 350 homes in Thornbury.

The Cleve Park application, by Welbeck Strategic Land LLP, was for outline permission and also included a 70-unit elderly care facility and 1,150 square metres of commercial and community floorspace.

Of the homes, 35 per cent were designated as affordable and 14 would be self-build plots.

The council refused permission because the scheme would “compromise its vision for Thornbury” by contradicting the local development plan. The applicant subsequently appealed.

In May, a planning inspector noted that the council had a substantial shortfall in future supply of housing land, ruling that residents’ opposition “must be balanced against the aspirations of the government to boost the supply of housing”, allowing the appeal.

In a statement on its website, the council said: “We have carefully considered the inspector’s decision and will be issuing legal proceedings challenging this decision.”

Further to this, the council has written to housing secretary James Brokenshire, asking him to recover two planning appeals from the Planning Inspectorate. One application is for outline permission for erection of 121 homes and a retail outlet on land off Wotton Road in Charfield by Barratt Homes, and the other sees outline permission for the demolition of agricultural buildings and the development of 370 residential units on land to the South of Gloucester Road in Thornbury, by Bovis Homes Ltd.

The council said allowing these appeals would “undermine the joint spatial plan (JSP) process and its impact upon the residents and communities of South Gloucestershire”.

Toby Savage, leader of the council, said: “Enough is enough. I am determined to see the council take a robust approach to challenging unsustainable development across the district. Where we have taken difficult decisions to proactively and positively plan for future housing and jobs growth, we should not have decisions from the Planning Inspectorate which undermines this work as it only stores up economic, social and environmental problems for the future.”

Colin Hunt, cabinet member for planning, added: “In South Gloucestershire we are trying to be plan-led with our decisions on planning applications. While we appreciate that we have a shortfall on our five-year land supply, we nonetheless want decisions to reflect that we have a solid plan that was prepared in consultation with the public.

“It is not appropriate for Thornbury, Charfield and other locations to be under attack from speculative developers in this way, who are seeking to circumvent the plan-led system and community engagement in a manner which undermines the recently submitted JSP.”

14 June 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Environment secretary Michael Gove has set out plans to create 41 new Marine Conservation Zones across the UK, totalling nearly 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitats.

The new Blue Belt sites, now under consultation, include Berwick-upon-Tweed on the Scottish border and two sites in Northern Irish offshore waters.

If the areas proposed are approved following the consultation, activities that are deemed damaging, like dredging and “significant” coastal or offshore development, won’t be allowed to go ahead. Existing activities deemed harmful will either minimised or stopped to allow important habitats to be restored over time, the government said.

The designations will protect a number of species included the short-snouted seahorse, stalked jellyfish and peacock’s tail seaweed.

Currently, there are 50 Marine Conservation Zones, including Farnes East, off the coast of Northumberland. The first set of zones covered 3,731 square miles, while the second phase saw 4,115 square miles of marine habitats protected.

This third tranche of designations will be the last. The zones will be designated within 12 months of the six-week consultation.

Gove said: “The UK is surrounded by some of the richest and most diverse sea life in the world. We must protect these precious habitats for future generations.”

He said the new plans for marine protection “marks an important step towards completing our Blue Belt. We are creating safe havens for our cherished wildlife and putting the UK at the forefront of marine protection”.

The consultation can be found on the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website.

11 June 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A landowner and a business owner have pleaded guilty to breaching planning regulations for running a vehicle sales business from a Leicestershire farm without permission.

North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC) prosecuted Ian Evans, who owns Roecliffe Farm in New Packington, for carrying on a heavy goods vehicles (HGV) sales business that was required to stop under the terms of an enforcement notice.

Ian Evans and Ben Evans, owners of the HGV business, both pleaded guilty at Leicester Magistrates Court.

Planning permission to change the use of the farm so a HGV business could be run from it was refused in January 2005. This was in part because of road safety concerns.

NWLDC started an investigation into the farm after a report of a “near-miss” incident on the road outside the farm involving a HGV in August last year. They found the business to be running from the farm.

Alison Smith MBE, deputy leader and portfolio holder for community services, said: “Planning regulations are there for a reason – to protect our landscape and our residents from activity and development that is detrimental to the area. In this case, planning permission was refused partly because of highways concerns, then a near-miss car accident occurred. Thankfully, this was not serious and was reported to us, which has led to this successful prosecution and will end illegal business activity on the site.

“Simply ignoring planning regulations is not acceptable. We will pursue people who think they can act outside of the law.”

The case has been transferred to the Crown Court for sentencing.

14 June 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that the ability of English councils to replace homes sold under Right to Buy ‘will all but be eliminated within five years’, unless the scheme undergoes major reform.

Research commissioned by the LGA and undertaken by Savills considers the impact of restrictions on councils’ ability to borrow to build new homes.

It suggests that two-thirds of councils will not be able to replace homes sold off under Right to Buy on a one-for-one basis in five years unless a “significant” restructuring of the scheme happens. Less than a third of councils will be able to sustain one-for-one replacement of homes in five years, according to the report.

In 2017, 12,224 homes were sold under the scheme. Should these levels of sales remain consistent, with continuing borrowing restrictions, the research calculates that in 2023 councils will only be able to replace 2,000 of these homes.

The LGA said councils are being hampered in replacing homes because a portion of all receipts are given to the Treasury, rather than reinvested in housing.

The representative for councils in England and Wales continued by noting that in the past six years more than 60,000 homes have been sold off at an average price of half the market rate. This means that councils can fund to build or buy just 14,000 replacement homes.

Without a “fundamental re-examination” of how the Right to Buy scheme is funded, “it faces becoming a thing of the past,” said the LGA.

Earlier this year, the organisation warned that the scheme has become “sustainable”. 

Councils have called to be allowed to borrow to build new homes, and to be able to keep 100 per cent of all sales receipts. They also want the ability to set Right to Buy discounts locally to reflect community needs.

Martin Tett, housing spokesman for the LGA, said that without reform, “this vital stepping stone into home ownership is under threat”.

“Councils urgently need funding to support the replacement of homes sold off under the scheme, or there’s a real chance they could be all but eliminated. Without a pipeline of new homes, future generations cannot benefit from the scheme.

“Enabling all councils to borrow to build and to keep 100 per cent of their Right to Buy receipts will be critical to delivering a renaissance in housebuilding by councils. However, if we’re to truly make Right to Buy sustainable, we must also move towards greater flexibility on discounts locally so we can reflect local community need.

“Councils are closest to their communities and it’s essential this money is reinvested in homes in those areas so our residents can access secure, affordable housing. This money is badly needed to deliver homes for our residents – instead of resting in an account in Whitehall, it should be sent back to where it belongs.”

11 June 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Housing secretary James Brokenshire has announced that £30 million worth of funding will be shared between councils across England as they look to help people living on the streets into accommodation.

It will also help councils to consider those at risk in the winter.

In May, the housing secretary announced that three Housing First pilots would take place in Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region and the West Midlands Combined Authority, as the government looks to reduce the level of homelessness.

This money is to be shared across 83 areas to provide an additional 1,750 bed-spaces for rough sleepers and another 531 dedicated homelessness workers.

Money will also go towards improving the coordination of services available to those in need and at risk.

Projects that have received funding include:

  • Camden Council – £870,000 for the expansion of its outreach team to deliver targeted street interventions in homelessness hotspots. It will also go to recruiting new staff to support rough sleepers to keep their own accommodation.
  • Cornwall Council – £430,000 will go to crisis hostel accommodation, cold weather provision and support for the most disengaged rough sleepers with chronic needs.
  • Manchester City Council – £418,000 will fund specialist staff who will work with young rough sleepers and offenders, and provide additional night shelter beds and supported hostel beds.
  • Leicester City Council – £265,000 will help to increase outreach provision, create a rough sleeper coordinator role and establish an innovative ‘Housing Led’ scheme aimed at enhancing options for those sleeping rough in the city.
  • Lincoln City Council – £376,000 aims to increase outreach and specialist support provision. It will provide 15 beds for rough sleepers with complex needs and help to create a rough sleeper coordinator role.

The government’s new Rough Sleeping Initiative Team will support councils.

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of homeless charity St Mungo’s, said: “Effective outreach services are a crucial part of this along with sufficient emergency accommodation and assessment and support for people with mental health and substance use problems.

“While this money is a welcome first step, we hope that the government will provide sufficient funding alongside its forthcoming rough-sleeping strategy to achieve the prime minister’s goal of halving rough sleeping in this Parliament and ending it within 10 years.”

Brokenshire said the funding would make “a real difference now”.

“Many challenging factors lie behind rough sleeping, from mental health problems to addiction and our long-term strategy to be published this summer will outline how we plan to tackle them and eliminate rough sleeping for good.”

In response, Martin Tett, housing spokesman for the Local Government Association, said the funding forms a “positive step” towards helping councils to “effectively support people experiencing street homelessness by providing the resources to help them into supported housing and to prevent it from occurring in the first place”.

“That preventative approach is essential towards helping people out of homelessness and into a secure form of housing, which is why we have to tackle the root causes of homelessness by adapting welfare reforms and enabling all councils to address our national housing shortage, through being able to borrow to build new homes. Only by triggering the renaissance in council housebuilding that we need can we put in place the long-term reforms that will help make homelessness a thing of the past.”

The full list of funding allocations can be found on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government website (pdf).

11 June 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A round-up of planning news

Council appoints firm for city centre development

Preston City Council has appointed planning consultancy Nexus Planning to lead a multidisciplinary team to prepare a development framework for the Stoneygate area of the city centre.

Lancashire County Council and Homes England are supporting the council.

The four-month study aims to establish a masterplan and delivery strategy to create an urban village, using brownfield and underused sites. The development will comprise residential units, and business, leisure and education uses.

The study area incorporates the Stoneygate and Church Street areas, as well as Brookhouse’s Queens Retail Park and Cardinal Newman College, alongside existing housing and business areas.

Khan launches construction academy

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has launched a construction academy in the capital, as well as a Skills and Adult Education Strategy.

He believes that London’s housing crisis is the single biggest challenge in the city, with people increasingly unable to afford to live and work there.

The construction academy has been developed with the support of construction employers, industry experts and skills providers to close the gap between the need for more homes and the shortage of skilled construction workers, according to the mayor’s office.

It comprises a network of construction skills providers across London that will work closely together and with construction employers.

The academy is partly funded through the London Economic Action Partnership's (LEAP) Growth Deal with central government, which included £8 million allocated to the programme.

The strategy focuses on post-16 technical and vocational education, adult education and employment support, and considers pathways from school into further learning and work.

Similar challenges facing England and Ireland

A recent seminar hosted by the London Irish Town Planners discussed the new and emerging national planning policy frameworks in both England and Ireland.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) chief planner Steve Quartermain, Joe Corr, president of the Irish Planning Institute and Simon Ricketts, founding partner at Town Legal LLP, talked about the similar challenges that exist in both countries, in particular, the housing crisis.

They spoke about service delivery at local authority level and housing density.

The speakers noted that different approaches are being used to address the challenges, with the Irish Government using a spatially based approach to the distribution of growth across the country compared with the use of more general policy guidance in England.

Rental scheme approved in Corby

Corby Borough Council has approved Hecurl Limited’s plans for a 150-unit private rented sector (PRS) development next to Corby station.

It will be the town’s first PRS development.

The scheme includes 60 one-bed flats and 90 two-bed flats; onsite hub for residents; a car club so that residents can hire a car when they need one; 84 car parking spaces and 245 cycle spaces.

Yorkshire tourist plans green-lit

Scarborough Borough Council has granted planning permission to a tourism destination in North Yorkshire designed by architect and masterplanner Holder Mathias.

The Raithwaite Bay Resort in Whitby will comprise new holiday accommodation and leisure facilities, including 71 holiday cottages, 82 holiday apartments, 37 lodges, a restaurant and a welcome hub.

Holder Mathias, working with the local authority, said it developed a design concept that “respected the area’s unique character through the careful design of buildings within the valleys to minimise any impact on the woodland”.  

The holiday apartments will resemble traditional Yorkshire barns, clustered together and designed to appear as though they have evolved and aged over time. A mix of traditional and contemporary materials and finishes will be used.

A 30-year management scheme has been devised, which aims to protect and enhance the estate’s ancient woodland and safeguard the long-term success of the project.

Acquisition of the Silvertown Partnership announced

Lendlease and Starwood have announced plans for the acquisition, subject to pre-completion conditions, of The Silvertown Partnership.

The partnership holds development rights in a major urban renewal project in London’s East End – the development of Silvertown Quays.

The scheme, located between Canary Wharf and London City Airport, is set to provide 7 million square feet of residential and commercial space. It will incorporate restoration of the dock walls, new public spaces, as well as high-quality commercial and retail space, providing new employment opportunities for the residents of Newham.

Dan Labbad, chief executive officer, international operations at Lendlease, said: “Working in partnership, we plan to create a place that’s innovative and environmentally sustainable, and will provide tangible benefits for the local community for the long term.”

Consultant appointed for electricity project

Greenlink has appointed engineering consultant WSP to its €400 million electricity interconnector linking Wales and Ireland.

The 500MW 200km high voltage direct current (HVDC) link is being developed by Greenlink Interconnector Limited, a subsidiary of Element Power.

The project is predicted to save Irish consumers around €800million over its lifetime, while also improving Great Britain’s access to Ireland’s significant renewable energy generation and increasing security of supply for both countries.

Greenlink will comprise a converter station at each end, connected by two electricity cables and a fibre optic cable. The cables will run underground and under the sea from the Great Island substation in County Wexford to Freshwater West beach in Wales, before continuing to run underground to the Pembroke substation.

WSP will support Greenlink through the final cost and technical assessments for Ofgem and CRU. The firm will run the procurement process for the entire HVDC system, including around 205km of underground and submarine cable.

WSP will also guarantee safety in design for those constructing, operating and maintaining the interconnector.

Construction is due to start in 2020.

Five free days of support for community-led housing

The Right to Build Taskforce is offering five organisations up to five days of tailored advice to help facilitate the delivery of more custom and self-build homes.

The free help is worth up to £2,500.

Established by the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) and endorsed by the government, the Right to Build Task Force works to support local authorities, community groups and a range of stakeholders across the UK to deliver affordable custom and self-build projects.

The task force has set aside funding for the work to enable its panel of experts to support up to five suitable projects on a time-limited basis, free of charge.

There is a range of ways that the task force can help, including facilitating workshops or training events to help build a better understanding of what custom and self-build housing is and how it can be delivered; enabling neighbourhood planning initiatives, such as the preparation of planning policies; understanding local demand, selecting suitable sites and support in preparing planning applications and planning; and advice on appointing professional services.

The deadline for submissions is 31 July. More information can be found on the NaCSBA website.

Funding secured for Porthcawl development

Acorn Property Group has secured funding from United Trusted Bank for its residential development in Porthcawl, South Wales.

The project includes the conversion of a former hotel into a mix of 35 one, two and three-bedroom apartments, with completion expected in 2019.

The site is next to Royal Porthcawl Gold Club.

A second phase of development will see an additional 34 new-build apartments. Work is set to start in 18 months.

Acorn is developing the project in a joint venture with the landowner and has spent two years securing listed building approval and new build planning consent.

12 June 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner