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Planning News - 30 August 2018

Published: Thursday, 30th August 2018

6,000 homes approved on appeal, report suggests, Clear joined-up approach needed for national and regional infrastructure, report says, Approval for redevelopment of Botany Bay and more stories...

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

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In 2017, 65 per cent of 78 appeals that were recommended for approval by council planning officers but rejected by councillors were overturned at appeal, resulting in the approval of 6,000 homes, according to a report.

The report, Refused for Good Reason, also found that 40 per cent of homes were approved on appeal when an officer’s recommendation was refusal and councillors also rejected the application. 

The report says that in 35 per cent of cases, which equates to 4,000 homes, councillors were justified in overturning officer recommendations, with the appeal being dismissed by a planning inspector or the secretary of state.

Refused for Good Reason stats:

  • Research identifies 309 appeals for schemes of 50 residential units or more decided in 2017. 25 per cent (78) were refused by councillors against a planning officer recommendation for approval
  • Of those 78, 65 per cent were overturned at appeal, meaning around 6,000 homes have been green-lit
  • 74 per cent of appeals where councillors refused for highways reasons were allowed on appeal
  • 54 per cent of appeals where councillor refused for landscape reasons were allowed on appeal
  • 64 per cent of appeals where refusal was against officer recommendation were within a local authority area that doesn’t have a post-NPPF local plan.

Rachel Clements, associate director at planning consultancy Lichfields, which produced the report, said: “The delivery of housing is at the top of the political agenda. But, whilst there has been lots of focus on planning policies and housing delivery, very little attention has been given to the quality of decision-making.

“Our research has shown that in some instances developers are being pushed into an unnecessarily expensive and time consuming appeal process, on the basis of local decision-making that proves less resilient at appeal than where officers recommended refusal.”

According to the research, a five-year housing supply was one of the main issues in the majority of appeals – 55 out of the 78. The majority of these were found in local authority areas without an up-to-date local plan, although Lichfield noted that did not seem to have a “significant” impact on the outcome of the appeals.

The report says that appeals are most often allowed (74 per cent) when councillors had refused an application on highways and transport related issues.

Considering England, Scotland and Wales, the research also states that over 56 per cent of appeals considered were in Conservative-controlled local authorities, while 14 per cent and 27 per cent were in Labour-controlled and no overall controlled local authorities respectively.

Lichfields has suggested a number of ways decision-making at a local level could be improved, including:

  • Seeking independent advice where there is disagreement between the planning officer and members on a technical issue before a decision is confirmed
  • Extending the secretary of state’s powers to designate local planning authorities where higher rates of decisions made by councillors are being overturned at appeal
  • Offering bespoke training to planning committee members particularly in councils with higher rates of allowed appeals.

The report can be downloaded from the Lichfields website (pdf).

23 August 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for the government to establish an inter-departmental group that includes all departments with responsibilities for infrastructure so policy, planning and delivery is better coordinated.

The representative for British businesses' new report Driving Delivery: Turning Plans into Action on Regional Infrastructure explains that with infrastructure at the heart of local industrial strategies, there must be clear coordination of how these feed into the national industrial strategy.

CBI recognises the government’s “strong will” to improve infrastructure in England, citing HS2, Crossrail and the third runway at Heathrow Airport as examples, while sub-national bodies, such as Transport for the North, have been established.

The report though, which is the result of discussions with businesses and transport organisations, lays out concerns about the complexity of decision-making and the lack of transparency regarding how investment decisions are made, as well the impact this is having on improving connectivity.

Having the right infrastructure in place connects people to jobs, raising productivity, which is what the government is aiming to do with its industrial strategy.

If England, and the wider UK, is to improve its productivity, transport links between cities outside of London need to be better. It highlights that it is quicker to get from London to Paris than it is to get from Liverpool to Hull.

“Improving connections between cities therefore presents a particularly compelling opportunity to lift productivity. As an example, reducing travel times between cities in the North of England, via the best mode of transport, could provide access to a working population matching that of London today,” the report states.

The report makes a number of recommendations to address connectivity and productivity issues, including:

  • Ensure a joined-up approach at a national and regional level
  • Clearly reflect the wider economic benefits of transport investment in central government decision-making
  • National and local decision-makers must ensure that all regions are represented by a sub-national transport body, including in the South West and East of England. The role of sub-national transport bodies in all strategic decision-making should be formalised
  • Create a level playing field to deliver transport improvements across all regions
  • Ensure sustainable, consolidated and long-term funding for local transport.

Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at CBI, said England’s infrastructure is “a patchwork quilt”.

“Firms have identified the most important projects across the country, but uncertainty and complexity on infrastructure decision making is blocking progress, deterring investors and holding back our regions from fully realising their incredible potential.

“To set all regions up for success, we need a policy environment that turns plans into action. Increasing the funding allocated to local infrastructure in the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, and having fewer, more impactful spending pots would put genuine power in the hands of local leaders. And where it’s the government that holds the purse strings on projects, there must be a clearer link between regional growth and decisions that are taken, with sub-transport transport bodies making the case for all areas. If not, we risk some regions accelerating ahead of others, creating a two-speed England.”

Driving Delivery: Turning Plans into Action on Regional Infrastructure can be found on the CBI website.

22 August 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Chorley Council has approved plans for the redevelopment of Botany Bay that include 30,000 square feet of retail outlet space.

Four separate applications for the Botany Bay Outlet Village scheme are involved.

The 37-hectare site is split by the Leeds to Liverpool canal. On it sits a Victorian cotton mill, which will be refurbished into shops by FI Real Estate Management, the firm responsible for three of the applications.

More than 40 objections were received about the plans, with most concerns relating to the loss of green space and the impact on traffic. Members of the planning committee heard at a council meeting that the developer would fund £2 million of road improvements as part of the project.

One application will see a 30,000 square metre retail-led mixed-use development, including a hotel. This will sit land to the north east of junction 8 of the M61.

A second application will see up to 27,871 square metres of industrial and distribution floorspace built on land to the south of the canal. The third was for 188 homes.

A spokesperson for FI Real Estate Management, said: “The reinvention of Botany Bay has been in the planning for a number of years and this approval brings to fruition a great deal of work to create a masterplan that blends premium outlet retail, quality housing and valuable employment uses.

“Botany Bay has a rich heritage and we have put the site’s industrial history at the heart of the designs for this truly unique development. Our vision is to create a flagship outlet shopping destination for the North West, which not only attracts visitors to the area, but more importantly creates jobs, and acts as a catalyst for further investment for Chorley and the borough. Receiving planning approval is a huge testament to this vision and we very much look forward to bringing it to life.”

The fourth proposal was for 100 homes and was submitted by William J Drinkwater And Anne Goodier.

The plans will now be referred to the housing secretary, who has 21 days to make a decision.

21 August 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A development that will deliver 50 per cent affordable housing has been approved by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

The plans will see 441 homes built on the site of a former Citroën car dealership in Brentford.

Of those, 218 have been designated as affordable, including both shared ownership for first-time buyers and homes based on social rent levels for households on low incomes.

Hounslow Council initially refused the application in February this year, but Khan decided to call the scheme in. He negotiated the affordable housing 50/50 split, and increase from 40 per cent affordable.

The approval is subject to a review mechanism that will see the developer have to provide more affordable homes if construction is not underway within two years of the date of approval.

Khan said: “This scheme shows how we can unlock the potential of an underused site to build more of the genuinely affordable homes Londoners so urgently need.

“I have carefully considered the impacts of these plans – particularly the effect on historic buildings in nearby Kew Gardens – and have concluded that the benefit of delivering more than 400 homes, including 218 genuinely affordable homes, justifies granting permission.”

23 August 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Department for Transport (DfT) has approved plans to build a 3.5-kilometre bypass in Congleton, Cheshire, saving drivers seven minutes in their journey past the town.

A 3.5-kilometre road will connect the A534 west of Congleton with the A536 to the north of the town, which will benefit thousands of drivers every day, the government said.

The link road will directly support more than 1,000 new homes, and will open up 9.3 hectares of business land by 2035. It will indirectly support an extra 1,475 homes and 10 hectares of employment land to the north of Congleton.

The project is set to cost £75 million, with the Department for Transport providing £45 million, private developers a further £20.8 million, and £9.63 million from Cheshire East Council.

Transport minister Liz Sugg, said: “This new bypass will not only lead to fewer accidents and cut congestion in Congleton, it will take lorries out of the town centre and improve air quality for its residents.

“The link road will also help create new homes and jobs around Congleton, boosting the local economy.”

A cycleway and path will be built alongside the road to provide cyclists a better link around Congleton.

The works will commence in October and finish in 2020.

21 August 2018
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

A round up of planning news:

Town plan for Shrewsbury drafted

Shrewsbury Bid, Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Town Council and LDA Design have drafted a Big Town Plan for Shrewsbury, setting out how the town will look in 2036.

The council’s planners and decision-makers have adopted a holistic approach that aims to make the whole town more liveable, not just the centre. It could become a blueprint for other county towns to follow.

The plan directs investment in new housing and start-ups from the periphery into the centre, and features a central pedestrian-priority promenade.

Consultation on the Big Town Plan is now underway with a pop-up exhibition running until Wednesday 19 September.

The plan can be found on the Shrewsbury Big Town Plan website.

Regeneration project in Bristol approved

Bristol City Council has approved the £40 million regeneration project that will deliver 105 new homes at the former Brooks Dye Works in St Werburghs.

The permission was granted to Acorn Property Group, in partnership with Galliard Homes and Folland Ltd.

The former laundry and dye works, which is located on a four-acre site, will be redeveloped to provide one, two and three-bed apartments, two, three and four-bed houses and 6,000 square feet of commercial space.

Of the 105 homes, 24 have been designated as affordable, a mixture of intermediate rent and shared-ownership.

Construction is due to start in the autumn.

Later living redevelopment completed in Lewisham

One Housing Group Limited (City Style) has completed the redevelopment of Lewisham’s Almshouses in to 92 new homes.

This comprises 64 for older people, 26 homes for sale and two family house for social rent on a separate site at Blessington Road.

Built in 1963, the site was originally home to the Christopher Boone’s Almshouses and has been developed by housing association One Housing in partnership with the Merchant Taylor’s Boone’s Charity.

Designed by PRP, the development consolidates the existing almshouse accommodation previously situated on two sites and is close to the high street and public transport routes.

The later living homes are for people aged 57 and over.

New health centres for Devon

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust (TSDFT) has announced that it will be entering into a 50:50 strategic estates partnership and joint venture with Health Innovation Partners, that includes delivering new build Health and Wellbeing Centres in Dartmouth and in Teignmouth.

The deal will also see the development of a new emergency department on the Torbay Hospital site.

The Trust and its partners and stakeholders will be working together to review, plan and develop the estate in line with modern health care delivery practices, as well as current and projected future health and care needs. 

They will shortly agree the partnership’s longer-term plans, which will include further development of new community facilities and investment in the Torbay Hospital site.

40,000 new trees for London

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced that 21 London boroughs will receive funding from the Community Tree Planting Grants scheme, which is part of the mayor’s Greener City Fund.

The aim is to maintain and expand the capital’s “urban forest” if eight million trees and forms part of Khan’s plans to make London a national park city.

The £1.5million woodland fund for boroughs, charities and public sector land owners will go towards creating new large-scale woodland.

Khan said: “Our much-loved green spaces boost our environment and enhance our quality of life and I’m committed to planting thousands of new trees. City Hall want our new woodland funding to help improve our green belt and I’ve written to all London boroughs asking them to nominate suitable sites. We are also delivering 40,000 new

Government should rethink capturing planning gain for community

An open letter has been sent to housing secretary James Brokenshire stating that the government needs to “think radically” about reforming the way planning gain for the community is captured.

Written by think tank Onward and signed by organisations including Shelter and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), suggests the government should monitor they should monitor the implementation of changes to Section 106 to ensure councils deliver and developers “do not continue to wriggle out of their commitments”.

The government could also give local government a stronger role in buying and assembling land for housing, and to share the benefits for the community and approve developments in places local people accept.

The think tank calls on the government to reform the 1961 Land Compensation Act to clarify that local authorities should be able to compulsorily purchase land at fair market value that does not include prospective planning permission, rather than speculative “hope” value.

21 August 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner