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Planning News - 9 May 2019

Published: Wednesday, 8th May 2019

£1bn Purfleet regeneration approved, Improvements being delivered at Planning Portal, Extraspace Solutions awarded £40m modular housing contract and more stories

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

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Thurrock Council’s planning committee has granted outline planning permission to £1 billion proposals that aim to deliver more than 2,500 homes and regenerate Purfleet town.

Purfleet Centre Regeneration Ltd (PCRL), which is a joint venture between Urban Catalyst and Swan Housing Association, submitted the plans for Purfleet on Thames. Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, husband of the Princess Royal, chairs PCRL.

The plans comprise:

  • up to 2,850 homes;
  • shops, restaurants, a medical centre and community facilities;
  • a new town centre with upgrades to the rail station and improved riverside area;
  • a new primary school;
  • a 1,000,000 square feet media village with art, film and TV studios; and
  • new parks and leisure spaces.

The permission is subject to PCRL reaching an agreement on detail with the council and stakeholders.

Ken Dytor, PCRL founder and executive chairman of Urban Catalyst said: “This development will tap into the power of culture, creative industries and healthy living. The approval is the result of many years of work and has been shaped by our detailed engagement with the local community and stakeholders, who we listened carefully to in drawing up our forward-thinking social infrastructure-led proposals that promote health, education and employment.”

John Synnuck, chief executive at Swan Housing Association, said the approval of the homes “reflects both our long-term relationship with Thurrock Council, which is at the heart of PCRL’s delivery strategy, and our engagement with the local community”.

“We will now all work together to create a thriving environment that provides much-needed new homes and services, alongside significant employment and educational opportunities for the local community.”

24 April 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Six months after introducing its Financial Transaction Service (FTS) the Planning Portal is reporting that promised improvements to how the service operates are already being delivered.

Introduced in September 2018, the FTS is a payment service that allows users to pay the planning fee for their application during the online application process. This means users no longer have to contact the local authority to arrange payment, saving time and resources as payments no longer need to be chased.

Planning Portal said that before the FTS was implemented, 60 per cent of invalid applications were due to missing payments.

The Financial Transaction Service: Reducing Invalidation and Redefining the Online Application Service highlights that the Planning Portal has processed £135 million in planning fees, while local planning authorities would have previously incurred around a 2 per cent direct banking and card charges. This equates to around £3 million in the same period. Instead, local authorities received the full amount to cover the costs of determination.

Through the income generated under the FTS, improvements have been made to the planning application service 1App. In December 2018, the changes reintroduced the ability to download PDF versions of draft planning applications and doubled the maximum file size capacity for supporting documents from 5MB to 10MB.

Planning Portal states in the report that: “Increasing the maximum file size for supporting documents to 10MB had been at the top of our list of improvements for some time and we were pleased to be able to introduce this so quickly after the launch of the FTS.”

Further improvements in the 2019 pipeline include:

•    Adding additional consent types, including prior notifications, to the 1App set.
•    Improvements to the functionality within the FTS for bank transfers – enabling agents to pay for multiple applications in one go, as well as to pre-pay applications to speed up reconciliation and release of applications via this payment method.

The Financial Transaction Service: Reducing Invalidation and Redefining the Online Application Service can be found here on the Planning Portal website (pdf).

1 May 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

PLACE, a not-for-profit organisation, has awarded Extraspace Solutions a £40 million contract to deliver 200 modular homes by 2021 for homeless Londoners.

PLACE was set up by a group of London boroughs with £11 million of funding from the Mayor of London. It was set up in response to growing rates of homelessness in the capital, where there are currently 54,000 households living in temporary accommodation.

Extraspace Solutions will design and manufacture PLACE’s modular housing units, which will have the quality of permanent housing and will have the benefit that they can be relocated to different sites when required. London boroughs will use the units as temporary accommodation for homeless families.

Eleanor Moloney, Extraspace Solutions lead designer, said: “This scheme will combine innovative design with a community feel. Our precision-manufactured modular houses will deliver the quality of permanent homes, meeting the London Plan’s space standards, and can be relocated to the site of most need.”

PLACE’s modular housing units will be placed on vacant ‘meanwhile’ sites earmarked for development in the long term, but which would otherwise remain underused over the short-to-medium term.  

Darren Rodwell, councillor and London councils’ executive member for housing and planning, said: “The capital faces a worsening housing crisis. In response, the boroughs are joining forces to procure modular housing to use as temporary accommodation.

“PLACE will deliver high-quality, family-sized accommodation for homeless Londoners in their local borough – close to their schools, jobs, and support networks – and delivering new housing on previously unusable sites in the process.

“This is the first time UK local authorities have jointly procured modular housing for this purpose and it shows London government’s determination to create better housing outcomes for homeless families.”

Several boroughs are looking into suitable locations for PLACE accommodation and it is expected that the first site will be confirmed later this year.

2 May 2019
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

Southwark Council has won over £1 million under a Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) order against a landlord who converted three flats into two cramped studios and bedsits.

The council originally won a planning prosecution against Andre Charles Trepel, 74. from Trinec in the Czech Republic, for illegally converting three flats within 2-4 London Bridge Street in 2010.

He was fined and ordered to return the property back to its original condition.

However, investigations by the council’s enforcement in 2015 and 2016 found that little had been done to address the original illegal work and further charges were brought against Trepel in 2017. He was found guilty. To allow the council’s trading standards team to conduct a financial investigation into the profits Trepel had gained from renting the properties, his sentencing was deferred.

Trepel and his company will have to pay back £1,118,601 criminal benefit under the POCA within the next three months or he will face a seven-year prison sentence. He has also been fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £35,000 costs by the Inner London Crown Court for breaching a planning enforcement notice, with a further £1,000 fine from his company – No.1 (London) Ltd.

Victoria Mills, cabinet member for finance, performance and Brexit, said: “I hope this serves as a warning to any disreputable landlord operating in Southwark. This council will not stand by and let our residents live in cramped properties that are harmful to their health and happiness, and we will use every legal measure at our disposal to ensure homes are of a decent standard and landlords do not profit from the misery of their tenants.”

Under the act, most of the money will go to the government, but the council said it would receive around £445,000 to reinvest in enforcement and crime reduction initiatives.

1 May 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provisions maintains that local authorities need to adopt specific planning policies to meet the housing needs of younger and older people.

The Lords state that it is important that the housing needs of different age groups are considered.

The select committee noted evidence from retirement community representative body ARCO that just 11 per cent of local plans in England and Wales have specific policies to address older people’s housing needs, while the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that local authorities should consider the needs of older people in their area.

Younger people’s needs are also not currently explicitly considered as part of the framework, states the committee’s report, Tackling Intergenerational Unfairness.

It suggests that the government should issue planning guidance to recommend that local plans examine the needs of younger people alongside the existing specified demographics. Further, the government needs to ensure that local plans contain specific policies to address the needs of younger and older people. Should the NPPF’s new requirement that local authorities decide that this does not work the government “must take more direct action”.

Michael Voges, executive director of ARCO, said: “It is clear that from a housing perspective it is not a zero-sum game. The best way to free up larger houses for younger generations is to provide specialist housing with care for older people... The planning guidance they are calling for is long overdue – MHCLG should grasp this opportunity to boost much-needed retirement community housing and improve the lives of older people and younger people alike.”

As far as the Lords are concerned, the government has failed to manage the land its owns properly, and should therefore invest in developing a central government capability to “fully understand” what land public bodies own, and how it can be used or where it can be disposed of.

The use of public land is limited by the stipulation that it is sold off at market value.

Tom Kenny, the RTPI’s policy officer, told the committee that addressing this could be a “key way in which local authorities can meet social needs in their area”.

The Lords referred to a government consultation on giving local authorities broader powers to dispose of local authority land at less than market value where there are wider public benefits, but the committee said this would “not dramatically alter the balance of power and force more public land to be used to provide affordable housing”. It asked witnesses about “radically shifting” the balance of power so local authorities could lead the process, with onus shifting to public bodies to object or develop the land themselves.

Kenny told the committee the RTPI “would certainly welcome local authorities taking a bigger role in proactively planning to meet the needs in their areas”.

To increase housing supply, the committee recommends that local authorities should be given a presumption to develop on land owned by public sector bodies.

“Local authorities should be empowered to ensure that development on public land takes place.”

Kenny also made the case for more resources to the committee. “I said a lack of resources and expertise were a problem for local authorities who were struggling to deliver the housing that their local area wanted – it’s clear that local authorities are losing through attrition by not being able to compete with the resources that developers can put in to viability negotiations.”

Tackling Intergenerational Unfairness can be found on the UK Parliament website (pdf).

29 April 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Proposals for a 450-home development on a former steelworks site near Wrexham have been unveiled.

The Brymbo Park scheme also includes a district centre, a primary school, a health centre, a restaurant, car-parking and children’s play areas.

The outline planning application for a residential-led mixed-use development has been submitted to the planning authority, Wrexham County Borough Council, by Barton Willmore. The site comprises 32 hectares of land at the former former Brymbo Steelworks which closed in 1990 with the loss of 1,100 jobs.

Parts of the overall site have already been developed for housing but other areas with consents for employment uses remain fallow because of the economic downturn and the lack of demand for employment land in the area, the developers explained.

The developer, Brymbo Developments Ltd, insisted: “This proposed development is bringing forward the ‘final piece of the jigsaw’ and is an opportunity to create a sense of place and bring forward the services and facilities that have been long awaited by the local community.”

3 May 2019
Roger Milne, The Planner