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Planning News - 11 June 2020

Published: Thursday, 11th June 2020

Sharma refuses extension to Thanet offshore wind farm, Applications submitted for Cambridgeshire new town, Emergency Covid-19 grants to help heritage projects unveiled and other stories...

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

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Energy secretary Alok Sharma has turned down an application for a development consent order (DCO) by Vattenfall Wind Power Ltd to extend Thanet offshore wind farm.

The Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) application sought permission to construct and operate up to 34 wind turbine generators and associated offshore and onshore infrastructure approximately 8km off the Kent coast, at the closest point.

It would have had an installed capacity of up to 340MW.

The turbines would have had a maximum tip height of up to 250 metres, up to one meteorological mast and up to one offshore substation. The onshore electrical works consist of cables running from mean low water springs at Pegwell Bay to a new onshore substation at Richborough Port, then onward through an underground connection to the National Grid substation at Richborough Energy Park in Kent.

The Planning Inspectorate recommended that consent for the development should be withheld. Sharma agreed with its recommendation.

Sharma paid regard to the relevant national policy statement (NPS) – EN-3 – for renewable energy infrastructure. He also considered the NPS Ports (NPSP), which applies to the development of major ports infrastructure. Although this is not an application under NPSP, it has been considered under the system because the application “affects major ports, including some that are NSIP ports and the prospective development of future ports, most particularly in the Thames estuary”.

The impact of the extension to the wind farm on marine navigation, shipping and ports was the most contentious issue for interested parties throughout the examination, explain inspectors Rynd Smith, Stephen Bradley and Jessica Powis in their report. These include bodies that have to deliver and maintain a safe and efficient maritime environment, and port authorities and the operators of shipping and pilotage services.

The inspectors found that Vattenfall Wind Power Ltd’s scheme failed to comply with NPS EN-3 paragraph 2.6.153, which requires early stakeholder engagement to ensure that solutions are sought that allow offshore wind farms and navigation uses of the sea to successfully coexist.

Under this paragraph, the secretary of state should not consent applications that pose "unacceptable" risks to navigational safety after all possible mitigation measures have been considered.

The Planning Inspectorate concluded that Vattenfall Wind Power Ltd “failed to demonstrate sufficient mitigation of risks to safety of navigation to make them As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP)”.

Sharma, concurring with the inspectors, concluded that “approving this application would not be in accordance with EN-3 policies relevant to shipping, navigation and ports because the proposed development does not reduce the increased navigational risk to ALARP”.

Danielle Lane, UK country manager for Vattenfall, said: “Naturally, we’re very disappointed by this decision and will consider how we proceed from here. We continue to believe that Thanet Extension would be an important development for the local area, for UK energy security, and for the drive to reduce emissions.”

RenewableUK's chief executive Hugh McNeal said: “The UK urgently needs new generating capacity to replace old power stations which are going offline and to reach net-zero emissions. The government has set a target of quadrupling offshore wind capacity to 40GW by 2030 and if that's to be achieved we need new projects to progress.

“Offshore wind is regenerating coastal communities by providing billions of pounds of new investment and boosting employment, so it’s unfortunate that Kent won’t be able to benefit from those opportunities as a result of this decision."

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

4 June 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Two outline planning applications have been lodged with South Cambridgeshire District Council for the final phases of Northstowe New Town.

The applications have been submitted by Arcadis and Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design on behalf of Homes England.

The new town, when complete, will comprise 10,000 homes. It is one of 10 Healthy New Towns, an initiative run by NHS England, and has been allocated as a strategic development in the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan.

Northstowe is being delivered in three phases. The first phase is being developed by L&Q and five volume housebuilders. Phases 2 and 3 are being promoted by Homes England.

The two planning applications have been submitted as part of the third phase: phase 3A comprises 4,000 homes, a mixed-use centre, two primary schools and a range of open spaces. The site is 210 hectares in size.

Phase 3B includes 1,000 homes, a primary school, and a mixed-use commercial zone, as well as a communal area, across 47 hectares.

Mike Goulding, project director at Homes England, said: “These planning applications, along with the completion of  £55 million of infrastructure to unlock the site shows that despite the restrictions in place because of Covid-19, we are determined to ensure that people can live in the homes they want.

“These planning applications are an important part of a 20-year supply of new homes planned at Northstowe alongside the necessary community facilities including a new town centre, schools and health facilities.”

4 June 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Historic England has announced that 70 projects will receive a share of £1.8 million to help to tackle the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) on the heritage sector.

The grants will help to provide social distancing guidance for archaeologists during digs to support for voluntary organisations and craft works, such as stonemasons.

The Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund was set up in April with the aim of supporting the heritage sector through the impact of the pandemic and to prepare for recovery. 
Organisations were advised to apply for grants of up to £25,000 to address financial difficulties and grants of up to £50,000 for projects and activities to reduce risks to heritage by providing information, resources and skills.
Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “Our emergency grants are providing a much-needed safety net to organisations and businesses that are helping to save our most precious heritage such as King Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose, in Portsmouth. If they go out of business at this difficult time some of our heritage will be lost forever. As we move towards recovery, we are pleased to offer grants to innovative projects and craft workers to help get the heritage economy moving. Our historic places bring us together, boost the economy and revitalise local communities. It is vital that they survive intact.”
The next strand of Historic England’s Covid-19 grants response – Heritage at Risk emergency funding – is due to be announced in mid-June.

The successful applicants include:

£5,000 to explore Aldeburgh's heritage collections, Suffolk. This is a partnership between two heritage organisations in Aldeburgh: The Red House – a grade II listed house that was the former home of the Suffolk composer Benjamin Britten, and Aldeburgh Museum, which is located within grade I listed Moot Hall. This joint project aims to share the stories and collections from both cultural institutions with a wider and more diverse audience, and help local people to better understand their history and heritage while developing new skills and qualifications.
The project is aimed at families who will be able to download weekly activity sheets from their websites. It also provides an opportunity for families to work together to achieve an Arts Award qualification, by completing arts and crafts activities and outside games.
£25,000 for the specialist conservation of King Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose, which sank in battle in 1545. The Tudor warship displayed in the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, with its collection of 19,000 Tudor artefacts, must be kept at the right temperature and humidity to avoid rapid deterioration. The money will help to cover the salaries of three essential conservation and collections care staff, who will continue to monitor, maintain and repair the complex environmental systems that look after the ship.
£14,364 for digital engagement specialist L.P Archaeology to produce a free toolkit that helps archaeologists put social distancing in place during archaeological fieldwork. The toolkit should provide a series of short videos, a brochure and supporting materials including sample archaeological risk assessments that can be adapted to different forms of site work. These resources are aimed at archaeological contractors and other specialists to enable the industry to safely get back to work.
8 June 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

The Office for National Statistics has warned that recently compiled key population, local authority and household projections for Wales are seriously misleading and as a result have been withdrawn.

At issue is an error in the 2018-based national population forecasts caused by incorrect processing of cross-border flows between Wales and England.

This resulted in the projected mid-2028 population for Wales being approximately 65,000 too low, and approximately 65,000 too high for England, explained the ONS.

The ONS has decided to withdraw three outputs for Wales “as they are not currently fit for purpose and are misleading to users of Welsh data”.

Subjects involved are:
  • 2018-based national population projections;
  • 2018-based local authority population projections; and
  • 2018-based local authority household projections.
The corresponding data sets have been removed from StatsWales.

The ONS will be publishing corrected projections for Wales by Thursday 11 June, and will publish the full replacement summary tables by the end of June.

5 June 2020
Roger Milne, The Planner


Tackling the under-occupation of family homes is the solution to meeting housing demand in the UK, says a think tank report.

According to the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation (CFSI), there are more than 15 million surplus bedrooms.

Under-occupation of homes is greatest among the elderly population, as they tend to live in couples or alone. But although they should be encouraged to downsize, housing in the UK limits their options, says Professor Les Mayhew, Cass Business School, who authored Too Little, Too Late?

If the situation is not addressed and improved, the overall bedroom surplus – currently standing at more than one bedroom per person – is projected to exceed 20 million by 2040, explains the report. This would mean that nearly 13 million people around the age of 65 would be living in unsuitable households.

Mayhew said: “If more family homes were freed up by downsizing, the benefits would cascade down the housing ladder because it would enable families to ‘upsize’, allowing more first-time buyers on to the bottom rung.

“More efficient use of the existing stock would reduce pressure to ‘just build more’ as a solution to the UK’s housing shortage.

“The demand is out there as baby boomers seek to redeploy housing equity into smaller, more convenient homes with independent living and easy access to services. This would also reduce pressure on local authority spending through transfer to care homes and allow more efficient delivery of social care to individuals.”

Recommendations in the report include:

The government:
  • A new government strategy on housing for older people should be established as a key part of the housing mix. It should call for a joined-up approach between departments dealing with housing and health, with a cross-departmental mechanism to reconcile differences and identify gaps.
  • In line with the national strategy, local authorities should be required to have a plan for retirement housing, including identifying appropriate sites.
  • If more people lived in retirement communities, their health and wellbeing would improve. Health and social care costs would be more manageable and services easier to deliver. The NHS should acknowledge these benefits, which are largely ignored in its long-term strategy and in planning services for older people.
  • The benefits of downsizing should be promoted to incentivise people to do it before social care is needed.
  • ‘Last-time’ buyers should be put on an equal footing with first-time buyers, with property purchases of up to £300,000 being nil-banded.
The industry and its customers:
  • Housebuilding priorities need to change to cater for this market.
  • Retirement communities should aim to be carbon-neutral and use renewable energy. The taxpayer should support retrofitting retirement dwellings.
Jane Fuller, co-director of the CSFI, said: “Covid-19 has shone a light on problems with care home accommodation. Equally, however, the dispersion of elderly singles or couples throughout mainstream housing imposes extra strain on social service provision.
“What this report proposes – encouragement for such people to move into age-appropriate accommodation – is a happy medium; one in which independent living can be encouraged, but in which provision of social care can be optimised.”
Michael Voges, executive director of Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO), added: “The UK’s lack of supply of housing-with-care means that many older people spend more time in hospitals than they need to and have few choices if they wish to move to more appropriate housing.
“This lack of alternatives comes at great cost to the NHS and social care sector, and exacerbates the social care crisis. A transformation in housing provision would also allow hundreds of thousands more older people to live healthier, happier and more independent lives.”
Too Little, Too Late? can be found on the ARCO website.

* Cass Business School and ARCO provided financial support for the report, which was researched, written and edited independently by Professor Mayhew and the CSFI.
8 June 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Funding bids for Whitehaven and Wolverhampton submitted

Copeland Council has submitted its funding bid for a multimillion-pound regeneration scheme in Whitehaven while City of Wolverhampton Council has submitted a bit for cash to help to deliver its city centre vision.

Copeland Council has developed a scheme totalling approximately £25 million, and has made its bid to the government’s Future High Streets Fund for around £15 million to pay for it.

The 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.
Copeland Council found out in July 2019 that it had been selected to go forward to the final phase of its application to the £1 billion national pot.

Wolverhampton’s bid is for over £20 million. The council intends to transform 38 acres to the west of the city centre, focusing on Victoria Street, Bell Street, Fold Street, and public realm around the civic halls and the Westside development.

The area was part of the city centre’s retail core, but market and consumer behaviour changes have seen its fortunes suffer. The bid seeks to address this.
If the Future High Street Fund bid is successful it could create 450 new jobs.

An announcement on the successful bids is due in autumn.
Adderbury pavilion approved
Cherwell District Council has granted permission for a pavilion and outdoors sports areas.

Adderbury Parish Council made the application.

The pavilion is expected to house a badminton court, a multipurpose sports hall, a dance studio, changing rooms, and bar. A multi-use games area, two football pitches and a cricket pitch are planned for outdoors.

The application site is on the Milton Road, next to the Nicholas King Homes development.

The site is allocated for sport and community uses in the Adderbury Neighbourhood Plan, which was approved by local people and adopted by the council in 2018.

The proposal is supported by developer contributions, including a legal agreement relating to the completed development at Aynho Road, which saw the land where the pavilion will be built transferred to the parish council.

Recycling centre to go ahead in Norwich
Norwich County Council has approved plans for a £2.75 million recycling centre for Norwich. It will feature the county’s largest reuse shop.

It will be located on land off the A140/A1270 junction, near the airport.

The decision means that plans are on track for the new site to be up and running, and ready to replace the Mile Cross recycling centre, in 2021.

In June 2018 a survey asked people what they would like to see in a new recycling centre, and that feedback was used to inform the design of the site. People were then asked for their thoughts on the design during the winter of 2019 and a formal planning consultation took place
in February/March 2020.

Andy Grant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for environment and waste, said: “Starting from scratch on a large new site was a great opportunity to provide a recycling centre that meets people’s needs both now and in the future. People wanted easy access bins, smooth traffic flow through the site, plenty of parking and a reuse shop, so this is what we’ve done."

Sevenoaks local plan to be considered in the High Court

Sevenoaks District Council has been granted permission to bring a judicial review against a planning inspector’s conclusion that the council's local plan is not legally compliant in respect of the duty to cooperate and should not be adopted.

Mr Justice Swift concluded that all grounds for the council’s claim are arguable and permission for judicial review was granted.

The council rejects the inspector’s conclusion.

Julia Thornton, the council’s cabinet member for development and conservation, said: “This is great news as it means the High Court believes our position that the Planning Inspectorate may have a case to answer. This is an important first step to getting our local plan approved.

“We firmly believe we had followed the relevant guidance when we developed the plan. The evidence we provided to the planning inspector backs this up.

“In our opinion, the planning inspector has incorrectly interpreted key parts of the local plan requirements. Taking court action is not something we would take lightly, but we feel we have no choice.”

Firms team up to develop affordable homes

Modular housing manufacturer ilke Homes has partnered with affordable housing provider Stonewater to deliver 120 affordable factory-built homes in Herefordshire.

ilke Homes bought the private land before selling it to Stonewater in a £23 million deal.

The affordable housing development will use modern methods of construction (MMC) to build the homes in its factory in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.

The development is supported by Homes England and will see the currently derelict site, the former Holmer Trading Estate in Hereford, transformed to deliver much-needed affordable housing. All the homes will be available for either affordable rent or shared ownership.

Student accommodation approved in Scottish capital

Edinburgh City Council’s development management sub-committee has approved an application for student accommodation subject to conditional cycle parking provision.

Property developer Glencairn Properties lodged the application.

The site is located at the corner of Montrose Terrace and West Norton Place. It is the gap site left by the former Shell petrol station, which was built in 1970 and closed in 2011 following a fuel leak. Works to remediate the site and clean the ground started in 2012 but contamination

The proposals were designed to ‘complete’ the original plans for the street set out in the 1800s. They comprise a building of about 141 student units in a mix of clusters and studios, together with common areas, a laundry, gym, cycle parking and underground bin stores.

Walthamstow’s theatre to be restored

Waltham Forest Council’s virtual planning committee has granted planning permission for the council’s plans to restore Walthamstow’s EMD/Granada cinema.

The proposal includes a 950-seat theatre, bar and restaurant, community space and a garden terrace.

The £25 million investment into the venue’s revival forms part of the council’s London Borough of Culture legacy commitment to place culture at the heart of its communities, as well as driving economic, social and environmental benefits for Waltham Forest residents and businesses.

Soho Theatre, a charity and social enterprise that ordinarily produces and presents theatre, comedy and cabaret from its central London theatre, will manage the venue. 

The organisation will work in partnership with Waltham Forest Council, who purchased the former cinema on Hoe Street in 2019 following a long campaign to make sure that the building remained an entertainment venue.

9 June 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner