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Planning news - 20 December 2018

Published: Thursday, 20th December 2018

Government statistics show 2% rise in homes granted permission, Government freezes threshold on New Homes Bonus, Planning Inspectorate invites views on DCO for Shropshire powerline. And more stories.

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

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This is the last weekly news for 2018. The weekly news will return on 10 January 2019

The number of homes granted planning permission in England rose by two per cent in the year to the end of September, rising to 359,500.

The latest Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government statistics reveal a slight increase on the 352,000 homes securing permission in the same period last year.

Planning authorities received 110,300 applications, a 6 per cent fall on the period between July and September 2017. Of these, 93,300 were granted permission, a similar six per cent drop from the same quarter last year, but amounting to 89 per cent of decisions – up one per cent.

Prior approval applications continued to slump, down 8 per cent to 9,600 in the third quarter of this year. Office-to-residential conversions showed the sharpest fall of 26 per cent, while agricultural-to residential-conversions and larger householder extensions also dropped by 12 per cent and six per cent respectively.

A total of 88 per cent of major applications were decided within 13 weeks, down by one per cent from 2017. Planning authorities granted permission to 2,300 commercial developments, a 10 per cent fall on a year earlier.

Some 28 per cent of decisions involved a performance agreement.

Housing minister Kit Malthouse welcomed the cooperation between “builders, developers and councillors”, claiming that government reforms to the planning system are “starting to deliver the permissions we need to reach 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s”.

13 December 2018
Huw Morris, The Planner


The New Homes Bonus threshold is set to be frozen next year as the government unveiled a modest £20 million increase in the programme.

The move, part of the provisional local government settlement, means the baseline rate for housing growth, below which the bonus is not paid, will remain at 0.4 per cent. Housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire said the freeze was a further incentive to local authorities to “welcome housing growth and build more homes”.

In September, the District Councils Network warned that any plans to increase the baseline would be “perverse” and would penalise “the very councils which have succeeded in meeting the government’s housing targets”.

The bonus was introduced in 2011 by the coalition government to encourage councils to grant planning permission for new housing in return for additional revenue.

The Local Government Association welcomed the move, noting the bonus makes up “a considerable part of funding for some councils”, particularly shire districts and rural authorities.

14 December 2018
Huw Morris, The Planner


The Planning Inspectorate has opened up the registration for interested parties to take part in the examination of a development consent order (DCO) application for an electricity line in Shropshire.

SP Manweb, part of SP Energy Networks, submitted the proposal to reinforce North Shropshire’s electricity distribution network. The proposal involves a 132,000V electrical overhead line stretching 21 kilometres between Oswestry and Wem as well as 1km of underground cable.

The £18 million scheme aims to provide capacity to support development on land allocated for new jobs and homes in Oswestry, Whitchurch and Wem. It also will attract future business and housing investment across North Shropshire through to and beyond 2036.

The Planning Inspectorate now has three months to prepare for the examination.

14 December 2018
Huw Morris, The Planner


Plans for a £270 million indoor snow centre and leisure centre in Swindon have been approved by Swindon Borough Council’s planning committee.

North Star Village will become the fifth snow slope designed by the practice, and only the seventh in the UK.

Developer SevenCapital’s plans includes two real snow indoor ski slopes; circa 500,000 square feet of retail, dining and leisure; a 13-screen cinema, including Europe’s largest IMAX screen; a 19-lane bowling alley; and around 27,000 square feet of trampolining.

The centre will be built on former industrial land to the north of Swindon town centre known as the North Star site. The land was previously occupied by the Great Western Railway Works, prior to demolition in 2009.

Designed by FaulknerBrowns Architects, two linear forms of the convergent slopes frame the corner of the site and form a backdrop for a circular rotunda that is set between.

SevenCapital has an agreement with a major funder and secured 50 per cent pre-lets ahead of planning consent. It is hoped that work will begin on site in May 2019, with the build expected to take a little under two years.

John Watkins, director at SevenCapital said: “Since taking on the project in July 2017 the team has worked tirelessly to deliver on our promises to submit plans for an exciting regional leisure and retail destination that Swindon and the wider UK will benefit from significantly. We have delivered on all our planning promises and are now looking forward to getting on site and bringing those plans to life.”

12 December 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Homes for England is proposing to slash by three-quarters the number of homes to be built on a scheme in the Hoo Peninsula in Medway to avoid affecting a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Lodge Hill is an SSSI known for its nightingales, butterflies, rare snails, badgers and slow-worms.

The government agency said it is now planning to build 500 homes at Lodge Hill rather than the 2,000 originally proposed. Natural England, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Wildlife Trusts had opposed the development.

Before submitting a planning application, Homes for England said it would develop the masterplan proposals in more detail, to be presented as part of a public consultation. It will also continue to promote the site through Medway Council’s Local Plan.

“We remain committed to creating new homes at Lodge Hill in line with the government’s policy on use of surplus land, and we have always been aware of the sensitivities surrounding the important environmental elements of this development,” said Ken Glendinning, the agency’s head of strategic land.

Homes for England aims to consult on its new proposals next year.

14 December 2018
Huw Morris, The Planner


Plans for a mass rapid transit scheme linking two Berkshire boroughs have again been rejected by one of the councils.

The £20 million mass rapid transit riverside route for buses, cyclists and pedestrians aims to link Reading and Wokingham on land between Thames Valley Business Park and Napier Road Reading, south of the River Thames and north of the Great Western main line railway.

The scheme involved building a segregated fast-track public transport, pedestrian and cycle bridge and viaduct, supported by concrete columns, steel beams and reinforced soil embankment, together with footway links, junction improvements and landscaping.

Wokingham councillors went against officers’ advice and voted to reject the application by Reading Borough Council, which had earlier approved the proposal. Wokingham officers had recommended the scheme as it would encourage a model shift towards public transport.

The proposal forms part of a wider strategic transport infrastructure project between Wokingham and Reading borough councils to manage traffic and travel demands ahead of projected residential expansion and economic development.

Wokingham had rejected the scheme in May, citing its harm to the area’s landscape character. Since then the project had been extensively revised including scrutiny by a design review panel and substantial changes following consultation and talks with Wokingham officers following the council’s refusal of the proposal.

Wokingham’s latest move follows more than 300 objections citing environmental concerns to the project.

14 December 2018
Huw Morris, The Planner