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Planning news - 2 May 2019

Published: Thursday, 2nd May 2019

Labour would scrap commercial to residential permitted development, Nottingham approves regeneration scheme, NIC: Framework for freight should be acknowledged in planning system. 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 next Labour government would put an end to the policy that sees commercial spaces converted into residential units without going through the full planning process.

Labour said permitted development rights, introduced under the coalition government in 2013, give developers “a get-out” from providing affordable housing and meeting space standards.

The current Conservative government is considering extending permitted development rights – commercial buildings on high streets could be converted into homes while other buildings could be extended upwards – as it tries to meet its target to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

A number of organisations have come out against further extending permitted development, including the RTPI, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), the Civic Voice and the Bath Preservation Trust.

Research by the Local Government Association (LGA) suggests that 10,500 affordable homes have been lost through permitted development rights in the past three years while research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), published last year, finds that office-to-residential conversions produce a higher number of poor-quality homes than those subject to the full planning process.

John Healey, Labour’s housing secretary, said: “Conservative permitted development rules have created a get-out clause for developers to dodge affordable homes requirements and build slum housing.

“To fix the housing crisis, we need more genuinely affordable, high-quality homes. This Conservative housing free-for-all gives developers a free hand to build what they want but ignore what local communities need.

“Labour will give local people control over the housing that gets built in their area and ensure developers build the low-cost, high-quality homes that the country needs.”

24 April 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Nottingham City Council’s planning committee has granted outline planning permission for a proposal to transform the derelict Boots Island site.

Conygar Investment Company plc, which bought the 40-acre site in 2016, plans to build a mixed-use development on it. The proposal was supported by 12 votes to one by the committee.

The plans include:

  • 17,274 square metres of creative market uses;
  • 58,885 square metres of class B1 office space;
  • 91,888 square metres of residential space – more than 900 flats;
  • 27,030 square metres of student accommodation – 666 beds;
  • a 8,118-square metre hotel; and
  • 1,796 car parking spaces.

Christopher Ware of Conygar said: “This is a long-term phased project which is likely to take up to 10 years to complete and will create hundreds of jobs in the region before and after the building work.

“Nottingham is a vibrant and creative city where several exciting developments are taking place and our plans for the site are a key part of this regeneration. We believe this is a unique development which will help to elevate Nottingham’s position in the Midlands and the UK.”

Paul Seddon, director of planning and regeneration at the city council: added: “Now outline planning is in place we will continue to work very closely with Conygar to ensure the progress of this hugely important scheme for the city. It’s our priority to help make the Island site a high-quality and vibrant part of the city that Nottingham deserves.’

Work is expected to start on site during 2019, with the first phase of office and homes set to be complete by 2020, said Conygar.

18 April 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Measures to reduce the freight network’s carbon footprint and congestion should be set out at all levels of the UK’s planning system, according to the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).

The commission acknowledges that the UK’s freight system is “one of the most efficient in the world”, but its contributions to congestion and pollution will only get worse if not addressed.

Sir John Armitt, chair of the NIC, said: “Whether it’s retailers, manufacturers or each of us as consumers, we all rely heavily on our freight industry. As one of the most efficient in the world, it rarely fails to deliver.

“But we are paying the price for this miracle of modern service through the impact on our environment and air quality, and through congestion on our roads. Government must act to help businesses tackle these issues.

“The report says we need to set out bold plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel HGVs, bring emissions from freight on both road and rail to zero and give the industry greater visibility in Whitehall and town halls.”

Better Delivery: The Challenge for Freight finds that it is possible to decarbonise road and rail freight by 2050 using new technologies and recognising the industry’s needs in the planning system. This will require the government to outline “clear, firm objective” and it must begin to work with the energy sector, freight industry and local areas so that the infrastructure required for alternative fuels and land for efficient freight operations is available where and when it is needed.

The government should produce new planning practice guidance on freight that better supports strategic policymaking authorities to plan for efficient freight networks to serve homes and businesses. The guidance should be prepared by the end of 2020. The NIC recommends that the guidance should provide and protect sufficient land and floor space for storage and distribution activities based on population and economic need.

To manage congestion arising from the freight industry (which the commission believes will increase on roads by between 18 per cent and 54 per cent), the report says the government should provide clear guidance for local planners, as well as better freight data, to “help in developing policies that ultimately embed freight into development plans and city infrastructure planning”.

Increasing capacity by building or widening roads “is not a long-term solution” to tackle congestion in urban areas. Emerging approaches, such as consolidation centres, have shown that they can reduce freight trips in congested areas, according to the report, but commercial viability and industry appetite are challenges to them being fully rolled out.

Where the business case supports consolidation centres, local authorities should use the planning system to make land available. They should also consider the case for funding land and construction of them, or subsidising operations in the short term, the NIC suggests.

In addition, local authorities should include a plan for urban freight in infrastructure strategies they are developing to manage peak congestion.

To achieve a clean, low-cost freight industry by 2050, the government and the industry should work together to embrace alternatives to diesel, says the commission. Vans are turning to electric batteries, but nothing is set for HGVs and rail. The government should commit to achieving zero freight emissions by 2050 and identify the infrastructure requirements to support the transition, giving the freight and vehicle industries time to plan and adapt. For rail, the commission added, this will include further detailed work to identify the optimum overall solution.

23 April 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Rhyl’s seafront is undergoing a major revamp with ambitious proposals for the Queen’s Buildings the latest project in the continuing regeneration of the town.

Denbighshire County Council is working with private sector development partners to consider how to transform the site with a mix of retail and food outlets, a contemporary market, offices and flats as well as improving accessibility from the waterfront and promenade into the town centre.

Also in prospect is an open courtyard and public space in the £30 million-plus development, which includes the former Savoy Hotel and Queen’s Market buildings.

Work is under way on the initial designs, costings and viability of the project, before a planning application is submitted later this year.

Graham Boase, the council’s corporate director for the economy and public realm, said: “We see the Queen’s Buildings as key in the regeneration of Rhyl. This site will be pivotal in linking the regeneration on the waterfront to the town centre. This project can transform the town centre.”

He added: “Parts of the buildings are in very poor condition and whilst we will try and retain as much of the original architecture as possible, there will inevitably be areas that will need to be demolished.”

The project is being funded by Denbighshire County Council, the Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund. Ion Developments is the council’s private sector partner for the 9,012 square metre scheme.

26 April 2019
Roger Milne, The Planner

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called on the government to introduce a registration system for those who want to rent out a property for less than 90 days in a calendar year in order to protect housing for long-term residents.

Writing to housing secretary James Brokenshire, Khan outlined his support for short-term lets but made it clear than the benefits of this should be balanced with the need to protect long-term rented housing.

It should ensure that the neighbours of short-term lets would not be negatively affected by the turnover of visitors.

Other signatories to the letter were Airbnb, London Councils, and Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Westminster, and Kensington & Chelsea councils.

London is one of the UK’s top destinations for guests travelling with Airbnb, said Khan, highlighting that between July 2017 and July 2018, about 2,200,000 guests stayed at 75,700 listings in London. This, he continued, generated £1.3 billion from guests and hosts, with visitors exploring different areas of the city as well as the classic tourist areas. But concerns have been raised by Londoners that neighbours’ homes are being let out beyond the legal 90-night limit, with some areas in central London experiencing a particularly high turnover of guests.

Khan thinks a mandatory registration system for anyone wishing to rent out a property for short-term let is now necessary in London. Local authorities would then have the data needed to enforce the 90-day rule effectively. The letter urges ministers to meet with Airbnb and the councils to develop detailed plans about how this approach could work.

The system should be simple to use, the group explained, and be of low or no cost to the host, and must function as one single database that is accessible online and hosted by one organisation.

Khan said: “Short-term lets are a benefit to visitors to London, and to Londoners themselves who want to earn a little extra money. But these benefits must be balanced with the need to protect long-term rented housing, and to make sure neighbours aren’t impacted by a high turnover of visitors. It is now time for the government to work with us to develop a registration system of short-term lets, so local councils can make sure we get this balance right.”

25 April 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A round-up of planning news

Councils not using empty home powers

Councils have abandoned the powers to tackle the rising number of empty home, according to a modular home provider.

This has prompted calls for the legislation to be replaced with a scheme local authorities find easier to use.

Applications to seize vacant properties using Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) dropped to just six in 2018, said Project Etopia, after it sent a Freedom of Information to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). This is a decline of 85 per cent when compared with 2012.

When they were introduced in 2006, the government estimated EDMOs would be used 1,000 times a year.

Joseph Daniels, CEO of Project Etopia, said: “If EDMOs are too difficult to obtain, then these powers should be replaced by a new scheme that councils are able to use more effectively.

“Councils want to return empty homes to use and we should be supporting them in doing that. Local authorities should be given new powers that recognise the challenges involved, from respecting the difficult circumstances that can sometimes result in these homes sitting vacant to the rights of those who own these properties.

“Rather than ascribing blame, this is a cross-party issue that urgently needs the attention of everyone in Westminster. Politicians need to come together in the national interest to see that EDMOs are replaced or reformed.”


Awards for RTPI English Regions open

Entries for the 2019 Awards for Planning Excellence in the English regions are now open.

The awards are open to all planners, architects, surveyors and developers, members and non-members of the RTPI and to all projects, regardless of their size or level of completion, be it a plan, strategy or a finished project.

Overall regional winners are automatically shortlisted to the RTPI's national awards. Additionally, the Regional Young Planner of the Year winners will automatically be entered into the national awards.

The deadline for entries is 28 June.

More information can be found here on the RTPI website.


Built environment APPG launches enquiry

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Excellence in the Built Environment has announced that its seventh enquiry will look at how the recruitment and retention of more women in construction could help to ameliorate the industry’s skills’ needs after Brexit.

The group's fifth inquiry, published in July 2017, looked at how leaving the EU must drive modernisation and training in the built environment, and it is keen to revisit some of the issues raised in that report.   

Therefore it is establishing its seventh inquiry to call on organisations, businesses and individuals to submit evidence on how the recruitment and retention of more women could be achieved within the construction industry and the built environment professions; and, in parallel, how this might help the industry and the professions replace migrant skills’ that may be lost after Brexit.

Written submissions can be sent to group secretary Graham Watts OBE c/o by 14 May.


Homeless residents housed in Brent

Brent Council's i4B Holding Limited has housed more than 500 homeless residents.

The first tenants of properties managed by i4B moved into their new homes in September 2017. Since then, i4B has purchased and refurbished more than 210 properties, most of which have been in Brent.

i4B was set up to provide affordable housing to Brent residents who might otherwise be placed into bed-and-breakfast establishments or other temporary accommodation.

Margaret McLennan, deputy leader of the council and lead member for resources, said: “We want to see an end to the large number of people facing homelessness. i4B is one of Brent’s solutions to tackling the housing crisis.”


Council and housing association join up to deliver regeneration

Ealing Council and housing association Peabody have a contract to deliver The Green, a major regeneration proposal in the Southall Opportunity Area.

The Green comprises 5,000 square metres of commercial space, the creation of 260 jobs and the building of 500 homes, all to be delivered by 2024.

Half of the homes have been designated as affordable housing. The scheme is set to enhance links to Southall station and the Elizabeth line, the opening of which has been delayed to March 2021.

Ealing Council chose Peabody as its preferred development partner for ‘The Green’ following a competitive tender process in 2018.

Peabody said it is working with Hunters architects to progress its regeneration proposals for The Green. It plans to consult the local community on its draft plans in the summer of 2019 before submitting a planning application by the end of the year.


Gulliver’s to extend

Warrington Borough Council has approved planning applications for a new hotel and resort complex at Gulliver’s World, Warrington.

The four separate applications, which were managed by County Planning Ltd, are for changes of use and physical development of the land, including the construction of a pirate ship and fairy tale castle hotels, themed play centre and themed cabin/lodge resort complex.

Known as the Wilderness Wharf, the development will provide hotels and lodges for families. The extension also includes an associated village resort with a café, craft centre, children’s indoor play centre/crèche, guest reception and housekeeping facilities.

It is expected that the Wilderness Wharf resort will create at least 40 new jobs and more than £6 million in benefit to the local economy.


Joint venture to support Dounreay nuclear decommissioning

Joint venture Nuclear Decommissioning Ltd (NDL) has been appointed to support the decommissioning services framework for Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) at the Dounreay nuclear site in Scotland.

The joint venture, which includes professional services firm WYG plc, Shepley Engineers Ltd, REACT Engineering, and James Fisher Nuclear Ltd, aims to support clean-up and demolition of Britain’s former centre of fast reactor research and development.

The framework will run for four years initially, with the option of a three-year extension. NDL is expected to start work on site before the start of this summer.