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Planning News - 14 August 2019

Published: Wednesday, 14th August 2019

Guidance issued for measuring land, Inspectors recommend West of England plan be withdrawn, MHCLG appoints consultant to develop design guide and more stories...

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

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Draft guidance for the measurement of land, which would become global best practice for the consistent calculation of land measurement and associated metrics, has been published for consultation.

Commissioned by the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the draft guidance aims to provide clear definitions for the measurements that are widely used in the property and planning sectors, advocating worldwide consistency.

The guidance will have implications for surveyors, planners, architects and government administrators across the world.

Five core definitions have been proposed to assist with the global measurement of land:

  • Land area: This should be used to refer to the legal title area of land, and is of particular relevance to agents and lawyers as it is the legally demised area of land.
  • Site area: This should be used to refer to the area of land used for planning application purposes and is of importance to those involved in the development process as it is the area to which any permission for development relates.
  • Net development area: This should be used to refer to the area from which financial value is directly derived, by virtue of either being income-producing or for sale, and is of relevance to development surveyors and valuers.
  • Plot ratio: This is the ratio of Gross External Area (GEA) of a building or buildings at each floor area, under the International Property Measurement Standards, to the site area, and is already used as a standard metric for planning and design in certain sectors and jurisdictions.
  • Site coverage: This is the ratio of the building footprint’s GEA to the site area at ground-floor level, and again is already a standard metric for planning and design in certain sectors and jurisdictions.

Tony Mulhall, associate director of the land professional group at the RICS, which commissioned the work, said: “The RICS is committed to regulating the property industry in the public interest, with the accurate and consistent measurement of land and property being absolutely fundamental to this. This guidance is an important step forward which will harmonise practice in the built environment profession for the better around the world.”

Lead author, Jonathan Manns, board director and head of planning and development at London-based real estate developer Rockwell, commented: “This guidance represents a step-change in the way that land is measured around the world. By introducing a clear and standardised approach it will profoundly improve the accuracy and consistency of measurements for those buying, selling and valuing land, as well as those seeking to propose or determine applications to develop it.”

The consultation on Measurement of Land for Planning and Development Purposes runs until 17 September. It can be found here on the RICS website.

07 August 2019 
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

The Planning Inspectorate has rejected the West of England Joint Spatial Plan (JSP), with inspectors citing concerns with the proposed Strategic Development Locations (SDLs) as one of the reasons.

Inspectors Malcolm Rivett and Steven Lee said the SDLs and the overall spatial strategy are not “robust, consistent and objective”.

The spatial plan was put together by four councils: Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol City, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire.

It includes the policies and principles that have been used to determine “the most appropriate and sustainable” locations for development. It also provides for the development of 105,000 homes across the four council areas. These are provided for through individual council local plans and through the JSP.

The Bristol Post reports that objectors to the plan think alternatives to major new housing sites set out in the plan were not properly considered.

The councils submitted the plan in April 2018. Shortly after, the inspectors wrote to the councils setting out the significant concerns they had, including the way in which the overall spatial strategy, of which the proposed SDLs are an integral part, had been selected against reasonable alternatives. The councils were given the opportunity to supply further evidence in regard to this.

Despite this, the inspectors say the fundamental aspects of the plan are not sound.

In a letter to the councils, they go on to explain: "Whilst we recognise the need for pragmatism in the examination of local plans and the desirability of a plan for the West of England being found sound as soon as possible, subject if necessary to modifications, we think it only fair to advise you that we currently consider that withdrawal of the JSP from examination may well be the most appropriate way forward."

The inspectors question whether producing more evidence would address their concerns and suggest "going back several stages in the plan-making process".

Further to this, inspectors Rivett and Lee say they have concerns about the soundness of other aspects of the plan, which they will address in a more detailed letter in the near future.

A statement from the four West of England councils explains that they voluntarily agreed to bring forward a strategic plan for the Bristol and Bath city region and committed to working jointly to deliver on their shared housing and employment growth ambitions.

"Our commitment to working collaboratively to plan for the West of England’s future housing, employment and transport needs remains as strong as ever. The JSP provides certainty needed by our communities, the development sector and key stakeholders to set out a strategic policy framework," they said.

The statements says the councils are "extremely disappointed".

"Whilst the letter is disappointing and we don’t underestimate that there is work to do, we also acknowledge this is part of the plan-making process and particularly for an ambitious joint plan of this nature.

"We are the first sub region in the country to develop a strategic joint plan of this type; and as front runners, we expect to be challenged as part of this process. The innovative approach we are taking makes the inspectors’ task more difficult and we appreciate they have not yet had the opportunity to hear all of the evidence."

The councils added that they are "confident" that they will be able to provide a substantive response the the inspectors' conclusions and determine the best way forward.

02 August 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has appointed Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design and the Design Council to develop a visual design guide.

Consultancy Tibbalds explained that the guide will form part of the revised Design Planning Practice Guidance, which is being produced to the support the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The guide will be an “easy-to-use” tool that local authorities, developers, and built environment professionals can use to ensure quality is embedded in policies, guidance and projects.

Tibbalds and the Design Council will work together with MHCLG's design team to prepare the guide and support them in engaging stakeholders.

Jane Dann, director at Tibbalds, said: "The visual design guide is an exciting opportunity to promote design quality nationally, recognising its value, the role it plays in our well-being and in the quality of our everyday lives. It will focus on the common qualities of well-designed places and, just as importantly, it will be illustrated with examples of what they look like in practice.

"With the 2018 NPPF's renewed emphasis on achieving well-designed places, this new visual design guide is a significant opportunity to provide national guidance for everyone involved in the development process and help the raise the profile of good design. It is an opportunity to make national planning policy more accessible."

Sue Morgan, director of architecture and the built environment at the Design Council, added: "We believe that our work will play a significant role in raising the quality of the built environment across the UK – improving quality of life, stimulating the economy and enhancing our inside and outside spaces as a result."

The guide is expected to be completed by late summer 2019.

08 August 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

In a letter to new energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng, onshore wind supporters have called on him to back the development of new onshore wind farms to help the UK achieve its net zero emissions target for the lowest cost.

The letter also urges the government to update planning rules to enable the most modern and efficient turbines to be used at suitable high wind locations in the UK. Guidance should also be set out to support the replacement of older turbines.

The letter highlights that the Committee on Climate Change has recommended that onshore wind be allowed to compete in Contracts for Difference, the government-backed auctions for power generation contracts.

The committee thinks that if the current block is lifted 35 gigawatts of onshore wind could be deployed by 2035 to help to meet the UK’s carbon reduction targets.

Signatories to the letter include the leaders of major companies in the sector such as ScottishPower Renewables, EDF Renewables, innogy, SSE Renewables, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, Vestas, RES Group, Vattenfall,

Statkraft and CS Wind, as well as trade associations RenewableUK and Scottish Renewables.

The signatories go on to note public support for wind farms, pointing to the government’s Public Attitudes Tracker which shows 79 per cent support for onshore wind.

RenewableUK’s chief executive Hugh McNeal said: “It’s great to see such a wide range of companies and organisations speaking with one voice in strong support of onshore wind. There are shovel-ready onshore projects across the UK that would bring in billions of pounds of investment, support thousands of jobs and even cut consumer bills. Onshore wind is the cheapest option for new power in the UK and it is essential if we want to achieve net zero emissions. We hope the new Government will take swift action to let onshore wind compete on a level playing field”.

The call for a new approach that supports onshore wind has also been backed by organisations beyond the signatories, including trade union Prospect, the National Farmers’ Union, the RSPB, the Federation of Small Businesses and the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).

05 August 2019 
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Network Rail has submitted a planning application for a railway sleeper production facility in Bescot.

The proposed facility should provide up to 600,000 railway sleepers every year, 60 per cent of Britain’s annual requirement.

While preparing the submission, the organisation engaged with local people and politicians, including briefings, public information events and meeting with residents at their homes to discuss the plans.

This feedback helped shape the final planning application, which will be decided by Sandwell Borough Council.

Changes from the original plan include the relocation of the proposed site 600m to the east – putting it further away from local properties – and building a link road to both improve access and remove the impact of vehicles on adjacent homes.

The new facility is a part of Britain’s Railway Upgrade Plan. It is expected to create 150 construction jobs locally, and up to 100 permanent jobs at the site and in the local supply chain. Network Rail estimate that 90 per cent of construction spend on the project will be through local businesses.

Anthony Marley, programme director at Network Rail, said: “This new facility will bring millions of pounds to the local economy and support hundreds of jobs in the West Midlands. We have already seen significant interest in these jobs, with approximately half of respondents welcoming these new employment prospects. We will continue to work with Sandwell council as our application progresses.”

Sleepers are currently manufactured at two locations in Britain - Doncaster and Washwood Heath in Birmingham, but the Washwood Heath site is due to close, hence the requirement for a new facility.

05 August 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A round-up of planning news

Shortlist announced for RTPI research awards
The RTPI has announced its shortlist for its 2019 Awards for Research Excellence.

It includes research into the role of radical planning in urban justice in South Africa, how a three-dimensional pedestrian network reshapes connectivity of high-density cities in Hong Kong, and the relationship between the built environment and mental health.

Projects on planning for future town centres and housing delivery through neighbourhood plans have also made the cut.

There was a total of 66 entries, with 33 making the shortlist.

Dr Daniel Slade, who leads the RTPI’s work on the Awards, said: "To be effective, just, and respond to society’s greatest challenges, planning practice needs high-quality and critical planning research. This year’s shortlist shows that planning schools, RTPI members and consultancies are producing this in abundance. It’s also wonderful to see such diversity – in terms of topics, geographies and entrants."

The winners will be announced during the opening ceremony of the UK-Ireland Planning Research Conference at the University of Liverpool on 2 September 2019.

The full shortlist can be found on the RTPI website.
Neighbourhood plan adopted in Northamptonshire
South Northamptonshire Council has adopted the Roade Neighbourhood Plan after 94 per cent of residents supported it in a referendum.

Phil Bignell, the council's portfolio holder for planning, said Roade's location is close to Northampton, Milton Keynes and the M1, which makes it an attractive prospect for developers.

“Recognising that, we were pleased to support Roade Parish Council and their residents’ steering group in the development of this plan, which means the hopes and aspirations of local people are taken into account when planning decisions are made that impact the village."

It sets out policies to guide development and can allocate sites for specific uses.

The neighbourhood plan can be found on the South Northamptonshire Council website.
Consultation begins on new West Sussex community
Homes England has published a consultation on proposals to create a sustainable community on land to the west of Ifield, West Sussex.

The community would comprise homes, a relief road around the west of Crawley, a school and a variety of community facilities.

More information about the proposals and the consultation can be found on the UK Government website.
Leeds consults on tall building guidance
Leeds City Council is seeking views on the Tall Buildings Design Guide for Leeds.

The guide has been designed to provide advice on buildings that would be taller than their neighbours, where they can be located and what design principles should be followed.

The guide is a refresh of the original version adopted in 2010.

Leeds City Council's executive board member for climate change, transport and sustainable development, Lisa Mulherin, said: "This is an opportunity to sharpen our advice on tall buildings having regard to the council's climate change emergency. We need to make sure that tall buildings are in the right locations to take advantage of accessibility to good public transport, employment and other facilities so that the need for travel, particularly by car, can be minimised.

"Location and design are also important to ensure tall buildings complement Leeds' skyline and visual character, and to ensure that the effects on wind are safely managed. I would encourage anyone involved in the development of Leeds to look at this guide and give us their views."

The consultation, which runs until 30 September, can be found on the Leeds City Council website.
Application for neighbourhood area submitted in Shropshire
Shropshire Council has received an application from Sheriffhales Parish Council to designate the area as a neighbourhood area.

Sheriffhales Parish Council is in the earliest stages of considering a neighbourhood plan, and this application seeks now to formalise the process.

A consultation on this proposal will run until 30 August. More information can be found on the Shropshire Council website.

06 August 2019 
Laura Edgar, The Planner