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Planning News - 31 October 2019

Published: Thursday, 31st October 2019

Environment Bill passes second reading, Study calls on planners and health professionals to talk to each other, Lewes wins government U-turn on housing delivery test 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 government’s Environment Bill 2019-20 has moved a step closer to becoming law.

The bill has passed its second reading by MPs unopposed and will now move on to committee stage. It aims to introduce significant changes to laws on air quality, water resources, waste management, nature improvement and chemicals as well as introducing biodiversity gain.

Under schedule 7A of the bill, developers would need to submit a biodiversity gain plan to a local authority before seeking planning permission. 

A biodiversity gain impact assessment unveiled by the government alongside bill revealed this policy would create a direct cost to developers of £19.9 million a year.

29 October 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner 

Planners and public health professionals need to work more closely together to guarantee that health and wellbeing priorities are integrated into local plans, according to latest research.

A study by Public Health England (PHE) looked at how public health research and evidence, the National Planning Policy Framework and planning guidance was put into practice.

This centred on professionals’ understanding of Spatial Planning and Health: Evidence Resource, a document PHE published to inform policy and action in the built and natural environment.

Although 72 per cent of health professionals were aware of the document, this fell to 56 per cent of planners. Only 51 per cent of all respondents across both sectors who knew about the resource had used it in their local authority.

Despite national policy explicitly linking planning to public health since 2012, only 46 per cent of respondents thought planning policies and decisions support health and wellbeing. Around a quarter thought health is not integrated into planning in their local areas.

The study calls on heads of planning and directors of public health to ensure that clear communication exists between their respective teams and consider joint training, education and continuing professional development. Local politicians should also be more aware of the impact on health of planning decisions.

Spatial planning and health tools and evidence should be presented to meet the needs of both sets of professionals, PHE added. This should also include access to a growing international and national evidence base across the two sectors and how these can support local practitioners.

28 October 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

The government has backed down over its housing delivery test for Lewes District Council in the face of a legal challenge by the local authority.

Lewes launched High Court proceedings against the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) after the publication of its annual housing delivery test results in February.

The result indicated that the council had delivered only 50 per cent of the homes required under its adopted local plan over the previous three years. The consequence of delivery falling below 85 per cent is a requirement to add a 20 per cent buffer to a council’s five-year housing land supply. 

This would have meant the council losing its five-year housing land supply, its local plan treated as ‘out of date’ and irrelevant when determining planning applications. Neighbourhood plans over two years old would also effectively become redundant, the council warned.

The case was listed for a final hearing at the High Court later this month. But the MHCLG has now accepted the evidence put forward by Lewes and a revised housing delivery test result of 86 per cent has been issued. 

“The decision to issue proceedings was not taken lightly, but they were necessary to safeguard our local plan,” said cabinet member for planning Emily O’Brien.

“The revised test result means that Lewes can demonstrate we have an up-to-date local plan and that planning decisions can be made in accordance with our adopted local plan, which includes the policies in our adopted local neighbourhood plans.

“We are extremely relieved that the hard work of the district council and our local communities in the preparation of our local and neighbourhood plans has not been jeopardised.”

29 October 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

Local authorities are calling for the government to provide long-term sustainable funding for parks and green spaces to boost people’s health and wellbeing.

Responding to funding for green spaces under the government’s “pocket parks” programme unveiled at the weekend, the Local Government Association said green spaces “are enjoyed by people of all ages across the country and sit at the heart of local communities” and are a vital resource for confronting the current childhood obesity epidemic.

“However, it is important that councils can maintain their core leisure and green spaces so our residents can keep active, host community events, and enjoy top-quality, safe, children’s play areas, all of which benefit the mental and physical health of people who use them,” said culture, tourism and sport board chairman Gerald Vernon-Jackson.

“It is therefore important that the government provides long-term, sustainable funding so they can continue to provide excellent services for their residents, including green spaces.”

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has unveiled a £1.35 million fund for new pocket parks and to revive run-down green spaces.

Under the programme, community groups can bid for new parks or reimagined spaces for various uses, including children’s play areas, vegetable patches and community events. Those wanting to develop new parks can bid for up to £15,000, while up to £25,000 is available for plans to refurbish existing parks.

“Establishing more pocket parks is part of our wider ambition to ensure that communities have a real sense of identity and place, and that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy green spaces nearby,” Jenrick added.

28 October 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner 

Liverpool City Council has formally endorsed a spatial regeneration framework for its commercial district in a bid to deliver premium office floor space.

The masterplan identifies 12 sites to address the district’s falling supply of grade A office space and enable Liverpool to compete with other UK cities in attracting major companies.

Ultimately, the framework aims to deliver up to 186,000 square metres of new office space.

The document was developed by Arup as project lead and town planning consultants, architects and master-planners, heritage consultant Rob Burns, and property consultant Worthington Owen.

The commercial district covers about 16 hectares of land from Mann Island in the south, heading up to Brook Street and Princes Dock to the north, and taking in areas such as Old Hall Street, Chapel Street, Dale Street, Tithebarn Street, and the waterfront.

“To be a world-class business location a city needs a commercial district that can offer opportunity, flexibility, connectivity and quality – in its buildings and its streets,” said Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson.

“The supply of grade A office space is critical to attracting major investors and jobs and this spatial regeneration framework will underpin our long-term vision to deliver that.”

29 October 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

A round-up of planning news

Number of build-to-rent homes jumps by 20%
The tally of build-to-rent homes across the UK has grown by 20 per cent year-on-year to 148,000 homes.

The figures from the British Property Federation (BPF) include build-to-rent homes completed, under construction or in planning between the third quarters of 2018 and 2019. The number of completed homes rose by 31 per cent in the same period to 34,840.

There are now 148,046 build-to-rent homes at varying stages of development across the country, up by 24,509 last year.

Landlords warn of looming crisis in rented properties
Private landlords are warning of a looming crisis in rented housing with more homes being sold than bought in the sector as demand continues to rise.

A survey by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) shows that almost 25 per cent of members report demand for private rented homes increasing in the past three months. Some 41 per cent report no change but 15 per cent cite falling demand.

The research, based on a poll of more than 2,700 respondents, shows the supply of private rented property continues to fall, with 31 per cent of landlords planning to sell at least one home in the next year and just 13 per cent planning to buy at least one.

Study probes how access to transport affects lives
Nearly a third of the population do not have access to a car and rely on public transport or other modes to support their lives, according to research published by the Department for Transport.

The study by the NatCen Social Research and the University of the West of England into how access to transport affects lives found that 69 per cent of people have personal access to cars.

The lack of personal car access is most common among young adults, ethnic minorities, people with mobility impairments, the unemployed, and those on low incomes.

Spatial planning ‘must’ feature in Scotland’s transport strategy
RTPI Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to ensure that the country’s National Transport Strategy supports ‘positive collaboration’ with spatial planning to meet its commitments to be zero-carbon by 2045.

The call was made as part of the institute’s response to the consultation on the National Transport Strategy (NTS2), held by Transport Scotland, the government agency responsible national transport.

Although it is encouraged by the draft strategy, which sets out the vision for transport for the next 20 years, RTPI Scotland warned that transport and spatial planning should be “mutually influential”.

Six councils to get share of £38m in funding for homes
Homes England has agreed on a £38.2 million funding deal with six councils in a bid to speed up the construction of at least 2,072 homes.

The money comes from the government’s £350 million Local Authority Accelerated Construction (LAAC) programme, which aims to unlock public land to speed up delivery for local authority housing schemes.  

Local authorities will be able to invest in infrastructure and enabling works to get 13 sites ready for the development of new homes.

29 October 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner