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Planning news- 7 August 2019

Published: Wednesday, 7th August 2019

NPPF changes not protecting trees, Khan intervenes to back Barnet housing development, Nuns could be forced out by West Malling housing plan. And more stories...

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

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Some local planners are failing to use the changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to safeguard trees and ancient woodland, according to the Woodland Trust.

"Inappropriate" developments, such as caravan parks or chicken and dairy farms, have been approved by a number of local authorities over the last year, the conservation charity says, which has resulted in unacceptable loss of or damage to ancient woodland.

Published in July 2018, changes to the NPPF afforded trees and ancient woodland the same protection to listed buildings.

Paragraph 175c1 of the NPPF states that when local planning authorities are determining applications, they should consider whether: "development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists"

Footnote 58 says the exceptions include nationally significant infrastructure projects, orders under the Transport and Works Act and hybrid bills, where the public benefit would clearly outweigh the loss or deterioration of habitat.

The Woodland Trust notes that it campaigned for these changes for nearly 20 years and has worked to support local planning authorities to implement it, but argues that some authorities are still either unaware of the new wording and supporting guidance. Or, the charity continued, they are “unwilling to suitably enforce it”.

Abi Bunker, director of Conservation at the Woodland Trust, said: “It is heartbreaking to see that one year on from the ground-breaking changes to the NPPF, there are still too many councils and developers across England that are not implementing the level of protection it affords to ancient woods and trees. We can and must do better than this.

"Some local authorities are doing this really well and should be applauded, but we need all planning authorities and developers to fully implement the changes and secure our remaining ancient trees and woodlands for future generations.”

In the short term, the Woodland Trust has written to the head of local authorities across England and enclosed a copy of its revised Planners’ Manual, which aims to help local authorities to adopt good practice and sound policy when making key decisions for woods and trees.

The Woodland Trust adds that it was awarded £210,000 from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) as part of a £1.5 million collaboration with Natural England to update the Ancient Woodland Inventory (AWI) to make sure the legislation works properly.

1 August 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has approved a major development of 844 homes on a disused retail park in north west London after the scheme was originally rejected by the local authority.

Plans By Meadow Residential to redevelop the Pentavia Retail Park in Mill Hill were rejected by the London Borough of Barnet in July 2018 after planning committee members felt the scheme was an over-development of the site and would not provide enough affordable housing. Khan called in the application last November.

The original application included 724 homes, of which 35 per cent would be affordable. Following the mayor’s intervention, the number of homes has been increased to 844, with the level of affordable housing raised to 41 per cent, including those for social rent and London Living Rent levels.

“This is classic example of an underused site with the potential to deliver significant numbers of homes, including affordable homes at social rent and London Living Rent levels,” said Khan. “I’m clear that I will use all the levers at my disposal to increase the delivery of new genuinely affordable homes across the capital.”

The Greater London Authority said Barnet delivered 7,670 homes and 1,645 affordable homes between 2012 and 2017, which was "well below the targets set out in the London Plan. It added that the Mill Hill scheme will “provide more affordable homes than were delivered across the whole of Barnet in the year 2017-18”.

29 July 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

Plans for 65 homes near to St Mary’s Abbey in West Malling could force the community of Anglican Benedictine nuns to leave the historic building.

The abbey, parts of which are Grade 1 listed, is also home to the Pilsdon Community, a retreat create for vulnerable people, and St Augustine’s College of Theology.

Bellway Homes is proposing to build the homes across the road from the abbey. Tunbridge and Malling rejected earlier plans for 85 homes on the site, while West Malling Parish Council has launched a crowdfunding appeal to brief lawyers at a planning inquiry hearing next month.

The Abbess, Mother Mary David, said that if the development went ahead, the community of 12 would be forced to move out.

In a submission to the inquiry, the Abbess wrote that the development would “most directly and negatively” affect the nuns and the 1,000 people on retreat at the abbey each year. 

“For a focused life of prayer such as ours, and for our guests, silence, spaciousness, and stillness are a necessity,” she added. “This sanctuary and oasis of peace will be rendered quite useless by noise and visual intrusion.”

An abbey was founded at Malling in 1090 with the property granted to Archbishop Cranmer after its dissolution in 1538. It was bought by a benefactor in 1892, who made it over to Anglican trustees to be restored to its original use. The present community has been resident since 1916.

“This is a destructive proposal for the abbey’s order of Benedictine Nuns whose private and cloistered space is right next to this proposed development,” said David Green, the vicar of West Malling with Offham. “This proposal would majorly hinder their ability to practise their faith in solitude as their order requires.

“Furthermore, the Pilsdon Community, who take in people who are vulnerable, homeless or recovering from crisis, need the peace, isolation and solitude of the abbey. This proposed development puts all that at significant risk.”

29 July 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

The UK Government has announced it will fund a revamp of Cardiff Central Station to the tune of £58 million.

Upgrading Cardiff Central should ease crowding and congestion at the station during peak periods, aid regeneration and enable longer trains with more seats.

Former transport secretary Chris Grayling said: "Passengers in Cardiff deserve a modern, accessible station at the heart of their vibrant city centre.

“This funding has the potential to deliver just that, ensuring more reliable, comfortable and faster journeys into and out of the capital. I look forward to receiving the proposals for an ambitious and deliverable business case."

Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, added: "This funding will allow Cardiff to become an attractive tourist and commuter destination at a crucial time in the city’s regeneration.

"We are also committing to progressing plans for a West Wales Parkway station, which will deliver time savings of up to a quarter of an hour from Pembrokeshire to Cardiff and increase local connectivity around Swansea to provide greater opportunities for the whole of the Swansea Bay City region."

Ministers have also committed to progressing plans for a new parkway station at Swansea.

26 July 2019
Roger Milne, The Planner

The method for calculating housing need does not provide enough homes for the government to meet its target of delivering 300,000 homes a year, research suggests.

Planning consultancy Lichfields has assessed the ‘standard method’ to calculate the minimum number of homes each council should plan for in order for the government to meet its target.

It was introduced in the updated National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) last year.

For Lichfields, it being ‘minimum’, is key. To deliver 300,000 homes a year, the government needs to deliver more than the minimum, as this will deliver only 273,000 homes.

Lichfields acknowledges that “it is early days”, but says its research highlights the “warning signs that plans are not currently setting out to deliver what is needed”.

Above Standard? Plans for Housing Under the New NPPF identifies 64 authorities with submitted or draft plans being prepared under the new NPPF: 34 per cent are doing more than the standard method, 16 per cent are doing less, and 50 per cent are matching it.

Of those authorities that are planning for more homes, 41 per cent cite job and economic growth as a reason for doing so.

However, the report finds that some individual authorities within areas such as Greater Manchester and Oxfordshire cannot meet their standard method figure but are proposing to redistribute this to other authorities within their strategic plan areas.

The report says the three Northern regions combined are expected to see an increase of 2,100 homes (13 per cent) compared with the minimum, which is partially offset by authorities in the least affordable areas that are planning for less.

In the South East and the East of England, the report notes that the standard method could lead to net reductions of 900 homes (6 per cent).

If these regional variations were replicated, an increase of 5.4 per cent in homes delivered could be achieved outside London.

The capital, though, Lichfields explains, is a problem. The Mayor of London’s current target would mean an annual shortfall of 11,000 homes, which requires an uplift of between 14 per cent and 20 per cent from elsewhere to deliver 300,000. Should London continue delivering at its current rate (27,500 homes), the total delivery figure would be 234,500 homes. The rest of the country would need to exceed the standard method by 39 per cent to compensate.

Matthew Spry, senior director at Lichfields, said: “At this very early stage, the signals indicate that emerging plans are not doing what will be necessary to achieve the 300,000 per annum ambition.

“Many of the regions where the new standard method is aimed at addressing housing shortfall – and the regions with the greatest problem of affordability – are not currently matching the minimum starting point.

“There are clear benefits in having a single, simple method for local housing need as a starting point, and many local authorities have grasped the nettle and engaged with it. But success – as it is currently defined – relies on many more areas doing much, much more, and quickly.

“There are warning signs here that plans are not currently setting out to deliver what will be needed to match the government’s housebuilding ambitions.”

25 July 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A round-up of planning news.

Application submitted for Birmingham's Martineau Galleries site

Hammerson has submitted a planning application to regenerate its Martineau Galleries site in Birmingham as part of its city quarters concept. The plans look to regenerate a three-hectare site, which includes the Square Shopping Centre, Dale End car park and 1-7 Dale End, by building 1,300 homes, a hotel, restaurants and cafes, plus business space with a public square and boulevard. The scheme aims to provide a £225 million boost to the local economy and develop a “signature gateway” to Birmingham next to Curzon Street station.

Hammerson said 85 per cent of people responding to its public consultation last month supported its plans, with 81 per cent approving the scheme’s designs. The developer’s city quarters concept aims to transform many of its city venues beyond pure retail into neighbourhoods with homes, workspace and accessible public areas.


Stockport enters public consultation phase for masterplan

Stockport Council has launched a public consultation on a draft regeneration masterplan to transform part of its town centre with up to 3,500 homes. The consultation will use powers from the new Mayoral Development Corporation for the Stockport Town Centre West area that will come into effect in September. The plan – the first time the mayoral powers have been used in Greater Manchester and the first in the country to focus on a town centre – aims to build homes of all types and tenures across the area, along with an urban riverside, new public spaces and 93,000 square metres of mixed employment space.

“Stockport town centre is undergoing a massive £1 billion regeneration programme,” said council leader  Elise Wilson. “The council has already created a track record of delivery through major commercial and leisure projects like Stockport Exchange and Redrock alongside improvements in the Market Place, transport investment to improve road access into and around the town centre, and ambitious plans for the future of the Merseyway Shopping Centre.

“The momentum we’ve already generated provides the ideal platform for the long-term regeneration of Town Centre West as Greater Manchester’s newest, coolest and greenest new urban village.”

The public consultation will run until 6 September 2019. For details click here.


Architects appointed to design Milton Keynes University

Hopkins Architects has won the international competition to design Milton Keynes University. The winning entry comprised an open quarter with a series of academic pavilions to showcase the university’s activities, while “echoing the format of the original Milking Keynes vision” on the last major underdeveloped site in the city centre. The scheme’s centrepiece will be “the forum”, a drum-shaped red lecture theatre within a glass entrance lobby.

The new university, a partnership between Milton Keynes Council and Cranfield University, will open to its first undergraduates in 2023 and will focus on digital economy skills and new technologies, including AI, robotics and cyber security. Milton Keynes Council and Cranfield aim to use the university quarter and the wider city as a “living lab” to test out new concepts and ideas and inspire local students and people.


City Learning Quarter set for Wolverhampton

Wolverhampton City Council is set to approve funding for the final design for a City Learning Quarter. The council is set to agree £4 million to progress the city centre scheme this week, which it aims to recoup from a grant bid of up to £30 million form the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership. A demolition programme, which includes a former nightclub and small vacant buildings owned by the council on St George’s Parade, will enable more detailed ground investigations to take place ahead of a full planning application being submitted for the City Learning Quarter development. The scheme will see City of Wolverhampton College relocate its Paget Road campus activities to the location, and will also encompass the college’s Metro One Campus, the council’s Adult Education Service, and the Central Library. The City Learning Quarter will also see investment in the buildings and public realm around them as part of the £1 billion transformation of the city centre.

“The City Learning Quarter will sit in a key city centre location and is part of how we are reimagining our city centre,” said cabinet member for city economy Harman Banger. “It will provide a huge facelift to that area and bring in increased footfall to help boost the local economy.”


Royal Marsden plans £70m cancer facility

The Royal Marsden has submitted a planning application for a new, state-of-the-art, £70 million cancer facility in Sutton, Surrey. The Oak Cancer Centre will replace some of the hospital's features with modern infrastructure, bringing together 330 researchers currently dispersed across the site.

"The scheme has been carefully developed over a number of years with input from the local community, oncology professionals, patient groups and the London Borough of Sutton,” said Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Cally Palmer.

"The Oak Cancer Centre will enable us to help local people with cancer for decades to come, and to discover breakthroughs that will benefit patients not just in and around Sutton, but throughout the UK and around the world.”

A new rapid diagnostic centre will use the latest technology to provide earlier and faster diagnosis for more people. A medical day unit will offer patients peace and quiet while receiving chemotherapy, while an new outpatients department will allow people to undergo blood tests, see their consultant and collect a prescription on the same floor. By improving and expanding the centre for urgent care, patients becoming acutely unwell will have a state-of-the art facility where they can be assessed and treated without needing to be sent to a local A&E department.

The Royal Marsden opened 1851 as the world’s first hospital dedicated to cancer diagnosis, treatment, research and education. Today, together with its academic partner, the Institute of Cancer Research, it is the largest and most comprehensive cancer centre in Europe, treating more than 50,000 NHS and private patients every year.


Titchfield residents vote against neighbourhood plan

Residents of Titchfield have voted against Fareham Borough Council using a neighbourhood plan in a referendum.

A total of 241 residents voted for the plan, but 361 voted against on a turnout of 31 per cent. The council said that “as less than 50 per cent voted for the neighbourhood plan it “will not be made part of the statutory local plan” for Fareham.

Titchfield is the first neighbourhood plan to go before a referendum in the borough.


CIH CE to retire

Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) chief executive Terrie Alafat will retire at the end of November. Current deputy chief executive Gavin Smart will succeed her as chief executive.

Alafat was previously director of housing in the then Department for Communities and Local Government, with overall policy responsibility for the supply and management of housing across all tenures, housing growth, and homelessness prevention and support. As part of this, she also led on the Homes and Communities Agency.

Before this, she was director of housing and corporate strategy in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea until she moved to the civil service in 2003. Alafat was awarded a CBE in 2013 for services to homeless people.

30 July 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner