Latest news

Planning News - 6 February 2020

Published: Thursday, 6th February 2020

Jenrick announces £1bn funding for SME builders. Legal challenge over Leadsom's approval of power station. Government chooses preferred route for central section of East West Rail. And more stories...

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

RTPI logo
Planner jobs

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that small and medium sized builders will be able to apply for £1 billion in government funding.  

Jenrick said that the money will be made available through the British Business Bank's ENABLE Build Programme. SME builders will be able to apply for the secure loans from participating banks.  

Jenrick said: "Small housebuilders are vital to building the homes this country needs but too often struggle to access affordable finance."

The  £1 billion of loan funding will, said Jenrick, allow local builders to "kickstart building, level up the country and turbocharge the housing sector".

Reinald de Monchy, managing director, guarantee and wholesale, British Business Bank, said: "The ENABLE Build programme is a great example of using a cross-government approach to tackle an important, complex issue.

"Working in partnership with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Homes England to address both access to finance and the UK housing shortage, the ENABLE Build programme will allow us to build on our ENABLE Guarantee's success in supporting smaller housebuilders that have traditionally struggled to access the funding they need."

The government scheme was first opened for applications in May 2019, and has since received interest from specialist and mainstream lenders such as high street banks.

Information published in the House of Commons has set out when the ENABLE Build scheme will start to provide the guarantee finance and how lenders and house builders can get involved.

The housing secretary's written statement can be found on the Parliament UK website.

30 January 2020
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

Environmental law charity Client Earth is taking the UK Government to the High Court following the energy secretary's approval of plans to modify coal-fired generating units to gas-powered ones at Drax Power Station, Selby.

An inspector recommended that the secretary of state refuse consent for the development due to its "failure to deliver carbon reduction objectives", but energy secretary Andrea Leadsom went against this advice.

Considered under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) regime, Drax Power Limited said the project would enable Drax to deliver "more reliable and flexible, high-efficiency" electricity generation and help the UK to transition to net zero-carbon emissions by 2050.

Client Earth said Leadsom's decision "undermines the UK's path to reducing carbon emissions and building a more sustainable energy sector".

The environmental law charity highlights that the Climate Change Committee, the government's advisor on the climate, has warned there should be no more gas on the UK grid by the mid-2030s without carbon capture and storage.

According to the government's latest forecasts, the UK will need just 6 gigawatts (GW) of new gas generation to 2035 and, Clint Earth explained, they have already approved 15GW worth of large-scale gas plants.

The approval of Drax Power Limited's application takes total planned gas capacity to 18GW, which is three times the government's estimates, Client Earth said.

ClientEarth's climate lawyer Sam Hunter Jones said: "The secretary of state has ignored the recommendations of her own planning authority, and her decision is at odds with the government's own climate change plans to decarbonise in a cost-effective manner."

"Only this month David Attenborough warned governments to take more action to tackle global heating, pointing to the Australian bushfires as proof humanity's moment of crisis has come.

"With scientists also ringing the alarm bells for decades, we shouldn't need to take the government to court over its decision to allow what would be Europe's biggest gas plant."

In a statement on its website, a spokesperson for Drax Power Limited stated that the firm's ambition is to become carbon negative by 2030 "using ground-breaking bioenergy with carbon capture and storage technology (BECCS)", which it says could be achieved "with new, high efficiency gas power capacity as part of our portfolio of flexible generating assets.  

"Drax Power Station plays a vital role both as a major employer in the North and in producing the reliable, flexible renewable power millions of homes and businesses rely on.

"We are exploring a range of options using different, flexible technologies, including this high efficiency gas project. It could support the continued decarbonisation of the energy system, helping the UK on its path to net zero by 2050, in line with the government's policies."

31 January 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The government has announced its preferred route for the Bedford to Cambridge section of the East West Rail line.

Route E could see the connectivity of local transport across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc receive a "significant boost".

The preferred route would see existing stations in Bedford and Cambridge linked with communities in Cambourne and the area north of Sandy, south of St Neots.

It was, according to the East West Railway Company website, the most popular option with those who responded to a consultation on the route options, and it also "delivers the best value for the taxpayer" and the "best opportunities for the environment".

The government must now decide on whether to continue with the scheme and make an application for a development consent order.

The project is being overseen by the East West Railway Company, which was established by the UK Government in 2017 as a non-departmental public arm's-length body.

George Freeman, minister of state for the future of transport, said: "East West Rail has the potential to improve rail links to support opportunities for new housing, reduce congestion and pollution and unlock the economic potential across the region.

"By boosting rail connectivity, we can improve access to economic opportunities for people in this area, and boost the quality of life in this vital arc."

Paul Maynard, the minister responsible for the East West Rail link, added: "East West Rail could help us revolutionise transport in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, increasing people's access to job opportunities while making travel quicker, cheaper and easier."

The western section phase 1 of the East West Rail line runs from Oxford to Bicester. It was delivered in 2016 by Network Rail, Chiltern Railways, and a joint venture led by local companies Carillion and Buckingham Group.

A line from Bicester to Bedford forms the western section phase 2, which is currently under way. It is being delivered by the East West Rail Alliance with oversight from the East West Railway Company.

More information can be found on the East West Rail Company website.

3 February 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner.

Hull City Council has adopted a Residential Design Guide, the city's first planning policy that specifically addresses the design quality of new housing.

The planning department developed the guide, and Harper Perry Architects provided examples of best practice and exemplary design.

The supplementary planning document covers strategic site planning considerations, construction detail and future smart home ambitions, amongst other topics.

The guide is structured around three key themes - urban design; streets and public spaces; and building design. There are best practice examples from the UK and Europe, and the document intends to provide guidance to create positive public spaces that are well-used and valued, with spaces between buildings safe for everyone to use, such as older residents, people with cognitive impairments and people with pushchairs.

It also addresses various design details, including daylight and sunlight; battery storage and integrating design strategies.

Hull City Council's senior urban design Rob Beardsworth led the work on the design guide, which is aimed at architects, urban designers, planning consultants and housing developers, as well as members of the planning committee and the public.

The council's planning department and Harper Perry sought to ensure the guidance was a "highly visual, engaging and accessible document".

Alex Codd, Hull City Council's assistant director of economic regeneration, said: "Hull is quickly becoming one of the North's most desirable places to live. It is an independent waterfront city which has seen £250 million investment in public spaces, retail and leisure outlets, cultural venues, and a further investment in excess of £200 million in its flood defences.

"As the city's economy grows, it is vital that there is quality new housing to help this process. This guide will help to make sure these properties are in place."

James Perry, director at Harper Perry, added: "The design guide set by Hull City is a really positive foundation, but designers and housebuilders need to raise their ambitions from the outset. The design of new housing all too often is dominated by car movement and parking, and fails to provide positive, welcoming spaces in between homes to foster a positive sense of neighbourliness. This has to change."

Download the Hull Residential Design Guide (PDF 36Mb).

30 January 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner.

Birmingham City Council's planning committee has approved plans to redevelop Alexander Stadium for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The £72 million plan will see the stadium become a high-quality venue for diverse sporting, leisure, community and cultural events.

The stadium's permanent seating capacity will increase from 12,700 to 18,000, allowing more than 30,000 during the games through additional temporary seating.

The venue will initially host the opening and closing ceremonies and the athletics during the 11-day event. 

After the games, it will be at the centre of a regenerated Perry Barr, which will receive more than £500 million investment. This is expected to provide new housing, improved transport and related upgrades to infrastructure and public space.

The stadium will also become a focal point for a range of leisure, health, wellbeing and community activities for local residents and the wider general public, said the council.

Key features of the new stadium will include:

  • A new western stand replacing the Main, Knowles and Nelson stands;
  • New tiered seating to the north and south;
  • A new 400m 6-lane warm up track and re-laying of a new IAAF Category 1 track (400m 9-lane competition standard track);
  • Improved public realm and parking provision, with additional landscaping and signage;
  • Installation of new stadium lighting and practice throwing field; and
  • A new access road from A453 Aldridge Road (to be used for event/maintenance use only).

Bob Sleigh, deputy mayor of the West Midlands, said: "The West Midlands Combined Authority was pleased to contribute funding towards the redevelopment of the Alexander Stadium as not only will it provide a world-class sporting arena at the heart of our region, it meets our aim of encouraging economic growth, creating jobs and improving the health of citizens.

"We are also investing in train, bus, tram and cycle routes across the whole region, which will not only meet the public transport needs for Birmingham 2022, but also serve the people of the West Midlands for years to come."

The construction of the new stand will begin in spring and finish in late 2021. Test events will follow in preparation for the 2022 games.

3 February 2020
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

150 attend RTPI parliamentary reception

MPs and peers from across the political spectrum attended the RTPI's annual parliamentary reception, alongside planning professionals.

Attended by more than 150 guests, the reception was held in the Pavilion Terrace for the first time.

The reception is an important opportunity for planners, politicians and others interested in the built environment to get together for an evening of discussion and networking.

Guests included figures from organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Building, BAME in Property, the Landscape Institute, the Planning Inspectorate, and local authority heads of planning.

The RTPI has extended a special thanks to the RTPI's parliamentary patron Sir Bob Neill MP, who welcomed guests with a speech, as well as the event's sponsor British Land, represented at the event by Michael Meadows.


Environment Bill introduced to Parliament

The government has introduced its Environment Bill 2020 to Parliament as it looks to protect the natural environment for "generations to come".

The bill returns to Parliament following the general election in December. It was first introduced to the Commons in October last year.

The government said the enhanced bill would "enshrine environmental principles in law" and introduce measures to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats.

The bill makes provisions for the establishment of an independent Office for Environmental Protection, which would scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and where necessary take enforcement action against public authorities to uphold environmental standards.

The bill can be viewed on the UK Parliament website.


Consultations launched in Edinburgh

The City of Edinburgh Council has asked residents to share their views on the draft City Mobility Plan and the Choices for City Plan 2030.

The draft City Mobility Plan is a 10-year strategy that aims to create accessible, affordable and environmentally friendly travel in and around Edinburgh.

The Choices for City Plan 2030 sets out options for the sustainable management of future development during a time of major change.

The council explained that the two draft plans are closely linked and therefore are being consulted on at the same time to ensure that any new development helps people to make healthier choices, improving quality of life through enhanced provision for walking and cycling and better links to public transport.

Council leader Adam McVey said: "These ambitious plans to transform our approach to both transport and development in the capital are essential to our ambition to become carbon-neutral by 2030, to vastly improve the city's environment and to create a healthier, fairer and more inclusive place for everyone.

"We're about to embark upon a period of significant change, where we simply must meet the challenges posed by population growth and a climate emergency head on. We have it within our power to drive our city forward, to adapt and thrive despite the pressures we face. If we act now, with pace, we will realise the future Edinburgh and its residents deserve."

View further details of the City Plan 2030.


Stockport issues call or sites

Stockport Council has issued a call for sites as part of its works to develop a new local plan for the area.

The council is asking people to identify land or sites they would like to see either protected or developed for a particular use.

This could either be the protection of open space or sites that should be promoted for a use different from its current use, whether for housing, business or leisure development.

The call for sites closes on close on 28 February 2020.

More information can be found on the council website.


Dover approves expansion of business park

Dover District Council has granted planning permission for the latest expansion of the White Cliffs Business Park.

The new Parkway Trade Park will be developed on a 0.7-hectare site that sits adjacent to the Lidl supermarket on Honeywood Parkway at Whitfield.

It will include a drive-thru coffee shop, gym, and two trade counter units, along with new access and parking arrangements.


Housing approved in Ebbsfleet

Ebbsfleet Development Corporation's planning committee has granted planning approval for 133 homes to be delivered by Redrow.

The latest phase will bring the total number of homes with full details approved up to 783 at Ebbsfleet Green.

The latest approval includes a range of carbon-reduction measures, such as solar panels, sustainable drainage and electric vehicle-charging points. The proposed development would incorporate high performance building fabrics and glazing, and 100 per cent low-energy lighting.

Mark Pullin, chief planning officer with Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, said: "The approval of the one, two, three and four-bedroom homes, which includes affordable housing, is a significant milestone for Ebbsfleet Green which now will only have one phase left for our planning committee to decide on.

"The Redrow site has shown how good-quality housing can be developed at pace here in Ebbsfleet Garden City."


Deputy mayor for housing in London appointed

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced that Tom Copley AM has been appointed as his new deputy mayor for housing and residential development.

He will succeed James Murray, who recently left the post to stand successfully as a Member of Parliament.

Copley has served on the London Assembly since 2012 and is chair of the London Assembly Housing Committee. He has campaigned as a councillor in Lewisham and as an assembly member for all Londoners to have access to safe, affordable and secure housing across the capital.


Ferneham Hall could be remodelled

A planning application that aims to remodel the new multipurpose venue to replace Ferneham Hall has been submitted to Fareham Borough Council.

Designed by architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, the plans include a fly tower, which is a rigging system that enables scenery and cast to be flown or carried above the stage.

Red-brick accents against a backdrop of grey and white have been proposed for the exterior, which reflects Fareham's history of producing red brick.

In recognition of the council's desire to become carbon-neutral by 2030, the building design would be thermally efficient and incorporate green technologies such as air-source heat pumps to provide low-cost heating, solar (photovoltaic) panels and LED lighting.

The application can be viewed on the council website.


4 February 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner.