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Planning News - 1 November 2018

Published: Thursday, 1st November 2018

Government unveils major reforms to NPPF, Architects warn May of ‘devastating’ Brexit consequences, Government signals moves on green infrastructure 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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Local planning departments should use household projections from 2014 when assessing housing need as the government signalled major revisions to the standard method and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published in July.

In related moves, the government is also proposing to revisit the definition of “deliverability” and to modify the NPPF to take into account a European Court of Justice ruling on habitat assessments earlier this year.

Under the proposed changes, unveiled in a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) consultation paper, planning departments should use 2014 household projections instead of the 2016 figures. The MHCLG had indicated it would revise the standard method at the time of the NPPF’s publication.

The 2016 projections by the Office of National Statistics cut the number of households by 53,000 a year between 2018 and 2028, forcing several councils and combined authorities to delay their plans in anticipation of the proposed changes to the standard method.

The MHCLG now acknowledges that using the standard method to calculate housing need based on the 2016 figures cut the number of homes from 269,000 to 213,000, significantly below government targets for 300,000 homes a year and below the 217,350 delivered last year.

It also admits the 2016 projections have forced some councils to “reconsider” the number of homes they are planning for, but reaffirmed the 300,000 home target.

The MHCLG also proposes issuing forthcoming planning guidance that will ensure that the 2016 projections “do not qualify as an exceptional circumstance that justifies a departure from the standard methodology”. It will review the standard method in the longer term and publish a new version of the NPPF that will also revisit the definition of “deliverable sites”.

In further reforms, under its proposed revision of “deliverability”, the MHCLG now describes “sites which do not involve major development and have planning permission, and all sites with detailed planning permission, should be considered deliverable until permission expires”.

The MHCLG is also offering “additional clarification” to the NPPF following the European Court of Justice’s ruling on habitats assessments following a Republic of Ireland case. It acknowledges that the effect of the ruling is that “appropriate assessment of habitats impacts is required in plan-making and decision-making whenever there is a potential impact on a habitats site, regardless of any mitigation measures proposed”.

The MHCLG is proposing that the resumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply where the plan or project is likely to have a significant effect on a habitats site “unless an appropriate assessment has concluded that there will be no adverse effect from the plan or project on the integrity of the habitats site”.

The consultation can be found here on the MHCLG website.

26 October 2018
Huw Morris, The Planner

Around 130 of the country’s leading architects have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, warning of the ‘devastating’ dangers to the profession and associated institutions from Brexit.

Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, David Chipperfield and Cindy Waters are among the leading signatories warning there is “no good Brexit” and that the UK’s architecture culture will be “immeasurably diminished” by the country’s departure from the EU.

The letter, organised by Invisible Studio founder Piers Taylor, warns May that her negotiations with the EU do not show “any consideration whatsoever of the circumstances that we need for our industry and associated institutions to continue to thrive”. It says much of the architecture industry’s work is pan-European with one in five UK architects from the EU rising to one in three in London.

“We thrive on this sense of being part of an international community and have – as a culture – benefited immeasurably from the freedom of movement that has enabled many European architects to contribute to the enormous success that is British architecture,” says the letter.

“We believe that without being members of the EU, this success would not have been possible. We are concerned that unless we are members of the EU with the free movement of ideas and people that this brings, the culture within which we practice architecture in Britain will be immeasurably diminished.

“At present, under proposed immigration rules, your definition of a skilled worker excludes almost all of those who come here to work in our industry. For us, instead of being an opportunity, this is devastating.”

The industry’s move follows last month’s revelation by the Architects Registration Board of a 42 per cent drop in the number of EU registrations since the 2016 referendum.

26 October 2018
Huw Morris, The Planner

Planning departments will have free access to the UK Space Agency’s archives of satellite images and radar data for research and development projects.

The move, announced by science minister Sam Gyimah, aims to provide an “unprecedented level of detail” of large UK cities, transport networks, national parks and energy infrastructure. The images offer sub-5m resolution with less than 15 per cent cloud cover.

Satellite data has already been used in pilot projects by Bournemouth Borough Council to identify the best locations for electric vehicle charging points, while the Environment Agency has trialled images as a tool to monitor plastic pollution off the UK’s shoreline to support clean-up operations and protect wildlife.

The data will be available for up to three years to explore what role high-resolution satellite data could have in public sector delivery.

The project feeds into the recently established Geospatial Commission, set up by the government to maximise the value of all UK government data linked to location and to create jobs and growth.

The move also aims to boost the UK’s space industry, which already employs about 40,000 people, while benefiting the public sector in areas such as planning and development.

26 October 2018
Huw Morris, The Planner

Ministers have pledged to look at including green infrastructure into national planning policy and guidance.

A Commons Environmental Audit committee inquiry in July warned that the reformed National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) did not cover rising temperatures in urban areas or identify heatwaves as a climate change risk, with MPs warning that these could regularly hit 38.5°C in the summer by the 2040s.

They demanded that local authorities should be required to demonstrate the provision of shaded areas and space in their local plans while the NPPF should include a target for green infrastructure as part of a drive to increase green space in urban areas.

Responding to the inquiry, the government said Natural England is spearheading a national framework for green infrastructure standards to be published next year.

Defra and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will then work together “to see how our commitments on green infrastructure can be incorporated into national planning guidance and policy, including how to incorporate them in planning and design guidance for new builds and estate regeneration”.

25 October 2018
Huw Morris, The Planner

A third round of public consultation for a new nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk will be launched in January.

EDF Energy is planning to build Sizewell C as a follow-on project to Hinkley Point C in Somerset, where more than 3,300 people are working on its construction. The company intends to submit a planning application in 2020 as part of a timetable for construction to start in 2021.

The third period of consultation will run until March after which an application will be submitted for a development consent order (DCO). 

EDF Energy says that by being a close copy of Hinkley Point C, Sizewell C could be built at significantly lower costs, although it needed to be built soon after the Somerset scheme to achieve the biggest savings.

“There is an optimal distance between the two projects, which is about five years. Hinkley Point construction started at the end of 2016 and so the best moment to start construction at Sizewell C is at the end of 2021,” said EDF Energy chief executive Simone Rossi. “The further we wait, the lower the construction benefits will be because the supply chain may not be the same and skills could be forgotten.”

If Sizewell C gets the go-ahead, it will provide electricity to six million homes. Rossi said Sizewell C would become an engine for economic growth in the East of England and could generate around 25,000 job opportunities during construction.

26 October 2018
Huw Morris, The Planner

A round-up of planning news

Budget 2018: City deals across the UK

Chancellor Philip Hammond has confirmed that a number of regions across the UK have secured city deals, including Belfast City Region and Tay Cities.

Coventry will receive funding for when it host the UK City of Culture in 2021.

The government plans to publish a refreshed Northern Powerhouse Strategy next year and has said it supports the National Infrastructure Commission’s proposal to deliver up to one million new homes in the Cambridge - Milton Keynes – Oxford arc by 2050.

Advisers cite huge threat to coastal communities from climate change

Up to 1.5 million properties including 1.2 million homes may be at significant risk of flood risk with more than 100,000 properties under threat from coastal erosion by the 2080s, according to government advisers.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) warns that current approaches to protecting England’s coastal communities from flooding and erosion are not fit for purpose. A new long-term approach to coastal management is urgently needed in the face of expected impacts of climate change, it adds.

By the 2080s, in addition to properties, around 1,600km of major roads, 650km of railway lines, 92 railway stations and 55 historic landfill sites will be at risk of coastal flooding or erosion.

The committee calls on local government and the Environment Agency to work with affected communities on “realistic long-term strategies” that are rigorously implemented in local plans, regulations and projects. The new approach should be long term, based on evidence and include the views of coastal communities.

Johnson reveals £350m bail-out for Crossrail

The government has made a £350 million short-term loan to Transport for London for the delayed Crossrail project.

In July, rail minister Jo Johnson admitted that the project needed an extra £600 million, taking its total cost to £15.4 billion. In September, Crossrail announced the Elizabeth line will not open this December as scheduled and had been delayed until autumn 2019 “to complete the final infrastructure and extensive testing required”.

Johnson said: “As an interim measure, we are announcing that £350 million of short-term repayable financing will be made available to the mayor for the year 2018/19. This will ensure that full momentum is maintained behind Crossrail.”

Brownfield site to be redeveloped in Banbury

Cherwell District Council’s planning committee has granted outline planning permission for a scheme that will see a disused caravan site redeveloped.

The development will be located to the west of Banbury Railway station, adjoining both the Oxford Canal and the River Cherwell.

The apartments will be a mixture of one and two-bed homes. The council require 30 per cent to be affordable housing.

Funding towards pedestrian bridges over both waterways feature as part of the development.

1,500-home masterplan green-lit

At the same meeting, held on 25 October, the committee approved a revised planning application for Wretchwick Green in Bicester.

The application was submitted by Wates Developments and Redrow Homes, and is a key element of the garden town plan for the area.

Plans include 1,500 homes; 71.64 hectares of green space; a primary school and employment land provision.

Proposals for a hotel to be built on the former RAF Bicester site, which is owned and occupied by the applicant, Bicester Heritage, were also approved. It will have 344 beds, as well as a bar, restaurant and conference rooms.

24-acre site brought to market in Lincolnshire

A site with planning permission for 171 properties has been brought to the market in Louth, Lincolnshire.

Development agency Fisher German is acting on behalf of the landowners and land promoter Northern Trust to sell the site. Bids are invited from housebuilders.

Matt Handford, of Fisher German, said the development of the 23.97-acre site will bring much-needed new homes to the town.

44 homes given go-ahead in Hemel

Dacorum Borough Council has approved Hightown Housing Association’s plans to build 44 homes on the TopCar service centre site in Hemel Hempstead’s.

Located on Paradise Industrial Estate on Wood Lane, the new homes will be a mix of one and two-bedroom apartments. Construction is likely to start in summer 2019 and finish by early 2021.

Andrew Royall, development director for Hightown Housing Association, said: “This is fantastic news for local people struggling to pay private rents. Affordable housing is much-needed and these homes are in a great location, close to the town centre.”

30 October 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner