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Planning News - 18 June 2020

Published: Thursday, 18th June 2020

Tally of high-rise residences still with combustible cladding is ‘shocking’, Estate regeneration application submitted to London council, New president at the Planning Officers Society

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

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There are 300 buildings with ACM cladding awaiting remediation, and another 11,300 buildings with other forms of combustible cladding, three years on from the fire at Grenfell Tower in west London, which killed 72 people. 

A Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Select Committee report states that of those 11,300 buildings, about 1,700 are classed as high-risk and are likely to require urgent remediation. 

“Three years since the Grenfell Tower fire, to still have 2,000 high-risk residential buildings with dangerous cladding is deeply shocking and completely unacceptable,” it maintains.

In March, the government established a £1 billion Building Safety Fund to remove combustible non-ACM cladding from buildings above 18 metres. But this, the committee points out, is likely to be sufficient only to cover the cost of removal for a third of the 1,700 buildings needing remediation.

Although the committee considers the fund a much-needed and welcome measure, it wants to see it apply to all high-risk buildings – of any height, covering a range of fire safety defects, including combustible insulation, and covering all costs associated with remediation works.

It reports that “properties have become unmortgageable and unsellable, with many residents paying hundreds of pounds a month for waking fire watches and face bills running into the tens of thousand for remedial work”.

Clive Betts, chair of the committee, said: “The financial and emotional toll has been significant, with temporary safety measures costing huge sums and the ongoing stress of living in a property that may not be safe. This is not good enough.”

The fund’s stringent rules for applying, including a short application window and restrictions against social housing providers, risks leaving many unable to access vital funding, explains the committee.

It urges the government to make an “absolute commitment” to ensure that all buildings of any height with ACM cladding should be fully remediated of all fire safety defects by December 2021. In addition, buildings with other forms of dangerous cladding should have all fire safety defects removed by June 2022. 

Residents could not be expected to continue meeting the “exorbitant” costs of temporary fire safety measures, adds the committee, so the government must also accept that the £1 billion pledged so far will be insufficient and it should be prepared to meet the cost of making sure buildings are safe as well as provide funding support for ongoing ‘waking watch’ fire patrols and fire alarms.

Betts said: “It is clear that the £1 billion Building Safety Fund will not be enough. Too many risk being excluded by the criteria for accessing this support and the amount of money pledged is only enough to cover a fraction of the work needed. The fund should be increased so that it is enough to cover the amount of work that is actually needed, both to remove cladding and resolve wider fire safety concerns. Further support must also be provided for the costs of stop-gap safety measures, such as ‘waking watches’, to reduce the burden on homeowners.”

Regarding the impact on physical and mental health that living in potentially dangerous buildings has had, the government should guarantee that all residents are offered support by the NHS to help them to cope.

The committee also recommends that the government should seek to recover costs on individual buildings from those responsible and be prepared to take legal action – the taxpayer “should not be expected to cover all costs of this crisis”.

It calls on the government to take a hard line with freeholders who fail to deal with dangerous cladding on properties for which they are responsible. It recommends that any residential building where work has not begun by December this year should be taken over using compulsory purchase order powers.
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Lord Porter, Local Government Association building safety spokesman, said: "The LGA shares the committee’s view that three years after the Grenfell Tower fire, the remediation of dangerous buildings is proceeding too slowly. Social landlords have been quick to address the issue, but progress in the private sector has been unacceptably slow.

“We have been urging government to act on non-ACM dangerous cladding for over two years and we are pleased that the committee shares our view that the fund announced in the budget, although positive, is insufficient. Without adequate public funding for the remediation of local authority-owned blocks, councils will not be able to deliver the new homes the government wants or fund improvement programmes...

“This is a crisis resulting from decades of inadequate building safety regulation under successive governments of all political colours. It needs to be addressed in a cost-effective manner, rather than through the piecemeal identification and remediation of flaw upon flaw in the built environment."

Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for housing and planning, said: “We can’t afford any penny pinching when it comes to fire safety.

“London boroughs are committed to making sure all our residents are safe in their homes. The government needs to work with us in meeting the massive costs of this crucial work.

“While we certainly welcome the government grants made available to councils so far, they only pay for the remediation of ACM cladding. The £1 billion Building Safety Fund for remediation of non-ACM external wall systems largely excludes social landlords such as councils, which is hugely frustrating.

“Boroughs’ finances are already under immense pressure due to years of funding reductions and now the impact of Covid-19. It’s unsustainable to expect local government and the wider social housing sector to absorb the vast majority of these costs themselves, which would only scale back spending in other vital areas - like investment in desperately needed new housing.”

The report can be found here on the UK Parliament website.

15 June 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner 


Havering Council and Wates Residential have submitted an application to regenerate the Waterloo Estate in Romford for the council’s planning committee to consider.

The proposals will see more than 550 new affordable “high-quality” homes built, ranging from one to four-bedroom properties. 

A number of the homes will be available for low-cost home ownership to local people.

The designs for Waterloo Estate as a whole comprise the delivery of 1,380 homes, as well as a village green at the heart of the development, workspaces and technology solutions to allow residents to work from home. More than 370 homes will be completed for the first phase. 

The council considers the development a successful way to drive economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, as it will create employment for Havering residents in several disciplines, including architecture, engineering and distribution.

Waterloo Estate is one of 12 sites included ‘12 Estates’ regeneration programme, a joint venture between the council and Wates Residential. It will see about 3,500 high-quality new homes delivered in the borough over the next 12 to 15 years, including council rented accommodation and affordable housing. Sales will be prioritised for local residents first. The partners also plan to employ local businesses.

Damian White, leader of Havering Council, said:  “I am excited to see another key milestone reached in the progress towards creating much-needed, high-quality homes for local people and how the development will help to support the road to recovery from Covid-19 for our Havering residents.

“I am particularly pleased to see how the comments and wishes of local people who attended the public consultations are being included in the plans, especially around the open spaces and the village garden. It means that we’re building homes that will help reduce the demand for social housing as well as prioritising local people for the homes for sale, all of which have purpose and a legacy for generations of Havering residents to come.”

Kate Ives, development director at Wates Residential, said: “We know that for Havering Council and many local residents, increasing the provision of green spaces in the borough is a top priority. As a result, the proposed plans for Waterloo Estate include multiple green spaces including a village garden to help create a safe and healthy environment for people to enjoy in the years to come.” 

A decision on the application is expected this summer.

11 June 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Cheltenham Borough Council is accelerating applications for temporary changes to the use of public areas and private land to help businesses to recover from the effects of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The changes are intended to make it easier for businesses to accommodate more physical space to ensure that social distancing can be adhered to – including being able to place tables and chairs on a footpath or public square. 

Steve Jordan, leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, said: “The council firmly believes that in Cheltenham we have the people, skills and local solutions to deliver a strong recovery. Temporary changes form part of the council’s recovery strategy to help Cheltenham businesses recover as quickly as possible from the current trading restrictions.’’

The council has worked with key stakeholders to address the challenges that the pandemic has had on businesses and organisations in the town and has published a draft recovery strategy.

Ordinarily, new buildings on private land and the town’s parks and gardens – where businesses do already operate – need planning permission. The temporary rules will mean that existing businesses and organisations in the town will be able to create temporary buildings or structures on the land without needing planning permission. This temporary period is set to end on 1 December.

David Oakhill, head of planning, explained: “Whilst temporary buildings or structures will need to be removed in time, we hope this temporary change will help businesses to function in the near term. An example of this would be a light industrial business that may need more office space to accommodate staff and ensure social distancing. They may want to locate a temporary building on hardstanding alongside the industrial unit to accommodate staff who cannot work from home. If the temporary building does not compromise the car parking or operation of the site, in principle, this would be supported.” 

More information on the changes, which came into force on 9 June, can be found on the Cheltenham Borough Council website. 

11 June 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Richard Morris has become the new president of the Planning Officers Society (POS). 

He is the chief officer of planning & regulatory services at Sevenoaks District Council. 

Morris’s tenure as president began when he took over from Sarah Platts, strategic planning and infrastructure manager at Kent County Council, at POS’s virtual board meeting on 3 June. 

The 24th president of the society since its formation in 1997, Morris has made his theme for the year ahead ‘planning to inspire’. 

“There has never been a more important, testing, exciting and potentially hugely rewarding time to be involved in planning, a profession I have dedicated almost 20 years of my career to and one I am tremendously proud to be a part of.

“As a profession, much like the society, we have such rich and diverse talent. The skills we call on every day will rarely, if ever, have been more relevant. The breadth, ambition and agility of our profession puts us front and centre in the creation of a new normal.  

“These are indeed uncertain times, but the responsibility on planning to play its part in leading us through them is one we should all be proud to accept, as it is a challenge we will collectively overcome.”

A town planner with nearly 20 years of planning experience, Morris began his career in Cardiff, followed by a brief stint in the private sector. He then moved to the south-east of England, where he has had roles with a number of authorities, including as head of planning at Elmbridge Borough Council in Surrey.

10 June 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner 


Folkestone & Hythe District Council has appointed Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design to develop a town centre masterplan and design codes for Otterpool Park, a garden town proposed for between Folkestone and Ashford in Kent.

The garden town is set to comprise 10,000 homes, employment areas, shops, schools and medical centres. Open space will be provided across a site that incorporates Westenhanger Castle.

The masterplan will focus on phase one of the scheme, which will see the north-eastern part of the site developed. It will include a design strategy for the mixed-use town centre, 1,000 homes, commercial units, green space, landscaping and a station linking to the HS1 line.

Tibbalds is going to create two design codes. A strategic design code will cover the garden town as a whole, with a focus on streets and public realm, while a second, more detailed design code will sit alongside the masterplan for phase one. It will provide guidelines for developers and their design team for the town centre and other high-density areas.

The landowners for the scheme are Folkestone & Hythe District Council and Homes England.

Andy Jarrett, chief of strategic development projects at Folkestone & Hythe District Council, said: “We are very pleased to be working with Tibbalds again. As the project enters a crucial stage moving through planning to delivery, we are confident that the team will bring excitement to the placemaking that will endure and prove to be a major contribution to the garden town.”

Katja Stille, director at Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design, commented: “Otterpool Park will be a new garden town with culture and creativity at its core. Even though green space and open landscaping will be a central feature, this development will first and foremost need to function as a community, so it is essential to get the right infrastructure and facilities in place from the start. Although the new town centre will develop over time as the population grows, it needs to be capable of becoming a focus of activity from day one and continue to provide for the community in perpetuity. 

“We are committed to ensuring sustainable, green, healthy principles are applied to all aspects of this new development, helping to maximise wellbeing and healthy living opportunities for the people who will live and work there, as we have with other projects of this scale such as Manydown and Northstowe.”

Landscape specialist BBUK is supporting both the masterplanning and the design code development.

10 June 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner 


A round-up of planning news

First female chief planner appointed at MHCLG

Joanna Averley has been appointed as the government’s first female chief planner. 

Head of urban design at HS2 and a founding director of CABE, she will begin at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in September.

Averley, a member of the RTPI, has also worked at the Centre for Cities, including as interim chief executive, at Transport for London (TfL) leading on all town planning aspects of Crossrail 2, and as design advocate for the Mayor of London.

The appointment follows the retirement as chief planner of Steve Quartermain, who stepped down in March. 

Victoria Hills, chief executive at the RTPI, said: “We are delighted to welcome Joanna Averley MRTPI as England’s new chief planner and congratulate MHCLG on this smart appointment. It is good to see the first woman appointed to this hugely influential role. Joanna has exceptional experience in planning, design and infrastructure and we very much look forward to working closely with her.”
 
SoS calls in Thames riverside scheme

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has called in plans for a £500 million mixed-use scheme at 8 Albert Embankment on the Thames riverside.

Lambeth Council approved U+I and the London Fire Brigade’s proposals for the redevelopment in December last year.

Designed by architect Pilbrow & Partners, the scheme would deliver a mixed-use community comprising 443 homes, of which 40 per cent have been designated as affordable, a new fire station for the London Fire Brigade, and a new permanent home for the London Fire Brigade Museum.

A U+I spokesperson said the firm is disappointed that the plans have been called in.

“The plans, which received the backing of the London Borough of Lambeth and followed extensive consultation with the local community, will positively transform a site that has lain vacant for almost 10 years. We remain committed to delivering great places in order to create positive social and economic change and will consider our position in light of our determination to deliver on both fronts.”

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson added: “Lambeth Fire Station responds to fires and other major emergencies in Lambeth and across London and is an important strategic location for emergency response in the capital. Originally built in 1937, the station requires significant modernisation to maintain high operational standards. These plans deliver improved training facilities, new accommodation for a diverse workforce and a new community space... This development will also release capital funds to invest in our stations, training and equipment across the capital. We remain committed to this scheme, which is an important part of our future.”
 
Apartment plans submitted in Nottingham

Nottingham City Homes (NCH) has submitted a planning application for 48 apartments to be built on the site of a former care home in St Ann’s to the city council. 

The flats, if approved, would go to people on the council house waiting list. 

Nick Murphy, chief executive of Nottingham City Homes, said: “This year is turning into another busy one for NCH as we strive to build even more council homes across the city. We already have planning applications for affordable housing around the city and we look forward to transforming the Oakdene site in St Ann’s if we are given planning permission.

“Affordable flats are very much in demand and will help people living in council houses who are currently affected by the bedroom tax move somewhere more suitable, while freeing up houses for another family on the waiting list.”

NCH manages homes owned by the Nottingham City Council. 
 
Land sold in Stockport suburb

Charity Seashell Trust has agreed the sale of land to housebuilder Bloor Homes, which will build new homes in Cheadle Hulme.

In May, housing secretary Robert Jenrick granted the trust planning permission for a new school, campus and 325 new homes. The deal will see Bloor Homes buy a piece of land owned by the trust and develop the houses on the site.

The land sale allows Seashell to press ahead with plans for the redevelopment of the school and campus for children and young people with special needs. 

Jolanta McCall, Seashell chief executive and principal, said: “The sale of the land for housing was always absolutely central to our plans to redevelop our desperately outdated school and campus because we were not able to raise all the funds ourselves and despite our best efforts, we couldn’t secure the funds from anywhere else. This sale allows us to start work on our exciting transformation project and offers a bright future for our children and young people."

Rhys Nicholson, regional managing director of Bloor Homes, said: “We will be working closely with the community and Stockport Council to agree the detail of the scheme and to press on with the delivery of these important new homes as quickly as possible.”
 
Barnard presented with RTPI Gold Medal

Paul Barnard MRTPI has been presented with the RTPI’s Gold Medal during a virtual meeting of the institute’s General Assembly.

It was announced in December that Plymouth City Council’s service director for strategic planning and infrastructure had been awarded the gold medal for “exceptional achievement in the field of town and country planning”.

Addressing General Assembly members, Barnard said: “It’s an honour to receive the RTPI Gold Medal in recognition of the importance of public sector planning and the innovation shown within local government.

“In Plymouth, we strongly believe in proactive, positive planning and I feel most privileged to have been part of Plymouth’s planning journey since 1991.

“Planning is one of the most valuable and positive activities that we can undertake as a society, so it’s truly humbling to be only the 16th town planner to receive this prestigious award.”

RTPI president Sue Manns FRTPI said: “This award recognises Paul Barnard as an exceptional town planner, whose leadership, planning expertise, ability to innovate and sheer determination have resulted in planning services at Plymouth City Council now being considered amongst the best in the country.”
 
Mallon outlines outdoor trade arrangements

Nichola Mallon, Northern Ireland’s infrastructure minister, has written to all councils asking them to temporarily take a “flexible and pragmatic” planning approach to the use of on-street seating for cafés and bars, beer gardens and similar outdoor areas to accommodate physical/social distancing.

Planning permission will not be required for the temporary positioning of chairs and tables on the pavement outside of pubs, cafés and other similar establishments. But she stressed that each case and situation would be different and should be considered on its merits.
Mallon said: “With planning sitting directly in my department, I want to ensure we support councils and assure traders and businesses that there are no planning barriers to temporary changes.

“I am committed to working in partnership with councils and the hospitality industry. That is why I have written to all of the councils asking them, as planning authorities, to temporarily take a flexible and pragmatic planning approach to the use of on-street seating for cafés and bars, beer gardens and similar outdoor areas to accommodate physical/social distancing. This sensible approach to planning enforcement will ensure that there are no unnecessary restrictions on the hospitality industry providing on-street facilities to facilitate social distancing. I have made it clear, however, that the needs of our citizens with mobility issues must be properly considered and addressed.”
 
75 homes approved in Slough

Slough Borough Council has approved a 75-home scheme remotely.

This will see “high-quality” one and two-bedroom apartments delivered at the junction of Bath Road and Station Road, a route leading into the town centre. 

Planning consultant Pro Vision submitted a revised outline application for Feltham Properties to redevelop the underused site in an area earmarked for regeneration.

These plans will see a five-storey apartment building with undercroft parking (60 spaces indicated), new access and landscaping developed, replacing two commercial buildings.

The site is close to Burnham railway station, which will be part of the new Crossrail Elizabeth Line. 
 
Hotel approved in central London

Westminster City Council has granted planning permission for 55 Broadway to be redeveloped into a luxury hotel under the ownership of Blue Orchid Hotels, part of the Integrity International Group. 

The heritage-led proposals will see use of the grade I-listed 55 Broadway Complex – including 55 Broadway, 100 Petty France and Wing Over Station – changed and the building restored.

Integrity International Group said the plans seek to “celebrate the building’s rich history by sensitively restoring its unique features and opening up this iconic landmark for the first time through its imaginative repurposing”.

16 June 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner