Latest news

Planning news - 11 April 2019

Published: Thursday, 11th April 2019

Brokenshire to look again at office-to-residential conversions Business secretary approves Teesside power station Brokenshire warns developers to protect local wildlife. And more stories...

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

RTPI logo
Planner jobs

The government will review the conversion of offices into homes without planning permission after a leading Conservative MP lambasted the policy for allowing ‘social cleansing’.

Reforms to permitted development rights in 2013 have allowed developers to convert offices into residences without planning permission. Conservative MP for Harlow Robert Halfon told Parliament this week the policy had not worked.

“It has allowed landlord to build ghettos. It’s allowed London councillors to socially cleanse their most vulnerable families to places like Harlow,” he said.

Halfon urged the government to reform the permitted development rules, adding that Harlow had not received any extra resources “to deal with the extra burden” for providing more doctors, schools, social services and police.

Communities secretary James Brokenshire told the Commons that he would look “at where the burden lies” when families are transferred and rehoused from London.

He added that the government had made a commitment in the chancellor’s Spring Statement to examine the conversion of offices to residential use.

9 April 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

Business secretary Greg Clark has granted a development consent order for a major power plant on Teesside.

Sembcorp Utilities (UK)’s proposal for a gas-fired combined cycle power plant on the site of the former Teesside Power Station could generate up to 1,700 megawatts of electricity.

The application was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in November 2017 and accepted for examination a month later. Clark’s approval supports the inspectorate’s recommendation for the scheme made in January 2019 after it was found to be consistent with National Policy Statements for energy and fossil fuel electricity generation infrastructure. The station will include up to two gas turbine units, up to two steam turbine units, ancillary plant, hybrid water coolers, with some land on the site set aside for possible future carbon capture equipment and provision of combined heat and power.

The decision is the third major project to be approved this year following development consent orders granted to Tilbury 2, a new facility to be built at the Port of Tilbury, and Hillbrook Power, a gas-fired plant proposed in Bedfordshire.

Planning Inspectorate chief executive Sarah Richards said the power plant is a nationally significant infrastructure project examined within the timescale laid down under the Planning Act 2008. “This provides developers and investors with the confidence to build and improve the infrastructure this country needs to secure future economic growth,” she added.

8 April 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

Communities secretary James Brokenshire has written to developers reminding them of their legal obligations to protect wildlife during building work.

The move follows increasing concerns over netting being placed in trees and hedgerows ahead of building work near housing developments.

In a letter to leading developers, Brokenshire stressed that birds are protected under the Wildlife Countryside Act 1981, and that mitigation plans will need to show how developers will avoid or manage any negative effects on protected species during their work.

He reminded developers of recent planning reforms which state that policies and decisions should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by minimising the impacts on and providing net gains for biodiversity. “While building new homes is vital, we must take every care to avoid unnecessary loss of habitats that provide much-needed space for nature, including birds,” Brokenshire said.

“Developments should enhance natural environments, not destroy them. Netting trees and hedgerows is only likely to be appropriate where it is genuinely needed to protect birds from harm during development.”

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said the planning system must play a vital role in not just reversing the decline in wildlife but helping nature to recover.

“Tree and hedge removal should be completed outside of nesting season. However, if there is absolutely no alternative, then netting must be used sparingly in line with the legal duties and responsibilities on developers, including regular checks to ensure wildlife isn’t getting trapped, injured or worse,” said RSPB director of conservation Martin Harper.

“We are pleased to see the secretary of state is acknowledging the concerns many people have about the use of netting, and how strongly we all feel about sharing our future neighbourhoods with nature rather than pushing it away.”

8 April 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

Crescent Gardens – the iconic former headquarters of Harrogate Borough Council – is to be put back on the market after a contract to sell it to a developer was cancelled.

The council decided to end a legal agreement after ATP (Crescent Gardens) Ltd failed to meet the deadline to submit a valid planning application for the site.

The contract between the council and the developer was subject to a such an application being received. The most recent deadline for submission was Friday (5 April) and the council served notice this week.

The sale of Crescent Gardens was originally announced in 2014 as the council moved to consolidate its various buildings into a single, purpose-built civic centre.

ATP (Crescent Gardens) Ltd emerged as the preferred purchaser in 2016 after the council marketed the building. Contracts were exchanged in 2017, but completion was subject to a number of pre-planning conditions being met ahead of a valid planning application being submitted.

Harrogate said the council’s planning service has worked with ATP (Crescent Gardens) Ltd over a number of months to develop a pre-planning application. The developer and its architects also recently carried out a public consultation event.

Despite this, and numerous assurances from the developer that a full planning application would be submitted on time, nothing has been received, Harrogate added. As the final deadline, set out in the contract, has passed, it has decided to take immediate action so the property can be sold through alternative means.

“I’m disappointed that we’ve had to pull the contract,” said deputy leader and cabinet member for economic development Graham Swift. “It needn’t have come to this, but we cannot ignore repeated false promises and missed deadlines.

“I know that redeveloping a building like Crescent Gardens is complicated and not straightforward, but we’ve made allowances for that. We have been very patient since contracts were exchanged. The time has come to take action and to realise the value of this building, not wait further on the off-chance a planning application comes forward.”

8 April 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

The proposed introduction of conservation covenants in England is welcome, but additional detail is required before their potential to support biodiversity net gain can be assessed.

This is the view of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

In a consultation launched in February, and which closed in March, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) canvassed views on the best way to introduce conservation covenants, which would be voluntary but legally binding agreements. Landowners would be able to leave a “permanent conservation legacy” on their land for future generations.

The representative body for more than 30,000 rural landowners in England and Wales acknowledged that conservation covenants form a “crucial” part of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), as well as the UK Government’s strategy to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, while simultaneously delivering wins for the environment.

The CLA argues that without additional detail on the proposed length, administration and tax implications of the proposed conservation covenants, it is difficult to assess how many landowners will be likely to enter into these long-term agreements. Furthermore, the organisation says it needs details about the enforcement regime that should be developed and the system of oversight.

Harry Greenfield, senior land use policy adviser at CLA, said: “Conservation covenants could help to unlock net gain for biodiversity and realise the ambitions of the NPPF. However, without additional detail it remains to be seen whether rural landowners will be attracted to the concept in sufficient numbers in order for this to be the case.

“The CLA supports their introduction and believes they have the capacity to benefit landowners, society and the environment. The issue is to what degree? We need Defra to continue to work up the proposals, in partnership with landowners, to help the government to meet its ambitious housing and environmental goals.”

* This story originally said the covenants would apply in England and Wales. This is not the case: the covenants would apply to England only.

1 April 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A round-up of planning news.

High Court rejects parish claim against school approval

A parish council’s bid to overturn planning permission for a primary school has been rejected by the High Court.

Lakenheath Parish Council had challenged Suffolk County Council’s approval for a 420-place primary and 30-place pre-school last year. The school is to accompany around 660 homes to be built in the village.

The parish council claimed that children’s human rights would be harmed by aircraft noise due to the proposed school’s location beneath the flight path to RAF Lakenheath.

But the High Court rejected the judicial review challenge after finding that Suffolk had considered the interests of pupils and surveyed seven other sites for the proposal. It ruled that high levels of local housing development meant the existing school is almost full and a new school would help meet the expected growth in the area.


Scottish housebuilders calls for reassurances from ministers

Senior members of housebuilding industry have held face-to-face talks with the Scottish Government to tackle fears about the planning system and Brexit uncertainty.

Homes for Scotland, which represents about 200 builders across sectors as well as their suppliers, met Aileen Campbell, cabinet secretary for communities and local government, last week.

“With overall housing delivery still 30 per cent below that of over a decade ago and latest figures showing a worrying drop in private sector activity, this is an absolutely crucial period – not only for those building the homes our growing population needs, but also in terms of wider social and economic implications,” said Nicola Barclay, chief executive of Homes for Scotland.

“This point was impressed upon the cabinet secretary, as was our wish that all those who want to see housing supply increased unite with us around the primary goal of delivering more homes of all types.

“Clearly, a planning system that facilitates homebuilding is fundamental. Additionally, we must overcome the misconceptions many hold in relation to our industry and how it actually operates and navigates through what is an incredibly complex, costly and lengthy process.”


Pegasus wins permission for creative hub at ex-RAF base

Pegasus Group has secured planning permission for a major creative project to deliver economic diversity and new jobs to a former RAF base near York.

Selby District Council unanimously approved plans by Makin Enterprises to develop a creative hub on land at the former RAF Church Fenton airbase, already home to Yorkshire’s largest film studio.

The project, Create Yorkshire, aims to build on the success of the Church Fenton Studios with the redevelopment of a major brownfield site within the Leeds city region to provide enhanced opportunities for film and TV.

Temporary planning permission for commercial film-making and related tourism use was granted in 2015. The site is currently being used for commercial film-making and other creative businesses have been attracted to the area.

“The project will build on the reputation gained by the successful production of ITV’s Victoria at the site and it is hoped that the location could attract educational institutions with the potential for a campus on site,” said Chris Calvert, planning director at Pegasus Group’s Leeds office.

“The studios will sit alongside a creative industries employment campus and in total the scheme is predicted to bring about around 1,800 jobs to the region, fitting with the national and regional agenda for growth in this sector.”

Yorkshire and Humber is the UK’s fastest-growing region for film and TV, with industry growth rate more than double the national average. Between 2009 and 2015, it generated an annual turnover of £424 million across 590 creative businesses. According to government figures, the creative industries account for around 104,000 jobs in the region.


HTA Design masterplan for Newark estate wins planning approval

Newark and Sherwood District Council has granted outline planning approval for 325 homes at the Yorke Drive Estate in Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire.

Built in the 1960s, the 15.5-hectare estate has suffered a decline in its reputation and condition. HTA Design was commissioned to develop a masterplan through comprehensive public consultation to transform the perception and reality of the estate.

The approved designs involve the partial demolition and rebuilding of the estate, including new homes with a mix of tenures to meet modern space standards on underused land near local playing fields.

The proposals include a new access route, an avenue to connect a refurbished street and the public realm as well as improved sports and leisure facilities.

“Throughout the extensive consultation process we received public support for improving links to the surrounding area and facilitating additional development,” said HTA Design managing director Simon Bayliss. “We look forward to continuing our work with the council and local community to deliver this vision.”


Aylesbury Estate home construction contract awarded

Housing developer Hill has been awarded a £70 million contract to deliver the initial homes for the Aylesbury Estate regeneration in South London.

The Aylesbury Estate Regeneration neighbourhood is a long-term partnership between Notting Hill Genesis and the London Borough of Southwark.

Over the lifetime of the project, it will deliver more than 3,500 homes, half of which will be affordable housing. Of that half, 75 per cent will be available for social rent.

The £70 million contract will see 229 new homes built on a parcel of land, with 84 per cent of them be available for social rent, including 54 extra care units and seven homes for people with learning difficulties.

As part of the wider first development site of the Aylesbury estate regeneration, the land will contribute to more than 800 homes, a community facility and open space. It will also provide 224 sustained jobs, 98 apprenticeships and 105 training places for Southwark residents.


Balfour Beatty set to regenerate Olympic Park

Developer Balfour Beatty has secured more than £100 million in funding for a key regeneration project on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The company will work on phase one of the East Wick and Sweetwater development. The first of seven construction phases, it will see the delivery of four mixed-use buildings, including 302 apartments, townhouses and duplex residences as well as retail and leisure amenities.

The new neighbourhoods will contribute to the transformation of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, providing 1,500 homes.

Balfour Beatty Investments, in a joint venture with social landlord Places for People, will provide equity for the building works with funding also provided by Homes England.

The project aims to achieve BREEM ‘excellent’ status and produce 302 zero-carbon homes. Around 20 per cent of the main building materials will also be made up from reused and recycled sources.

9 April 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner