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Planning News - 6 June 2019

Published: Thursday, 6th June 2019

The UK requires a spatial plan, MHCLG publishes land use stats, Yarmouth river crossing to be examined by inspectorate 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 UK2070 Commission has proposed that the UK requires a spatial plan to guide its future development.
The commission, led by chair Lord Kerslake, highlights that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have spatial frameworks that play a “key role” in helping to shape their future development.

England, though, does not have one – meaning that there is “no common understanding of shared priorities beyond the individual nations”.

The commission says national and sub-national frameworks would help to resolve this problem, “identifying and connecting national economic hubs, providing a firm basis for long-term infrastructure investment, identifying priorities for a new urban policy and securing better national management for the natural and historic environment”.

A ‘Plan for England’ would provide a long-term framework for major infrastructure investment and development. The plan would need to be approved and owned by the government, as well as be linked to devolved nations through a nationwide Reference Framework.

An independent body could produce the plan, which should take into account emerging priorities from combined authorities and bring together existing or future trans-regional or province-level initiatives.

The form and content of the Plan for England “must be supportive and encourage stronger sub-national strategic planning”, adds the report.

The UK2070 Commission is an independent inquiry into spatial inequalities in the UK. Its report says that these spatial inequalities mean the economic potential of the whole UK is not taken advantage of, and that there is an imbalance of wealth and opportunity that creates division and pressures in terms of population growth, housing affordability and overloading infrastructure in areas performing better economically. The commission says there is a “compelling” case to explore these, particularly as they could be widened because of Brexit.

England could be split into four regions when it comes to strategic planning, something the commission wants to investigate to see if this is the most appropriate split:

  • London and the South East: the case for strategic planning is now recognised as a national priority, but identifying the best relationship between the Greater London Authority (GLA) and the wider region will be a key issue. The commission will consult on this.
  • The Northern Powerhouse: these areas show a level of coherence where there is a clear purpose and interdependence, particularly in terms of transport policy and potential environmental management.
  • Midlands Engine: Doesn’t have the same functional interdependence as the Northern regions, but this is changing.
  • South West: the least coherent area, as the Bristol metropolitan area is more defined as part of the greater south east and by its links to Wales.

Victoria Hills, chief executive at the RTPI, said: “The UK 2070 Commission's call for a serious rebalancing of the country’s regional economies through better strategic planning needs to be urgently heeded. The RTPI has long championed the power of planning in tackling inequalities and entrenched patterns of economic and social development. The report we launched [last week] with the help of Lord Heseltine calls for joined-up planning across the North to do just this.

"We need commitment now from all levels of government to channel resources into reinvigorating our planning system to benefit everyone in the long term."

The UK2070 Commission also proposes:

  • Much greater devolution of powers and funding, including the creation of four new ‘super regional’ economic development agencies.
  • Action to harness new technologies and strengthen local economies.
  • Long-term investment through a new National Renewable Fund, which would rebalance the economy over a 25-year period.

Fairer and Stronger: Rebalancing the Economy can be found on the UK2070 Commission website.

Laura Edgar, The Planner
3 June 2019 

The biggest land use category in England is agriculture at 63 per cent while 8 per cent of England’s land is developed, according to statistics published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Transport and utilities is the biggest developed category land use at 4 per cent, while 1 per cent of the total land area in England is in residential use. Residential gardens account for 5 per cent of land use.

In total, 8 per cent of England’s land is developed, leaving 92 per cent undeveloped.

Of the green belt, 8 per cent is developed and 92 per cent is not developed. Breaking that down, 0.3 per cent is under residential use and residential gardens accounts for 3.1 per cent.

In National Flood Zone 3, 6 per cent is developed and 94 per cent undeveloped.

Land Use in England, 2017 is the first of an experimental statistical release on land use in England. The statistics were published alongside a wider consultation on the future of land use change statistics. MHCLG said they could potentially become part of the regular future statistical publication.

Land use change 2017/18

The MHCLG has also published land use change statistics for 2017/18. Of the new homes built in 2017/18, some 53 per cent of new residential addresses were delivered on previously developed land. This is a decline of three percentage points compared with 2016/17.

The main previous land use categories where new residential homes were created:

  • Agricultural land: 17 per cent of addresses created.
  • Vacant – not previously developed land: 15 per cent.
  • Other developed land uses: 13 per cent.

The statistics also show that 2 per cent of new residential addresses were created within the green belt, which is 4 per cent down on 2016/17.

Countryside charity Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said that these new government figures are a clear indication that more must be done to realise the full potential of brownfield land, which can help to transform vacant spaces while providing much-needed homes.

Alex Ground, planning lawyer and partner in the real estate team at law firm Russell-Cooke, said: “The slight drop in new residential development on brownfield sites suggests the government’s attempts to encourage housing delivery on brownfield sites, including to protect the green belt, could be failing. Our clients are finding the development of the remaining brownfield sites certainly possible, but increasingly expensive; for example, with the additional costs related to remediation or land stability issues.

“Accordingly, unless in such situations – upon production of appropriate evidence – councils are more flexible in reducing s106 burdens, namely affordable housing requirements, delivery on brownfield sites is likely to continue to decrease, which seems to be a terrible waste of an opportunity.”

Laura Edgar, The Planner
3 June 2019 

A proposed scheme for a new highway crossing of the River Yare in Great Yarmouth has been accepted for examination by the Planning Inspectorate.

Plans submitted by Norfolk County Council on 30 April show the highway would connect the A47 at Harfrey’s Roundabout to the west of the River Yare with the A1234 South Denes Road on the eastern side. The road would be a dual carriageway.

In documents lodged with the Planning Inspectorate, the county council explains that the Great Yarmouth Third River Crossing scheme would feature an “opening span double leaf bascule (lifting) bridge across the river”. This would involve the construction of two new ‘knuckles‘ extending the quay wall into the river to support the bridge.

It would also see a bridge span over the existing Southtown Road on the western side of the river while another bridge span on the eastern side of the river would provide an underpass for existing businesses so the new dual carriageway can rise westwards towards the crest of the new crossing.

Sarah Richards, chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate, said: “We have considered very carefully the application submitted by Norfolk County Council and decided that it meets the required tests set out in the legislation to be accepted for examination."

In November 2017 the county council was awarded £98 million towards the anticipated £120 million cost of building the Third River Crossing by the Department for Transport. The transport secretary then confirmed the scheme was nationally significant in February 2018, which required the county council to make an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO).

Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport at Norfolk County Council, said acceptance of the scheme keeps the county council “on track to hopefully be granted a Development Consent Order by the end of summer next year, start construction by the end of 2020, and get the Third River Crossing open to traffic by early 2023”.

“We expect the new bridge to make a big difference to Great Yarmouth, reducing traffic congestion, making it easier and quicker for people to get around, and improving access from the port and enterprise zone to the A47.  We’re keen to get started and this decision from the Planning Inspectorate is another important step along the way.”

More information about the scheme can be found on the National Infrastructure Planning website.

Laura Edgar, The Planner
29 May 2019  

A future Labour government should establish public development corporations that have the power to buy and develop land in the public interest to create new towns, says a report by party advisers.

The public development corporations would not replace private developers altogether. Instead, they would act as the “prime mover” in the land market, and work with planning authorities, Homes England and landowners to prepare sites for housing, new towns, garden cities and urban regeneration.

After the land has been assembled, the public development corporations would prioritise small and medium-sized firms to construct the homes, with the housebuilders competing on the basis of quality and design. It is hoped that the success or failure of the private developers would be determined by quality rather than how a speculative market is navigated.

The recommendation forms part of Land for the Many, a report commissioned by the Labour Party.

The report authors also suggest that the Land Compensation Act should be reformed so that development corporations and other public authorities can acquire prices closer to its current use value, instead of its potential future residential value. “This could reduce the cost of building genuinely affordable housing by up to 50 per cent,” the report maintains.

To address the imbalance of power in the planning system, namely that “deep-pocketed developers” have “excessive influence” over local decision-making, local authorities should be able to set and vary planning fees. They should be able to increase them for applications raised more than once or when advice or policy has been ignored.

Public land should not be sold off to the highest bidder. The report says local authorities and the government should use the land they own to deliver affordable housing, as well as to meet various social needs.

To make sure that under-represented groups are involved in the planning process, and to secure citizens' right to participate in plan-making and major infrastructure planning a community participation agency should be created.

Other recommendations in the Land for the Many include:

  • Community ownership and control

 - A Labour government should support the creation of Community Land Trusts and Community-Led Housing.
 - A Community Right to Buy based on the Scottish model should be introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • Research and policy development

 - Bodies modelled on the Scottish Land Commission should be established in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland to
   research issues surrounding ownership, use and control of land, and to propose new polices to address these issues.

  • Ending the Buy-to-Let ‘frenzy’

 - Tenancies should be open-ended.
 - Annual permissible rent increases should be capped.

  • Land price stabilisation

 - A Labour government should set a goal to stabilise house prices so that wages can catch up and the house-price-to-
   income ratio can fall.

  • Transparency

 - All information about land ownership, control, subsidies and planning should be published as open data. There should be
   free and open access to data about who owns what.
- There should be a full register of planning permissions, including developers’ commitments.

The authors of Land for the Many have contributed in a personal capacity in their own time. The work does not necessarily reflect the positions of the organisation they work for. The authors are: George Monbiot (editor); Robin Grey; Tom Kenny; Laurie Macfarlane, Ann Powell-Smith; Guy Shrubsole; and Beth Stratford.

Land for the Many can be found here.

Laura Edgar, The Planner
4 June 2019

Transport for London (TfL) and Aviva Investors have completed a deal that will see a mixed-use scheme above Crossrail infrastructure and opposite the new Liverpool Street Elizabeth line station’s western entrance at 101 Moorgate.
The City of London granted Crossrail and Aviva Investors planning permission in 2012 for a six-storey mixed-use development, which includes more than 51,000 square feet of office space and more than 2,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

TfL has granted Aviva Investors a long lease, which it says will generate vital revenue that will be reinvested back into the transport network.

Graeme Craig, director of commercial development at TfL, said: “This site in the heart of London offers the potential for fantastic new office and retail space, supporting the city’s growth, and we are pleased to have concluded this transaction with Aviva Investors. As a key part of our huge development pipeline, the Elizabeth line schemes are directly opening up opportunities for new homes and jobs, and will raise vital revenue to reinvest in London’s transport network.”

Plans are in place for 12 major developments above and around new Elizabeth line stations and Crossrail construction sites. In total, the plans cover more than three million square feet of office, retail and residential space between Paddington in the west and Woolwich in the east.

Development agreements have also been signed for:

  • Bond Street Station West – This will see Grosvenor Britain & Ireland develop 110,000 square feet of space above the western ticket hall.
  • Farringdon Station East – Helical plc will deliver a scheme, opposite the historic Smithfield Market, comprising 120,000 square feet (gross) of space, including offices, a terrace and a restaurant over six storeys.
  • Farringdon Station West – HB Reavis's scheme includes a 138,000 square feet combination of retail and office space.
  • Bond Street Station East – GHS Limited Partnership (one of Great Portland Estates plc’s joint ventures) will develop a 129,900 square foot mixed-use scheme.

Laura Edgar, The Planner
30 May 2019 

A round-up of planning news

Edinburgh supports tree charter
Councillors in Edinburgh have added their signatures to a nationwide Charter for Trees, Woods and People.

The City of Edinburgh Council is the first local authority from Scotland to sign the charter.

Launched in 2017 on the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter of the Forest, the Tree Charter sets out 10 principles for a society in which trees and society can stand stronger together. The project is being led by the Woodland Trust.

Elected members from all parties signed the charter.
Britain powered without coal for record time
National Grid has revealed that Great Britain generated electricity for two weeks in May without using coal.

On Friday 31 May, National Grid said Great Britain’s electrical system passed the fortnight mark for no coal generation that afternoon. The coal generation came off the system at 3.12pm on 17 May and wasn’t used for that fortnight.

The previous record was set at the beginning of May, totalling 193 hours. The new record is 336 hours.
Architects appointed for Birmingham International Station work

The Urban Growth Company (UGC) has appointed architects WilkinsonEyre and engineering firm WSP to lead the transformation of Birmingham International Station.

Plans aims to transform it into a multi-modal transport exchange linked to the new HS2 Interchange Station in Solihull.

Jones Lang LaSalle and DWF have been appointed to provide commercial property and legal advice respectively. Faithful+Gould will provide project management, quantity surveying and principal designer services for the early stages of the project.

The appointment of the professional services team comes after the UGC secured £9.27 million from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) last year, to progress the design process.

The UGC was set up by Solihull Council to maximise the economic potential of the site known as The Hub, which is near the NEC and Birmingham Airport.
Nottingham builds homes for its waiting list
Nottingham City Homes (NCH) and contractor Woodhead Group will build 20 homes on the site of the former Clifton Miners Welfare on Ainsworth Drive in The Meadows area of the city.

The two-bed houses, which are being built on behalf of Nottingham City Council, were granted planning approval last year and are expected to be completed by next spring.

After planning permission was approved last year, these new homes are the latest for the Meadows area, which forms part of the city’s Building a Better Nottingham programme and follows the completion of 55 homes in June 2018.

The homes are also NCH's second social housing Ultra Site scheme, named by the Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS), which is a national scheme aimed at improving the image of construction.

An Ultra Site status is given to a site that “is expected to go above and beyond the basic expectations of a normal construction site”, said NCH. The project team is expected to do even more to engage and work with the local community, offering employment, training and work experience opportunities to local people, as well as providing exceptional facilities and support to the workforce on site.
Harlesden backs neighbourhood plan
The Harlesden Neighbourhood Plan has been backed by 89.61 per cent of voters in the London Borough of Brent.

The plan set out what the communities want to see in the community for the next 15 years, and contains planning policies and community aspirations to achieve it.

It includes proposals to develop Harlesden and preserve its heritage, while at the same time aiming to address rising living costs and access to employment.

The plan was supported by 1,139 voters who came out to vote in a local referendum on 30 May and was rejected by only 132 voters.
Logistics site up for sale in East Mids
A 37-acre prime development site within the ‘Golden Triangle’ at Milton Ham, Northampton, has been put up for sale by Travis Perkins Properties.

The site has planning permission for three logistics and distribution units, amounting to 324,889 square feet.

The consent is for a standalone unit of 219,689 square feet with 206 car spaces and 25 dock-level doors. Units two and three are semi-detached units, capable of being let as a single unit, and are 52,600 and 105,200 square feet respectively. They have space for 59 and 55 car spaces.

Knight Frank and Chadwick McRae are joint advisers.
Frome application submitted to council
Acorn Property Group Bristol region has submitted an outline planning application to Mendip District Council to redevelop a 10-acre brownfield site in Frome town centre.

After receiving feedback from the public, Acorn worked with architects at Nash Partnership to draw up the masterplan for the regeneration of the derelict site.

The proposals for the redundant site, owned by Mendip District Council, include 300 new homes, 45,000 square feet of commercial space, a new riverside parkland area, a footbridge, a landscaped public realm and car parking.

Laura Edgar, The Planner
4 June 2019