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Planning News - 21 November 2019

Published: Thursday, 21st November 2019

Plan for central London approved, Local plan route-mapper and toolkit launched, Rich overseas tourists drive huge expansion in London luxury hotels, and more stories...

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

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Westminster City Council has approved City Plan 2019-2040, its development blueprint, as it aims to deliver more than 22,000 homes over the plan period.

The plan is designed to create more affordable homes, the “right environment” for business success and more open, green spaces.

Approved last night at a meeting of the full council, the plan targets delivery of:

  • 1,495 new homes every year for 10 years and more than 22,000 up to 2040;
  • 1,850 new affordable homes by 2023;
  • Six in 10 affordable homes as intermediate housing;
  • Business floor space for 63,000 new jobs; and
  • A clearer policy on tall buildings that rules them out across most of the city. New developments should match the surrounding skyline.

Richard Beddoe, deputy leader and cabinet member for place shaping and planning, said: “Our new city plan will pave the way to more homes, business growth and a greener city – striking a balance between conservation and the need to support more housing and jobs in the heart of the capital. It will help cement our position as one of the world’s best and most exciting places to live, work and visit.

“The city plan has been developed as a result of sustained and meaningful dialogue with a large number of local resident groups, councillors, businesses and relevant regional and national bodies as well as other agencies, and I would like to thank everyone for their involvement.”

Following two rounds of consultation, including the regulation 19 stage, the council added that it is confident that the current draft plan is sound. It will be now be submitted to the housing secretary for consideration before it can be adopted as policy.

More information about the plan can be found on the Westminster City Council website.

14 November 2019
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Planning Advisory Service (PAS) has unveiled a route-mapper and toolkit offering practical advice to councils on how to review and update local plans.

Planning authorities are required to review and if necessary update their local plan policies within five years of adoption if not sooner. 

The PAS initiative, which was piloted with several local authorities, covers all stages of plan-making to help councils to show that their local plan reviews are robust and objective. The resource also includes case studies and tips from sector experts.

The mapper and toolkit replace PAS’s legal compliance and soundness checklists.

13 November 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

Affluent overseas tourists are influencing a massive expansion in luxury hotels in London, with 210 schemes in the planning and development pipeline.

An analysis by leading private wealth law firm Boodle Hatfield reveals that 48 of the hotels with planning permission or already under construction across the capital are in Westminster, adding more than 6,800 guest rooms.

A further 12 are in the Heathrow area.

Boodle Hatfield says the pipeline of new hotels shows investors are optimistic about the London market’s potential for growth as one of the few sectors of the economy to benefit from the Brexit-related slump in sterling.

The fall in value of the pound has made it cheaper for international tourists to visit the UK, encouraged more ‘staycations’ while making the cost of investing in the capital’s hotel market less expensive for overseas investors, who see the sector as a trophy investment.

Luxury or four and five-star hotels, which account for 74 per cent of the planned new hotels in Westminster, particularly attract visitors from the US and the Gulf states, who are among the highest-spending tourists.

Tourism from the Gulf to the UK rose in 2018, with 675,000 visits from Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE combined – up 20 per cent from 2014. Visits from the US to the UK grew 30 per cent over the same period.

Boodle Hatfield says attracting US visitors to the capital is crucial to the luxury end of the tourism industry as Americans traditionally spend more money per person in the UK than any other nation at an average of £860 per person per trip. This is more than twice the amount of France, the next highest country, in 2018.

Luxury and boutique hotels under construction in Westminster include the former US Embassy, a 137-room, £1 billion luxury hotel by a Qatar-based developer in Mayfair, and the five-star hotel Nobu hotel in Marylebone that is part-funded by Hollywood actor Robert De Niro.

“Investor appetite in the London hotel market is holding up but investors will want to know that this new supply of hotels can be soaked up by increasing demand,” says Boodle Hatfield partner Rajeev Joshi. “For tourism to continue to grow, the UK needs to ensure that, post-Brexit, we do not start to be seen as a less-convenient destination for tourists from the EU or from farther afield.

“Greater investment in infrastructure will be a key part of this. Accelerating the delivery of projects such as the third runway at Heathrow and Crossrail would help.”

13 November 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner

Nottingham City Council aims to build or buy 1,000 homes and create 15,000 jobs over the next four years as well as becoming carbon-neutral by 2028.

The council’s plan for 2019-23 envisages developing 4,000 homes, including its commitment to 1,000 social homes. The city wants to be carbon-neutral by 2028, ensuring that “all planning and development decisions take account of environmental and sustainability considerations”.

The council prioritises completing the transformation of the south side of the city centre, including the college, library and Broadmarsh car park, bus station and shopping centre. It also aims to start the redevelopment of Broadmarsh West, including land to the west of Carrington Street, the Castle College site and land around the Trip to Jerusalem with a new square, public open space and appropriate development “to ensure the castle is visible and showcased as an important asset of the city”.

It pledges to continue transforming land alongside the River Trent “into a neighbourhood of choice”.

As part of its transport promises, Nottingham will promote and build tram extensions south of Clifton and from Chilwell park-and-ride to the proposed new HS2 Station at Toton, and explore the feasibility of further significant tram extensions through Netherfield to Gedling Colliery and Gamston and west of the city to Kimberley. It will also upgrade cycle routes to encourage more leisure and commuter cycling.

Other aims include reducing the number of empty shops from 15 per cent to below 10 per cent and returning Nottingham to the top six retail rankings outside of London. The city also intends to be a “bee-friendly” city, with suitable habitats in every neighbourhood and promises to plant at least 10,000 trees.

“It is about the future of our city for all who live, work, study, invest and visit here,” said leader David Mellen and chief executive Ian Curryer in a foreword to the plan. “We will use this document to lead the plans and decisions we make over the next four years.”

13 November 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner 

Oxford City Council is to provide land to pilot a community-led housing project in a bid to tackle the local housing crisis.

The proposal will see the council provide a long-term lease to a community group so they could build new homes on a small unused garage site in Littlemore. The site comprises seven unused garages and a forecourt.

The homes would be for social rent and managed as a cooperative by residents of the development.

If it is successful, Oxford would look to supply more unused garage sites to local groups to convert into community-led housing projects.

The council has supported local architects Transition by Design and Oxfordshire Community Land Trust to bid for £40,000 from the government’s Community Housing Fund to develop the scheme. 

The project could see three or more one and/or two-bedroom homes built on the site, with tenants selected from the council’s housing waiting list and asked to confirm that they would be happy living in housing that had a cooperative element.

Oxford is one of the least affordable places to buy a home in the country. In February, Lloyds Bank revealed that the average house price in Oxford was £460,000 – or 12 times average annual earnings in the city.

About 3,000 families are on Oxford’s waiting list for social housing. In November 2017, 60 per cent of the households on the register were under the age of 44 and half had dependent children.

12 November 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner 

The government should revitalise the key worker housing initiative, according to a think tank.

The Policy Exchange is demanding radical reforms including prioritising affordable housing schemes with a significant proportion of key worker homes when allocating grant funding.

Public sector landowners should also be encouraged to build affordable homes reserved for local key workers on surplus land and property.

The think tank calls on the government to update the eligibility criteria for key workers. Such a programme would enable “more of the most valued and important frontline public sector workers” like police officers, teachers, NHS staff and firefighters to live in or near the communities they serve.

It warned that many key workers face acute affordability challenges that force them to commute from “ever further away”, particularly in the rental sector and particularly in London and the South East. As part of a revitalised programme, extra housing support should be provided in and around London.

The Policy Exchange said police officers are a special case among essential public sector workers, as they work antisocial hours and move around more.

Previous research by the think tank revealed that housing is a particular issue for Metropolitan Police officers, with many choosing to move or leave the capital in search of more affordable homes. Housing support will be a vital part of achieving the force’s objective of recruiting 5,000 more officers within the next few years, it added.

13 November 2019
Huw Morris, The Planner