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Planning News - 4 September 2019

Published: Wednesday, 4th September 2019

Fifty more towns to receive funding, 600-home plan submitted in Dorset, Construction values rose in July and more stories...

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

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that an additional 50 towns will benefit from the £1 billion Future High Streets Fund.

This takes the total number of towns to benefit from the fund to 100.

The money could be used in these areas to turn empty retail units into new homes and workplaces, to improve transport and access into town centres, or to invest in vital infrastructure.

Johnson said: “Our high streets are right at the heart of our communities, and I will do everything I can to make sure they remain vibrant places where people want to go, meet and spend their money.

“But with our town centres facing challenges, we’re today expanding the High Streets Fund to support over 100 high streets to regenerate – backed by £1 billion of vital investment.

“This scheme is going to re-energise and transform even more of our high streets – helping them to attract new businesses, boost local growth, and create new infrastructure and jobs,” he added.

The 50-town extension to the shortlist comes after the £3.6 billion Towns Fund was announced last month. It included an additional £325 million for the Future High Streets Fund, taking the overall fund to £1 billion.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Interest in the fund has been huge, and with so many strong applications, I am extending the number of towns moving forward to the next phase and getting a chance to develop their proposals.”

The government explained that successful candidates would progress to the second phase of the Future High Streets Fund and receive up to £150,000 to support the development of detailed project proposals that can be submitted for capital funding.

The local authorities going to the next phase of the fund include Dudley, Barrow, Fylde, Calderdale, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Nuneaton and Bedworth, Tamworth, and Middlesbrough.

29 August 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A plan comprising 600 homes has been submitted to Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council.

According to the plans, which were submitted by land promotion specialists Richborough Estates, 40 per cent of the homes will be affordable.

The homes would be built on a 113-acre housing site between Wimborne and Poole, alongside a 62-bed care home.

The types of housing will range from one-bed apartments to five-bed detached homes.

More than half of the site will be made up of retained and improved green space, with playgrounds and allotments outlined in the plans. Pedestrian and cycle routes will be established.

The site is located close to Oakley and Merley villages, which have local centres that provide education, transport, retail and health facilities.

Richborough Estates said the scheme is set to make a variety of contributions through a s.106 agreement to help fund improvements to local highways and parkland, schools, health services and public transport, and support for recreational use at the local harbour.

According to the Daily Echo, a protest was held in 2018 against the plans, while a meeting was attended by more than 200 people last month to discuss the proposal before they had been filed.

Robert Mitchell, senior regional manager (South Western region) at Richborough Estates, said: “Ultimately, we believe this application could have a major and positive impact on the social, economic and environmental fabric of the area. It could not only provide new housing, but also open up access to the river Stour which links the wider Stour Valley Initiative and a whole range of new parkland features throughout the site."

23 August 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Construction contracts worth £5.1 billion were awarded in July 2019 – an increase of 1.8 per cent on June, according to construction industry analyst Barbour ABI.

This value is based on a three-month rolling average.

Yearly comparisons, the analyst explains, indicate that the value of contract awards in July 2019 was 11 per cent higher than July 2018.

The latest edition of the Economic & Construction Market Review shows that in the three-month period ending July 2019 the combined value of construction contract awards was £15.3 billion – a 14 per cent increase compared with the previous quarter, and 13.8 per cent higher than the same quarter in 2018.

According to the statistics, 1,011 contracts were awarded in July – 38.5 per cent more than in June and 3.7 per cent more than July 2018.

London topped the regions for contract awards in June, with 32.1 per cent of the value share. The month’s largest contract award was Stoney Street commercial and office development, part of the Borough Yards redevelopment in Southwark.

In Scotland, the largest project was Greenbank Crescent, an energy-from-waste facility worth £150 million.

Sector analysis shows that the largest share of contract awards in July was the residential sector at 39.9 per cent, followed by the commercial/retail sector at 16 per cent. The industrial sector won a 13.6 per cent share of the contracts.

Tom Hall, chief economist at Barbour ABI, said: “The planning pipeline continues to defy recent negative economic news. We have seen significant activity for contact awards across the UK for the past three months, with a 13.8 per cent increase on the comparable quarter ending July 2018. Over the next three months we will be rolling steadily towards the Brexit deadline, which may impact figures as uncertainty once again sets in.”

28 August 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The government has been urged to make sure there is strong policy support for new onshore wind and large-scale solar power projects, particularly where there is local support and project cost-savings for consumers.

This is one of the recommendations made by the Science and Technology Committee in its latest report, Clean Growth: Technologies for Meeting the UK’s Emission Reduction.

The committee explains that planning consent and technological lifetimes mean that most existing onshore wind farms were expected to last 25 years before needing to be decommissioned, or ‘re-powered’ with upgraded equipment. The government, it suggests, should ensure that national planning policy facilitates the re-powering of existing sites. There needs to be a "clear" planning permission framework for re-powering existing onshore wind farms in place by the end of 2020.

MPs on the committee welcome the government’s plans to eliminate all emissions by 2050, but notes the Committee on Climate Change's warning that the UK is not on course to meet its current targets for 2023 to 2032, which are legally binding.

However, the Committee on Climate Change has warned that the UK is not even on course to meet its existing legally binding targets for 2023 to 2032.

Urgent action by the government is needed to reverse the current policy trend of cutbacks and slow progress, the Science and Technology Committee said.

The report identifies 10 areas where government policy that supports the implementation of low-carbon technology has been delayed, cut back or undermined carbon reductions, including:

  • The 'feed-in tariff' for low-carbon power generation was closed.
  • Following the cancellation of the 'zero-carbon homes' policy in 2015, the Government said that it would consult on changes to building regulations in 2019 to improve energy efficiency – but no consultation has been launched.
  • Onshore wind and large-scale solar power have been excluded from the financial support mechanism available to other renewable power technologies since 2017, and planning permission for onshore wind farms has also been made more difficult to obtain since 2015.

As well as strong policy support for onshore wind and solar power, the committee wants the government to develop a clearer strategy for decarbonising heat, which will require large-scale trials of different heating technologies.

Recommendations for the government also include:

  • Support local authorities and members of the public in contributing to the UK’s net zero target. For local authorities, this should include access to low-cost, long-term finance, as well as a statutory duty to develop emission reduction plans in line with the national targets set by the Climate Change Act 2008. For members of the public, the government should publish an easily accessible central guide explaining what measures households can take to support decarbonisation.
  • Bring forward the date of its proposed ban on the sales of new ‘conventional’ cars and vans to 2035 at the latest, and ensure that it covers hybrids too.
  • Make a decision on the future finance framework for new nuclear power by the end of 2019. Subject to value for money, it should seek to support new nuclear power generation so as to sustain, but not grow, the UK’s nuclear power industry.
  • The government must provide greater clarity on the details of its carbon capture, usage and storage action plan.

RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive Emma Pinchbeck said: “This report is a clarion call to ministers to slash energy bills for consumers by unblocking the development of new onshore wind projects, as well as encouraging the redevelopment of existing sites with even more powerful turbines.”

“The report also highlights the urgent need to support our ground-breaking wave and tidal energy sector, to keep the UK at the cutting edge of innovative renewable technology, and to help reach the decarbonisation targets which ministers themselves have set. The government’s commitment to net zero by 2050 is visionary: this report provides a roadmap to achieve it while keeping bills down, attracting investment and creating tens of thousands of highly skilled new jobs”.

The report and recommendation in full can be found on the UK Parliament website.

23 August 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Research has suggested that living within 300m of urban green space is associated with greater happiness, a sense of worth and life satisfaction.

This could be parks, nature reserves or play areas.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Warwick, Newcastle University and the University of Sheffield, the study applies new geospatial research techniques to create an accurate measure of the relationship between green space and three different aspects of mental wellbeing.

It combines survey responses from 25,518 participants in the UK Government’s annual population survey (APS) with data on the shape, size and location of London’s 20,000 public green spaces. The researchers explained that they modelled green space distribution in relation to where each of the survey participants lived and considered how that influenced their mental wellbeing.

Published in Applied Geography’s August issue, it was found that green space within 300m of home had the greatest influence on mental wellbeing.

It also found:

  • There is a “very strong” relationship between the amount of green space around a person’s home and their feelings of life satisfaction, happiness and self-worth.
  • An increase of one hectare – about the size of an international Rugby Union pitch – within 300m of residents was associated with an increase of 8 percentage points in life satisfaction, 7 in worth and 5 in happiness.
  • Green space was less important for mental wellbeing in central London and east London.

Dr Victoria Houlden, Professor João Porto de Albuquerque, Professor Scott Weich and Professor Stephen Jarvis worked together on the research.

Houlden, from Newcastle University, said: “We believe this it is the first study to demonstrate how urban green space may improve a broader definition of mental wellbeing. A lot of research focuses on poor mental health, or single aspects of wellbeing like life satisfaction. What makes our work different is the way we consider multi-dimensional mental wellbeing, in terms of happiness, life satisfaction and worth.

“While government guidelines recommend minimum amounts of green space in residential developments, our study was able to establish more specifically where green space may be most valuable.”

Professor João Porto de Albuquerque, director of the University of Warwick’s Institute of Global Sustainable Development, added:

“As part of the Sustainable Development Goals, members states of the United Nations committed to provide every access to green and public spaces for every citizen by 2030, which is usually measured based on the area of cities that is open space for public use.

"However, our study makes clear that it is not only the area of public green space in the whole city that matters when it comes to maximising benefits for mental wellbeing. We provide evidence that the proximity of green space to an individual’s home is important for detecting significant associations with improved mental wellbeing, and that the strength of this association may vary in different areas of the city.

“This result has important implications for urban planning and decision-making related to how we measure access to urban green spaces and how to design more sustainable and liveable cities.”

22 August 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

Gwynedd Council has published a draft management plan for the slate areas of north west Wales, which are a UK candidate for potential UNESCO World Heritage status.

The blueprint explains how the council would deal with change in the area following the designation, and use the status to protect, promote and improve the area for the benefit of local communities and visitors.

The council-led bid includes seven slate area sites within the county of Gwynedd and Snowdonia National Park:

  • Penrhyn slate quarry, Bethesda and the Ogwen Valley to Port Penrhyn;
  • Dinorwig slate quarry mountain landscape;
  • Nantlle Valley slate quarry landscape;
  • Gorseddau and Prince of Wales slate quarries, railways and mill;
  • Ffestiniog's slate mines, quarries, "city of slates" and the railway to Porthmadog;
  • Bryneglwys slate quarry, Abergynolwyn village and the Talyllyn railway; and
  • Aberllefenni slate quarry.

Proposed in the draft blueprint are a slew of local area plans, the establishment of buffer zones, the publication of supplementary planning guidance and the production of place-based regeneration strategies for key communities with community-led regeneration at their core.

Also in prospect would be bans on quarrying in some areas alongside the revocation of all extant mineral working permissions.

Gareth Thomas, the council's cabinet member for economic development, said: “Securing a World Heritage Site is a very ambitious scheme – it would mean that the area's slate landscape received the same designation as wonders such as the Taj Mahal, the Egyptian Pyramids and the Great Wall of China.

“Our aim is to celebrate our history, but also to use the opportunity to regenerate communities through heritage and create exciting new opportunities for businesses.

“We want to do this by working with communities and businesses, and hope that the bid is an opportunity to reinforce or reconnect people with their local heritage and create high-quality job opportunities locally.”

23 August 2019
Roger Milne, The Planner