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Planning News - 14 February 2019

Published: Thursday, 14th February 2019

Royal Parks objects to Holocaust memorial next to Parliament, Scientists call for relaxation of fracking earthquake rules and more stories...

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

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The body responsible for managing the site of a proposed national memorial to the Holocaust has objected to the scheme.

Westminster City Council is considering a planning application submitted in December for the National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens, which is next to the Houses of Parliament.

The £50 million scheme is designed by a team led by architects Adjaye Associates, with Ron Arad Architects as memorial architect, and Gustafson Porter + Bowman as landscape architect. Their proposal includes a structure of 23 large bronze fins with a learning centre developed underground and aims to create “a living place, not just a monument to something of the past”.

However, the Royal Parks has now objected to the proposal, citing the site’s “highly sensitive location in planning and heritage terms” and has written to the council setting out its criticisms.

“We fully support the principle of building a new Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre, and agree with the rationale for doing so,” the Royal Parks said.

“However, as the charity managing Victoria Tower Gardens, our role is to ensure that the intrinsic qualities of this green space are protected for the benefit of all our visitors and, having studied the planning application in detail, we feel strongly that this is not the right location for it.

“The impact that the proposed structure will have on this much-loved public amenity space, in an area of central London with few public parks, is significant. Around 1.5 million visitors a year currently use Victoria Tower Gardens as a place for relaxation and recreation.

“We believe that the scale of the proposed building, and the congestion that the anticipated additional one million visitors will bring in its first year of operation, will dramatically change the park’s relaxed atmosphere and ambiance.

“It could also permanently damage the major trees that border the park and negatively impact the biodiversity of the space. We estimate that up to 15 per cent of the park’s open space could be lost for ever.”

11 February 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

Nearly 50 geoscientists are calling on the government to review the fracking earthquake limit and suggest that it should be relaxed to boost the industry.

The scientists claim the limit, for tremors above 0.5 local magnitude, is “set very conservatively to be triggered by extremely small seismic events”.

They call for a “firm but realistic regularity framework” to support the development of shale gas in the UK.

In a letter to The Times on Saturday, the scientists said the limit “is very far below the levels set in other countries or for other comparable industries in the UK such as quarrying, mining and deep geothermal energy.

“It is widely believed by industry, and among informed academics, to be so low that it threatens the potential development of a shale gas industry in the UK.”

The letter points out that when the limit was set in 2012 the Department of Energy and Climate Change had pledged to review it as experience of fracking in the UK developed.

The scientists urge the government to instruct the Oil and Gas Authority to commission an expert review of the present threshold without delay.

The letter, which has 49 signatories, was coordinated by Leeds University professor of petroleum geoengineering Quentin Fisher and Ernest Rutter, professor emeritus at Manchester University’s school of earth and environmental sciences.

11 February 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

The Supreme Court is to hear an appeal in a long-running dispute over the visual impacts of a planned quarry extension in the green belt.

The hearing will focus on North Yorkshire County Council’s granting of planning permission to Darrington Quarries to extend the Jackdaw Crag Quarry, which is in green belt land near Tadcaster.

The High Court rejected a challenge by brewery Samuel Smith, a major local landowner, in March 2017. This was overturned by the Court of Appeal a year later in a case that centred on preserving “openness” of the green belt.

The Court of Appeal ruled that a senior officer had misunderstood national planning policies on the preservation of the green belt. Lord Justice Lindblom said the officer had mistakenly concluded that the openness of the green belt would not be harmed because the proposal did not involve the construction of new buildings.

“When the development under consideration is within one of the five categories in paragraph 90 [of the National Planning Policy Framework] and is likely to have visual effects within the green belt, the policy implicitly requires the decision-maker to consider how those visual effects bear on the question of whether the development would preserve the openness of the green belt,” Lindblom ruled.

The officer had not considered as to whether very special circumstances existed to justify inappropriate development in the green belt, he added.

12 February 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

South Gloucestershire Council has failed in a High Court bid to overturn a planning inspector’s decision to allow an appeal against its refusal of a 350-home scheme.

The council applied under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to quash the inspector’s decision in favour of Welbeck Strategic Land last year. It refused to grant outline planning permission against officers’ advice, claiming the proposal was speculative in nature, would not result in a comprehensively planned development and was contrary to its core strategy. This was later overturned by a planning inspector.

In the High Court, South Gloucestershire claimed the inspector failed to provide adequate reasons for rejecting its submission that permission should be refused on the ground of prematurity in the light of the emerging Joint Spatial Plan, which was to be followed by the emerging South Gloucestershire Local Plan.

However, Mrs Justice Lang dismissed the challenge, stating she was unable to accept that the way in which the inspector formulated his reasons substantially prejudiced the council.

“The inspector's reasons were specific to this application. It is open to the council to seek to distinguish this case from other appeals and applications, concerning different proposals, at other sites.”

South Gloucestershire said it is committed to plan-led development and pledged to “robustly challenge decisions that undermine this”.

A spokesperson added: “We are disappointed that this particular decision has gone against us, however, we will continue to work during this year on an updated local plan that will allow us to direct how and where our communities grow and where they cannot.

"Government analysis late last year confirmed that we have an adequate supply of land for the growth we need, which will act as a protection against speculative development of this kind which is contrary to our plans for the future.”

12 February 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

The High Court has criticised a West London council over its consultation of a decision not to designate playing fields as green space.

Udney Park Playing Fields (UPPF) in Teddington were donated by press baron Lord Beaverbrook to St Mary's Hospital Medical School in 1937, but have been owned since 2015 by developer Quantum Teddington.

The company is proposing to build 107 apartments and a doctor’s surgery on the site, a move opposed by the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames.

The judicial review follows a planning inspector’s statutory examination of Richmond’s local plan last year, which rejected the fields’ designation as a green space.

Local campaigners Friends of Udney Park Playing Fields claimed that modifications proposed by the inspector and put out for consultation did not make clear the site’s ‘de-designation’ as a local green space. The group’s judicial review challenge was contested by Quantum but not by the council.

Backing the campaigners, Mr Justice Waksman branded the consultation as “manifestly unfair” and “plainly inadequate” and said campaigners had little opportunity to comment. He ruled that the outcome could have been different if campaigners had been allowed a proper opportunity to take part and that they have “sufficient substantial prejudice as a result of the procedural defects”.

11 February 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

A round-up of planning news:

Groundbreaking event marks new council housing development

Dacorum Borough Council has held a 'groundbreaking' event to mark the preparation of work starting on a housing development in Apsley.

Magenta Court, situated next to the old Apsley Paper Mill building, will provide 29 one and two-bed flats within four blocks, all for social rent. The contractor is Jarvis Contracting Ltd.

Today, Tuesday 12 February a groundbreaking event was scheduled to be held at the former Martindale School housing development site that will provide 65 new homes, including 44 for social rent.

Dacorum Borough Council owns around 10,000 tenanted properties, as well as 1,800 leasehold flats. It says it is on target to build 300 affordable new homes by 2020.

Highways England launches drive to revolutionise roads of tomorrow

Two competitions have been launched by Highways England to encourage innovative ideas to “revolutionise” roads and driving.

Highways England has set aside £20 million to invest in projects to change the way the country’s motorways and major A-roads are designed, managed and used.

The competitions will look for ideas covering design, construction and maintenance, connected and autonomous vehicles, customer mobility, energy and the environment, operations and air quality.

Highways England said the types of benefits which road users and communities could see include better quality journeys, improved road safety, more efficient use of vehicles, enhanced public spaces and improved health.

The move comes as it plans for the future, the changing roads landscape and the increasing automation in vehicles and systems.

Anyone interested in entering the competitions, which have a deadline of 8 May, is encouraged to join a webinar, hosted by Innovate UK and Highways England on Thursday 14 February. See here for further details.

York’s Guildhall set for major restoration

One of York’s most prestigious and historically significant buildings could be in line for its first major restoration and redevelopment in more than 60 years.

York City Council’s executive committee is this week considering a plan to redevelop and repair the Guildhall and approve the appointment of a construction contractor to start work later this year.

The Guildhall is a collection of grade I, II* and II listed buildings built around the 15th century hall and riverside meeting room. The Guildhall has only had reactive maintenance and repairs since extensive rebuilding following the Baedeker bombing raids in 1942. Surveys have revealed significant structural problems with the tower, which is subsiding and cracking. Its main roofs also need replacing to prevent further water ingress.

The £16.5 million project would see the building stabilised through major underpinning, protected from water damage and given a new lease of life. The redevelopment would secure the long-term future of the Guildhall site, offering high-quality office space, community use, cafe, a riverside restaurant, better access for residents and up to 250 jobs.

The scheme, which is expected to generate around £848,000 annual income to be reinvested in the city, has attracted grant funding from West Yorkshire Combined Authority of £2.3 million.

Central Bedfordshire to launch company to build affordable homes

Central Bedfordshire Council is to set up its own company to ensure that more affordable new homes are built in the area.

The council says the area is facing a shortage of affordable homes to rent, homes for older people, social housing for large families and accessible housing for people with disabilities or who need modified homes.

“High levels of demand from these types of residents means that there aren’t enough affordable homes,” said executive member for assets and housing delivery Eugene Ghent.

The council aims to build homes on land it owns to plug gaps in the local market that are not being met locally by either private developers or by council-owned properties.

It is also working on an enabling strategy to identify where the housing gaps are as well as the scale, type and locations to meet residents’ needs.

Life Kitchen moves step closer to UK’s first cancer cookery school

Life Kitchen founder Ryan Riley’s plans to convert a historic Sunderland building and create the UK’s first cancer cookery school have been approved.

Consultancy Lichfields successfully secured Listed Building Consent from Sunderland City Council to change the use of the grade II listed Mowbray Park Lodge. North East regional and national businesses volunteered time and resources to the project, with Riley now launching a £50,000 fund-raising drive to upgrade the building’s electricity supply.

Riley founded the Life Kitchen, which offers cooking classes for people living with cancer, following the death of his mother to small-cell lung cancer. The company aims “to give back the fun and enjoyment of eating: for cancer sufferers whose treatments often impair their taste and appetites.

UK still a magnet for global investment in renewable energy

The UK remains one of the most attractive places for investment in renewable energy across the world.

Investor adviser Octopus surveyed institutional investors and found that 55 per cent had already invested in the country and saw it as a priority for the future.

A total of 61 per cent of those institutions which had yet to invest in the country had identified the UK and Northern Ireland as key targets for the future. Only 15 per cent would not consider investing.

The UK is the main investment focus for global investors other than Australia. A total of 44 of Asian investors, 74 per cent of investors from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and 55 per cent of UK investors say the country is their current focus.

However 56 per cent of respondents highlighted energy price uncertainty as a concern for the future followed by a lack of government support by 32 per cent and 34 per cent pointing to a skills deficit within the UK renewable energy sector.

Grid-scale solar power plants are the most popular renewable energy asset for investors in the UK followed by hydro power, energy from waste and biomass, and offshore wind power.

Europe is the most popular region for renewable energy investment with UK, France and Nordic countries topping the list. Octopus said the UK offers the most “diversification, security and the ability to tailor investments” for institutions.

12 February 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner