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Planning news - 14 May 2020

Published: Thursday, 14th May 2020

COVID-19: England to get pop-up cycle lanes 'within weeks', Cardiff gasworks site bought for major housing scheme, Transport secretary approves Midlands freight terminal. And more stories...

Our planning news is published in association with ThePlanner, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

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Transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced that £250 million is to be invested in creating pop-up cycle lanes, wider pavements, safer junctions and bus-only corridors in England.

The government said these would be delivered “within weeks”.

The £250 million investment forms part of a £2bn emergency active travel fund which, in turn, is part of the £5 billion of new funding announced for cycling and buses in February, explained the government.

Levels of walking and cycling have increased during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, after the government told people to avoid public transport and stay at home to control spread of the virus. The government wants to enact these plans to encourage more people to choose alternatives to public transport as well make healthier habits easier.

It will work with local authorities across England to make it easier for people to cycle – including Greater Manchester, which wants to create 150 miles of protected cycle track, and Transport for London (see below). 

Statutory guidance, published over the weekend (9 May) tells councils to reallocate road space to accommodate “significantly increased numbers” of cyclists and pedestrians. It could see some streets in towns and cities used by bikes and buses only, while others are available for motorists.

More side streets could also be closed to through-traffic, so neighbourhoods would see less traffic and a reduction in ‘rat-running’.

Additionally, the government said vouchers would be issued for cycle repairs to encourage people to get old bikes out of the shed, while plans are being developed to more repair facilities. 

Referring to the number of people turning to cycling as a form of exercise or as a safe means to travel, Shapps said that “when the country does get back to work we need those people to stay on their bikes and be joined by many more”.

“Otherwise, with public transport’s capacity severely restricted at this time, our trains and buses could become overcrowded and our roads gridlocked – holding up emergency services, critical workers and vital supplies.

“We know cars will continue to remain vital for many, but as we look to the future we must build a better country with greener travel habits, cleaner air and healthier communities.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will publish an updated cycling and walking investment strategy in the summer. It will aim to double cycling and increase walking by 2025. Measures are expected to include:

  • The creation of a national cycling and walking commissioner and inspectorate.
  • Higher standards for permanent infrastructure across England.
  • Creating a long-term budget for cycling and walking, similar to that allocated for roads.

E-scooter trials will be brought forward from next year. These were originally set to take place in four Future Transport Zones but will now be offered to all local areas, with the government set to assess the benefits of e-scooters as well as their impact on public space. 

The West Midlands is one area that will be trialling e-scooters, and is one of the original four zones. Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), Birmingham City Council and Coventry City Council will work together to test the technology and better understand the benefits, which have only been legally allowed to be used on private property until this trial.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “This trial will help bring more flexibility, choice, and greener travel solutions for the region, at a time when we are facing a climate emergency and urging people to leave the car at home. 

“We will also use the trial to look at the current transport challenges the coronavirus pandemic has presented us with and explore how e-scooters could be used to help tackle them.”

The government added that it would double its funding – an extra £10 million – to its street residential charge-point scheme, which aims to allow local authorities to install up to 7,200 devices. 

Work is also being undertaken with the tech sector to see how it could help commuters stagger journeys. Shapps met with several transport tech firms last week, including Google and Trainline, to discuss how technology could be used to ease overcrowding.

London

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Transport for London published their ‘London Streetspace’ programme last week. This is intended to “rapidly” transform London’s streets to accommodate increased walking and cycling when lockdown restrictions are eased.

London’s public transport capacity could be running at a fifth of pre-crisis levels and therefore journeys will need to be made by other means. If just a fraction of those journeys are done by car, Khan said the capital risks “grinding to a halt” while air quality worsens.

To prevent this, TfL, working with London boroughs, is to repurpose London’s streets to accommodate more walking and cycling. 

According to early modelling by TfL, there could be “more than a tenfold increase in kilometres cycled, and up to five times the amount of walking” compared with pre-Covid-19 levels.

Changes will focus on three key areas:

  • The rapid construction of a strategic cycling network using temporary materials, including new routes aimed at reducing crowding on the London Underground and train lines, and on busy bus corridors.
  • A complete transformation of local town centres to enable local journeys to be safely walked and cycled where possible. Wider footways on high streets will facilitate a local economic recovery, with people having space to queue for shops as well as enough space for others to safely walk past while socially distancing.
  • Reducing traffic on residential streets, creating low-traffic neighbourhoods right across London to enable more people to walk and cycle as part of their daily routine – as has happened during lockdown.

TfL said it would review temporary schemes, which could become permanent.

Work has already begun to enable better social distancing using temporary infrastructure –
the width of pavements have been doubled in Camden High Street and Stoke Newington High Street. More of this should happen in the coming weeks.

Khan said: “The capacity of our public transport will be dramatically reduced post-coronavirus as a result of the huge challenges we face around social distancing. Everyone who can work from home must continue to do so for some time to come. The emergency measures included in our major strategic London Streetspace programme will help those who have to travel to work by fast-tracking the transformation of streets across our city. Many Londoners have rediscovered the joys of walking and cycling during lockdown and, by quickly and cheaply widening pavements, creating temporary cycle lanes and closing roads to through traffic we will enable millions more people to change the way they get around our city."

11 May 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Cardiff City Council has acquired the 12-hectare former gasworks site in Grangetown, earmarked for a major residential development that will see its iconic listed gasholder incorporated in the scheme.

Property consultancy Knight Frank assisted with the acquisition of the Ferry Road site on behalf of the council from vendors National Grid and Wales and West Utilities.

The local authority intends to deliver a council-led, mixed-tenure development of up to 500 new homes on the site as part of its target to deliver 2,000 new homes in the capital, 1,000 of which will be completed by 2022.

Cabinet member for housing and communities, Lynda Thorne, said: “The acquisition of this site allows us to build more high-quality sustainable homes that are close to local amenities and open spaces and will help us to deliver an ambitious and wide-ranging regeneration in Grangetown.

“The Ferry Road gasholder is a well-known Cardiff landmark and I think it’s very exciting that the structure will be incorporated into the development of the site, retaining a key part of our city’s heritage.”

7 May 2020
Roger Milne, The Planner


Four Ashes Limited’s application for a development consent order (DCO) to deliver an intermodal freight terminal in the West Midlands has been granted.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps’ decision is in line with the recommendation issued by an inspector at the Planning Inspectorate.

The scheme was considered under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project regime. 

The DCO application comprises an intermodal freight terminal that has direct connection to the West Coast Main Line. It will be capable of accommodating up to 10 trains of 775 metres long a day, as well as associated heavy goods vehicle parking, rail control building and staff facilities.

It also comprises:

  • up to 743,200 square metres of rail-served warehousing and ancillary service buildings;
  • new road infrastructure and works to the existing road infrastructure;
  • demolition “and alterations to” existing structures and earthworks to create development plots and landscape zones;
  • reconfiguring and burying of electricity pylons and cables; and
  • strategic landscaping and open space, including alterations to public rights of way and the creation of new publicly accessible open areas.

The scheme’s encroachment into the green belt was considered by both Shapps and the inspector. 

The development will amount to a loss of 297 hectares of designated green belt, which the applicant also acknowledged. The application was made on the grounds that very special circumstances would be required to justify development consent.

The green infrastructure proposed as part of the development, which would cover around 36 per cent of the total site area, would provide some screening to lessen the visual impact of the freight interchange. However, Shapps agreed with the inspector that this “would not make a significant contribution to reducing the effect on the openness of the green belt”. 

Shapps and the inspector therefore decided that it was “necessary to assess the level of need for the proposal, the suitability of the site to meet any identified need and any harm that might be caused and the potential benefits of the scheme before concluding whether very special circumstances exist”.

The decision letter states that the secretary of state agrees with the inspector “that the evidence on take-up of large warehousing since 2009 and the [Economic Development Needs Assessment] of how much land is required to meet the Black Country’s economic development needs demonstrates a significant level of need for additional logistics floor space in the region and for rail-linked floor space to meet the needs of the sector”.

Shapps and the inspector concurred that “the need for the proposed development has been sufficiently made”. 

Shapps also considered capacity on the rail network; compliance with the National Policy Statement for National Networks (NPSNN), transport and access, air quality, ecology and nature conservation, landscape and visual effects, and socio-economic effects.

The decision letter and all other documents related to the scheme can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website.

11 May 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner


A site in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, with planning permission for 850 homes has been sold to Taylor Wimpey and Jelson Homes.

The “sustainable urban extension”, which includes 212 affordable homes, will be delivered at Callendar Farm.

Luke Brafield, of Fisher German, acted on behalf of the landowner. “The sustainable plan for the site includes a local centre, new primary school and more than £14 million in contributions to open space, sport and recreation, highways improvements, education, police infrastructure and healthcare for the local community,” he said.

“With Nuneaton located between Birmingham, Leicester and Coventry, the site will provide much-needed housing stock in the heart of the Midlands for families and commuters, including 212 affordable homes.”

The sale comes three years after the first phase was sold to Jelson Homes. That site had planning permission for 150 homes, 25 per cent of which was designated as affordable.

Eversheds Sutherland acted with Fisher German on the sale.

6 May 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Uttlesford District Council has withdrawn its local plan from examination after inspectors cited ‘significant concerns in relation to the soundness of the plan’.

During an extraordinary council meeting held remotely via videoconferencing software at the end of April (30 April), councillors approved a recommendation to withdraw the draft plan and start work on getting a local plan in place by 2023.

Inspectors Louise Crosby and Elaine Worthington wrote to the councils in January this year with their concerns, which included:

  • There is a lack of evidence to enable us to conclude parts of the plan relating to three garden communities – Easton Park, North Uttlesford and West of Braintree – which intend to deliver 18,500 homes, much of the new housing for the plan area. Whilst we realise it is the council’s intention to lay down much of the detail of the proposed garden communities in further development plan documents (DPDs), following the adoption of the plan, it is this examination which must determine whether the garden community proposals are properly justified and realistically developable. This is of major importance in this case given the large-scale and long-term nature of the garden community developments, combined with the fact that they would be the primary source of housing in the district for the next 30 to 40 years.”
  • All the reasonable alternatives tested in the Sustainability Appraisal [SA] included all three garden communities with varying degrees of other development, except one (option 3) which included no garden communities. No testing was carried out with two garden communities, along with other development at existing settlements. This has in part led to fundamental problems with the overall spatial strategy.
  • The mechanisms by which the Town and Country Planning Association’s garden city principles will be delivered and ensured are not readily evident in the plan. 

As the examination process does not allow major changes to the plan to be carried out, the inspectors suggested that the council should withdraw the plan.

“We believe that the key decisions to be made on the future of the garden communities and the spatial strategy need to be taken by the council, in consultation with local residents. The most effective and transparent way to do this would be through the preparation of a new plan, based on a robust SA, rather than emerging as our recommendations in main
modifications."

The council said its decision to withdraw the plan took into account the independent professional advice of a peer review team from the East of England Local Government Association that had been appointed to provide guidance for the council.

John Evans, portfolio holder for planning and the local plan, said: “This has been an important decision with potential ramifications for the district’s residents and businesses for years to come and it was important that we took the time to carefully consider the implications of withdrawing the plan and starting again. Given the recommendation from the inspectors and what we were told by the expert consultants, it was the clear majority view that preparing a new plan is the most appropriate option.

“We must now look forward and work in an efficient and effective manner to create a robust local plan that provides for sustainable growth and benefits for the district. It will be important to take on board the concerns of the inspectors and to address the issues they have raised.

“We are committed to involving residents, businesses and the town and parish councils, and we need to begin by developing a consensus on what the plan will aspire to achieve. One of the first jobs will be to draw up a new statement of community involvement to ensure this happens in a positive and engaging way.”

The council added that it is committed to having an up-to-date plan in place by the government deadline of December 2023.

12 May 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Planning firm appointed to develop Staines masterplan

Spelthorne Borough Council has chosen planning practice David Lock Associates to lead a team preparing a masterplan for Staines-upon-Thames town centre in Surrey. 

The masterplan will consider ways to diversify the range of activities that take place in the town centre as well as look at options to improve access around the town centre, particularly for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users. 

It will focus on making the town centre a more attractive place in which to spend time, improving existing streets and spaces and capitalising on the town’s riverside location.  

A delivery strategy will outline how changes can be implemented over the short, medium and long term. 

The scheme is being prepared in support of the emerging Spelthorne Local Plan and will be used as part of the evidence base for that document. 

 

Mixed-use development proposed for Polmont

Property company Hansteen has published proposals for a mixed-use development on land to the East of Gilston Farm at Polmont, near Falkirk in Scotland.

The development is intended to create jobs and deliver housing, as well as “play a major role in supporting the economic recovery from the current Covid-19 crisis”".

The 55.6-hectare site will include residential, employment, commercial and retail uses, with associated infrastructure.

A proposal of application notice (PAN) has been submitted to Falkirk Council.

The indicative masterplan currently comprises:

  • Residential land for about 500 homes.
  • Land for employment related uses.
  • Green network/open space, which features a large area for open space or a water park that can act as flood attenuation for climate-change modelling events and as amenity open space.

 

A14 scheme opens early

Highways England’s A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon scheme has opened eight months ahead of schedule.

It was due to open by December 2020. 

The £1.5 billion scheme should transform journeys on the A14 in Cambridgeshire by taking up to 20 minutes off journey times, strengthen links between the Midlands and the East of England, and improve access to and from the UK’s largest container port at Felixstowe.

Work to the road verges, including completing landscaping as well as cycle, horse riding and pedestrian paths, will continue. Some temporary overnight closures or off-peak daytime lane closures will be needed to carry out the remaining works safely.

 

West Midlands outlines priorities for Covid-19 recovery

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has outlined 10 priorities for the region's economic recovery after the coronavirus (Covid-19). 

Political and business leaders have endorsed the 10 priorities, upon which the West Midlands will draw up its own recovery plan.

The task force comprises experts from across the region’s public, private and academic sectors. The plan will aim to build a better, greener and more inclusive economy.

The 10 priorities are:

  1. Ensure residents are kept safe and healthy
  2. Accelerate transport construction plans
  3. Build more homes faster and reshape town centres
  4. Get people who lose their jobs back into work quickly
  5. Support local businesses
  6. Secure huge new investment in technology and innovation
  7. Make sure the recovery is inclusive and works for everyone
  8. Step up green growth plans
  9. Take the West Midlands out to the world and bring the world into the West Midlands
  10. To regain control of the region’s recovery.

The priorities are supported by the West Midlands Covid-19 Economic Impact Group (EIG), which brings together business leaders, central government, banks, trade unions, and local authorities including the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). Political leaders from the seven metropolitan councils and fellow members of the WMCA board have also endorsed the priorities in a statement of intent.

 

Images of Purfleet regeneration published

New images of the £1 billion regeneration of Purfleet-on-Thames in Essex have been released. They show how the scheme is expected to transform the town centre and riverfront, with upgraded transport links sitting alongside new homes, social infrastructure and a creative complex of 1 million square feet.

Purfleet Centre Regeneration Limited (PCRL), a joint venture between mixed-use developer Urban Catalyst and Swan Housing Association, is behind the regeneration plans in collaboration with Thurrock Council.

The illustrations were created by architects at AHMM, who are working with drMM on the overall masterplan originally put together by KSS and aLL Design.

The new images show indicative plans for the new train station, the entrances to the media village, and some of the homes that will be built.

Once completed, the regeneration will deliver a new town centre and up to 2,850 new homes.

The plans were approved in April 2019. 

12 May 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner