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Planning news - 12 March 2020

Published: Thursday, 12th March 2020

Budget 2020: Billions made available to increase affordable housing, Consultation opens on advice for tall buildings, Wales launches pioneering DIY homebuilding scheme. And more stories...

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

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‘Affordable and safe housing’ was described by chancellor Rishi Sunak as the government’s ‘second priority’ after investment in public services in his inaugural Budget speech on the 11 March.

Among a raft of proposals related to housing, Sunak pledged £12.2 billion for the government’s Affordable Housing Fund, and an extra £1 billion to remove unsafe cladding from residential buildings.

In addition, Sunak promised a near-£11 billion investment to support the commitment to government housebuilding targets, as well as new funding for housing infrastructure and for “pro-development” local authorities to bring brownfield land into use.

These are the aspects of the Budget related to housing:

Affordable housing

The Budget sets out £9.5 billion for the Affordable Homes Programme. In total, this five-year programme allocates £12.2 billion of grant funding from 2021-22 to build affordable homes across England. The government claims that this would attract a further £38 billion in public and private investment. 

“Today I can make good our promise to extend the Affordable Homes Programme with a new, multi-year settlement of £12 billion,” the new chancellor told the House of Commons. “This will be the largest cash investment in affordable housing in a decade.”

Housing safety

In the wake of the allocation of £600 million to remove aluminium composite material for high-rise buildings, the chancellor promised a £1 billion Building Safety Fund to pay for the removal of unsafe cladding from residential buildings above 18 metres.

“Expert advice is clear that new public funding must concentrate on removing unsafe materials from high-rise residential buildings,” Sunak told fellow MPs. “The new fund will go beyond dealing with aluminium composite material to make sure that all unsafe combustible cladding will be removed.”

Meeting housebuilding targets

The chancellor promised a £10.9 billion increase in housing investment to support the commitment to build at least a million new homes by the end of the Parliament, and an average of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. 

Social housing

The Budget contains provision to consult on revising the terms of Public Works Loan Board lending to enable local authorities to “continue to invest in housing, infrastructure and frontline services”. Specifically, the Budget promises to cut the Housing Revenue Account lending rate for investment in social housing rate for investment in social housing by 1 per cent for authorities in England, Scotland and Wales. This, it argues, will “make an extra £1.15 billion of discounted loans available for local infrastructure projects”.

Housing infrastructure

Nine areas, including Manchester, South Sunderland and South Lancaster, will receive £1.1 billion of allocations from the Housing Infrastructure Fund for investment in the infrastructure necessary to ‘unlock’ housing, such as schools, roads and GP surgeries. This, the government claims, will ‘unlock’ up to 69,620 homes.

In addition, the Budget announces the impending launch of a Single Housing Infrastructure Fund to invest in strategic infrastructure and land assembly in “areas of high demand across the country”.

Increasing land supply

A new Brownfield Housing Fund – “to level up all regions of the country” – will allocate £400 million to “pro-development councils and ambitious Mayoral Combined Authorities” to enable them to make more brownfield land available for development. The government will “shortly invite bids that are ambitious”.

In addition, the Budget notes that limitations on land availability created by the planning system are “the most significant barrier to building more houses”. To address this, communities secretary Robert Jenrick will “shortly set out comprehensive reforms to bring the planning system into the 21st century, followed by a Planning White Paper in the spring”.

The Budget also provides £42 million to the Land Registry to continue its project of digitising land registration in England and Wales - in theory, making the system of land ownership (and thus availability) more accessible and transparent. The Land Registry will receive an additional £350 million to “transition from a trading fund into part of central government”.

Housing design

The Budget mentions the Future Homes Standard in the context of the government’s commitment to reduce emissions from homes and keep household energy costs low. The government will announce plans to improve the standards of new builds “in due course”.

House price controls

The Chancellor pledged to introduce a two per cent surcharge on Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) for non-UK residents buying residential property in England. The intention is to control house price inflation and "support UK residents to get onto and move up the housing ladder". 

In addition housing co-operatives in England and Northern Ireland will be given a relief from the 15 per cent flat rate of SDLT on houses over £500,000, as well as relief from the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED). SDLT relief will be available from the Autumn Budget 2020 and ATED relief from 1 April 2021.

The full Budget document can be found on the UK Government website

11 March 2020
Simon Wicks, the Planner


Historic England has launched a consultation on its updated draft advice note to guide the planning and design of tall buildings.

Originally published in 2007, the Tall Buildings Advice Note was last published in 2015.

Although tall buildings can make a positive contribution to city life, it acknowledges, they can harm the historic character of places owing to their size and visibility.

The advice note highlights the importance of carefully considering historic context, protecting the historic environment, the need for high-quality design, and the need for sustainable development.

It has been updated in response to recent changes in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), as well as recent good practice.

The 2020 updates include:

  • Greater emphasis on the importance of a plan-led approach.
  • Updated references to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) and the National Design Guide throughout, especially regarding design, placemaking and the efficient use of land.
  • Acknowledgement of the changing technologies and tools that are available and can be used to provide evidence when considering tall building proposals.
  • The integration of case studies to make the advice clear and accessible.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive at Historic England, said: “Well-designed tall buildings can be positive additions to towns and cities when thought is given to their location, but we see many ill-considered proposals that would harm their surroundings.

“With London and major towns and cities throughout the UK receiving large numbers of applications every year, we have updated our advice on planning for tall buildings so it reflects our recent experience and restates the need for new buildings to offer a meaningful response to the history and character of our cities.”

The consultation can be found on the Historic England website.

4 March 2020
Laura Edgar, the Planner


A pioneering scheme to assist people in building their own home – helping to increase the supply of housing and boosting the Welsh construction industry in the process – was launched this week by ministers.

Self-Build Wales, which is financed to the tune of £40 million by the Welsh Government and managed by the Development Bank of Wales, will provide people with ‘oven-ready’ plots and a loan that covers 75 per cent of the cost of a building plot and 100 per cent of the cost of building a home.

To help self-builders meet everyday living costs, there are no repayments until the new home is completed.

The scheme, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, should remove the barriers and uncertainty around self-builds and custom-builds – such as finding a plot, planning and finance – so enabling more homes to be built.

Hannah Blythyn, deputy minister for housing, said: “While we are investing significantly in building new social and affordable homes, we also want to help far more people who want to build their own homes – doing so should not be the preserve of the most privileged households.

“We know finding the land, navigating planning consents and being able to afford to self-build while covering the cost of living can be real barriers. Self-Build Wales removes these barriers and makes it far easier for people to build their own home. It will also be a significant boost to building firms across Wales.”

Through the recycling of lending, the initiative is projected to provide £210 million of financial support through its lifetime.

Under the scheme, local authorities and housing associations will make plots available with planning and site requirements as complete as possible. They can also set priorities for applicants.

The scheme’s website allows applicants to find plots with planning permission in place.

6 March 2020
Roger Milne, the Planner


Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has approved over £3.5 million of government funding for Grimsby, including £2.2 million of new investment for the next phase of its Town Deal.

The Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) was also awarded £1.3 million through the government’s local growth fund programme – bringing the total public and private funding to at least £90 million.

The Town Deal aims to deliver 8,000 new jobs and nearly 10,000 new homes in Grimsby. It was initially announced in July 2018 that a £67 million “stage 1 Town Deal” had been agreed with Greater Grimsby.

A year later in July 2019, the government committed another £4 million to the regeneration of the town.

This £3.5 million of funding will provide a high-quality replacement pedestrian footbridge over the River Freshney and improve the attractiveness of the strategic Garth Lane site to potential investors.

The investment will also fund highway improvements to Frederick Ward Way, giving pedestrians greater access to the town centre from Garth Lane.

Grimsby will also still have the opportunity to bid for up to £25 million as part of the £3.6 billion Towns Fund.

Jenrick said: “The Grimsby Town Deal has already provided millions of pounds of investment to support local plans to develop Grimsby town centre and help business to create more high-quality jobs. I’m pleased to announce the next phase of funding today.

“Grimsby is leading the way and we want to replicate this deal in over 100 towns that will benefit from this government’s £3.6 billion Towns Fund – which will also fund further projects in Grimsby.

“We want to level up all parts of the country, ensuring that opportunity and prosperity is available to all and we unleash the potential of the Midlands and the North.”

Philip Jackson, leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, said: “The Town Deal is acting as a catalyst to unlock a much wider regeneration programme for Grimsby town centre and the Port of Grimsby. It has the potential to realise new commercial, cultural, leisure and residential opportunities on the port and on under-used land around Alexandra Dock.”

“Delivering the Town Deal will bring about major changes for north east Lincolnshire and help to deliver a brighter future for our residents and businesses.”

Lord Haskins, chair of the Humber LEP, said: “The Humber LEP are pleased to support the development of Frederick Ward Way as part of the Town Deal, with £1.3 million allocated from the Local Growth Fund to support highway improvements on Garth Lane, which will in turn help unlock potential in Grimsby town centre.”

5 March 2020
Prithvi Pandya, the Planner


A joint venture will receive a multimillion-pound funding boost from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to help it transform the former Caparo steelworks site in Walsall into a 252-home community.

The cash from the WMCA Housing Land Fund means that the derelict 16.5-acre site can be cleaned up and made ready for redevelopment into housing.

The development will provide a mix of housing types, including private homes for sale and rent and 78 affordable homes, both for shared ownership and affordable rent. It will include one and two bedroom apartments for the over-55s, as well as two, three and four-bedroom houses.

The scheme is being developed by Anthem Lovell LLP, a joint venture between local housing association WHG and Lovell Partnership. The project will create local jobs and 15 apprenticeships during construction.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Not only will this scheme help to further ease pressure on the green belt in the Black Country, but it will also help to increase the number of affordable homes being built across the region.

“The funding deal requires developer Anthem Lovell to make at least 20 per cent of the new homes affordable and it’s excellent they have chosen to exceed that and go for 30 per cent instead.”

The WMCA said it would provide “expert support in tackling the land remediation and other issues on the site so that much-needed new housing and industrial land close to Walsall town centre can be brought forward by the developers”.

A reserved matters planning application for the 252-home scheme was submitted recently with a decision expected by the summer. 

6 March 2020
Prithvi Pandya, the Planner


Bolsover District Council has adopted its new local plan, which aims to facilitate delivery of 5,168 new homes over the plan period.

Of those homes, nearly 1,000 will be built near the town centre.

Covering the next 13 years, the local plan also includes provision for:

  • A new town park;
  • Relocating and enlarging the infant school;
  • Creating a new community hub;
  • 1,500 new homes for the Clowne Garden Village, with 20 hectares of new employment land and the creating of approximately 2,750 jobs, a new primary school, substantial new park and multi-user trails and highway improvements;
  • 92 hectares of new employment land to be established, including the regeneration of the former Whitwell Colliery site; and
  • A number of local transport improvement schemes to improve the local highway network and put in place walking and cycling networks.

The adoption of the plan follows several stages of public engagement and a public examination led by an independent inspector during 2019.

Duncan McGregor, cabinet member for corporate governance, said: “This plan is about revitalising, renewing and regenerating our district.

“It means we can look ahead now with a clear plan of what development will take place and it supports our ambition to create growth in attracting new businesses, creating jobs and building new homes whilst also supporting the development of green infrastructure networks and protecting our heritage.

“We have debated for many months on the need for more houses and where these should be built and we acknowledge that some residents will be disappointed with the outcome, but the inspector has vindicated our view on the scale of the developments proposed and where [they should be].”

5 March 2020
Laura Edgar, the Planner