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Planning News - 9 July 2020

Published: Thursday, 9th July 2020

Johnson outlines plans to change the use classes order, Risk that social value is spread too thin in construction, finds report, Regenerate the countryside to regenerate the economy, says CPRE

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

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out new regulations that will see buildings and land changing use without planning permission, with a policy paper due in July outlining how ‘England’s seven-decade-old planning system will be reformed for modern society’.

Under the new rules, existing commercial properties, such as newly vacant shops, would be “more easily” converted into housing. The measures are aimed at making it easier to create new homes and regenerate vacant buildings.

These measures form part of his government’s plan to level up the country and help the UK recover from the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic – to “build back better, build back greener, build back faster”.

The changes to the planning system are among a series of measures set out by Johnson in a speech today (30 June). The UK cannot “continue simply to be prisoners of this crisis”, he said.

“I believe it is absolutely vital for us now to set out the way ahead so that everyone can think and plan for the future – short, medium and long term because if the Covid crisis has taught us one thing it is that this country needs to be ready for what may be coming and we need to be able to move with levels of energy and speed that we have not needed for generations.”

Johnson attributed the reasons for why the country is “so slow at building homes” compared with Europe to “the newt-counting delays in our system [which] are a massive drag on the productivity and the prosperity of this country”.

He said the government would invest in and accelerate infrastructure across the UK as well as promote a clean, green recovery and strengthen the union and local government.

“All of these changes will make life better for the people of this great country and unleash Britain’s potential.”

The prime minister said the measures sound like a New Deal because that is how it is meant to sound, because the times demand it. “It is time now not just for a New Deal, but a Fair Deal for the British people.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to outline more of the recovery plan next week. In the forthcoming Spending Review and Autumn Budget, the government intends to set the direction for the rest of this Parliament.

Planning

The changes set out by the government would see more types of commercial premises having “total flexibility” to be repurposed by reforming the use classes order. Through permitted development rights, a building used for retail could be permanently used as a café or office without requiring planning permission. 

According to the government, pubs, libraries, village shops and other types of uses “essential to the lifeblood of communities” would not be covered by these flexibilities.

Under the regulations, builders now won’t need to seek planning permission to demolish and rebuild vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes. Also, a wider range of commercial buildings would be allowed to become residential properties without the need for a planning application.

If a property owner wants to build additional space above their properties, they would now be able to through a fast-track approval process – subject to neighbour consultation.

The measures are due to come into effect by September. 

The government says these would “both support the high street revival by allowing empty commercial properties to be quickly repurposed and reduce the pressure to build on greenfield land by making brownfield development easier”.

Johnson said work would start on investigating how government-owned land can be managed more effectively, while a new cross-government strategy would consider how public sector land can be managed and released for better use, such as for homes or improving the environment.

In July, the government added, it would launch a policy paper setting out its plan for “comprehensive reform of England’s seven-decade-old planning system, to introduce a new approach that works better for our modern economy and society”.

Alongside the planning reforms, the government set out how it would support housebuilding in England. The measures include:

  • A £12 billion affordable homes programme that would support up to 180,000 new affordable homes for ownership and rent over the next eight years, announced in Budget 2020.
  • As part of the affordable homes programme, there would be a 1,500 unit pilot of ‘First Homes – the houses would be sold to first-time buyers at a 30 per cent discount, which would remain in perpetuity.
  • Funds from the £400 million Brownfield Land Fund have been allocated to the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Liverpool City Region, Sheffield City Region, North of Tyne and Tees Valley combined authorities to support about 24,000 homes.
  • The Home Building Fund would be increased by £450 to help smaller developers access finance for new housing development. This is expected to support the delivery of 7,200 new homes.

Infrastructure

In the 2020 Budget, Sunak announced that the second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) would spend £27 billion between now and 2025 – and promised cash for mayoral combined authorities to invest in public transport.

Today, the government explains that it is “redoubling” its efforts to get on with this now by bringing forward £5 billion of capital investment projects to support jobs and the economic recovery.

This includes:

  • £100 million this year for 29 projects to improve the road network, such as bridge repairs in Sandwell and improving the A15 in the Humber region. 
  • £10 million to unblock the Manchester rail bottleneck, which would begin this year.
  • £1 billion to fund the first 50 projects of a new, 10-year school rebuilding programme, starting from 2020/21. These projects would be confirmed in the autumn, with construction on the first sites to start in September 2021.
  • £900 million for a range of “shovel-ready” local growth projects in England over the course of this year and 2021, so local areas can invest in priority infrastructure projects to drive local growth and jobs, such as the regeneration of key local sites.
  • £96 million for town centres and high streets from the Towns Fund this year. This would provide all 101 towns selected for town deals with £500,000 to £1 million to spend on projects such as improvements to parks, high streets, and transport.

The government intends to set up a new infrastructure delivery task force called ‘Project Speed’, to be led by Sunak. It would bring forward proposals to deliver the government’s public investment projects more strategically and efficiently. 

The task force would aim to cut down the time it takes to develop, design and deliver vital infrastructure projects, including identifying how to address outdated practices and identify blocks to progress.

This autumn the government will publish its long-awaited National Infrastructure Strategy.

Funding, the government says, would be brought forward to accelerate infrastructure projects in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – working with the devolved administrations to identify where “we can get spades in the ground, build our communities, and create jobs faster for citizens across the United Kingdom”. Work will be done on how to better connect the four countries by road, rail, air and sea.

The green bit

The government explained that it would continue to build on its “proven-track record of cutting emissions” to deliver “a stronger, cleaner, more sustainable economy after this pandemic”. 

Measures announced today include:

  • Additional funding would be available this year to attract investment in ‘gigafactories’ to mass-produce batteries and other electric vehicle components.
  • £10 million of funding immediately for the first wave of R&D projects to scale up manufacturing of the latest technology in batteries, motors, electronics and fuel cells.
  • Reforesting Britain by planting 75,000 acres of trees every year by 2025.
  • A £40 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund to help to halt biodiversity loss and tackle climate change through local conservation projects, connecting more people to the outdoors by delivering up to 5,000 jobs.

The government also said it would continue to set out further measures as part of its green agenda in the run-up to COP26 in November 2021.

30 June 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The lack of a common definition of what constitutes social value means there is a high risk of it ‘becoming too diffuse and lacking focus’, according to a report published by the Institute of Economic Development (IED).

From the Ground Up – Improving the Delivery of Social Value in Construction says this lack of a definition to frame understanding, benchmarking or reporting, aid comparison of tenders and to determine best practice “has given rise to significant disparities in what counts as social value activities, and no requirement to focus on improving the wellbeing of those who are most disadvantaged”.

It states that: “There is a high risk of social value becoming too diffuse and lacking focus.”

As part of the work on the report, construction firms – multinational, SMEs, local authorities, public sector and specialist third sector – reported that projects that are undertaken across several areas have multiple stakeholders competing for social value outputs and have different frameworks with differing social value requirements.

They are also not aligned to the desired benefits or outcomes.

The firms agreed that one of the biggest barriers to the successful delivery of social value is  “the lack of understanding of what social value is”. This is why a definition, at least for the construction sector, the report explains, “is so vital: it is the starting point for everything that follows”. 

The UK Green Building Council is currently working on a definition.

From the Ground Up, which considered all aspects of social value in the construction sector, including procurement, definitions, activities, monitoring and evaluation, was put together by the IED and co-authors Arup and Atkins, alongside partners Commonplace and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The research sought to support the understanding of what good practice in delivering social value looks like. 

Speaking at a webinar to launch the report, IED chair Bev Hurley said the “historic focus on trickle-down benefits” had not worked, with a third of the population living in 10 per cent of the country’s most deprived areas, where one in four people are suffering long-term illnesses.

The annual cost of poverty to the economy is £76 billion.

“The level of inequalities are high, more and more entrenched and steadily increasing, whether that’s children’s poverty, education, mobility, health, wealth, productivity and now Covid-19.

“We have one of the most unequal economics in the developed world and it’s getting worse. This inequality is at an individual level a massive waste of potential and at a macro-economic level a significant break to the economy.”

Following surveys, interviews and round tables with more than 80 contributors, as well as case studies, the report authors put together five main recommendations:

  1. Establish a ‘Construction Social Value Centre of Excellence’, which should be funded by the government. It would work collaboratively with industry and public sector bodies to help to define social value and provide thought leadership, support and guidance, including delivering a repository of good practice and performance benchmarking.
  2. Agree a definition of social value, and what activities are within scope, for the construction sector – to allow robust comparisons of value, and help to ensure that social value requirements are proportionate and appropriate, and provide measurable additionality.
  3. Update the Treasury Green Book, the Social Value Act 2012 and initiate mandatory reporting in order to improve Treasury guidance on the monetisation of social value metrics and enable the assignment of different financial values to social value activities according to different areas.
  4. Upskill the public and private sector. The centre for excellence should work collaboratively to offer continuing professional development on all aspects of social value. A greater understanding of what social value is, how to procure it more effectively, and how to achieve better outcomes, will improve capacity, capability and impact.
  5. Upskill those not in the supply chain – SMEs and voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations – to improve their ability to compete, to deliver and to grow, and by doing so, leaving a more enduring local legacy.

“We are a long way from a social nirvana despite increased awareness of it,” Hurley added. “The challenges and barriers are significant while the economic and social imperatives for change are compelling.”

Alison Ball, associate director of sustainability at Arup, said: “The recommendations in this report provide clear steps for the construction sector to help fulfil its key role in generating social value. The global pandemic the world faces has triggered an increased awareness of the importance of social value and resilience in our communities and highlighted existing inequalities. It is vital that the industry and policymakers take this into account as they develop recovery plans at the national and local level, and use this moment to drive change in how social value is delivered through construction, providing real, substantial benefit for citizens.”

Mike Hawking, policy and partnerships manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, added: “Construction is likely to have a crucial role to play in stimulating the recovery of our economy. As we grapple with the scale of the current economic shock, we must do all we can to prioritise support for those hardest hit by the pandemic. It is vital that investment in infrastructure creates new jobs which are accessible to people who have been swept into poverty. If government is serious about their levelling-up agenda, they should take note of the practical examples this report offers on how to maximise the social value of any new projects.”

The webinar also highlighted parallel research by built environment consultancy Useful Projects for the Institution of Civil Engineers, which reviewed the various infrastructure sectors, particularly transport, energy and water. 

It found that delivering social value from infrastructure projects was complex. Such projects are often contentious, with long timelines, cross multiple geographical boundaries and have a negative public perception. “Infrastructure is done to people not for people,” according to Useful Projects associate Jo Dobson.

The most significant barriers included a lack of a consistent definition and measurement of social value, which is in line with the findings in the IED’s From the Ground Up. There is also a lack of knowledge and skills on how to embed social value in schemes, while 41 per cent of those surveyed for the Useful Projects report claimed board level responsibility for social value had been defined.

Local needs analyses are crucial and organisations must avoid picking social value from a “menu” of potential benefits but ground such benefits in the economic and social areas in that area. “In one area, poverty and childhood obesity might be an issue, in another it might be air quality,” said Dobson.

Clients and contractors are not being ambitious and should go beyond local employment and apprenticeship targets by creating partnerships with local charities or designing assets based on local skills. There was also a severe lack of focus on social value at the design stage of schemes.

From the Ground Up – Improving the Delivery of Social Value in Construction can be found here on the IED website.

1 July 2020
The Planner


A countryside charity has called on the government to ensure that everyone has access to green space, after the early period of total lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19 highlighted the inequalities surrounding who has access to it. 

The government should also support local councils and communities to deliver the right kind of development in the right place by insisting on up-to-date local plans.

Plans need to have “stronger and better implemented policies” on good design that contribute to tackling the climate and nature emergencies, according to the pressure group.

The calls were made as the CPRE launched its regeneration manifesto – Regenerate Our Countryside, Regenerate Ourselves: A Manifesto for a Resilient Countryside After Coronavirus.

It contends that the current situation offers the government a “once in a generation” opportunity to protect and invest in the countryside, and break down the barriers too many face in accessing the health and wellbeing benefits of time in green spaces.

The charity urges the government to “significantly increase” funding for green belt land and land surrounding large towns and cities to make sure these are enhanced. This includes greener farming techniques that could make the country’s food supply more resilient to future shocks. 

The manifesto was launched at a virtual discussion and debate yesterday (1 July), with Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Rhiane Fatinikun, founder of Black Girls Hike, shadow housing and planning minister Mike Amesbury, and Philip Dunne, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee. 

Introducing the manifesto, Crispin Truman OBE, chief executive at CPRE, pointed out that now it's all about how we come out of the Covid-19 lockdown and the “vital importance of securing the green recovery, which steers away from the climate emergency, rather than building, building building right into it”.

“Who else can remember a time when we’ve been more aware of our need for time in green space? That quality time in quality green space can lift our mood, and boost our health and wellbeing.

“Our message is that as the countryside regenerates us, we need to regenerate the countryside. Now more than ever. We need more quality green space for everyone to regenerate themselves post-pandemic. Our vision is of a countryside for all – everyone should benefit from this because that way everyone will care for it.”

The recommendations set out in the report include:

  • Regenerate our green spaces: The government must support local councils and communities to deliver up-to-date local plans, adopt a truly ‘brownfield first’ policy and ensure that the green belt, our countryside next door, is enhanced through greater funding.
  • Regenerate ourselves: The government must guarantee every child a night in nature as recommended in the Glover landscape review, and increase funding for the many tried-and-tested community outreach projects that have already enabled greater engagement with the countryside for marginalised groups.
  • Regenerate our rural economies: The government must establish a rural economy task force working across government to develop a comprehensive strategy for supporting the rural economy and invest in rural social housing to provide genuinely affordable homes for our key workers.
  • The government should create a ring-fenced rural transport fund to support public transport services for rural communities that need to be better connected. Among other aims, it should ensure that public transport cutbacks during the pandemic don’t become permanent. The money can be found by reallocating the more than £27 billion due to be spent on building new roads, which will only lead to more carbon emissions.

Emma Bridgewater, president of CPRE, said: “Just as national parks were integral to post-war reconstruction in the late 1940s, so too should everyday landscapes including local green spaces, the green belt and the countryside next door become a central part of the government’s response to coronavirus recovery. Public support for protecting and enhancing these spaces is impossible for ministers to ignore – now more than ever we need more quality green spaces available to everyone and to make sure young people form lifelong connections with nature that can help us bounce back from the pandemic and build resilience in the longer term.”

What the panellists said

Mike Amesbury insisted that as the country recovers, “we do need to build back greener”.

“We all agree that it just cannot be business as usual – we certainly need to learn from what’s been a challenging time nationally and internationally, and still is. But the focus has got to be on a green recovery. It is vitally important to protect our green spaces, to have local plans that are properly resourced to protect those green spaces, but also to involve the local community in shaping those rural economies and affordable housing.

“On the direction of travel set out by Prime Minister Boris Johnson there seems to be more liberalisation in the plan, less regulation has been referred to, and we see what the consequences have been so far.

“What we do need is better planning, properly resourced planning directed by local communities.”

Caroline Lucas noted the inequality of access to the natural world and that is what Covid-19 has helped bring to light.

“I've been struck, as have many, by some of the statistics – for example, 2.6 million people in the UK don't have publicly accessible green space within walking distance, or that black minority ethnic communities in England are nearly four times as likely as white people to have no outdoor space at home.

“We now know so much about human dependence on nature, from mental health benefits of green space to the ecosystems that underpin our life support systems – that relationship could not be more important.”

Rhiane Fatinikun set up Black Girls Hike at the beginning of 2019 because she had “noticed that there is a chronic lack of representation in everything to do with the outdoors”. That includes outdoors advertising, outdoors management and outdoor leadership.

“One thing that we’re keen on at the moment is to get people trained in outdoor leadership. And because that’s another area where there isn’t much diversity, and I think people need to see role models that look like them doing the things they like to do. 

“It's really important that the change does come from the top down. At the moment, the stats for BAME people in governing bodies across the national parks is quite low. And I think that does need to increase, because it's OK to try and diversify and have more black and brown people participating in the outdoors, but I do think that we also need to be involved in the decision-making. And I also like the idea of the increased funding for the outreach projects because I have come across a few, but it’s never really been sustained. It needs to be sustained moving forward so that it can actually make an impact.”

On regenerating rural economies, Philip Dunne said what the CPRE talks about in the manifesto is “spot on”.

“We've got to get cross-government support for a rural economic revival. So your idea of a rural task force is an excellent one.

“A rural transport fund to improve both transport and better connectivity is absolutely essential. We cannot just focus on the major point-to-point connectivity between our major metropolitan areas. We have to improve connectivity in rural areas, and that means both through the ether, and on the ground. We need to have a good share of funding that’s going to go into greening our transport network in rural areas, and I completely endorse what you’ve said there.”

Regenerate Our Countryside, Regenerate Ourselves: A Manifesto for a Resilient Countryside After Coronavirus can be found on the CPRE website (pdf).

2 July 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that a recovery and devolution white paper will be published later this year.

Speaking at the LGA virtual annual conference today (2 July), he said that the government is “building today the foundations for future prosperity tomorrow, raising our sights to when we are fully independent self-governing country for the first time in 45 years”.

As Brexit shifts power from Brussels to Whitehall, there is an opportunity to shift power from Whitehall.

“The prime minister has asked me to publish our recovery and devolution paper later this year. It sets out an ambitious plan, which will be a placed-based regional economic strategy, one which helps us to kick-start the recovery and to level up.”

He wants the work on the paper and the outcomes of it to be “jointly commissioned between central government and local government”, and for the view of local authorities “to be at the heart of our ideas”. It will build on “what we know works, empowering local councils to lead the economic recovery”.

The housing secretary says the paper could outline the establishment of more metro mayors where there is demand for them. He wants regions to “gain a global footprint” and ensure that all parts of Whitehall are working for those areas.
________________________________________

Jenrick's key quotes:

  • “We have a prime minister who truly understands the needs of local government. The prime minister, the chancellor and I are all united in our confidence and determination that councils will receive the funding that you need to meet Covid-related expenditure. The £500 million that I’m adding today is the next stage in that process.”
     
  • “I think this is a critical moment in so many ways, but it’s also a moment that we have to seize as a country. We have a unique chance to tackle some of the country’s great unresolved challenges like rough sleeping. We are stepping up our efforts to stop people returning to our streets after Covid, but we have to have a broader mission to end rough sleeping once and for all. We now have a unique opportunity to help people to rebuild their lives. The £105 million in additional funding that we made available last week will support counsellors to ensure long-term solutions are put in place."
     
  • “Local government will be at the heart of our economic recovery and our broader mission as a government – what we were elected at the end of last year to do – to level up and unite our country, as the prime minister set out on Tuesday. We’re committed to delivering an infrastructure revolution in each and every part of the country – we’re determined not to waste any more time in our mission to build the country forwards, to build back better. At the heart of this mission is to update our out-of-date planning system, to breathe new life into town centres and high streets, and to ensure that vacant buildings are given new opportunities for businesses to thrive. And for people to be able to get jobs in those parts of the country.”

2 July 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner 


Up to 2,200 homes, community amenities, green space and a 27-hectare business park are promised for a site to the north of Eynsham in West Oxfordshire.

Grosvenor Britain & Ireland has lodged an outline planning application for a project it says will “adapt garden village principles for the 21st century” by “by enhancing the natural environment and embracing low-carbon technologies”.

The masterplan comprises 2,200 homes, new primary and secondary schools, sports facilities, parks, allotments and 57,000 square metres of business space designed to attract advanced manufacturing businesses.

The site was one of 14 garden villages endorsed by the government in 2017 to help meet the UK’s housing need. Grosvenor was appointed by local landowners to bring forward a planning application.

Forty per cent of the site is set to remain undeveloped, including just under four hectares of new woodland planted to preserve and improve natural habitats and capture carbon, and in so doing help the site meet its net biodiversity gain target.

Twenty per cent of the village’s energy demand will be met using renewable sources, with land set aside for a smart energy hub to connect to renewable energy projects, and for an electric vehicle charging station. The entire site will use electricity for heating and hot water. 

It represents the largest application made by Grosvenor’s Strategic Land division. AECOM is acting as planning consultant for the project, Terence O’Rourke is delivering design and masterplanning, and Stantec is providing engineering support.  

Details of the plans will be published on the West Oxfordshire District Council planning portal for the public to view in due course.

3 July 2020
Martin Read, The Planner


A round-up of planning news

Apprenticeship champions are recognised by RTPI

The RTPI has presented two members with Outstanding Service Awards for their work in championing and leading the design and development of the Chartered Town Planner Degree Apprenticeship.

Hannah Blunstone MRTPI, director of planning at CBRE UK, and Philip Ridley MRTPI, head of planning and coastal management at East Suffolk Council, were presented with their awards by institute president Sue Manns FRTPI during a virtual meeting of the institute’s Education and Lifelong Learning Committee.

Manns congratulated Blunstone and Ridley on their innovative leadership of the employer-led trailblazer group, which was set up to lead the process and secure government backing for the apprenticeship.

Manns said: “Apprenticeships can play an important role for planning to attract diverse local talent and benefit our fantastic profession as we support a green recovery. I am very pleased to present Hannah and Philip with this award on behalf of the RTPI board of trustees and the profession as a whole. Thank you both for your outstanding service in developing a new generation of future planners.”

A total of 190 young planners have now taken up degree apprenticeships at RTPI-accredited planning schools around the country.
 
Renewable electricity on the up

Government statistics have shown that nearly half of the UK's electricity in the first three months of 2020 was generated by renewable energy.

The figures, published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in its quarterly Energy Trends report, show that from January to March renewables generated 47 per cent of the UK’s electricity. 

RenewablesUK has highlighted that this beats the previous quarterly record of 38.9 per cent set in the third quarter of 2019. 

The government has attributed the increase mostly to increased capacity and higher wind speeds in February.

Wind generated 30 per cent of the UK’s power in Q1, which breaks down to 14.7 per cent from onshore wind and 15.2 per cent from offshore. 

Renewables and nuclear delivered 62.1 per cent of electricity, while fossil fuel delivered just 35.4 per cent.
 
Developer to start building in Alphington

Teignbridge District Council has granted planning permission for 160 homes at Victoria Heights on the outskirts of Alphington, Devon.

The development will see the conversion of an existing threshing barn together with the construction of new homes, new roads and infrastructure. The homes will have two, three or four bedrooms.

Most of the homes will be offered for sale on the open market, with 29 provided as a mixture of rent and shared ownership in partnership with a registered social provider.

Existing hedgerows and important trees are being retained and additional trees will be planted. Public open space and landscaped planting, wildlife habitat protection and road, pedestrian and cycle links feature in the plans.

The development, which will be delivered by Barratt David Wilson Homes, will contribute nearly £3 million to wider community benefits through the section 106 and community infrastructure levy payments.
 
Shropshire to consider local plan in July

Shropshire Council’s cabinet will consider the latest – ‘pre-submission’ – version of the council’s new local plan on 20 July 2020.

The council is undertaking a partial review of the local plan for the period 2016 to 2038.

This latest version of the plan was originally scheduled to be considered by the cabinet at its meeting on 6 July. However, the council feels that the importance of, and interest in, the plan meant that a meeting dedicated to this one item would be more appropriate.

And the additional two weeks will enable the council to agree and confirm arrangements for the consultation, given the Covid-19 restrictions have meant that it has not yet been possible to agree use of all the public buildings it is hoped to use.

The planned consultation won’t be delayed and is set to begin at the end of July as planned.

Robert Macey, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member for housing and strategic planning, said: “We feel it is best to hold a standalone meeting dedicated to the local plan, to allow us to give it the attention it deserves, and to give interested parties an opportunity to express their views.

“The meeting will also allow us to bring forward our confirmed plan for public consultation and whilst we would encourage people to take part online, we will be detailing the other arrangements that will be in place.”
 
Additional homes at Aylesham approved

Dover District Council has granted permission for plans to increase the number of new homes to be built at the Aylesham Garden Village development.

Barratt Homes and Persimmon Homes will build an additional 150 properties on the site, which is set on the north side of the former mining village. 

This will take the total number of properties to 1,360 by the time it is completed, which should be within three years’ time. Of the homes, 300 homes will be been offered as affordable housing.

The increase came about because Barratt and Persimmon, who are joint developers with the district council, were experiencing changing market conditions and viability issues. An additional 110 flats and 40 smaller houses will be incorporated into later phases.
 
Veterans to be priority for social housing

Housing minister Christopher Pincher has announced new measures that seek to guarantee improved access to social housing for members of the armed forces, veterans and their families.

The announcement came on Armed Forces Day (27 June).

The government has set out how councils should ensure members of the armed forces and veterans who need support with their mental health, because of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, are given priority for social housing.

The measures mean that former spouses or civil partners of serving personnel will be given extra support when applying for social housing. They will be exempted from rules requiring them to be a local resident before being given social housing in the area to ensure they are not disadvantaged when applying.

Guidance has been issued to councils on the measures and to encourage staff training so that they understand the circumstances of the armed forces community.
 
Rogue landlords warned in Tower Hamlets

Tower Hamlets Council has announced that it has helped tenants to claim back more than £100,000 from rogue landlords in the past year.

The money was recovered using rent repayment orders (RROs). This allows the council and tenants to get back up to 12 months’ rent from landlords who fail to license properties when they are required to do so.

Landlords caught letting unlicensed properties can face prosecution, a criminal conviction or an unlimited fine. 

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “Our housing licensing officers are working hard to clamp down on the number of unlicensed properties in the borough and to hit those who flout the rules where it hurts most – in their pockets.

“Our licensing schemes don’t only protect tenants, they also benefit legitimate landlords by raising standards across the industry. This is just one example of how we’re working to improve the housing landscape for landlords and renters across Tower Hamlets.

“The council operates three property licensing schemes in the borough: mandatory licensing scheme – Houses in multiple occupation (five renters or more); additional licensing scheme – covering flats or houses with three or more renters; and selective licensing scheme – covering all rented properties within the Weavers, Whitechapel, Spitalfields and Banglatown areas only.
 
Soham station to go ahead

East Cambridgeshire District Council has approved proposals for a new station at Soham.

Working in partnership with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, which has provided the necessary funding to build the station, Network Rail and its contractor can proceed with the construction of the station.

Plans will reconnect Soham to the rail network, following a campaign by the community to rebuild the station, which was closed in the 1960s.  

The proposals include:

  • Construction of a single 99-metre platform to accommodate four-car train services including waiting shelters, lighting, information screens and a public address system.
  • Installation of a stepped footbridge across the railway to connect to an existing public right of way.
  • Cycle parking and ticket vending machines on the station forecourt.

30 June 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner