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Planning News - 28 June 2018

Published: Thursday, 28th June 2018

Brokenshire announces combustible cladding consultation, HS2 plans to build a green corridor alongside railway, North Essex garden communities plans require ‘significant work’ and more stories...

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

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Housing secretary James Brokenshire has announced a consultation on banning the use of combustible materials on the external walls of high-rise residential buildings, which is set to end on 14 August 2018.

The government wants to ensure that there is no doubt about which materials can be used on high-rise residential buildings.

This follows the fire last June at Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster Estate in West London, and the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety by Dame Judith Hackitt.

The consultation invites views on proposals to revise the building regulations to ban the use of combustible materials in the inner leaf, insulation and cladding that are used in external wall systems on high-rise buildings.

Residents, industry and other interested parties will be able to have their say on proposals affecting the safety of homes.

Brokenshire said: “I have listened carefully to concerns and I intend to ban the use of combustible materials on the external walls of high-rise residential buildings, subject to consultation.

He added: “I believe that the changes on which we are consulting will offer even greater certainty to concerned residents and to the construction industry.”

Hackitt’s fire safety review recommended that a simpler but more robust approach to the construction and on-going management of high-rise residential buildings was needed.

The government welcomed Hackitt’s report and committed to:

  • Banning or restricting the use of desktop studies from being used to assess the fire performance of cladding systems.
  • Change the law to achieve meaningful and lasting reform of the regulatory system, with strong sanctions for those who fail to comply.
  • Invite views on how the government could implement major reform of the regulatory system in line with Hackitt’s review.
  • Clarify building regulations fire safety guidance (Approved Document B).

The consultation can be found on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government website.

18 June 2018
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

HS2 Ltd has announced its plans to deliver a green corridor comprising new wildlife habitats, native woodlands and community landscapes alongside the High Speed 2 route.

The aim is to integrate the new line into its surrounding landscape and environment.

The Phase One route covers 216km from London to the West Midlands. The green corridor along here is set to include:

  • 7 million new trees and shrubs, comprising more than 40 native species specific to each location. They will cover over 9 square kilometres of land.
  • More than 33 square kilometres of new and existing wildlife habitat, and “increase of around 30 per cent compared to what’s there now”.
  • Tailor-made homes for wildlife, ranging from bat houses to 226 new ponds for great crested newts and other amphibians.
  • Earthworks and landscaping that will reuse around 90 per cent of the material excavated during construction.
  • The potential to support community projects and develop amenity spaces, such as access routes, public parks, open spaces and nature reserves.

Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2 Ltd, said: “Alongside improving connectivity, boosting the economy and unlocking new jobs and opportunities, I’m determined to ensure that HS2 also works for the environment and local communities.

“This starts by doing everything we can to reduce our environmental footprint and minimise the expected impact of our construction work. Longer term, we’ll be leaving behind a network of new wildlife habitats, woodlands, and community spaces, helping to create a lasting legacy along the route.

“We’ve already got to work by supporting a range of community projects and creating a series of new habitats, including planting over 230,000 trees so far. We’ll be calling on local people and organisations to get involved as the ‘green corridor’ starts to take shape.”

Speaking at the launch of the green corridor project, HS2 minister Nusrat Ghani said the government supports the plans. She announced that more than £8 million of government funding will go towards creating new woodlands and delivering safer roads on the HS2 route.

Ghani also announced an additional £2 million for the HS2 Woodland Fund, which aims to help landowners along the route between Birmingham and Crewe to plant new trees.

She said: “As we deliver the new high-speed railway our country needs for economic growth and better journeys for passengers, it is imperative we set a new standard for preserving, protecting and enhancing our diverse woodlands and wildlife.

“HS2’s green corridor is one of the most significant tree-planting and habitat creation projects ever undertaken in this country. To support that vision, the government is providing an additional £2 million for the Woodland Fund to support native species and help more people enjoy more new green spaces than before.”

25 June 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

An inspector has found the strategic plan for three garden communities in North Essex not sound – but stressed this was not a rejection of plans to deliver three new settlements.

The North Essex Authorities Strategic (Section 1) Plan sets out the proposal for three new communities totalling 43,000 houses.

It was drawn up by North Essex Garden Communities Ltd (NEGC Ltd), a joint venture of Essex County Council and the North Essex Authorities (NEAs) of Braintree, Colchester and Tendring.

Inspector Roger Clewes’ report focuses on areas that “require significant work” by the three authorities. He says he has no doubts about the NEAs’ sincerity in their plans to deliver the garden communities.

“Their proposed approach is innovative and ambitious, and if carried out successfully it has the potential to provide for housing and employment needs not just in the current plan period but well beyond it.”

However, having considered the evidence submitted to support the garden communities policies, Clewes finds it to be “lacking in a number of respects”. These include:

Trunk road improvements – Greater certainty is required over the funding and alignment of the A120 dualling scheme, while the feasibility of realigning the widened A12 at Marks Tey is needed to demonstrate that the garden communities proposals are deliverable in full.

Rapid transit system – A realistic range of costs, and the sources from which they will be met, need to be identified. Discussions with potential operators need to be had so they are involved in developing proposals.

Due to shortcomings in Hyas Associates’ April 2017 viability assessment, its conclusions on the deliverability of the planned affordable housing “cannot be relied upon”. The further viability work that needs to be undertaken to correct those shortcomings will, therefore, also need to demonstrate that 30 per cent affordable housing can be delivered in any garden community that may be proposed.

The Hyas report does not deal adequately with transport infrastructure costs, land purchase and interest, or contingency allowances.

It has not been demonstrated that the garden communities proposed in the submitted plan are financially viable. Further viability assessment, taking account of all the points above, will need to be carried out on any garden community proposals that the NEAs bring forward.

Clewes does not find any issues with the NEAs’ work on the duty to cooperate.

Deciding that the proposals in the plan are “not adequately justified” and it had not been demonstrated that they can be developed viably, “they are therefore unsound”, he adds.

He emphasises, however, that does not mean that garden communities “may not have a role to play in meeting development needs in North Essex”.

Clewes recognises that “substantial time, effort and resources” have already been invested in developing the proposals, not only by the NEAs but also by the government, landowners, potential developers, infrastructure providers and others.

He adds: “It is possible that when the necessary additional work I have outlined is completed, it will provide justification for proceeding with one or more garden communities proposals – although any such justification would of course be subject to further testing at examination.”

19 June 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A review of housebuilding in England has found a number of reasons for a slow build-out rate of developments, including that developers releasing a limited number of homes for sale at any one time slows down the current system.

The review also notes a lack of variety in the types of homes being built.

The government commissioned Sir Oliver Letwin to lead a review into what could be done to speed up the slow rate of house building on major sites, which was initially announced in the 2017 Autumn Budget.

Staggering the release of new built homes tends to prevent prices being driven down in the local market and is known as the absorption rate.

Since his interim letter sent to the government in March, Letwin says he has heard further evidence that has done nothing to alter his view that “the homogeneity of the types and tenures of the homes on offer in these sites, and the limits on the rate at which the market will absorb such homogenous products, are the fundamental drivers of the slow rate of build out”.

He suggests that if developers offered housing of varying types design and tenures (and “distinct settings, landscapes and street-scapes") on large sites and the variety matched the desires of people who want to live in the area of proposed development, “then the overall absorption rates – and hence the overall build-out rates – could be substantially accelerated”.

Letwin’s research also considers the construction industry, noting that there will be a “significant biting constraint” if build-out rates increase on large sites, alongside other government measures, as the country looks to deliver on the government’s target to deliver 300,000 homes a year.

In order to meet the target, 15,000 extra bricklayers will be required.

Without a move away from brick-built homes or to bring in expertise from abroad, the government and major housebuilders “must work together (specifically without current training providers) on a five-year ‘flash’ programme of pure on-the-job training”.

Letwin urged the government to consider measures to “rapidly” increase the number of bricklayers.

Richard Blyth, head of policy and research at the RTPI, said: “The RTPI welcomes the publication of the draft analysis by the Letwin review of build-out. In particular, we would support the conclusion that a much greater variety of tenure and of types of home is needed on large sites and agree with the review that simply turning from large sites to small sites would not increase build-out rates. The RTPI has indicated to the government that the proposals in the NPPF regarding small sites are not sufficiently flexible to be effective. Large sites are important in ensuring infrastructure provision.

“We have been saying this in our #16Ways campaign to solve the housing crisis and our work on getting councils building shows one way in which variety could be achieved. The RTPI is working with the Right to Build Task Force on increasing the variety of tenures through custom/self-build.”

The report also includes evidence on other potential constraints to build-out rates, including a lack of transport infrastructure, difficulties of land remediation, delayed installation by utility companies, and limited supplies of building materials.

Independent Review of Built Out Rates: Draft Analysis can be found on the UK Government website (pdf).

25 June 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has asked Prime Minister Theresa May for a guarantee that the Heathrow expansion will not reduce or delay transport investment in the north of England.

Burnham remains concerned that the expansion of Heathrow could leave the North waiting even longer for the investment to build modern rail infrastructure linking its big cities to Manchester Airport.

The government’s bill for public transport improvements to support the Heathrow expansion could be up to £16 billion, he warned. This would take transport spending in the capital to around £50 billion in the coming years.

Speaking at the Northern Transport Summit 2018 in Manchester, Burnham alluded to recent chaos on Northern rail, providing clear proof that improving connections west-to-east across the north of England should be the country’s most urgent transport investment priority.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling’s failure to attend the summit has fuelled fears that the North is not the government’s transport priority, according to a statement from Burnham’s office.

With the government committed to major investment in London to build HS2, and signs of support to the £30 billion Crossrail 2 project, Burnham raised fears that the vast majority of the transport capital budget is effectively committed to the capital city, leaving little for the rest of the country.

Burnham said: “If the expansion of Heathrow is to go ahead, it should be on the basis of a clear guarantee from the government that it won’t delay or reduce much-needed transport investment in the North.”

He added: “If they can’t give that guarantee in a convincing way, then there is a strong case for Parliament asking the government to think again and postpone the expansion of Heathrow.”

It emerged today that the Department for Transport’s (DfT) analysis of future spending suggests that, between 2018 and 2021, it will be investing £831 per head on road and rail upgrades in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber – more than £30 more per head than London and the South at £799.

The figures were published as aviation minister Baroness Sugg visited Liverpool Airport ahead of attending the northern transport summit.

Sugg said: “A new Heathrow runway will bring further benefits to the North, better connecting the region’s airports with the UK’s hub airport and opening up new trade opportunities which could deliver a further boost to the Northern economy.”

The full release can be viewed here on the DfT website.

25 June 2018
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

A round-up of planning news:

Telecommunications masts approved in national park

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Planning Committee has granted approval for the Home Office to build two telecommunications masts in Upper Swaledale and in nearby Birkdale.

This is part of a major national upgrade of the emergency services’ communications network.

The mast in Upper Swaledale, near Crow Trees Farm, will be a lattice mast, making it capable of hosting several commercial mobile phone operators in addition to the emergency services.

The mast on Birkdale Common will be a telegraph pole, which will be capable of hosting one commercial operator.

Go-ahead for three West London schemes

Three developments situated in the UK’s largest regeneration scheme area have received planning approval.

They become the first major private sector schemes to come forward in the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC).

The residential developments will be built at North Kensington Gate and Mitre yard. They will deliver around 550 units, including 200 build-to-rent properties. The buildings will range from five to 22 storeys in height.

The OPDC regeneration programme is aiming to build 25,500 new homes and create 65,000 jobs.

Land for housing sold in the Midlands

Hundreds of new homes are set to be built in the East Midlands following the sale of two sites with a combined value of more than £15 million.

Development agency Fisher German has sold a site in Earl Shilton in Leicestershire, and one in Brailsford in Derbyshire to housebuilder Avant Homes.

In Earl Shilton, the site, which is 39 acres in size, has outline planning permission for up to 350 properties, comprising a mix of two to five-bedroom homes. Of the homes, 20 per cent have been designated as affordable. The development also includes 1.48 acres of employment land.

The Brailsford site is 11.5 acres in size. It has outline planning permission for up to 75 homes, ranging from two to five-bedrooms. This will be spread across starter and family homes, as well as bungalows.

Reserved matters applications have been submitted to the relevant councils for approval for both developments.

Seafront development unveiled on South East coast

A planning application for Madeira Drive along the seafront in Brighton & Hove has been unveiled.

The commercial development is part of a five-year lease granted by Bright & Hove City Council, which was granted in April.

Plans for the Peter Pan site include a 25m open-water swimming pool, as well as 39 small business units suitable for retail, health and fitness, office space and a food court.

Sea Lanes Brighton, the organisation behind the plans, hopes to secure planning permission this winter and open the pool in spring 2019.

North West Leicestershire to consider green space protection

The newly formed Local Plan Committee at North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC) is set to consider the consultation responses to a local plan review this week.

The committee, which has been given new decision-making powers following a review of the council’s planning function, will also consider a call for land for gypsy and traveller sites and how the council can protect important green spaces.

The local plan was adopted in November 2017, along with a commitment to an immediate review to take account of changing local and national policies, which both businesses and the public have since done.

Most of the 72 responses were generally supportive of the review and agreed that the local plan should cover the period to 2036. Some developers suggested that the whole plan should be reviewed to take account of changes in government policy, rather than only some policies. 

The committee will consider the consultation responses and take advice on which areas of the local plan should be reviewed at the meeting.

During examination of the plan, a planning inspector said a review of the local plan could explore whether green spaces should be given special protection and included in the plan.

Committee councillors will decide whether local communities should be asked to put forward potential green spaces for further consideration as part of the review.

Crawley regeneration plan approved

The council has approved phase two of Crawley’s Boulevard regeneration.

The project, by property investor and developer Westrock in partnership with Crawley Borough Council, aims to deliver 273 residential apartments, a 150,000 square foot Town Hall and office building, a district heat network, a new public square, restaurants and cafés, and upgraded parking facilities.

Last year, Westrock secured planning permission for the first residential building of 91 units. Construction is due to start this summer.

Development of the Town Hall and office building is set to start in 2019. The developer is aiming to achieve BREEAM Excellent for the Town Hall and offices.

The district heating network centre is planned to power the office and residential elements.

Moorgate building refurbishment gains consent

The City of London Corporation has approved the extensive refurbishment of 120 Moorgate.

The building is a 133,494 square foot mixed-use, predominantly offices structure located on the corner of Moorgate and South Place.

Darling Associates has been appointed to Vengrove to design the transformation, maintaining each floor plate and without extending the overall massing.The existing office space on the upper floors will be refurbished, with gym facilities and a bicycle store added to the basement levels, replacing the car park.

19 June 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner