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Planning News - 7 February 2019

Published: Thursday, 7th February 2019

Government announces five upward extension developments for the capital, Brokenshire issues directions over Wirral and Thanet local plans, £18m investment in construction industry and more stories...

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

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Homes will be built on the top of London rooftops by the summer. Homes England has agreed a £9 million funding deal with an airspace developer.

The properties will be built across five sites. According to a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) statement, the extensions, to be delivered by Apex Airspace Developments, will largely be constructed off-site before being installed on top of buildings to minimise disruption to residents.

The revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which was published last year, states that planning policies and decisions should “support opportunities to use the airspace above existing residential and commercial premises for new homes”.

MHCLG says the first 38 homes will be completed by the summer. In total 78 units will be delivered under the three-year deal. The rooftop properties will be built in Tooting, Wanstead, Walthamstow, Putney and Wallington.

The money comes from the government’s £4.5 billion Home Building Fund.

Arshad Bhatti, chief executive officer at Apex, commented: “Apex has invested heavily in airspace development and our research shows the potential for up to 180,000 new homes in London alone.”

He welcomed Homes England's “positive and supportive approach to delivering innovative solutions to the housing challenge”.

Speaking at the London First Building Summit today (30 January), housing secretary James Brokenshire also announced that nearly £497 million will be spent on delivering 11,000 affordable properties. Strategic partnerships between Homes England and a number of housing associations aim to give the housing associations freedom to spend the money on the developments where they can have the biggest impact.

Brokenshire said: “By providing targeted investment in affordable homes, and funding innovative projects to build rooftop properties, we are making our housing market work for everyone.

“Our £500 million funding boost for housing associations will help them build thousands of extra affordable homes – including properties for social rent.

“These measures are all part of our plans to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.”

The strategic partnerships - which represent the third wave - have been agreed with:

  • Bromford
  • Curo & Swan
  • Liverpool Mutual Homes & Torus
  • Longhurst & Nottingham Community Housing Association
  • Together Housing
  • Walsall Housing Group
  • Yorkshire Housing
  • Your Housing Group

30 January 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Housing secretary James Brokenshire has issued directions to Wirral Council and Thanet District Council for their failure to implement an up-to-date local plan.

He has decided that neither council has met the requirements of Section 27(1) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 in that:

They do not have an up-to-date local plan in place.

They have failed to meet local plan milestones in a number of local development schemes – five since 2006 for Thanet and six since 2004 for Wirral.

They have failed to plan for and deliver the homes their area needs.

In November 2017 the government revealed that it was considering intervening where councils had not produced a local plan. In March last year it was announced that England’s chief planner would visit three of 15 councils threatened with intervention for not compiling a local plan to assess whether the government should take over the process.

Regarding Thanet, Brokenshire has to decided to make a direction in relation to the preparation of the Thanet Local Plan, in line with 27(2)(b) of the 2004 act. In a letter he says the council must designate a lead councillor and lead official to be responsible for progressing the preparation of the local plan to publish details of those designation within four weeks of the date of the letter (28 January).

Listing his considerations for intervention, including whether policies in plans have been kept up to date and the high housing pressure, the housing secretary is “satisfied that intervention action is justified”.

Brokenshire also wants Thanet to amend its local development scheme dated July 2018 to provide a local plan review within six months of its adoption, within eight weeks of the date of his letter. He writes: “This course of action would ensure full and effective coverage of housing provision to give clarity to communities and developers about where homes should be built."

He added that he wants to put on public record that he is concerned about the “low level of housing supply and deliver in Thanet”.

Thanet District Council told The Planner: "The council has significantly progressed with its local plan, which was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate on 30 October 2018, with a public examination expected in the coming months. The council has reviewed the actions in the secretary of state’s letter and can confirm that arrangements are already in place to meet the majority of requirements set out, any others will be incorporated into our processes without unnecessarily delaying examination of the plan. Given this positive progress and constructive dialogue with MHCLG, the council is disappointed that there wasn’t more recognition of this within the letter and will be responding directly to the secretary of state. The council will continue to work positively with MHCLG to progress with its plan."

Wirral Council has been issued “certain directions” in line with the 2004 act. Within 10 weeks of his letter, also dated 28 January, Brokenshire expects the council to:

  • Designate a lead councillor and lead official to be responsible for progressing preparation of the local plan.
  • Publish an action plan setting out the actions that will be taken to get a local plan in place, including the allocation of sufficient land for housing for the whole of Wirral for the plan period. The action plan must be verified by “independent planning experts”.

Wirral Council has been directed to report monthly to Brokenshire’s officials on its progress.

Although Wirral does not have high housing pressures, Brokenshire says: “I consider that it would be appropriate to intervene because Wirral Council’s performance in respect of the other criteria is lamentable”. The council’s last local plan was adopted in February 2000 and covered the period to March 2001. He considers Wirral to have made the least progress of the 15 authorities the government initially intervened in.

Wirral Council told The Planner that the leader of the council, Phil Davies, has sent a letter in reply to Brokenshire, explaining that many of the actions he requires have already begun, including that a lead councillor and lead official are in place. Davies adds: “I am confident we have the resources, expertise and capacity in place to deliver a local plan which is appropriate and robust to meet the housing needs of our residents.”

The council disputes the government’s agreed number of houses that need to be built each year after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released figures suggesting that Wirral's annual target should be around 500. Brokenshire is explicit in his letter that the council has an annual housing need of 803 homes.

In July last year, deputy leader of Wirral Council said releasing green belt land in the area’s local plan to meet housing would be a “last resort”. In response to Brokenshire's intervention, he said the government “wants to have its cake and eat it”.

“Wirral is, as the secretary of state acknowledges, taking ‘positive action’ and engaging in a ‘constructive way’ with his department. However, he is still insisting on us using his government’s ‘standard method for assessing housing need’ which says we must build 12,000 homes by 2035, which works out as 800 a year.

“However, the ONS has since released revised figures indicating the target is much lower, around 500 a year, and would mitigate almost all the risk to the borough’s green belt.

“The secretary of state says in his letter that ‘authorities should make a realistic assessment of the number of homes their communities need’ and I believe we are best placed to make that judgement.”

4 February 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Funding totalling £18 million will be invested in digital technology to transform the construction industry.

The government funding will come from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Four new research projects that will speed up assembly, save money and improve the quality of UK building projects have been announced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The schemes will receive a share of £5 million from the funding. They include exploring the use of 3D-printed concrete components created off-site and researching how voice-activated artificial intelligence and augmented reality can be integrated with the assembly of components to speed up construction and increase productivity without compromising health and safety.

A new £5 million Research Leaders programme aims to develop innovative solutions to transform the construction industry and deliver high-performing homes, as well as better jobs.

UKRI also announced £13.3 million to fund 24 collaborative research and development projects in the construction sector that address the three core aims of the Transforming Construction challenge programme: designing and managing buildings through digitally-enabled simulation; constructing quality buildings through off-site manufacturing approaches; and powering buildings with active generation and storage. They will be delivered by Innovate UK.

Construction minister Richard Harrington said: “The use of artificial intelligence, digital techniques and off-site manufacturing help us to harness new methods of working. This delivers on the government’s Construction Sector Deal, which pledges to build better-performing buildings, using less energy and providing better value for taxpayers."

Professor Sir Mark Walport, chief executive at UKRI, said: “Technologies being developed in the UK provide a significant opportunity to transform the way we build, such as the use of augmented reality to improve design or robotics to aid complex building assembly.

“Through projects such as these, the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund allows us to catalyse innovation across the UK’s vital construction industry improving productivity, sustainability and safety.”

A full list of the 24 research and development projects can be found here (pdf).

4 February 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Stevenage Borough Council has requested a judicial review into the temporary holding direction on its local plan.

It was submitted to the secretary of state on 21 July 2017 and in October 2017 a planning inspector recommended that it should be adopted.

A month later, however, then-communities secretary Sajid Javid issued a holding direction (pdf) on the local plan, preventing its adoption. It was triggered by a request from local MP Stephen McPartland. His request raised “a number of issues”, including plan policies and supporting text relating to the regeneration of Stevenage train station and town centre.

The council then responded to questions asked by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) by the start of 2018, it said. “The reasons behind the ongoing delay still remain unclear.”

The judicial review has been launched, the council explained, to address the delay and obtain a clear response from the government.

Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage Borough Council, said: “I am calling on the secretary of state to release the Stevenage Local Plan with immediate effect, and support us in building new homes, creating jobs and regenerating our town. We have worked closely with residents, different organisations, and local groups to have a clear plan for the town. These conversations started back in 2012, with several stages of consultation so that everyone can have their say. Having a clear plan in place is vital for the town, to protect our open spaces, offer new homes for our families, provide space for new jobs, and to help revitalise crucial parts of the town.”

She said the 14-month delay has affected plans for jobs, homes and the regeneration of the town.

“It is with real regret that our only option is to start legal proceedings. It remains my hope that we will see a positive response, and my door always remains open to find the best way ahead. I remain passionate and confident about Stevenage’s future. We have started to see new homes being provided, with over 168 new council homes completed towards our target of 500.”

The proposed local plan would replace the one that was adopted in 2004. It sets out proposals to regenerate the town centre, create employment opportunities and it allocates sites to build around 7,600 new homes across the town by 2031, including at least 25 per cent affordable homes.

31 January 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The largest brownfield development site in Monmouthshire has been sold to Barratt Homes in a move set to boost Chepstow’s housing stock significantly.

The location has outline permission for up to 450 new homes. Barrratt is currently proposing to build 345 new properties.

Known locally as the ‘former Fairfield-Mabey factory’", the 18.2-hectare site is situated between the town centre and the River Wye. It was the Fairfield-Mabey factory from 1965 until 2009, and part of Fairfields Shipbuilding and Engineering Company from 1924 to 1965.

The deal was managed by property consultancy Savills. Gareth Carter, a director in the development team, said: “The site presented many challenges, including the removal of industrial buildings. In addition, site access was only possible via a tunnel below the main railway line, and with over a kilometre of frontage to the River Wye, there were some sensitive ecological issues to address.”

The location was also known as National Shipyard No1 in 1918 and was built up to manufacture and launch ships during the First World War and to manufacture landing craft during the Second World War. More recently the site has been used to produce bridge sections that were transported worldwide.

Steve Williams,Barratt Homes regional managing director, said: “We will now be working closely with the local council on detailed plans for the site… at the present time we plan to begin remediation work in the spring with construction due to begin in the summer.”

In a separate but related development the developer has joined forces with David Wilson Homes and is proposing a 200-home residential scheme at Bayfield on the outskirts of the town.

1 February 2019
Roger Milne, The Planner


A round-up of planning news:

131 homes approved in Warwickshire

Warwickshire County Council has granted planning permission for 131 homes at Hampton Magna.

The outline application is for a 6.97-hectare site that can be accessed from the existing Daly Avenue. Of the homes, 40 per cent have been designated as affordable.

Plans also include the provision of green infrastructure, such as open space, allotments and a children’s play area (see image above).

Richborough Estates, a strategic land promotion company, secured the permission with support from David Barnes from Star Planning.

Focus must be on Scottish SMEs to deliver more housing

The number of smaller housebuilders must be ‘significantly’ increased, if Scotland is to address the 80,000-home deficit that has arisen over the past decade.

Myths surrounding land banking by housebuilders also need to be busted.

These are just two of the messages Homes for Scotland says it will deliver to MSPs today (5 February).

Chief executive Nicola Barclay said that given “80,000 fewer homes have been built in Scotland since 2008 whilst the growth in number of households over broadly the same period has more than doubled, it is easy to see why our country is in housing crisis”.

“A major contributory factor has been a near 40 per cent drop in the amount of companies building less than 50 homes a year and who traditionally focused on smaller sites.

“This is why we have formed a special project group and are working closely with the Scottish Government to define the solutions required. These may include easier access to development finance, the allocation of smaller sites, simplified planning processes, and a desire from regulators and enablers to help this important part of our industry to thrive once more.”

Barclay cited the Letwin Review when talking about land banking, saying: “There is absolutely no evidence of this.”

Plans submitted for Feltham Magistrate’s Court

MCR Property Group has submitted a planning application to redevelop Feltham Magistrate’s Court, Hounslow, into 27 homes.

If approved, the locally listed Victorian-era structure will be converted into a mixed-tenure development. It will comprise one studio apartment, five one-bedroom, 16 two-bedroom, three three-bedroom and one four-bedroom apartment, as well as four-bedroom townhouse.

The building was built in 1902 and served as Feltham Town Hall. It was then used as a courthouse from 2013. The existing façade and side elevations will be retained.

Central London buildings to be redeveloped

The City of London’s planning and transportation committee has approved proposals to redevelopment 1 Stonecutter Court and 81 Farringdon Street.

Permission was secured by consultancy tp bennett and Greycoat Real Estate for the Farringdon development.

The redevelopment of the site, designed by tp bennett, will provide 344,448 square feet of grade A office space over 13 storeys, as well as 12,197 square feet of retail provision and 2,475 square feet of improved public realm.

Homes boost for Oxfordshire village

Plans for 25 new homes in Sonning Common have been approved by South Oxfordshire District Council.

Planning consultant Pro Vision worked on behalf of developer TA Fisher to secure the permission.

The development, on land behind Kennylands Road, will comprise 15 market homes and 10 affordable, of which eight will be available for rent in line with council policy. Plans include a landscape buffer to soften the transition to the countryside, open space and a children’s play area.

Plans for shipping container business container submitted

Plans are to be submitted for an 18,000 square-foot business park in the Kingmoor Park Enterprise Zone in Cumbria. The park would be developed out of recycled shipping containers.

ModVillage’s initial phase comprises 24 offices and a café.

Galloway Modular Construction, based in Newton Stewart, will convert and supply the containers.

Oxfordshire submits bid to HIF

Oxfordshire County Council has submitted a Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) business case to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) for the expected growth in the Didcot Garden Town area.

If the £218 million bid is successfully, it will deliver:

  • A4130 widening from A34 Milton Interchange towards Didcot.
  • A new Science Bridge over the A4130, Great Western Railway Line and Milton Road into the former Didcot A Power Station site.
  • A new Culham to Didcot river crossing between the A4130 and A415.
  • A Clifton Hampden Bypass.

All schemes include improved segregated walking and cycling routes.

5 February 2018
Laura Edgar, The Planner