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Planning News 6 August 2020

Published: Thursday, 6th August 2020

Jenrick commits cash for 45,000 homes, Industry supports planning reforms outlined by housing secretary, Industry supports planning reforms outlined by housing secretary, 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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Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has committed £1.3 billion to deliver up to 45,000 homes, create 85,000 jobs, upgrade skills and improve infrastructure as part of government plans to deliver a green economic recovery from Covid-19. 

More than 300 projects in England will receive a share of the £900 million Getting Building Fund. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this fund in June, which will see the money used to get “shovel-ready” housing and infrastructure projects started. 

The investment is also expected to reduce around 65 million kilograms of CO2 emissions across England, according to the government.

Projects that will receive funding include: 

  • £23 million: Phase one of the development of commercial space at Mayfield Park in Greater Manchester, which is expected to deliver 3,200 jobs and attract over one million visitors a year.
  • £14.88 million: To bring forward the National Brownfield Land Institute, which aims to create a leader in sustainable construction.
  • £12 million: Support a new high-speed railway station in Thanet, Kent, to improve local transport and create 800 new jobs.
  • £12 million: To launch SmartParc’s high-tech food manufacturing campus in Derby. Work on the campus is scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2021.

The government has also allocated £360 million from the £400 million brownfield fund for mayoral combined authority areas to deliver a further 26,000 new homes while protecting greenfield sites. This comes from the £400 million brownfield fund. Another £8 million of funding will go towards speeding up the delivery of these new homes on brownfield sites, with the government inviting bids from the mayoral combined authorities for the remaining £40 million of the Brownfield Fund.

Jenrick said: “As we get Britain building, we are also laying the foundations for a green economic recovery by investing in vital infrastructure for local communities, creating jobs and building environmentally friendly homes with a huge £1.3 billion investment announced today.

“This government is determined to level up all parts of the country and this funding will not only give a much-needed boost to our economic recovery, it will help build the good quality, affordable homes the country needs.”

The £2 billion Green Homes Grant scheme will see the government fund up to two-thirds of the cost of home improvements, such as insulation and the installation of low-carbon heating, of more than 600,000 homes. As part of the scheme, tradespeople must register for TrustMark accreditation to take part. 

Low-income households can receive vouchers covering 100 per cent of the cost of the improvements, up to a maximum of £10,000.

Energy secretary Alok Sharma said: “Green home improvements will save people money on their energy bills, help to cut carbon emissions, and create new work for many thousands of builders, plumbers and other tradespeople. Our TrustMark scheme will guarantee that building work is completed to a high standard by accredited tradespeople, ensuring consumers are fully protected.”

4 August 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Reforms outlined by housing secretary Robert Jenrick have been broadly welcomed by the built environment industry, but they warn that quality must not be compromised.

Writing in the The Telegraph, Jenrick says England’s “outdated and cumbersome” planning system has contributed to a “generational divide” between those who own property and those who don’t.

Later this week, a policy paper will be published comprising “radical and necessary reforms” to the planning system. 

“Our reforms seek a more diverse and competitive housing industry, in which smaller builders can thrive alongside the big players and where planning permissions are turned into homes faster than they are today,” he explains. “Creating a new planning system isn’t a task we undertake lightly, but it is both an overdue and a timely reform.” 

Responding on Twitter, the RTPI said the government appears to have recognised its “tests” and in particular its four tests for zoning.

“As part of these reforms, we’re pleased that government seems to be making a commitment to maintaining local democracy, use of locally agreed design codes, increased focus on strategic planning and clear direction on meeting net-zero carbon targets.

“We are also interested to see an intention to move away from ‘notices on lamp posts’ to a more interactive, accessible online system – by focusing more on digital, planners will be freed up to do more proactive, strategic work, focused on delivery.

“We await the full policy paper due later this week. The RTPI looks forward to leading the discussion on any reform to the planning system in England by convening a series of round tables across its nine English regions to discuss the reforms in detail.”

‘Gross oversimplification’

Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy at countryside charity CPRE said: “The government’s intended reforms sound like a gross oversimplification of the planning system. First and foremost, our planning process must respond to the needs of communities, both in terms of providing much-needed affordable homes and other vital infrastructure, and green spaces for our health and wellbeing. 

“The planning process as it stands may not be perfect, but instead of deregulating planning, the government must invest in planning. Quality development needs a quality planning system with community participation at its heart.

“The secretary of state has claimed that these planning reforms will still be very much ‘people-focused’ but that flies in the face of what has been outlined today by the government. We eagerly await more details and will be joining forces with a range of other housing, planning and environmental campaigning bodies to push back hard on the deregulation agenda, which has never been the answer to the question of how best to boost economic growth.”

‘So far so good’

Jenrick’s plans to “strip bureaucracy and delay” from the planning system are a case of “so far so good” for Peter Hogg, UK cities director at Arcadis.

“The new approach may make it easier to get a consent, but how will it make the all-important financial viability – without proof of which housebuilders won’t build – more certain? Unless the policy addresses this we will have more planning consents but not more homes.

“Perhaps most of all though, where is the voice of the community in this new approach? Vibrant, sustainable liveable places take root and succeed where interests are balanced and the community is at the heart of shaping and defining a place. It will be important to make sure that ‘permission in principle’ doesn’t equate to ‘ignoring communities’ in fact.”

Acknowledgement of social infrastructure encouraging

Ken Dytor, founder and executive chairman of Urban Catalyst, said: “It’s encouraging that the government has put social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals alongside housing in its plans to speed up development.

“While the housing secretary is right that the uninspiring design of some developments fuels Nimbyism, concerns over additional pressure on existing public services are typically another major driver behind local opposition to new development.

“Similarly encouraging is the drive to harness greater community participation in the planning process by embracing a more 21st century tech-savvy approach. This should hopefully lead to a wider range of voices being heard, resulting in more inclusive, balanced developments.

“However, if the government’s ‘build, build, build’ agenda is to align with its ‘levelling up’ promise, we need to see regionally driven infrastructure linked to housing delivery to kick-start both national and local growth.”

Many measures already possible

Bernadette Hillman, partner in the planning team at London-based law firm, Sharpe Pritchard, commented: “Much of what the government proposes is possible under the current system and we should be building on the existing regime. Permission in principle already exists and there really is no need for major reform: just some technical adjustments and properly resourced local planning departments.

“We’ve seen permissions for millions of homes in the last 10 years not being implemented: we need delivery.

“There’s so much we don’t know yet – the devil will be in the detail, of course, and it will be an interesting few days ahead.”

Can’t be limited to housing

Mike Derbyshire, head of planning at property consultancy Bidwells, one of the key protagonists in the property industry's Radical Regeneration Manifesto campaign, is on board with reforms.

“Our regeneration think tank has been calling for exactly this to happen – a radical overhaul of an antiquated system that has not evolved alongside modern real estate, communities and social systems; a fairer planning system that is inclusive and that prioritises environmentally friendly practices, and designated areas where planning can be fast-tracked.

“We are pleased to see the government taking action to ensure that, on paper, the right sort of regeneration and development happens. We now need to see how this works in practice; for example, it cannot be limited to housing as mixed-use development is just as important to the success of modern communities and well-designed cultural neighbourhoods are crucial to a more positive and united society. But it is a step in the right direction and one which we will watch unfold with great interest and will to succeed.”

Cannot compromise on quality

Mark Crane, the District Councils Network’s lead member for stronger economies, said:

“Getting the country building desperately needed homes again will be a vital part of the national recovery from coronavirus, and district councils stand shovel-ready to deliver.

“But we cannot compromise on the quality of new homes and places and sideline public consultation, which we fear will be the consequence of the government’s planning reforms.

“District councils and their local communities continue to grant nine in 10 planning permissions, while tens of thousands of homes with planning permission remain unbuilt – the housing delivery system is broken, not the planning system.

“To tackle the housing crisis, councils need to be given the funding to invest in infrastructure and the powers to build homes that are green, high quality, and affordable.”

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “The prime minister has said we need to ‘build, build, build’ our way to recovery and a flexible and responsive planning system is essential to deliver this aim. Local small builders have an important role to play in delivering the high-quality homes the country needs but 42 per cent of small builders have difficulty engaging with the planning system. New measures that make the planning system quicker and more affordable are welcome but it is vital that high standards in design and build are not compromised as a result, and that any overhaul doesn’t in fact add further delays.”

3 August 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner    

The Better Towns Roadmap consortium has launched an interactive roadmap to help to ‘transform’ towns across the UK. 

The consortium is a collaboration between HLM Architects, Didobi and realestateworks, which said the step-by-step roadmap should help towns realise their short and long-term goals. 

“It creates clear links between a town’s vision, goals, and targeted outcomes, presenting customised outcomes that defy traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches to regeneration, adaptation and change”, said a statement from the consortium. 

It decided to create the roadmap because of a lack of “effective collaboration” across the industry and to join up projects from their conception to delivery. The group thinks “multidisciplinary, collaborative, data-driven approaches can transform any town’s prospects through a succession of deliverable projects linked by a unique vision”. 

The #bettertowns roadmap facilitates the successful repurposing of towns where rigour, process and logic are applied at every stage. 

Each town’s journey proceeds by successively creating a baseline, defining a mission, appraising options, creating an action plan and delivering outcomes. Each step is further unpacked on the #bettertowns website and is supported by an extensive virtual library and self-assessment questionnaires.

Olivia Paine, HLM Architects’ asset and workplace lead, said: “Towns have faced increasing challenges over the years and the current pandemic has seen a shift in the pace of change and an increased necessity for well-informed, connected local authorities. We understand that every town has the potential to be unique and welcome the return of ‘localism’ to the agenda. It is not about selling a generic product, it is about sharing knowledge and information to support towns achieving their desired outcomes.”

Brian Thompson, founding director of realestateworks, added: “Every town is influenced by, but also shapes the economy of neighbouring towns and communities. We look beyond quick fixes and beyond simply the high street for only by doing so can sustainable, viable, and long-lasting strategies be defined.”

More information can be found here on the Better Town website.

30 July 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Hampshire County Council have joined with master developer Urban&Civic and global charitable foundation the Wellcome Trust to deliver a £1.2 billion ‘sustainable’ garden community at Manydown in Basingstoke.

Manydown Development Vehicle LLP’s project – planning permission for which was granted on 8 July – comprises 3,500 new homes, 40 per cent have been designated as affordable; a 250-acre country park; two primary schools with land reserved for a potential new secondary school; two local centres; businesses; shops and community facilities.

The councils own the land.

This is the first phase of the scheme. In its entirety, the scheme is part of the government's garden community programme, which will build up to 10,000 new homes in the longer term and create jobs.

John Izett, cabinet member for regeneration and property at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, said: “We can now move forward to develop Manydown. With a formidable public-private partnership now in place, I am confident that all the comprehensive preparations, creative 21st century urban design and planning and attention to the views of our residents will be put to excellent effect in realising a new community and urban extension for Basingstoke. Our high ambition is to ensure that when Manydown is built it will be regarded as a standout development across the country in concept and execution, and, most importantly, cherished by those who make their homes and lives there.”

Urban&Civic chief executive officer Nigel Hugill added: “The Manydown development is the most significant proposed in Basingstoke since the 1970s. The challenges are clear and priorities have been reset. There is no longer a presumption that town can only meet country by means of a petrol engine. Equally, the fundamental underlying strengths of Basingstoke have not changed. Accessibility, connectivity and a forward-looking conviction will find new resonance in a digital age, located within the enduring magnificence of the surrounding countryside." 

Work is under way to enable a start on site in late 2021.

29 July 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

An application for 4.5 million square feet of manufacturing space on the site of the former SSI steelworks in Redcar has been lodged with Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council.

The scheme, by the South Tees Development Corporation, is intended to create 9,000 jobs, as well as 1,000 construction jobs during the eight-year build programme.

More than 430 acres of land alongside the River Tees will be remediated to make way for the scheme. 

The plans were submitted three months after Mayor of Tees Valley Ben Houchen succeeded in his bid to secure the former SSI steelworks through a compulsory purchase order (CPO).

He said: “This is the biggest planning application in the north of England. We have worked tirelessly to take ownership of this site to allow us to get on with my plan for jobs, creating good-quality, high-skilled local jobs for local workers.

“When I started CPO proceedings against SSI and the three Thai banks, I was clear that we owed it to the former steelworkers and their families to secure the site for the people of Teesside so that we could redevelop it and see jobs return to the site.

“This planning application represents a huge step forward in reaching this goal and represents a modest portion of the site, while creating many thousands of jobs, which shows why this site is so important – not just to Redcar and Cleveland, but also to the future success of our whole region.

“This game-changing proposal represents by far the largest development announced to date for the former steelworks and will see a key part of the site brought back into meaningful use. To give this some scale, it is more than three times the size of the new Amazon fulfilment centre that opened in Darlington earlier this year.

“This application is another crucial step forward for my plan for jobs by delivering on the overall masterplan, which we are now motoring ahead with. We’ve got the land, we’ve got the cash, the diggers are getting to work and we’re creating local jobs for local workers.”

Mary Lanigan, leader of Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council and South Tees Development Corporation board member, said: “This planning application has the potential to create over 9,000 highly skilled jobs for local people and achieve significant inward investment on the STDC site, which is vital for the future prosperity of the area and the region.

“The progress being made on site is great to see and especially important as we slowly emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. There is still a long road ahead, however, this news is definitely another step in the right direction.”

29 July 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

A round-up of planning news

Post-Covid age will demand strategy based on resilience, claims UK2070 Commission

The current age of uncertainty demands the development of strategy based on resilience if it is to deal with inevitable future shocks, according to the UK2020 Commission.

In Six Propositions: The New Norms, Values and Politics after COVID-19, the UK2070 Commission’s authors call for the principle of ‘evidence-based policy’ to be rewritten around revisited core values, the choice being between “fiscal goals or social well-being”.

“When the final outcomes are so uncertain it is even more important that the decision-making processes are transparent, inclusive and maximise diversity of approaches – encouraging initiative and experimentation and tolerating failure.”

Accepting that Covid-19 has “turned the world upside down”, the authors talk of the pandemic shaping “a new set of parameters”, in particular new business behaviours with more localised or diversified supply chains, new trajectories and vulnerabilities for different sectors of the economy and sections of communities, and changed perspectives on home working and travel, with the social implications of this (e.g. gender and ethnicity). Covid-19 has also greatly expanded the “politically acceptable”, the authors continue. “Radical policy-making need no longer be inhibited by inertia”.
Gigaplant developer announced

Manufacturer Britishvolt has announced a collaboration with Italian design house Pininfarina to build the UK’s first large-scale battery gigaplant at the former RAF base of Bro Tathan, Wales.

Britishvolt's priority was to partner with a company with expertise in this field that could design a facility that is both sensitive to its surroundings, as well as open and welcoming to the local residents.

Pininfarina has worked with Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Peugeot, and on the renovation of the Eurostar fleet operating between London and Paris. It has also “been at the forefront of electric mobility, beginning in 1978 with the Ecos automotive prototype”. 

Orral Nadjari, CEO and founder at Britishvolt, said: “Britishvolt’s aim to become the world’s first zero-carbon battery manufacturer aligns perfectly with Pininfarina’s expertise in creating green, high-tech and innovative environments. With carefully selected sustainable materials that take into account the entire building’s life cycle, Pininfarina’s appreciation of social impact is what drew us to this partnership. Their balance between pioneering design and understanding of local culture, is one Britishvolt is proud to take forward.”
ilke Homes partners Orbit in MMC deal

ilke Homes has announced that it will deliver 25 factory-built affordable homes in Wellesbourne, Warwickshire for Orbit Homes. 

This is the first deal of a wider partnership. ilke Homes will deliver “superstructures” while Orbit will manage on-site development.

The homes will be manufactured at ilke Homes’ factory in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, before being completed on the Wellesbourne site. Groundworks on the site are expected to start in August 2020.

It is likely that the first home will be delivered to the site in October this year. 
Bannold to get new restaurant

South Cambridgeshire District Council has granted planning permission for a café and restaurant for Bannold, a landscape materials business and home to Carriages, a tea room. 

Acting on behalf of Bannold Ltd, a landscape materials business, Cheffins secured permission for the works for its site in Fen Drayton. The scheme also includes a retail building, a car park, landscaping and drainage works with the new buildings extending to a total of over 655 square metres. 

In keeping with the current setting, Bannold will erect an oak-framed building with a thatched roof, in the style of an historic barn to host both a restaurant and retail area. The new restaurant is set to complement the existing tea rooms business and will be operated in-house. The new retail space will be let to local craft and food producers.

Work is set to start on site later this year.
Hotel approved in East London

Hackney Council has approved Summix Capital’s plans for a 23-storey hotel and office space.

The mixed-used development will be built at a site just off Old Street.

The hotel will have 210 rooms, while the flexible office space will provide affordable workspaces. There will be new job opportunities for 50 people as a result of the development.  

Extensive contributions to the public realm will also feature in the scheme, including pavement widening and tree planting, and the repurposing of Silbury Street as a pedestrianised boulevard.

Work is scheduled to begin on site later this year. 
Renewables account for third of 2019 electricity generation

The government’s energy bible highlights record-breaking renewable generation.

The Department for Business, Industry and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) annual report on energy generation in the UK has shown that renewables provided a record 37.1 per cent of the UK’s electricity in 2019.

This is an increase from 33.1 per cent in 2018.

Last year was the first year in which renewables accounted for more than one-third of total electricity generation, according to the report. This is attributed to an increase in onshore and offshore wind capacity, with wind generating 20 per cent of UK electricity last year.

With regard to the annual quantities of power, renewables provided 121TWh, with the total annual amount of electricity generated from all sources being 325TWh.

Overall, low-carbon generation, which comprises renewables and nuclear, totalled 54.4 per cent, gas generated 40.6 per cent, and coal fell to a low of 2.1 per cent.

RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive Melanie Onn said the figures show how far the UK has come. “In 2010 less than 7 per cent of our electricity came from renewables – now it’s 37 per cent. But we know that to tackle the existential threat of climate change, we need to decarbonise not just electricity, but also heating and transport, where progress has been glacial. We need innovative power sources like floating wind, wave and tidal power, renewable hydrogen and a massive expansion in battery storage to get us to net-zero emissions as fast as possible – so there’s no time to rest on our laurels.”
Arup to get Buckinghamshire town pedalling

Buckinghamshire Council has appointed Arup to help to increase the number of people cycling and walking in High Wycombe.

Arup will produce a local cycling and walking infrastructure plan (LCWIP) to help the council develop a strategic approach to building a network of high-standard cycling and walking routes across the town.

Proposals in the plan will include upgrades to key corridors, how to address gaps in the network, and ones to deliver ‘quick wins’. A specific study into a sustainable travel link between Daws Hill Lane and Handy Cross Hub is also included in this commission.

The plan should guide the council and its partners’ investment decisions and negotiations with central government and third parties to secure funding for improvements.

An online engagement exercise is the first stage in producing the plan, so Arup can gain the views of the local community within High Wycombe on their travel habits and their thoughts about walking and cycling in the town.

Nick Naylor, Buckinghamshire Council’s cabinet member for transport, said the success of the project relies strongly on good feedback from the public.

“It’s important that we listen to our residents in High Wycombe. We want to serve them well with a clear plan that enables us to invest wisely to provide an improved network and encourage more people to take up healthier means of travel.”

Laura Edgar, The Planner
4 August 2020