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Planning news - 14 November 2019

Published: Wednesday, 13th November 2019

Planning Inspectorate unveils pre-election approach to casework, Liverpool faces fight to keep World Heritage status, Plans for £100m subterranean scheme under Cavendish Square, 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 Planning Inspectorate has outlined the approach it will take to casework in the run-up to the general election.

The inspectorate said it is “concerned to ensure that decisions or recommendations relating to proposals which have raised sensitivities or interest in an area cannot be deemed to have influenced the election in any constituency or, more broadly, across the country, or have been used to electoral advantage by any interested body”.

Senior managers will judge whether to hold back decisions or recommendations until the election results have been announced, it added.

On national infrastructure casework, examinations must comply with a statutory time limit, once the preliminary meeting has been notified and the examination timetable has been set. The examination is expected to run to the published timetable.

All scheduled local plan examinations and hearing sessions will continue during the pre-election period and new examinations will also begin. However, to avoid making potentially “politically sensitive” announcements, the inspectorate will not be issuing any letters on the soundness or legal compliance of local plans, or final reports, including the fact check, until after the election.

The fact check report is the version of the report the inspectorate sends to the local planning authority to check for factual errors or inconsistencies, with the final report issued after this has been completed.

The inspectorate added that its approach has been agreed in consultation with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

8 November 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

Liverpool may struggle to retain its UNESCO World Heritage status if it presses ahead with waterfront regeneration, according to the city’s heritage steering group chief.

Mark Kitts said Liverpool’s need for economic growth and regeneration could be “incompatible” with UNESCO’s rules.

Liverpool has been on UNESCO’s ‘at risk’ locations since 2012. Peel’s Liverpool Waters plans and Everton FC’s proposed stadium at Bramley Moore Dock could mean the city “may not get there” in retaining its heritage status. However Liverpool will “always be a continually evolving city”, said Kitts.

“There is to a degree an incompatibility between the UNESCO rule book and the protection and management of Liverpool World Heritage Site, versus the need to deliver economic growth, regeneration, social inclusion, and inclusive growth, which is very, very important,” he added.

Kitts admitted that if Everton submits a planning application for the stadium, the risk of losing world heritage status will “grow a little more”.

12 November 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

The Reef Group has submitted a planning application for a £100 million scheme to create a subterranean complex under Cavendish Square in London’s West End.

The site, currently an underground car park, will be redeveloped to create a mix of retail, medical, wellness and leisure accommodation. The plans will see the creation 26,000 square metres of space across four storeys and below ground level.

The scheme will include ‘statement entrances’ to nearby Harley Street and Regent Street.

The development aims to expand the footprint of the Harley Street Medical Area and deliver specialist facilities for London’s growing independent healthcare market, which doubled in size between 2007 and 2017. 

The developer has submitted its plans to Westminster City Council and subject to approval work is expected to start in late 2020 with completion in 2022.

11 November 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

Homes England has been granted consent for 750 houses on the 48-hectare site of the former Whittingham Asylum near Preston.

The Whittingham Hospital site was built in 1873 and grew to be the largest of its type in Britain, with nearly 3,000 patients.

Around 2.4 hectares will be set aside to help to relocate the Whittingham and Goosnargh Sports and Social Club, while the rest of the project is residential. Another 1.5-hectare plot will be safeguarded for a primary school, while existing buildings on the site, including the grade II-listed St John’s Church, will be converted to residential use.

Around 22 hectares of the masterplan will be used for green space.

At the time of submitting the application, Homes England said the scheme would be phased, with the first batch of 150 homes going out to market in the months after achieving planning consent.

The site was acquired by Homes England as part of its 2005 Hospital Sites Programme, but has not been redeveloped owing to market conditions and infrastructure constraints. The development will require significant infrastructure works including a spine road and the installation of sewerage works.

The outline planning application was put together by Barton Willmore and CampbellReith.

11 November 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning committee has unanimously approved plans to build the UK’s first commercial scale bio-substitute natural gas plant at Peel Environmental’s Protos site near Ellesmere Port.

The plant, which is being developed by Progressive Energy, will generate renewable gas from up to 175,000 tonnes of bio-resources, including unrecyclable wood and refuse-derived fuel (RDF). This gas will be used in the transport sector, generating enough fuel to power up to 1,000 low-carbon HGVs and buses every year.

The development represents an investment of £150 million and will create around 300 jobs at Protos during construction, with 35 full-time permanent, high skilled jobs.

Progressive Energy director Chris Manson-Whitton characterised the approval as a “huge step forward” to providing a reliable and renewable gas for transport fleets across the North West and beyond.

“Decarbonising the transport sector is going to be critical if we’ve any chance of reaching net zero emissions by 2050,” he added. “We’re still hugely reliant on fossil fuels in the sector which, together with heat, accounts for around three quarters of UK energy consumption.”

Construction is due to start next year with production beginning in late 2022. A further eight similar facilities could be built across the UK during the 2020s.

The project is also one of several under the North West’s bid to become the UK’s first low-carbon cluster by 2030. The North West Energy and Hydrogen Cluster is being led by the North West Business Leadership Team, with support from Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region mayors and the Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership. The cluster aims to deliver 33,000 jobs, more than £4 billion investment and save 10 million tonnes of carbon per year.

8 November 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

A round-up of planning news.

Transport for the North urges parties to hold nerve on investment

The sub-national transport body for the north of England is urging all political parties to rebalance decades of underinvestment.

Transport for the North calls for commitment to the full £39 billion Northern Powerhouse Rail network and HS2 as well as devolved budgets and a clear pipeline of investment in infrastructure. It says that doing so would deliver a rail revolution for the North and unlock the region’s pent-up potential.

In an open letter to political parties, chief executive Barry White urges the Oakervee Review to recognise the importance of HS2 to the North, arguing that transport and freight movement are crucial to unlocking the region’s prosperity and closing the productivity gap with the South.

“We need Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2. Delivered together, in lock-step, they’d amount to a rail revolution for the One North economy we set out to achieve in 2015. One our communities have waited for patiently,” he said.

Hackney grants approval for Kennaway estate regeneration

The London Borough of Hackney has granted permission to Southern Housing Group to regenerate the Kennaway estate.

The scheme, designed by Waugh Thistleton Architects, will deliver 61 homes, enhance the natural landscape and create designated pedestrian routes, play spaces, cycle storage facilities and other amenities. It also comprises new workspace and a community centre

The 12 existing homes at Taverner House would be replaced by the homes of between one and four bedrooms. More than 50 per cent of the new homes provided would be affordable, comprising a mix of tenures including social rent, Hackney living rent, shared ownership, and outright sale.

Southern Housing Group consulted extensively with estate residents and neighbours during the design development, which comprises three distinct volumes linked by external walkways, and seven townhouses that echo the form and character of adjacent Victorian terraces as well as its context overlooking Clissold Park.

Builders demand radical action to meet zero-carbon target

A builders’ trade body is calling on the construction sector and a future government to take urgent action if the UK is to meet the 2050 zero-carbon target.

The National Federation of Builders’ Major Contractors Group warns that the construction industry must be transformed within a generation – otherwise it will fail the country and the government will not meet its zero-carbon ambitions.

It argues that construction directly influences 47 per cent of UK carbon emissions and 61 per cent of UK waste.

Launching a report into the challenges and opportunities facing the construction sector, the group says a 30-mile trip in an average car will create 7.2kg of carbon dioxide. Under the UK’s original 80 per cent reduction target, 7.2kg represents an individual’s daily personal allowance of carbon dioxide in 2050 and “would not leave anything for the food they eat, the work they do or the buildings that our construction sector will need to deliver”. 

It calls on the government to promote low levels of embedded carbon within assets that they procure and to factor in a cost of carbon. Other recommendations include publicly funded bodies procuring construction work on the basis of natural capital accounting.

Higher housing costs have reduced incomes and increased inequality

Rising housing costs have wiped out 90 per cent of living standards gains for low-income families since early 2000s, according to research by Resolution Foundation titled Inequality Street. 

The research notes that public concern about housing has grown in recent years, with one-in-five adults now believing it is one of the most important issues facing Britain, up from one in 20 in 2001. 

The foundation said that Britain’s housing crisis is three crises: low home ownership, high housing costs and a particularly acute disaster for low-income families. 

Inequality Street suggests that home ownership among young families (those aged 25-34) has almost halved since its 1989 peak – from 50 per cent to just 28 per cent. 

Low-income families have suffered a £1,200 living standards hit from fast-rising housing costs since 2002. However, high-income families are £400 better off because their housing costs have fallen since 2002. This means that recent trends in housing costs have acted to push up inequality in the UK.

Crossrail owns up to further delays and budget breaches

Crossrail faces another delay and huge cost overrun, with the embattled scheme set to breach £18 billion.

The revelation is the second time in 12 months that the project’s costs have escalated. Transport for London (TfL) is warning that the delay to the full opening of the east-west rail line across London could be up to three years.

Crossrail was originally scheduled to open at the end of last year. Problems with station completions and signalling have now pushed that date back to March 2021 at the earliest.

The bill for the scheme is now expected to rise to £18.3 billion – some £650 million more than the £17.6 billion budget signed off by the Department for Transport (DfT) last December. This is also £2.35 billion more than the original price tag of £15.9 billion.

The new delays will cost hundreds of millions of pounds in lost revenue. In May, financial ratings agency Moody's predicted that delays could cost TfL up to £1 billion in lost revenue, although the transport body would save on operating costs.

High Court quashes inspector’s ruling on uPVC window in Haringey

The High Court has quashed a planning inspector’s decision to back enforcement action by the London Borough of Haringey over a homeowner’s uPVC window frames.

Paul Muir received the enforcement notice claiming a breach of planning control after he installed the windows at his home in a conservation area.

He claimed that 90 per cent of windows in neighbouring homes were also uPVC, although no action had been taken against their owners. He also contended that the uPVC window did not “materially affect the building’s external appearance”.

The inspector upheld Haringey’s action after defining the “building” under consideration as the block of three terraced houses that includes Muir’s flat.

Mrs Justice Lieven ruled that the inspector gave inadequate reasons for concluding that the relevant “building” was the whole terrace when “in common parlance each house in a terrace would be considered a building”. The inspector should have focused solely on the visual impact of the window on the building and the prevalence of uPVC windows elsewhere in the conservation area was “plainly legally irrelevant”.

12 November 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner