Latest news

Planning news - 10 January 2020

Published: Wednesday, 8th January 2020

14 areas to receive funding for high streets, Decline in planning applications received from July to September, Wealden local plan halted on duty to cooperate. And more stories...

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

RTPI logo
Planner jobs

The government has announced the first 14 of 20 pilot areas in England that will receive funding and tailored advice that aims to ‘rejuvenate’ town centres.

The High Streets Task Force will work with the towns. The first 101 places that will benefit from up to £25 million each were named last summer. These next 14 towns are also part of the government’s £3.6 billion Towns Fund, which invests in towns and high streets.

The first 14 places that will take part in the pilot are:

  • Salford - Swinton Town centre
  • Croydon - Thornton Heath
  • Staffordshire Moorlands - Cheadle
  • Rushmoor - Aldershot Town Centre
  • Birmingham - Stirchley
  • Hyndburn – Accrington Town Centre
  • South Lakeland - Kendal
  • Preston - Friargate
  • Coventry - Coventry City Centre
  • Hartlepool - Hartlepool Town Centre
  • Cheshire West and Chester - Ellesmere Port Town Centre
  • Sandwell - West Bromwich Town Centre
  • Knowsley - Huyton Town Centre
  • Manchester - Withington District Centre

The High Streets Task Force was formed by the government in response to recommendations made by an expert panel on the high street chaired by Sir John Timpson.

The government said the High Streets Task Force would give face-to-face support, access to “cutting-edge” research, new online training, and local footfall data to give businesses an edge in transforming town centres.

Additional funding would also be provided to further support the 101 high streets announced over summer in planning for how to best use the £25 million funding available to them.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Having announced the first 101 high streets that can benefit from £25 million each back in the summer, I am announcing support from our new High Streets Task Force for a further 20 places and naming 14 of these today. The Task Force will provide the tools they need to get the best advice possible and a dashboard of key local data.

“Central to the mission of this new government is levelling up towns and regions, ensuring prosperity and opportunity are available to everyone. Over the course of 2020, we will invest hundreds of millions into projects to transform our town centres and support bespoke plans to meet the needs of individual local communities.”

As part of its work to improve town centres, the government is seeking views on whether an online register of commercial properties would make it easier to bring empty shops back into use. It wants to understand people’s experiences of leasing commercial property, with the view to making ownership of high street properties more transparent. The survey on this survey can be found on the UK Government website.

6 January 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

District-level planning authorities received 106,500 planning applications between July and September 2019 – 4 per cent fewer than in the same quarter of 2018.

The statistics released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) indicate that district councils granted 90,600 decisions (88 per cent) during that quarter.

Of the larger planning applications, 87 per cent were decided within 13 weeks or the agreed time, a small decline from 88 per cent in the same quarter a year earlier.

District councils granted 11,500 residential developments – 3 per cent fewer than the same quarter in 2018 – and 2,200 commercial development applications, which is 4 per cent fewer than a year earlier.

According to the release, in the year ending September 2019, district-level planning authorities granted 352,400 decisions, which is a decline of 4 per cent on the year ending September 2018.

They granted 45,500 decisions on residential developments, 6,000 of which were for major developments and 39,500 were for minor developments, down by six and 5 per cent respectively compared with the year ending September 2018.

Planning Applications in England: July to September 2019 can be found on the UK Government website (pdf).

3 January 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Planning Inspectorate has advised Wealden District Council that it cannot proceed with its local plan as it has ‘failed in its legal duty’ to comply with the duty to cooperate.

Inspector Louise Nurser's central concern was the lack of constructive engagement with neighbouring authorities and Natural England, with particular regard to the impacts on habitats and landscape and unmet housing need in Eastbourne.

Ashdown Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC) lies in the district, while the Pevensey Levels SAC is located in both Wealden district and Rother District Council's area. The neighbouring Lewes Downs SAC lies within the administrative boundary of Lewes District Council and the South Downs National Park Authority.

For Nurser, it was “unreasonable and lacking in scientific credibility” for the council to use an emissions model that did not allow for emission improvements over the plan period, which runs to 2028. This went against the advice of Natural England, as well as the council’s own air quality advisers, the inspector noted.

She said: “Whilst the council may be entitled to take a different view from the advice of a nationally important body and an acknowledged expert in the subject, it needs to support its position with adequate evidence. It did not do so, but instead took a position which was in scientific terms lacking in credibility."

Regarding cross-boundary issues, Nurser highlighted that the Ashdown Forest Working Group (AFWG) was formed to address the effects of traffic generation that arose from proposed development in local plans on the Ashdown Forest SAC through the Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA). Each local authority is represented, as is Natural England.

Wealden District Council has data that could have been of use to neighbouring authorities in the working group in producing their evidence bases and would support cross-boundary work on air quality. However, Nurser concluded that the council “did not share the information on a constructive basis with all its fellow members of the AFWG”.

The council said it withheld the information as monitors have been vandalised in the past, and as their locations would be subject to Freedom of Information requests, it could happen again. However, Natural England did have access to the data, with Nurser saying “it was clearly illogical not to share the information with the other councils on a similar basis”.

“By repeatedly refusing to release data, the council did not work constructively or in the spirit of cooperation.”

Eastbourne borough's unmet housing need is down to the area’s physical capability and infrastructure limitations to growth. The area lies within Wealden’s Housing Market Area. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) are clear that local planning authorities should meet their own housing need and meet the needs of other authorities in the same housing market.

Some of Eastbourne’s unmet need was catered for in an earlier version of the plan, when it covered the period to 2037. When it changed to cover the period to 2028, this allocated contribution was dropped. Nurser notes that the evidence indicates that “there was no meaningful discussion about how Eastbourne’s unmet needs could be met”.

She concluded that because of the council’s failure to cooperate on several issues, the plan could not proceed to examination.

Bob Standley, leader of Wealden District Council, said the council tried to find the “right balance” between growth in housing and employment land and protecting the environment.

“Unfortunately, the planning inspector, following last summer’s examination in public of our local plan, has found that we put too great an emphasis on protecting the environment and that we need to do more to build houses in Wealden which our neighbouring councils cannot accommodate.

“Regrettably, this will inevitably have impacts on our communities. We acknowledge that there is already significant pressure on infrastructure, such as roads, doctors, dentists, schools and sports facilities. A requirement to build more homes will only have a greater impact on those facilities, which will require further investment.”

More information about the Wealden District Council Local Plan and the inspector's conclusions can be found on the council website.

6 January 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A consultation has been published on proposals to dispense with the need for planning permission to erect sheds or glasshouses on allotment sites in Wales.

Allotments, which are often owned by a local authority or managed by an allotment association, are usually divided up into smaller plots of land to be cultivated separated by a family or individual.

Planning permission is currently required in most circumstances for a shed or glasshouse to be built on the smaller plots.

The Welsh Government’s consultation suggests that planning rules could be amended so a shed or glasshouse can be built on each plot, subject to conditions that limit their size. It’s also proposed that there should be a limit of one shed/glasshouse per 125 square metres (equivalent to half a plot).

These changes would reduce the number of minor planning applications that local planning authorities have to consider so resources could be devoted to more complex applications.

Julie James, local government minister, said requiring planning permission for a shed or a glasshouse on an allotment “imposes unwarranted costs on individuals and local planning authorities".

“I want the communities of the future in Wales to be places where people want to live, work and enjoy leisure activities. Providing support for community food growing and green infrastructure is essential to delivering this vision.

“Our allotments are not only great for growing our own food, they’re a wonderful example of places that create opportunities for leisure and social interaction, while also supporting healthy and active lifestyles.

“I hope the changes we propose making to planning rules will allow our allotments to grow and thrive long into the future.”

The consultation, which closes on 28 February, can be found on the Welsh Government website  (pdf).

3 January 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has estimated that 2,531 homes were sold under Right to Buy from the beginning of July 2019 to the end of September 2019.

This is an increase of 4 per cent compared with the same quarter in 2018/19, according to the statistics.

In the second quarter of 2019/20 local authorities received £215.7 million from Right to Buy sales. This is 5 per cent more than the £206.4 million they received in the same quarter of 2018/19. The average receipt per dwelling sold in Q2 was £85,200.

Under the Right to Buy replacement policy, there were 1,394 dwellings started on site or acquired during the second quarter of 2018/19, which is 11 per cent higher than the number of dwellings started or acquired in the same quarter of 2018/19.

Right to Buy Sales in England: July to September 2019 can be found on the UK Government website (pdf).

3 January 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A round-up of planning news.

Budget to be held in March

Chancellor Sajid Javid has announced that the Budget will take place on Wednesday 11 March.

During a visit to Manchester today, Javid set out plans to use the government’s first Budget to deliver change.

He said: “People across the country have told us that they want change. We’ve listened and will now deliver.

“With this Budget we will unleash Britain’s potential – uniting our great country, opening a new chapter for our economy and ushering in a decade of renewal.”

He said the Budget will be aimed at spreading opportunity by investing billions of pounds across the nation and would prioritise the environment.

Funding available for active travel in Scotland

Cycling Scotland has confirmed that a further £350,000 of Scottish Government funding is now available for registered social landlords to help to make walking and cycling easier and more accessible for people as part of their everyday journeys.

Housing associations can apply for grants of up to £25,000 for a range of infrastructure proposals. This could be for cycle parking shelters, benches and other seating, litter bins, planters, and improvements to access points and lighting.

The Social Housing Partnership Fund for Improved Cycling & Walking Facilities, which is delivered by Cycling Scotland, aims to support housing associations and tenement residential properties across Scotland to encourage active travel. It prioritises areas of high deprivation.

Cycling Scotland is working in partnership with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), Living Streets Scotland and Sustrans Scotland to deliver the initiative.

Kath Brough, head of behaviour change at Cycling Scotland, said: “More funding will make it possible for even more people living and working in social housing across the country to walk and cycle. Secure cycle parking, seating and street furniture will make it easier, more accessible and more enjoyable for residents and staff to get active, enjoy the outside space and connect with others."

More information can be found on the Cycling Scotland website.

Regeneration of Birmingham building approved

Birmingham City Council has granted planning approval for the redevelopment of the former Rackhams building in the city centre.

The refurbishment will retain many of the original features and the character of the buildings while responding to the changing demands in retailing and office accommodation.

The property will provide space for retailers, bars, restaurants and other leisure uses on the ground and lower ground floors, while nine floors above will be converted for office use.

A contemporary ‘boutique’ hotel will be built on the corner of Temple Row and Cherry Street.

Owner Legal & General appointed the original architects, tp bennett, to design the refurbishment, which is currently occupied by House of Fraser. The retailer has occupied the building on a temporary basis, having entered into a company voluntary arrangement in 2018. Turley is the planning consultant for the scheme.

Co-living development proposed for Stratford approved

The London Legacy Development Corporation has granted planning permission for a 22-storey scheme that will feature short-stay co-living rooms.

The development will be built on an unused commercial site on Stratford High Street.

Designed by London-based firm PLP Architecture, The Collective Stratford will comprise:

  • 287 short-stay co-living rooms with a shared cinema, restaurant, gym and outdoor terraces;
  • 7,700 square feet of workspace including 3,450 square feet of co-working space which will be let at 50 per cent affordable rent;
  • community space for local residents, businesses and charities;
  • a community investment programme for local partners to use the events and employment facilities free of charge; and
  • creation of 155 jobs through the new hotel and employment space.

The collective will contribute £650,000 towards the surrounding public realm, including improvements to Stratford Station and local biodiversity with the clearing and landscaping of nearby Channelsea River.

Little Aston man fined for tree felling

Cannock Magistrates’ Court has fined a Little Aston man £1,750 and ordered him to pay £3,000 in court costs for felling three protected trees.

In December, Scott Francis pleaded guilty to felling the protected trees, which were in his garden.

The trees, an English oak, a mature Scots pine and a young Scots pine, were all within the Little Aston conservation area.

Francis must also pay a victim surcharge of £175.

Pub approved for Ebbsfleet

Ebbsfleet Development Corporation’s planning committee has given the go-ahead to plans for the garden city’s second pub and hotel.

The pub will be at the heart of the community and located on a new fast-track bus route. It will be called The Chalk Yard, a name based on the area’s mining history.

Plans were put forward by brewer Shepherd Neame.

There will be 17 individually designed rooms as well as a function room for community or private events and up to 25 full-time jobs are expected to be created.  

Ebbsfleet Development Corporation’s chief planning officer Mark Pullin said: “We’re very pleased that so much consideration has been given to the look and appearance and that it is so strongly based on the area’s history in what will be a high-quality building.”  

The first pub and hotel opened in 2017 in Ebbsfleet Garden City, which now has more than 1,900 homes and almost 5,000 residents.

Planner becomes fellow of Royal Aeronautical Society

In an ‘industry first’, Tabitha Knowles has been recognised as a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS).

An associate director with consultancy Lichfields, Knowles has professional qualifications in airport planning and town planning. She has experience in airport growth strategy, planning and design, which has seen her appointed to the Department for Transport’s Aviation Strategy Expert Panel.

Knowles wrote to the RAeS to see if she could become a member, but instead it responded to say she could be a fellow. “It is a great honour and humbling to be recognised by the RAeS in this capacity, along with the acknowledgment of the valuable role planning has to play to support a thriving, yet evolving, aviation sector that must grow in a safe, secure and sustainable way."

7 January 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner