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Planning News - 24 January 2019

Published: Thursday, 24th January 2019

Organisations warn against poor design resulting from permitted development, Huge Anglesey nuclear power scheme suspended, New Durham station gets the go-ahead and more stories...

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

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Government proposals to extend upwards and convert commercial properties into dwellings by extending permitted development rights will result in poor-quality development and see public services suffer.

This is the verdict of the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), the Civic Voice, and the Bath Preservation Trust, who have published their responses to the government’s consultation Planning Reform: Supporting the High Street and Increasing the Delivery of New Homes.

The TCPA says it is “firmly opposed” to extending permitted development, particularly the proposals to allow commercial properties to be demolished and rebuilt for residential use, and extend building upward to create new homes without going through the full planning process.

The organisation acknowledges that converting employment building to residential buildings can be done to a good standard, delivering much-needed homes. But doing so through permitted development results in “extremely limited” scrutiny and oversight of developments, it said.

Citing research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the TCPA said current permitted development has resulted in poor-quality development that has had “serious adverse implications for people’s health and well-being”. Contributions to affordable housing and local infrastructure are lost too, with public services suffering as a result.

The Civic Voice is also concerned about the measures. Executive director Ian Harvey said the charity supports the principle of encouraging a greater mix of uses on the high street and the rationale for exploring the use of airspace.

“However, given the high visibility and prominence of upward extensions and potential impact on the street scene, local character and amenity, very careful consideration of such proposals must be required.”

Civic Voice object to the proposals to extend up to the highest building in a street unless “full consideration” is given to design, external appearance and the impact on amenity and character of the area.

Joan Humble, chair of the Civic Voice, disagrees with the government, which believes its plans would help revive high streets. “We may end up with poor-quality designed housing without consideration for the wider built environment, something we know is key to successful high streets.”

In its response to the consultation, The Bath Preservation Trust said the answer to the crisis faced by the high streets is not the relaxation of planning obligations or “sidelining” the planning system. This could have “adverse effects on the vitality, amenity and character” of high streets, and accelerate harmful change and loss.

The RTPI has also expressed its worries about permitted development and the serious financial implications for local authorities, which would not be able to collect planning fees and developer contributions.

The institute maintains that permitted development rights are designed for simple or minor changes, not new developments on this scale, which should be subject to full local planning scrutiny.

16 January 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Work on a huge new nuclear power station on Anglesey has been suspended, a move with potentially dire consequences for North Wales’s economy.

Japanese company Hitachi has halted work on its £20 billion Wylfa Newydd plant because of investment issues.

Wales’s economy secretary Ken Skates said he hoped that the plant would not be scrapped entirely.

“If it is paused then work must begin immediately across governments and with local government and with the business community in ensuring that there are job opportunities in the short term whilst we find a new investor for the project,” he is reported as saying.

He has also suggested that the UK and Welsh governments should make more money available for the North Wales Growth Deal if the plug is eventually pulled on the project.

Horizon Nuclear Power, the wholly owned Hitachi subsidiary behind the Anglesey scheme, had been hoping to begin site preparation work for the 2,900-megawatt plant shortly.

Anglesey County Council had approved this move, but Welsh ministers are now considering whether to call in the plans.

In a statement Duncan Hawthorne, chief executive officer of Horizon Nuclear Power, said: “We have been in close discussions with the UK Government, in cooperation with the government of Japan, on the financing and associated commercial arrangements for our project for some years now.  I am very sorry to say that despite the best efforts of everyone involved we’ve not been able to reach an agreement to the satisfaction of all concerned.

“As a result we will be suspending the development of the Wylfa Newydd project until a solution can be found. In the meantime, we will take steps to reduce our presence but keep the option to resume development in future.”

He added: “Clearly this will have a significant impact for all involved with our project. We will also engage closely with the many international and UK-based stakeholders who have strongly supported the project’s development, especially our lead host community of Anglesey, represented by the Isle of Anglesey County Council and Welsh government.”

17 January 2019
Roger Milne, The Planner

Plans to build a new £10.55 million railway station in east Durham have been granted planning permission.

The station will be built at Horden, near Peterlee. Plans comprise two 100-metre platforms connected by an accessible footbridge, shelters, a 136-space car park and bus stops.

Durham County Council will fund the station with £4.4 million from the Department of Transport’s New Stations Fund and a £3.34 million grant from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership. The council worked with Network Rail on the project.

Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said: “The new station will significantly improve transport links in the east of the county, providing a boost to the economy and widening employment opportunities for local residents.

“It has been a long time in the making, with a lot of hard work involved so it is particularly pleasing that work can now start on a project that will also have knock-on benefits for the wider county.”

The station will link Horden into the local and regional national train network, with trains stopping hourly in both directions.

Initial work is due to start during the next few weeks, and the station is expected to open in spring 2020.

17 January 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A legal challenge has been launched against the housing secretary’s decision to refuse plans for a 17-storey residential tower in Purley.

Developer Thornsett Group’s application concerned two areas of brownfield land in Purley, 6.5km south of Croydon town centre. As well as the 17-storey tower, it comprised an eight-storey tower. Together they would provide 220 flats, 18 per cent of which would be affordable. A community church facility also featured in plans for a new community.

The planning committee and Croydon Council approved the development in 2016, and the Greater London Authority (GLA) backed it. Previous housing secretary Sajid Javid called in the application in April 2017 after lobbying by local MP Chris Philip, and an inquiry led by inspector David Nicholson followed. Writing in his report, he said the proposed height of the buildings was in line with the council’s local plan and the design is “much better than satisfactory”.

Housing secretary James Brokenshire did not share Nicholson’s views on the height and design of the scheme, finding no evidence to justify the height and the proportions and materials unsympathetic. He went against the inspector’s decision.

The legal challenge was submitted to the High Court last week, and listed Croydon Council and the GLA as interested parties.

Gerard Cunningham, executive chairman at Thornsett, said: “Given that proposals for Mosaic Place have received approval from all necessary statutory planning bodies, including most recently the planning inspector, we are disappointed that the secretary of state has decided to reject these plans. The discrepancy between the recommendation of the planning inspector and the secretary of state’s decision is a cause of deep concern, particularly given that Purley may now be deprived of 220 new homes, significant community facilities and the catalyst for much-needed regeneration.”

16 January 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

West Lancashire Borough Council has approved plans for the first phase of a £49 million scheme in Skelmersdale.

Laurus Homes, a partnership between Trafford Housing Trust and L&Q Development, will provide 120 two, three and four-bedroom homes at Whalleys Road, Whalleys South. Of these, 36 will be for shared ownership and affordable rent, with 15 set to be adaptable for the elderly. The first phase has a value of £20.7 million.

The full development will provide 299 homes.

THT and L&Q Developments LLP won Homes England’s competitive tender to develop the site.

Graeme Scott, development director at Trafford Housing Trust, said: “The development of this site is key to the regeneration of Skelmersdale, improving housing choice in the area and wider economic growth ambitions for West Lancashire."

Turley acted as planning consultant for the applications. Seddon Construction has been appointed to build the scheme. Work is expected to start on site in the summer.

17 January 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A round-up of planning news:

Consultation on electricity storage launched

The government has launched a consultation that considers the treatment of electricity storage within the planning system.

It is seeking views on a proposal to retain the 50 megawatt (MW) Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) threshold that applies to standalone storage projects.

It also proposes to amend Planning Act 2008 to establish a new NSIP capacity threshold for composite projects, including storage and another form of generation, such that a composite project would only fall under the NSIP regime where either the capacity of the storage element is more than 50MW or the capacity excluding any electricity storage is more than 50MW.


Charity launches crowdfund to challenge planning decisions

Bath Preservation Trust has launched a crowdfunding campaign to enable it to challenge planning decision that it feels are ‘poor’.

The campaign follows the charity having to give up a judicial review case due to “exposure to unacceptable financial risk”.

The charity monitors and aims to influence development in Bath to ensure it is managed well, high quality, sensitive and appropriate to Bath’s status as a World Heritage Site.


Tandridge submits local plan

Tandridge District Council has submitted its local plan to government for independent examination.

In a statement on its website, the council explains that the submission has taken place in advance of the introduction of the standard method for calculating housing need, which requires the district plan for 12,900 new homes – or 645 a year.

For various reasons, including the volume of green belt in the district, the council thinks that the plan can deliver half that – 6,056 homes, equating to 303 homes a year.

Views sought on Leeds plan changes

A six-week consultation has begun on proposed changes to the Leeds Site Allocation Plan for future housing, green space and development.

The modifications were put forward by two independent planning inspectors after several public hearings.

The inspectors generally supported the plan, but suggested fewer green belt sites needed to be released to meet projected housing growth. These include land at Parlington near Aberford, land off the A65 at Horsforth roundabout and Stourton Grange, Garforth are taken out of the plan.

Just the suggested modifications are the subject of this consultation, not the plan as a whole.

The consultation closes on Monday 4 March. 

Growth in luxury rental properties

There has been significant growth in the luxury rental accommodation market for young professionals, according to a report by research company GK Strategy.

The research found that over a four-year period, online search demand in the UK for co-living rental opportunities has increased by nearly 4,000 per cent. GK Strategy believes that this is set to grow further as investment in the sector accelerates.

This growth is attributed to a decline in opportunities for young people to own their own homes. The firm says young professionals are increasingly attracted by accommodation that includes all utilities, as well as onsite gyms, libraries and other facilities, in one all-inclusive package.

The report can be found here on the GK Strategy website (pdf).

Britcon to build Debyshire industrial premises

Development Partnership Priority Space has appointed building and civil engineering company Britcon to deliver a £1 million contract for speculative industrial premises in phase two of a new development at Markham Vale in Derbyshire.

The building will be 15,000 square feet in size. A 1,500 square feet of integral offices will also be built. Britcon has already delivered 13 SME units in phase one on the site which is now 75 per cent sold. 

The scheme sits within the Markham Vale flagship regeneration zone, which is a 200-acre business and distribution park at Junction 29A of the M1 motorway.

Harborough neighbourhood plan to go-ahead

Harborough District Council has given the green light to its 20th neighbourhood plan referendum.

Villagers in Arnesby will go to the polls to decide whether to adopt the plan on 28 February 2019.

Phil King, deputy leader and portfolio holder for planning, housing and regeneration, said: “Over the last five years Harborough District Council has been extremely successful in working with communities to deliver neighbourhood plans. Whilst the government has made it clear that neighbourhood plans cannot be used to prevent otherwise sustainable or appropriate development, neighbourhood plans have already been used to help determine planning applications and ensure housing development is built in the right places.”

22 January 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner