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Planning news - 6 December 2018

Published: Thursday, 6th December 2018

Sedgemoor chief planner: 'Apply housing delivery test beyond local authorities', 10-year infrastructure pipeline set out, TCPA to campaign against permitted development. 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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The assistant director of inward investment and growth and chief planner for Sedgemoor District Council has called for the housing delivery test to be made applicable to other authorities and agencies.

Speaking at last week’s Bristol Planning Law & Policy conference, Claire Pearce challenged the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to consider applying the test to highways authorities as well as other statutory and private sector bodies.

“The housing delivery test is welcome but we would like to see this as an opportunity to hold other people to account,” said Pearce. “We want to see the system work better with the performance regime and housing delivery test applying to the system as a whole, not just planning authorities.”

Pearce said that she was seeing delays within the system, often caused by statutory agencies and highways authorities. "The interpretation of ‘severe impact’ for us is a constant thorn,” she explained. “We see many barriers from different statutory agencies, which slow us down. The NPPF’s positive planning approach and the presumption in favour must apply to the system as a whole, not just local planning authorities.”

Looking locally, Pearce expressed concern about the potential for Sedgemoor being penalised through the housing delivery test for a specific shortfall in a particular year despite the total houses delivered over a wider timeframe meeting demand.

She framed her concern in the context of Sedgemoor’s considerable activity in providing temporary accommodation consents for the ongoing Hinkley Point C construction project. (“Overall we have 4,000 people on site at the minute – that’s double the size of a local village and about 10% the size of our main town of Bridgwater.”)

Caution over revised NPPF

Although describing the revised National Planning Poilicy Framework as giving a “strong steer,” Pearce also described it as “fragmented” and “light on economy,” expressing her concerns about the greater complexity it introduces into the planning process.

“If I’m trying to encourage my staff to work faster and to get applications through the system quicker, there’s an awful lot they have to take on board now; practice guidance, ministerial statements, the new guidance post-Letwin. One of my main concerns is the impact of the NPPF2 on processing time and staff caseloads, and obviously any legal issues or judicial reviews.”

Pearce further described NPPF2 as very housing focused: “In Sedgemoor we see a focus on economic development as being the real key to tackling the issues we face,” she said. 

“We have a low wage, low value economy and we have to transform that to drive up the quality and sustainability of employment long term. We want to do that in ways which create a higher quality and more diverse housing market.

Driving more foreign direct investment as a way of driving up the quality of Sedgemoor’s employment offer was key, Pearce argued. “We will continue to champion the economic growth approach. We will champion the M5 growth corridor, and would like to see a study akin to the Oxford / Milton Keynes / Cambridge arc in order to work more strategically across the local LEP areas.”

However, more welcome in the document was paragraph 119 and the role of a local planning authority taking a proactive approach in bringing forward land and facilitating land assembly. “That is something we’re taking very seriously in progressing our enterprise zone,” said Pearce, who further cautioned about the possible loss of employment land to housing – “something we will be looking to track”.

Pearce was presenting as part of a session entitled 'NPPF2 - will it deliver?' Chief planner Steve Quartermain and Barratt Homes' group land and planning director Philip Barnes also took part. A further report on the event will appear in The Planner's January 2019 edition.

27 November 2018
Martin Read, The Planner


The government has published its 2018 National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline, which is projected to be worth £600 billion over the next 10 years.

Schemes include the £28 billion national roads fund announced in the 2018 Budget; the East West Rail project; the M6 smart motorway upgrade; and Hornsea Project One, the world;s largest offshore windfarm.

Ministers are encouraging the use of more modern approach to construction to ensure the manufacturing and constructions behind such projects is as efficient as it can be – this could include manufacturing components in factories using the latest digital technology before being sent for assembly on construction sites.

For example, parts of the bridges being constructed for the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme were manufactured in a factory which, the governmetn argues, means they were built more efficiently than using traditional construction techniques. The goverment claims that applying modern manufacturing techniques can boost productivity and reduce waste by up to 90 per cent, and is consulting on how to encourage greater use of modern manufacturing and construction techniques.

Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said: “As the pace of technological change accelerates, we are stepping up our commitment to digital infrastructure, use of data to drive greater productivity and embrace new methods of construction.

“With £600 billion of investment over the next decade, including the largest ever investment in our strategic road network, we are taking the long term action required to raise productivity and ensure the economy is fit for the future.”

Tony Meggs, chief executive of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), added: “We recognise there is significant momentum within the sector to scale up the adoption of more modern and innovative practices and it is the role of the IPA to help coordinate this approach across new infrastructure projects.

“We would like to hear from a range of industry experts on government’s proposals for a Platform Approach to Design for Manufacture and Assembly.”

Infrastructure investments in the pipeline include:

Midlands Engine

  • £71.5 from the Transforming Cities Fund for transport projects in West Midlands Combined Authority.
  • Smart motorway upgrades for the M6.

Northern Powerhouse

  • Up to £37 million for Northern Powerhouse Rail.
  • Transforming Cities Fund money for the Tees Valley, Liverpool and Greater Manchester.

South West

  • Bristol Deep Sea Container Terminal
  • South East and London
  • Oxford alleviation scheme.

East of England

  • £20 million for East West Rail.
  • A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme.

The Proposal for a New Approach to Building: Call for Evidence and Analysis of the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline can be found on the UK Government website.

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has launched a campaign for better basic national housing standards, labelling permitted development as one of the ‘biggest mistakes’ in postwar history.

The charity, in unveiling its Room to Breathe campaign at its annual conference last week (22 November), argued that the government has deregulated the planning system to the extent that commercial and office buildings can be converted into residential units without proper safeguards. Furthermore, councils cannot ask for section 106 or affordable housing contributions fromtis kind of development.

Around 100,000 units have been created through permitted development rights but the TCPA said many are in the wrong places and built to very poor standards.

Indeed, research published by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) found that office-to-residential conversions under permitted development rules produce a higher number of poor-quality homes than applications that go through the full planning process.

Although examples of extremely high-quality housing conversions were found, RICS noted that there were developments where there was no amenity space, where design was of a low quality and locations were poor locations for residential amenity. The research found that local authorities lost £4.1 million because of reduced planning fees, and a further potential loss of £10.8 million. They also lost out on 1,667 affordable housing units.

A study by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) and the TCPA, also published this year (2018), describes permitted development as being “on such a scale as to be in effect a shadow planning system, with no opportunity to secure decent quality housing or contribution for education or even basic children’s play space”.

Further to this, the Raynsford Review, launched in the House of Lords last week (20 November), states that it “was the extent and outcomes of the expansion of permitted development which gave the clearest sense of the weakness of planning in upholding wider public interest outcomes”.

Although the TCPA conceded to The Planner that converting buildings to homes can be satisfactory if done properly, a spokesperson said that no one should be living without sufficient natural light, children should not have to play in unsuitable locations such as car parks and everyone should have access to green and place space close to home.

Despite the research pointing to issues with permitted development, the government plans to extend permitted development rights to allow commercial buildings to be demolished and rebuilt as housing, and to allow some properties to be extended upwards.

The Room to Breathe campaign aims to:

  • bring together existing evidence across the sector on the outcomes of policy
  • gather more detailed evidence including case studies from councils across the country
  • create a coalition of people and organisations to stop the extension of permitted development
  • campaign for much tougher national design rules for housing.

Hugh Ellis, interim chief executive at the TCPA, said: “Permitted development is one of the biggest housing mistakes in postwar history and the legacy will blight a whole generation of people who are condemned to live in tiny, cramped conditions without any basic care for their health and wellbeing. This policy must be stopped before we deliver 21st century slums.”

Tom Kenny, policy officer at the RTPI said the institute agrees that permitted development is a “major threat” to the quality of housing.

“The use of permitted development as a means of simplifying procedures has been in place for 70 years, but its increased use as a way of pursuing government policy has produced very mixed results," he told The Planner.

“Permitted development challenges the ability of local planning authorities to deliver quality housing. It removes accountability and planning authorities cannot secure fees or affordable housing contributions from these developments.

“We agree that national standards are an important way to deliver quality. Comprehensive housing standards would set a minimum standard of quality in new housing and remove the need for local planning authorities to secure them through local plan reviews”

26 November 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


An Ealing landlord has been fined nearly £450,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) for illegally renting out outhouses and ignoring enforcement notices to demolish them.

Samina Nadeem, from Southall, purchased the property – 201 Scotts Road, Southall – in 2012. She then rented out the outhouses, which were illegally converted from garages to residential units, to five tenants.

Ealing Council issued Nadeem with a planning enforcement notice that asked her to stop letting the outhouses and demolish them in August 2014. This was ignored, and council officers stepped in to demolish the outbuilding and prosecuted Nadeem.

She pleaded not guilty at her trial in February 2017 at Ealing Magistrates’ Court, but was found guilty. The case was then put before Isleworth Crown Court for a confiscation order to be considered under the POCA. Unable to prove her income over the preceding six years was legal, Nadeem was fined £447,552.22, which is the equivalent to the total equity of her rental properties.

The fine must be paid by 18 January 2019, otherwise she will receive a four-year prison sentence. Nadeem was also fined a further £18,000.

Joanna Camadoo, Ealing Council’s lead member for community safety and inclusion, said: “We’re very pleased to get such a positive result at the end of a very long and drawn-out case. Throughout this process Mrs Nadeem and her husband have been obstructive and at times aggressive, using every trick in the book to stop our officers from doing their job and delay the legal process. She completely ignored our requests to act within the law – indeed, the only reason she stopped letting these substandard buildings was because we demolished them.”

26 November 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


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

New design principles will increase usage – and the economic benefits – of the National Cycle Network, says Will Haynes.

A growing body of evidence shows the benefits of walking and cycling to local economies, air quality, and our well-being.

Sustrans estimates that the 786 million walking and cycling trips on the National Cycle Network in 2017 generated £1.3 billion for the economy through reduced road congestion and health and environmental benefits. Additionally, local businesses benefited by £2.5 billion from leisure and tourism spending. 

What role do design standards play in helping to realise this potential?

As I’m a civil engineer it is in my nature to say that infrastructure plays a key role in facilitating use of the network and realisation of its economic potential. But to maximise its potential the user experience is key. People walking and cycling along it need confidence that they can expect a consistently high-quality experience.

"Infrastructure plays a key role in facilitating use of the network and realisation of its economic potential"

This requires a subtly different approach to design standards. Our starting point for new standards was to create a design guide for the National Cycle Network. This would have stated absolute requirements for width, surface type, alignment, and so on. But it soon became apparent that the diversity of users and the breadth of types of route meant that this would end up defining a lowest common denominator.

Instead we have created a set of design principles. These principles define the characteristics of the network and facilitate a positive user experience. This is not to say that the design standards for the network are not important. Indeed, the first principle is that new and improved sections of the network should be designed in accordance with current best practice design guidance.

The other principles include ensuring that the path is wide enough to accommodate all users, that the surface is smooth enough for people using mobility aids, that the route is attractive and interesting, that the signing enables people to use the path without getting lost, that routes are accessible to all legitimate users, and that all users are able to cross roads safely. 

The intention is to encourage the designer to think about the user experience they are seeking to facilitate, and design accordingly.

It is my hope that we have created a set of principles that enable a designer to ensure that new or improved sections of network embody the characteristics that define it and as such provide a positive user experience. This will then enable the network to realise its full economic potential, be this through slices of cake bought in a café next to a route or through savings to the NHS through a more active population. 

29 November 2018
The Planner. Will Haynes, Infrastructure director for Sustrans


A round-up of planning news:

Nottingham’s air quality plan approved

The government has approved Nottingham City Council’s new plan to tackle air pollution in the city centre.

For three years, the council has worked with officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Transport (DfT) to identify measures that would reduce levels of pollution in the shortest possible time.

Nottingham’s plan includes:

  • Retrofitting 171 buses with technology to reduce emissions, funded through the government’s Clean Bus Technology Fund;
  • Changing the age and emissions policy for hackney carriages and supporting an increase in low emission taxis. £1 million from government will be used to provide a licensing discount for drivers, a taxi rank with charging points, fund home chargers and expand the council’s ‘try before you buy’ scheme, which started this week
  • Government funding will help the city council replace its own fleet, including replacing heavy, high polluting vehicles such as bin lorries with electric vehicles.

A ministerial direction has been issued for the plan to be implemented, which is part of the government’s wider £3.5 billion plan to tackle harmful emissions from road transport across the country.

80,000 trees to be planted in London

A record 80,000 trees will be planted across London to mark National Tree Week.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has worked with partners to fund 75,000 trees for Londoners, schools, and community groups to plant this weekend - 1 and 2 December - everywhere from private gardens, to community spaces, parks and underused green spaces.

He is also offering 5,000 extra trees to Londoners who want to plant them in their garden – they will be available to pick up at ten locations this week (on a first-come first-served basis) including Morden Hall Park and Osterley Park. The trees to collect include popular garden species such as field maple, bird cherry, and rowan that attract wildlife and are easy to plant.

Khan said: said: “My Greener City Fund is investing £12m in trees and green spaces to help London reach the goal of being confirmed as the world’s first National Park City next summer and expanding the capital’s impressive ‘urban forest’ of eight million trees.”

Information about getting involved can be found on the Greater London Authority website.

Neighbourhood plan consultation in Fareham borough

A consultation has begun on the Titchfield Neighbourhood Plan, the first one in Fareham.

Villagers formed the Titchfield Neighbourhood Forum to guide the development and use of land in the area.

Executive member for planning and development at Fareham Borough Council, Keith Evans, said: “We want the people of Titchfield to let us know what they think of the plan by taking part in the consultation so please do go online or to one of the venues and let us know your views.”

The draft plan and consultation details can be found on the council website. Responses will be accepted until 11 January, 2019.

Bulwell and Basford homes approved

Nottingham City Council’s planning committee has approved 30 new council houses for Bulwell and Basford.

Nottingham City Homes will deliver 13 council houses on a former care home site in Bulwell. Two, three and four-bedroom homes will be built. Construction in Bulwell is being carried out by local firm, Robert Woodhead Group and work should begin in December 2018.

A further 17 homes will be built on Tunstall Drive, Basford. Work on these new homes is due to start in spring next year. Nottingham City Homes is yet to appoint a developer to the project, but will be going out to tender in the coming months.

Exhibition for Barnstaple regeneration

A public exhibition will be held for plans for the regeneration of the Oliver Buildings in Barnstaple.

The plans, by Acorn Property Group and Wessex Investors, are for a site on the south bank of the River Taw that has been derelict for nearly 10 years. The Grade II-listed former Shapland and Petter furniture factory will converted into home and commercial space.

The two firms have worked with North Devon District Council, Historic England, a design review panel and local stakeholders to draw up suitable proposals.

The plans will on display at the Guildhall in Barnstaple, between 10.30am and 2pm on 1 December.

Islington seeks views on local plan

Islington Council is consulting on a new local plan that aims to promote the social objective of making Islington a fairer place.

Covering the period 2020 to 2035, it also aims to ensure that the borough grows in an inclusive and sustainable way.

The council’s main priorities include:

  • Delivering more high-quality and genuinely affordable homes: at least 50 per cent of new homes must be genuinely affordable and meet minimum space and accessibility standards.
  • Creating a thriving, inclusive local economy: all new office developments will need to provide at least 10 per cent of floorspace as affordable workspace, which is let to local businesses at low rents. The plan also protects town centres.
  • Protect Islington’s environment and character: The plan restricts the location and height of tall buildings.

Consultation on the local plan will run until 14 January 2019 and can be found on the council website.

Brownfield site brought to market in Notts

A brownfield site in Nottingham with planning permission for up to 20 properties in Attenborough, Nottingham, has been brought to market.

The 2.37-acre site is close to a nature reserve.

Development agency Fisher German is acting on behalf of the landowner to sell the site, which is currently home to a former concrete plant, workshop and offices.

Bids are invited from housebuilders. Further information about the site is available by contacting matthew.handford@fishergerman.co.uk.

27 November 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner