Latest news

Planning News - 29 November 2018

Published: Thursday, 29th November 2018

London boroughs urged to update SCI, Malthouse keen to empower planning profession, £60m for new renewables auctions, New racetrack project mooted for Blaenau Gwent and more stories...

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

RTPI logo
Planner jobs

Planning authorities in London should take urgent steps to bring their Statements of Community Involvement (SCI) up to date with requirements laid out in the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017.

A report by Neighbourhood Planners.London concludes that every London planning authority except for Lambeth has so far “failed to note” or “chosen to ignore” new measures in the act.

The measures were designed to strengthen neighbourhood planning as a community-led part of the English planning system.

SCIs were introduced in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and they form part of the statutory documents in local plans. Seven boroughs that prepared a SCI subsequent to 2004 have not made revisions since 2006-2008. These are: Bexley, Hillingdon, Kingston, Lewisham, Merton, Redbridge, and Southwark.

This suggests to Neighbourhood Planners.London that the SCI is not seen as being useful for community engagement, as the government had intended.

Other authorities have updated their SCIs once, some twice, to reflect the Localism Act 2011 and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Section 6 of the Neighbourhood Planning Act requires that a SCI should set out a planning authority’s policies for giving advice or assistance for making neighbourhood development orders and the modification of neighbourhood plans. This came into force on 31 July 2018.

Weighing against the case that it is just ‘early days’, the Neighbourhood Planning Bill included the provisions from September 2016 and they were enacted in April 2017. London’s planning authorities could have made it clear on the neighbourhood planning section of their websites what their intentions were for updating their SCI, or outlined what advice and assistance would be offered, according to Neighbourhood Planners.London.

Lambeth is noted as being the only council to comply with the new legislation: it adopted an eight-page addendum to its SCI in August 2018. Other authorities are acknowledged to have published information on the advice and assistance they provide – Brent, Camden and Hammersmith & Fulham.

Neighbourhood Planners.London also says some boroughs have reviewed or are reviewing their SCIs, but none has taken the opportunity to incorporate advice and assistance to neighbourhood forums or tried to meet the measures in the Neighbourhood Planning Act.

The organisation concludes that the government’s aims to use SCI as a vehicle to raise awareness and provide clarity to the public on the duty of support have not been met in London. Further, the evidence suggests that many London planning authorities remain unenthused about the potential of the neighbourhood planning framework.

Expounding on its findings, Neighbourhood Planners.London makes several recommendations, including:

  • The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government should update relevant paragraphs of National Planning Practice Guidance to include the requirement for five-yearly reviews of SCI, and the addition to their content of ‘policies for advice and assistance’ on neighbourhood planning and on arrangements for the modification of neighbourhood plans.
  • London planning authorities should take urgent steps to bring their SCIs into line with these requirements, particularly in cases where SCIs have not been updated since 2006-8.
  • Neighbourhood Planners.London will write to the Monitoring Officers of all those London planning authorities which have failed to a) update their SCIs within the past five years and/or b) failed to include in their SCI the content required by Section 6 of the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017, reminding them that this is information which the public should be able to access readily and without further delay.

The report can be found here on the Neighbourhood Planners.London website (pdf).

21 November 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The housing and planning minister has told planners he is ‘keen’ to empower the profession.

Speaking at the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) Annual Conference, Malthouse said the planning system is critical to delivering the government’s target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, and it “has to be right” and it has to be resourced. Malthouse cited RTPI research that found that planning is absent from the top table in 83 per cent of councils across the UK. This, he insisted, “has to change”.

Thought needs to go into how skills are moved about, because some local authorities don’t receive enough large projects to warrant getting a senior planner. Additionally, Malthouse wants to illustrate to teenagers that planning is an interesting, fulfilling, long-term career.

The minister also encouraged planners to get involved with design and to think about adaptability. “Victorian buildings are adaptable – they’ve been family homes, two beds, bedsits, they have been extended up and down, and expanded.”

Finally, Malthouse reflects on the neighbourhoods that people want to live in, saying that it needs to be ensured that in 40 years, “we aren’t looking at them through the screen of a bulldozer”.

22 November 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Energy minister Claire Perry has announced a £60 million budget for new renewables auctions.

Speaking at the opening reception of Offshore Wind Week in the House of Commons, she also disclosed that an Offshore Wind Sector Deal is imminent.

The Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) is working with the government on the sector deal, which aims to build on the UK’s “global leadership” in clean technology. It will be able to deliver at east 30GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, providing more than a third of our electricity.

The £60 million budget is for the 2019 Contracts for Difference (pdf) auction, which will be held in May.

Benj Sykes, co-chair of OWIC and UK country manager for Ørsted’s offshore wind business, said: “This is an important announcement by the minister, taking forward new auctions to deliver on our ambition to meet a third of UK power by 2030. Industry and government are close to agreement on a sector deal that will set the pathway to 30GW and we need to look at the details of how the next auction contributes to that goal.”

He also welcomed the imminent sector deal.

“Offshore wind is becoming an industrial powerhouse. As the minister has made clear, it’s a key technology in our country’s transition to affordable clean power, and the backbone of a low-cost energy system in the years ahead.

“With the right deal in place, we can continue to attract billions of pounds of investment in new infrastructure, secure our power supplies, and create thousands of skilled jobs, including our supply chain which already extends to every part of the country.”

21 November 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Blaenau Gwent Council has confirmed to The Planner that the local authority is in ‘early discussions with interested parties’ over a proposal for a technology-based employment hub at Ebbw Vale.

The site was formerly earmarked for the aborted Circuit of Wales (CoW) project at Rassau.

In a statement the council explained: “This could include a test circuit with the capacity to hold races and provide leisure facilities. This is a new developer and does not involve the Heads of the Valley Development Company [which was behind the CoW scheme].”

Recently the council revealed that it has applied to renew the planning permission for the key elements of the CoW scheme “in order that any potential development opportunities can be explored fully”.

The council continues to acknowledge that such a development could have many positive benefits for Blaenau Gwent.

According to media reports the new plans for the 320-hectare site would involve a motor racing circuit as well as state-of-the-art testing facilities for the automotive industry.

The interested parties have been named locally as Roger Maggs and Mark Rhydderch-Roberts, described as “two of Wales’s leading financial figures”.

They are understood to be looking at part-funding from the Cardiff City Region Deal for what could be a £150 million initiative.

23 November 2018
Roger Milne, The Planner

Three hundred and twenty thousand people are recorded as homeless in Britain – an increase of 13,000 people over the last year.

This means one in every 200 people in Britain is homeless and sleeping on the streets, or stuck in temporary accommodation such as hostels and B&Bs, despite government attempts to reduce homelessness.

The figures were compiled by the homelessness charity Shelter for its annual review, and combined official rough-sleeping, temporary accommodation and social service figures. While these are not definitive, Shelter says the true extent of homelessness is even greater.

London reported the highest levels of homelessness – 170,000 people (one in 52) do not have a place to call home. In Brighton, one in 67 are homeless; one in 73 is homeless in Birmingham and one 135 in Manchester.

Homelessness in Great Britain: The Numbers Behind the Story warns the level of homelessness is down to unaffordable rents, frozen housing benefits and a severe shortage of social housing.

Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter said: “It’s unforgivable that 320,000 people in Britain have been swept up by the housing crisis and now have no place to call home. These new figures show that homelessness is having a devastating impact on the lives of people right across the country. 

“Due to the perfect storm of spiralling rents, welfare cuts and a total lack of social housing, record numbers of people are sleeping out on the streets or stuck in the cramped confines of a hostel room. We desperately need action now to change tomorrow for the hundreds of thousands whose lives will be blighted by homelessness this winter. 

“Shelter’s services have never been more needed. That’s why we’re asking the public to support us this winter so that we can answer as many calls as possible and have trained advisers on hand when people need them most.”

22 November 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The following article is an Opinion Piece, provided by RTPI’s ‘The Planner’ magazine:

In our zest for maintaining countryside and rural heritage, we may be inadvertently holding back the rural economy, says Scott O'Dell.

Stereotypes are often strong when it comes to rural estates and their owners – aristocratic with an abundance of riches and little social responsibility.

Many estates are cash-poor and asset-rich, with significant environmental, social and economic responsibilities. They are simply family-run businesses with a unique set of liabilities.

Beautiful country houses, farmsteads and acres of farmland are subject to high maintenance costs and disturbing levels of rural crime. Overlooked by stereotyping are the responsibilities of their owners, such as acting as landlords, providing rural employment, stewarding the countryside and preserving our heritage.

And copious responsibilities and physical assets require a secure and diverse funding stream. Traditionally, agriculture, directly or indirectly, forms the primary source of income for a rural estate. But we are all aware of current agricultural decline and Brexit uncertainty.

So diversification and intensification has to be the answer. This in turn requires an understanding of rural issues and a willingness to address them through the planning system.

Tourism is a respectable form of diversification and clearly has public benefit, but it’s not always the most appropriate. There are other forms of diversification that also have wider benefits – development is often the answer to unlock capital for reinvestment or establish an additional income.

This might involve refurbishing buildings for residential or commercial use, renewable energy production, or provision of affordable or low-cost homes or new market housing on the edge of settlements. All can deliver clear environmental, social and economic gains, as well as generating revenue for an estate.

Diversification, however, comes with a challenging set of planning issues, especially when the small turns into the medium scale, or involves new-build elements.

In defined settlements the principle of development is often a given. This is never a luxury afforded to those proposing development in the countryside or green belt – even agricultural development, whether a worker’s dwelling or farm building, requires a compelling justification. This is not a criticism per se, but a bid to highlight the planning hurdles that are often raised due to a misconception of ‘protecting the countryside’. Permitted development rights via national policy are a welcome addition in the fight for diversification and to address other rural planning issues. But we must still rely upon local planning authorities to take a pragmatic approach.

Scott O’Dell MRTPI is an associate planner at Fisher German LLP and a member of the East Midlands Young Planners committee.

16 November 2018
Scott O’Dell, The Planner