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Planning news - 30 April 2020

Published: Thursday, 30th April 2020

Fund set up to help heritage sector through Covid-19, Consultancy launches Covid-19 tracker, New regulations for Welsh local authority meetings should help planning. And more stories...

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

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Historic England has launched a fund of up to £2 million to tackle the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) on the heritage sector.

The fund is envisaged as a “safety net” for the sector – helping small heritage organisations to survive the immediate challenges and prepare them for recovery.

It follows the launch of a £50 million fund by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This is also designed to alleviate immediate pressures over the next three to six months for those most in need – and to invest in essential digital skills across the sector.

Historic England developed the emergency fund after undertaking a survey of heritage organisations that highlighted the effect on the sector, particularly small organisations with 10 or fewer employees. It found that:

  • 77 per cent of survey respondents had lost business in the short term;
  • 59 per cent have been forced to postpone or cancel income-generating events;
  • 90 per cent of businesses felt able to keep going in the short term with government support schemes providing assistance; and
  • Craft workers and professionals such as architects, engineers and surveyors appear to be most vulnerable with more than four out of 10 concerned for their businesses and in need of additional support.

Historic England has invited applications from heritage organisations, self-employed contractors, third-sector organisations and voluntary groups that have been severely affected by the virus and require short-term emergency financial support to ensure their survival. Consideration will also be given to organisations that respond to the current crisis and help the sector to recover.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive at Historic England, said: “We know that coronavirus has hit everyone hard, including the heritage sector, and that there are many individuals and organisations that are really struggling for survival at the moment. The safeguarding of their livelihoods will also determine the survival of our most precious heritage. Many of the skills that are needed to protect our heritage are already in desperately short supply and if these skilled specialists go out of business during this difficult time, the hard truth is that some of our heritage will be lost forever.”    

Heritage minister Nigel Huddleston said the funding “is a very welcome addition to the unprecedented package of support from the government and will help support our heritage organisations through this challenging time”.

Applicants can seeks grants of up £25,000 to address financial difficulties arising from the virus. Grants of £50,000 are also available for projects and activities that reduce risks to heritage by providing information, resources and skills. 

Existing Historic England grant recipients are advised to get in contact with their individual project contacts to discuss what flexibility they might require at this time.

The deadline for new applications is midnight on 3 May 2020 and the funding for successful applications will be awarded from mid-May.

More information on how to apply can be found on the Historic England website.

27 April 2020

Laura Edgar, The Planner

Planning consultancy Lichfields has created an online resource to assist planning professionals with navigating the planning environment during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Business as (un)usual has been designed to support the consultancy’s clients as well as the wider development industry to “navigate a route to development and support economic recovery”.

The resource includes an interactive map that tracks how local planning authorities across England, Scotland and Wales are delivering their planning function while adhering to government rules on social distancing.

Lichfields has liaised with councils to get the data and will continue to do so to update the tool.

Business as (un)usual also includes guidance on government advice and legislation.

Matthew Spry, senior director at Lichfields, said: “The day-to-day reality of the planning system has changed and we believe this interactive guide will be a key tool in supporting the industry over the coming weeks and months”.

Business as (un)usual can be found here on the Lichfields website.

23 April 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Regulations came into force in Wales this week that should make it easier for the planning system to carry on functioning.

Legislation currently places requirements on local authorities to meet in person in specified offices, to make many meetings open to the public and to enable the public to inspect documents related to the meetings, in some cases in the offices of local authorities.

This runs counter to the measures in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19. 

The changes just announced – the Local Authorities (Coronavirus) (Meetings) (Wales) Regulations 2020 – make temporary provision for local authority meetings and for public and press access to these meetings during the pandemic.  

Local government minister Julie James explained: “They provide flexibility to enable local authorities to operate safely, effectively and lawfully, while retaining the principles of openness and accountability to the public. This includes enabling meetings to be conducted on the basis of full or partial remote attendance and by making provision about the electronic publishing of certain documents.”

These regulations apply widely and include principal councils and their executives, community councils and national park authorities across Wales.

24 April 2020
Roger Milne, The Planner

Two deals totalling £140 million have been agreed on between Homes England and developer Lovell Partnerships to deliver homes in Yorkshire and Wiltshire.

More than 500 homes will be built on two former Ministry of Defence sites in the counties.

The homes will be for a mix of affordable and open market sale.

The development of the former Royal Ordnance Factory at Thorp Arch near Wetherby will comprise 119 homes, of which 42 have been designated as affordable and will be available through a registered provider. Lovell’s Eastern region, based in Morley in Leeds, anticipates starting construction work in October this year. It is thought that the development will take three years to complete.

The former Defence Medical Equipment Depot (DMED) in Ludgershall will be delivered by the firm’s South West and South Wales region. The development, named Drummond Park, will deliver 413 homes, 25 per cent of which will be affordable. Work is expected to start in June and take six years to complete.

Steve Coleby, managing director at Lovell Partnerships, said: “We are pleased to have purchased these two sites from Homes England. Despite the current unprecedented position, our focus remains to address the housing shortage by working in partnerships where our expertise and ability to think innovatively is helping to accelerate housing led-regeneration, sustainable communities and social renewal.”

23 April 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee has granted planning permission for proposals to expand the Port of Blyth.

The application, which featured new warehouses, is part of a £20 million five-year investment plan. 

Expansion of the port is aimed at increasing both marine and property revenues, boosting regeneration of the industrial area and providing new jobs for the local community. 

Engineering consulting firm WSP is coordinating the planning application for the Port of Blyth, as well as supported it in noise and drainage services, providing solutions that involved new noise attenuation and high palisade fencing. 

Alan Todd, port director at Port of Blyth, explained that the Bates Terminal redevelopment woud be a “key driver of growth and opportunity for the port over the coming years”. 

David Green, associate director at WSP and project manager for the scheme, said: “The approval of the planning application is a positive reflection on the coordination efforts of the entire project team and it’s great to see the project receive the green light to proceed with its important regeneration plans.”

23 April 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Stantec asks Jenrick to clarify advice to local authorities

Engineering services firm Stantec has sent an open letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, regarding the impact of Covid-19 on the determination of planning applications. In the letter, the company’s senior associate planner, Michael Gilbert MA (Hons) MTCP MRTPI, asks for further government guidance to ensure that applications can be progressed and determined without delay.

Although encouraged by most local authorities’ responses to the Coronavirus Act and Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations, Gilbert states that, “some authorities have not heeded government guidance to take a pragmatic and innovative approach”, instead continuing “to place obstacles in the path of the determination process”.

The legislation, says Gilbert, is “too narrow in its scope and does not consider the other important aspects of the determination process, including the relevant parts of the DMPO and associated council policy such as that contained in SCIs”.

“Enabling remote decision-making through virtual planning committee meetings will only work if local authorities are able to progress applications to that stage.”

Gilbert wants the government to write again to local planning authorities, reiterating the need for flexibility and pragmatism in all aspects of the process. If not, he says: “There is a risk that the 2020 act will not have the desired effect, and the ongoing pandemic will continue to delay the planning process and hold back the development industry.”


Coal-free record stands at 18 days

Great Britain has set a new record for the longest period of generating electricity without burning coal, which has reached 18 days, six hours and 15 minutes – and counting, according to Carbon Brief.

Renewables have been the largest source of electricity for more than 18 days, generating 37 per cent of Britain's power. Gas generated 32 per cent, nuclear 22 per cent and imports 9 per cent.

It says the coronavirus lockdown has cut electricity demand by nearly 20 per cent.

RenewableUK's deputy chief executive Melanie Onn said: “Renewables will continue to grow rapidly to meet the UK’s target of net-zero emissions; offshore wind alone will generate over 30 per cent of UK power by 2030.

“Alongside other low-cost options like onshore wind, there are huge opportunities for innovative technologies like marine energy, floating wind, battery storage and renewable hydrogen to accelerate the UK’s transition to net zero.”


Carlisle council joins land charges register

Carlisle City Council has joined the central Local Land Charges Register, which means searches in the local authority area of the council will need to get them from HM Land Registry rather than going directly to the council.

Karina Singh, director of transformation at HM Land Registry, said: “Everyone will now have instant, online access to local land charges search results in Carlisle, meaning it will be quicker and simpler to buy and sell property across the area. It is even more important at this current time that public services can be accessed digitally and instantly where possible and we are pleased to be able to contribute to that through the central Local Land Charges Register.

Gareth Ellis, deputy leader and portfolio holder for finance, governance and resources at Carlisle City Council, said: “By updating, transforming and migrating our local land charges data to the central register, we have ensured that all those buying or selling, leasing or remortgaging property across Carlisle have instant access to our local land charges data. Our aim throughout has been, and continues to be, helping our residents and businesses to conduct their property transactions smoothly and efficiently.”


Construction minister: Infrastructure crucial to post-Covid-19 recovery

Construction minister Nadhim Zahawi has spoken of bringing forward infrastructure projects to support the construction sector’s economic recovery after the Covid-19 crisis.

In an online speech to members of the National Federation of Builders’ Large Contractors Forum, Zahawi said he was “talking to other departments to see what projects we can accelerate or bring forward because in terms of incentivising growth, infrastructure is going to be important and the government’s commitment to infrastructure is going to be important”.

Zahawi also said that the government was keeping its options open when it came to dealing with potential post-Covid-19 contractual disputes.

“We will keep under review all the interventions to make sure that as we move to a different profile of how businesses operate, as we come through this crisis, that we are able to respond in a way that can help businesses”.


Council webcasts planning committee meeting

South Northamptonshire Council (SNC) has held its first online planning committee meeting.

On Thursday 23 April, 15 SNC members dialled into the council’s videoconference system to participate in the meeting, which was broadcast live on YouTube. 

Democratic, planning and legal officers also took part, as did the public, via seven recorded representations and one written statement from applicants, interested parties and objectors.

Richard Dallyn, chairman of the planning committee, said: “Overall, I’m very pleased. Decisions were made in a fair and professional manner.

“We’d had a dress rehearsal of the technical aspects of the remote meeting the day before and I was very impressed on the day with how smoothly democratic officers administered the meeting and how planning officers managed to give thorough presentations with their usual array of images and graphics.”

He added that there were some hiccups that “mainly illustrate the need for better broadband in some parts of the district”.


Councillors warm to new remote meeting options

BECG, through research with Savanta ComRes, has conducted a survey of 429 councillors to establish what they think should happen next as planning adapts to the coronavirus environment.

About 75 per cent urged developers to adapt to consult remotely to support their applications, with a similar percentage believing planning committees continuing to take place is key to keeping the economy building.

Some 68 per cent said the most effective means of conducting planning consultations would be by telephone or videoconference consultation sessions, 60 per cent suggested email, 48 per cent selected virtual public exhibitions; 47 per cent called for webinar consultation sessions, and 45 per cent chose project websites.


Trafford introduces housing strategy to support older residents

Trafford Council has approved an Older People’s Housing Strategy with the aim of ensuring that the borough can provide attractive accommodation that is suitable for older people to live in.

The strategy recommends allocating sites for specialist housing for older people where there is an identified unmet need, and considering the provision of grants to older and vulnerable residents to ensure that their homes are safe, warm and dry.

The strategy comes as future projections suggest that in the next 20 years Trafford will see a close to 50 per cent increase in the number of people over 60 (with 10,700 people aged over 75) compared with 2015. 


U+I set to transform railway site into creative hub

Developer U+I, in partnership with Quinn Estates, has secured resolution from Ashford Borough Council to grant planning at Newtown Works in Ashford, Kent, subject to the signing of a section 106 agreement and the standard procedural/judicial process.

The aim is to regenerate the derelict railway works site, with the aims of creating a key UK hub for the creative industries. The site includes a grade II* Victorian engine work and other listed buildings, into a mixed-use scheme delivering film and studio floor space, 300 homes, offices, a 120-bed hotel and a 383-space multistorey car park.

U+I has also completed the acquisition of Arkley Golf Club in Barnet, Hertfordshire. The company now has six current or former golf courses in its development and trading portfolio, and said, “these have the potential to deliver long-term development gains”.

28 April 2020
The Planner