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Planning news - 28 May 2020

Published: Thursday, 28th May 2020

Research to assess potential of modern methods of construction, Improvements to M42 junction granted consent, Oxford city plan to be adopted. 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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The government’s housing agency Homes England wants to understand how modern methods of construction (MMC) can help meet the country's housing targets.

As part of its objective to improve construction productivity and encourage the uptake of MMC to deliver housing, a number of Homes England’s own sites will be part of a study.

The study will involve monitoring the construction of around 1,500 homes at different sites across England over several years. The performance of different methods will be considered to provide “long-term, in-depth and verifiable data so that informed decisions about emerging construction technologies can be made”.

Sites that will be part of the study include:

Northstowe Phase 2a - A 406-home 100 per cent MMC neighbourhood in Cambridgeshire being brought forward by House by Urban Splash, a partnership between Urban Splash, Sekisui House and Homes England. The modular homes will be manufactured in the House factory in Alfreton, East Midlands.
Spencer’s Park in Hemel Hempstead - A 600-home development by Countryside, where all the homes will be closed panel timber frame units.
A 87-home development on York Road in Birmingham - Delivered by Vistry Partnerships, the homes will be built using a timber frame closed panel system assembled on site.

Homes England said the research will explore a range of themes, including cost and pace of build, which will be compared to traditional building methods, as well as the skills required, safety performance, snagging and defect issues, construction wastage, energy efficiency performance and post-occupation performance. 

Atkins and Faithful+Gould will be Homes England’s research and development partner on the research project, and they will work alongside the Building Research Establishment and University College London.

Nick Walkley, chief executive of Homes England, said:

“If we are to deliver homes at the scale, pace and quality the country needs, we have to seriously shake up how we build homes in England. This is at the very heart of our mission and it means embracing new technologies like modern methods of construction.

“Despite the impact of coronavirus being felt across the housebuilding sector, Homes England is open for business. We can be certain that the demand for high-quality homes will remain and concerns about labour supply or quality will not go away.

“Now more than ever, we recognise that more needs to be done to share learning and build confidence in MMC. This large-scale, long-term and in-depth research project will provide the sector with the critical evidence it needs to make informed decisions about MMC and deliver better homes faster.”

26 May 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Proposed improvements to junction 6 of the M42 in the West Midlands have been granted a development consent order (DCO) by transport secretary Grant Shapps. 

The scheme, submitted to the Planning Inspectorate, was considered under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Scheme (NSIP). 

Highways England is seeking to improve traffic capacity at a notoriouslty busy part of the UK's motorway network, with construction set to see delivery of a new "grade separate junction" on the M42 and a dual carriageway link road that will connect to the A45 Coventry Road, as well as the construction of two free-flow links at Junction 6.

Development will comprise:

  • The creation of a new junction (Junction 5A) and a new 2.4 km-long dual carriageway link road to the west of Bickenhill connecting to an upgrade of Clock Interchange, which will necessitate the realignment of the existing Catherine-de-Barnes Lane. 
  • Improvements to the Clock Interchange and the A45 between the Clock Interchange and the M42, including potential improvements to non-motorised user routes.
  • At M42 Junction 6, improvements in the form of free-flow links around the north west and north east quadrants of the junction to increase capacity. 

Highways England will be the highway authority for the majority of the scheme, with Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council the highway authority for the local road network. 

The granting of the DCO is in line with a recommendation by the inspector examining the project. Shapps agreed with the inspector that: the proposal had "adequately addressed" the scheme's potential effects on climate and environment and its resilience to climate change; the loss of over 40 hectares of 'best and most valuable' agricultural land constituted a "significant adverse effect" and weighed negatively against the DCO being granted; and the material considerations weighing in favour of the proposed development clearly outweighed the potential harm to the green belt, which the development would cross.

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

26 May 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has found Oxford City Council’s local plan sound, subject to a number of main modifications.

A full council meeting has been scheduled for 8 June where, if approved, it can be adopted. The plan will underpin all planning applications in the city for the next 16 years. 

Oxford Local Plan 2036 sets out where nearly 11,000 new homes will be built within Oxford’s boundaries. It also includes:

  • Policies to reduce carbon emissions - all new residential developments are required to be zero carbon by 2030.
  • A focus on town centre uses in the city centre, district and local centres, including Cowley Centre, Summertown, Headington, East Oxford (Cowley Road) and Blackbird Leys – to both increase the density and height of buildings, and strengthen neighbourhoods by encouraging new community, leisure and cultural assets.
  • Policies to protect and enhance Oxford’s heritage, particularly the historic buildings within Oxford city centre, and the city’s network of parks, open space and waterways.
  • Support for business by encouraging the modernisation and intensification of Oxford’s existing science and business parks.

Inspectors Jonathan Bore and Nick Fagan note that the plan "seeks to strike a balance between the needs of its many important land uses such as housing, employment, educational, recreational, community and other uses, whilst at the same time protecting the character of the city". The spatial strategy aims to intensify new development on previously developed land, which is backed by policy RE2: Efficient Use of Land. This addresses site capacity, density and scale.

The plan "thoroughly scrutinises" the capacity of Oxford to accommodate as much of its housing need as possible but "one significant shortcoming" is that it does not specify the number of new homes that are expected to be built on each of the allocated sites. In response to this, the council has put forward a series of main modifications to incorporate minimum requirements for the number of new homes on many of the sites the allocatioed in the plan.

Seven small sites on the green belt for new homes have been allocated in the plan, for which the inspectors concluded that “exceptional circumstances exist at the strategic level to alter the defined green belt in suitable locations within the city’s boundaries to allow for the provision of homes to help meet the city’s housing needs”.

This represents "only minor encroachment" into the countryside, they added.

Bore and Fagan also confirmed that due to its significant constraints, Oxford cannot meet all of its housing need within the city boundaries. They support the allocation of 14,300 homes in the local plans of neighbouring councils.

The main modifications to the plan, which have been consulted on, include:

  • The housing requirement: the establishment of a new capacity-based housing requirement figure and a new stepped trajectory for the number of homes to be built per year, to ensure a sound and deliverable plan.
  • Affordable housing: the deletion of requirements for small housing developments and campus-located student housing developments to contribute towards affordable housing.
  • Employment policies: the establishment of new criteria for development on certain employment sites to allow for flexibility and positive planning; the removal of the restriction on the establishment and expansion of private colleges; and the deletion of a policy relating to local recruitment, local procurement and wage levels.
  • Green and blue infrastructure: the alignment of the open space, sport and recreation policies with national policy in the NPPF.
  • Heritage assets: the alignment of policies with national policy in the NPPF.

Alex Hollingsworth, cabinet member for planning and sustainable transport, commented: “This new local plan determines the homes, jobs, community facilities and infrastructure for the next 20 years, striking the right balance between the different pressures that Oxford and its people face. It makes a priority of providing affordable new homes, and high quality jobs, so that young people can afford to live and work in their home city; it focuses growth and development on district centres, not just on the city centre, to make sure that shops, community centres and facilities are close to homes; and it prioritises walking, cycling and public transport to help tackle congestion and pollution on our streets.

“But, at the same time, the local plan aims to preserve what makes Oxford a fantastic place to live, work and visit: our world-famous heritage, our community, leisure and cultural facilities, and our network of parks, green spaces and waterways.”

The Oxford Local Plan 2036, and the full report from the Planning Inspectors, can be viewed on the council website.

26 May 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Planning Inspectorate has decided that a garden community development on the Tendring and Colchester border would be sustainable, but two other garden communities proposed in the North Essex Garden Communities’ plan should be removed.

Inspector Roger Clews ruled that if “unsound” proposals for new settlements on the Colchester and Braintree borders and the West of Braintree garden community are removed, the North Essex Authorities Strategic Section 1 Plan is “capable of being made sound”.

The Strategic (Section 1) Plan sets out the proposal for the three new communities, which would deliver 43,000 houses.

It was drawn up by North Essex Garden Communities Ltd (NEGC Ltd), a joint venture of Essex County Council and the North Essex Authorities (NEAs) of Braintree, Colchester and Tendring.

In June 2018, Clews found the strategic plan not sound – but stressed this was not a rejection of plans to deliver three new settlements.

Following more work on the plan, further public consultation and hearing sessions in January this year, he wrote to the authorities to apprise them of his findings.

He highlights that the viability appraisal found that “with an appropriate 40 per cent contingency allowance on transport and utilities infrastructure, the proposed Colchester/Braintree borders garden community would not achieve a viable land price”, and that the proposed West of Braintree garden community is below – or at best is at the very margin of – financial viability, contrary to advice in the PPG. On this basis, he says, “neither garden community is deliverable”.

The West of Braintree plan would depend on rapid transport system (RTS) route 3 for its public transport links, Clews explains, and RTS route 4 for links east of Braintree. Without these options and the odd possible journey by foot or bike, Clews notes that a car “would be the only realistic choice” for travel beyond the garden community.

The housing proposed for the Colchester/Braintree borders garden community is intended to meet the needs of both Colchester and Braintree and the wider area, but “notwithstanding the links to other destinations offered by RTS route 2 and by rail services from Marks Tey station, the garden community would depend on route 4 for its public transport links westwards to Braintree”, says Clews.

He concludes that RTS routes 3 and 4 have not been shown to be deliverable, which “is entirely at odds with the plan’s aspirations for integrated and sustainable transport networks”. 

“For the foregoing reasons, therefore, I find that the proposed Colchester/Braintree Borders and West of Braintree garden communities are not justified or deliverable. Consequently, the plan’s spatial strategy, and thus the plan itself as submitted, are unsound.”

Clews goes on to say that the financial viability of the Tendring/Colchester borders garden community is “very strong”. An appropriate 40 per cent contingency allowance on transport and utilities infrastructure would enable a "“competitive land price to be paid, while leaving substantial headroom to meet any additional costs that might arise”.

This, according to the inspector, provides assurance that the necessary infrastructure, including RTS route 1, the A120/A133 link road and local highway improvements, are deliverable in the time frame necessary to support the development of the garden community. 

“The evidence therefore shows that the garden community is deliverable over its lifetime.”

This garden community is located to have access to the employment, retail, leisure, healthcare and other facilities in Colchester, as well as those provided in the new settlement itself. Clews notes that there would be employment opportunities at the adjacent University of Essex and Knowledge Gateway.

”Tendring district has a very strong commuting relationship with Colchester, and weaker relationships with Braintree and other destinations to the west of Colchester. As a result, the accessibility of the proposed garden community is not critically dependent on the delivery of the other RTS routes.”

Based on the North Essex Authorities’ current housing trajectory, and Clews’ own conclusions on the rate of housing delivery, the Tendring/Colchester borders garden community would deliver more than 2,000 dwellings during the plan period. “That would make a worthwhile contribution to meeting the plan’s overall housing requirement.”

Further consideration on this would be given on these matters in the section 2 plan examinations, he adds.

Considering these findings, Clews says the North Essex Authorities have two options. They can either propose and consult on main modifications to remove the Colchester/Braintree Borders and West of Braintree garden community proposals from the plan or withdraw the plan from examination.

The local authorities said they remain committed to the principles that make the garden communities beneficial to the community, and were “saddened this approach to sustainable strategic growth over the long term often struggles through the current relatively short-term focused local plan system”.

Neil Stock OBE, leader of Tendring District Council, said: “We welcome the scrutiny given by the inspector to our proposals, and while it is a shame that he does not find all of the proposed garden communities viable at this time, it is good that he recognises our high standards and approves the garden community method. It is also a clear mandate for the Tendring/Colchester Borders project and we will continue to work with our strategic partners to deliver both sections of our local plan.”

Mark Cory, leader of Colchester Borough Council, said: “This decision is obviously a mixed bag for Colchester and North Essex as a whole, and one that we will need to consider carefully both individually and collectively.

“The inspector was thorough in his work and has given all authorities detailed responses of what is sound and what cannot be found sound at this time. I sat in on some of the hearing and heard his scrutiny of the evidence first-hand. This administration believes it is better to plan new developments to deliver infrastructure first, as the four councils have been trying to do. Leaving it to developers to provide the necessary physical and social infrastructure is not good enough. The inspector does back our approach and has outlined a clear way ahead in his letter.”

The inspector's letter can be found here on the Braintree District Council website.

21 May 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The government has delayed a decision on the Development Consent Order (DCO) for redevelopment of Manston Airport in Kent into a cargo hub. 

The already deferred decision (from January) was due on Monday (18 May).

The Planning Inspectorate made its recommendation to the transport secretary in October 2019, in order for a final decision to be made on the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).

Under the Planning Act 2008, a decision should be made within three months of receiving the examining authority's report unless a statement is made to the House of Commons extending the deadline.

RiverOak Strategic Partners' (RSP) application was for 19 air cargo stands, updating the runway, creating four passenger aircraft stands and an updated passenger terminal, a refurbished fire station and fire training area, aircraft recycling facility, flight training school, hangars for aircraft-related business, highway improvements, and the creation of a museum quarter.

In a written ministerial statement issued yesterday (20 May), transport minister Andrew Stephenson said “the deadline for the decision is now to be extended to 10 July 2020 to enable further work to be carried out before determination of the application”.

“The decision to set a new deadline is without prejudice to the decision on whether to grant development consent,” he added.

The written ministerial statement can be viewed here on the UK Parliament website.

21 May 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Green building approved in London

The City of London Corporation’s planning and transportation committee has approved plans for what will be the first building in the English capital to incorporate urban greening on the scale described.

The building, to be located at 50 Fenchurch Street, will incorporate "extensive" vertical urban greening that is designed to mitigate air and noise pollution, combat the 'heat island' effect, improve biodiversity and help rainwater run-off management. It will also make the area healthier and more attractive for workers, residents and visitors, the corporation said.

Bespoke metal planters will provide support for climbing plants on the building's south, north and east elevations to create an expansive green façade. At level 10, urban greening will be provided on the roof terrace.

The development includes public space on the ground floor level and a public roof garden and winter garden at 10th floor level, as well as 60,000 square metres of office space across 35 floors and 800 square metres of retail space. 
The scheme see the historial 12th century Lambe's Chapel Crypt relocated.

Plans also include 1,248 long stay cycle parking spaces, alongside showers and associated facilities, and 42 short stay cycle parking spaces within a new public square.

The development achieves an Urban Greening Factor rating (the UGF is a policy initiative through the London Plan) of 0.34.


Whitehaven regeneration plans set out

Copeland Council has set out its plans for the £25 million regeneraton of Whitehaven in Cumbria, which will see the council submit a £15 million bid to the government's Future High Streets Fundto help deliver the plans.

Plans include:

  • Conversion of the former Whittles building on Duke Street into a community digital hub.
  • Developing a cycle hub on the former Barclays Bank site, offering sales, hire, storage and repairs of bikes and e-bikes, linked with a juice bar and guided tours.
  • Creating a seafood restaurant and cycle-friendly accommodation on Marlborough Street.
  • Developing residential opportunities, focusing on the needs of young professionals and post-graduate students, with access to communal leisure and workspace.
  • Connecting the town centre and the harbour by creating new arcades between King Street and Strand Street, offering food court, artisan and small-scale leisure spaces.

In July last year, the councils found out that it had been selected to go forward to the final phase of its application to the government's £1 billion fund. Since then, the council has been developing its business case in consultation with its partners, residents and stakeholders.

Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership has confirmed match-funding of £1,056,649 of the Local Growth Fund towards the scheme.

The plans can be found on the council website.


Former Odeon to be redeveloped

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council has approved plans for the £400 million development of the former Odeon site on Kensington High Street, West London.

Lodha Properties plans will see a mixed-use development delivered on the 1.26-acre site. This comprises a six-screen Picturehouse cinema (with a cafe bar / lounger and members' area); 6,200 square metres of commercial space; and 106 homes, with 35 designated as affordable social rent. 

A £1.4 million contribution will be made to affordable housing.

Planning and development consultancy Montagu Evans advised Lodha Properties, while the plans were designed by Squire & Partners.


Bioregional appointed to help Cambridgeshire with its climate emergency response

The sustainability charity Bioregional has been appointed to help Greater Cambridge develop its response to the climate emergency and provide the region's local authorities with a route map towards net zero carbon.

Bioregional will work with sustainability engineers Etude as part of the contract for the Greater Cambridge Local Plan Net Zero Carbon Evidence Base.

The contract was awarded by Greater Cambridge Shared Planning, a strategic partnership between Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District councils. Both local authorities declared a climate emergency in 2019, and have committed to to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Bioregional and Etude will be supporting the shared planning service to adapt its local plan to achieve its net zero carbon 2050 goal. Bioregional said this will be achieved by preparing an evidence base to determine how the target should be defined and accounted for, what measures will be necessary in key sectors, including costings and feasibility, and the potential role (if any) of offsetting.


Brent approved Kilburn regeneration scheme

Brent Council's first virtual planning committee meeting saw approval given to plans for Peel Place, the civic quarter of the South Kilburn Masterplan Regeration Programme,

Developer Countryside and housing association Home Group will, alongside the council, deliver 308 new tenure-blind homes of which 41 per cent of which will be affordable, including shared ownership and social rented homes.

As part of the civic quarter, residents will have access to a new health centre, community hub, gym, workspace, other retail and commercial uses, a market square, public real, and future connection to the emerging district heating network.

The planned amenities are designed to benefit both the existing community and those new to the area.


Leicestershire council to sell land to fund leisure centre

North West Leicestershire District Council has announced that it will sell land in Greenhill to secure funds for the new Coalville Leisure Centre and provide housing.

A planning application has been submitted for homes – 20 per cent to be classified affordable – on a parcel of land off Waterworks Road in Greenhill.

If approved, the council intends to sell the land to a developer with the funds raised being diverted directly into the Coalville Leisure Centre project, which already has planning permission with construction due to start imminently.

Plans for the Greenhill site would not impact the football pitches, recreation area and BMX track that sit adjacent to it, the council confirmed. It plans to consult with the residents on how these facilities can be improved.


Shapps announces schemes to open railway lines

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced 10 schemes that will benefit from government plans to reverse the rail cuts made in the 1960s as part of the now infamous Beeching report.

In January this year, the government announced plans to reverse some of the cuts made following the report, when one-third of Great Britain's rail network was closed.

Speaking during a coronavirus (Covid-19) briefing at the weekend (23 May), Shapps said: "The process has already started in Blyth in the North East and Fleetwood in the North West... I visited in January, and also took the opportunity to visit Horden Peter Lee to see the building work. There used to be a train station 200 yards away, but it was closed, and the town cut off by the Beeching axe. This new station will connect a community of over 50,000 people, improving their quality of life."

He then announced the next 10 schemes to benefit. "Amongst the many schemes is the reinstatement of the Ivanhoe line in the East Midlands, from Leicester to Burton, via Coalville and Ashby." There will also be branch lines on the Isle of Wight, and a new station at Wellington in Somerset.

The schemes are: 

  • reopening of the Meir Railway Station between Stoke-On-Trent and North Staffordshire.
  • passenger services on the Barrow Hill line between Sheffield and Chesterfield.
  • passenger services on the Leicester to Burton (Ivanhoe) line.
  • reinstatement of branch lines on the Isle of Wight.
  • reinstatement of passing loop between St Albans Abbey and Watford Junction (Abbey Line).
  • reopening of Wellington and Cullompton stations.
  • passengers services on the Bury-Heywood-Rochdale lines.
  • regular passenger services on the Clitheroe to Hellifield railway line.
  • reinstatement of rail access to Devizes via a new station at Lydeway.
  • passenger services on the Totton-Fawley (Waterside) line.

27 May 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner