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Planning News - 20 August 2020

Published: Thursday, 20th August 2020

Pilots announced for nature recovery plans, Low engagement from young adults with local plans, poll finds, Funding confirmed for York project, 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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Five local authorities are to act as pilot areas to test ways in which the recovery of landscapes and wildlife in England can be driven locally.

The authorities are Cornwall Council, Buckinghamshire Unitary Authority, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Northumberland County Council and Cumbria County Council. 

The five authorities will receive a share in £1 million of funding to set up ‘Local Nature Recovery Strategies’ (LNRS) pilot studies. The aim is to help map the most valuable sites and habitats for wildlife in each area, and to identify where nature can be restored. 

Edwina Hannaford, Cornwall Council’s portfolio holder for climate change and neighbourhoods, said being part of the pilot "will enable us to strengthen local partnerships".

“Working in partnership with a range of organisations such as the Cornwall and Tamar Valley AONBs and utilising the strategic leadership of the Local Nature Partnership, we will build on the tremendous work that has already been undertaken in Cornwall to ensure that the recovery of our natural environments goes hand in hand with our efforts to support our economy and communities in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We see this pilot as a stepping stone towards a greater appreciation of our natural places, reversing the decline in nature that has impacted on Cornwall, the UK and the world over many decades and placing the health and wealth of our environment on the same footing as economic and social wellbeing.”

Each authority will receive a share of £1 million in funding to set up local nature recovery strategies. These pilots will map the most valuable sites and habitats for wildlife in each area and identify where nature can be restored.

Local authorities will set out their local priorities for restoring and linking habitats together, as well as agree the best places to help nature recover.

Work could include the creation of wildflower habitat for pollinators, planting trees, restoring peatland, establishing green spaces for people, or new woodlands and wetlands.

The environment bill will require all areas in England to establish a local nature recovery strategy. Strategies will bring together various interest groups, including farmers, businesses and local communities to deliver priorities for nature. 

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “Coronavirus is shining a light on the importance of our natural world, and the positive impact nature can have on our health and well-being.

“These first pilots will be a key part of our green recovery and help kick-start the creation of over a million acres of joined up habitats that people can enjoy across the country.”

Natural England chair Tony Juniper added: “If we wish to have rich and abundant wildlife, more carbon captured in trees, soil and hedges, better protection from extreme weather and enough places for people to gain the wellbeing benefits of good quality green spaces, then we must invest in nature’s recovery, and at scale.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will invest around £1 million in the five pilots as part of the collaboration with Natural England. 

17 August 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

A recent poll has found that just 11 per cent of young adults have knowingly engaged with consultations on their area’s local plan.

The results of the YouGov poll* highlight the extent of the challenge that local and national governments face in order to engage meaningfully with housing and planning, says the marketing agency Social, commissioners of the poll.

Looking across all age groups, 26 per cent of respondents said they had engaged with a local plan consultation, while 69 per cent have not been involved in the process.

Ben Lowndes, a director at Social, commented: “This research highlights a significant challenge for policy makers, who are rightly looking at ways to meaningfully involve the public in future plans for their area.

“Local plans are hugely important in determining where homes and employment happens in an area. In our experience, the level of engagement in this process is often limited to those with vested interests and time to spend in trawling through and responding to detailed and complex information.

“If local plans are to have a more significant role in reflecting an area’s needs and aspirations, this engagement gap must be addressed.”

The results of the survey follow the government's consultation document Planning for the Future which commits to ensuring that communities will be consulted from the beginning of the planning process.

The poll also found the following:

  • 80 per cent of respondents aged between 18 and 34 have not engaged in a local plan consultation.
  • 9 per cent of people aged between 18 and 34 were unsure if they had.
  • 51 per cent cited knowing their feedback on the local plan would “make a difference” as a key reason for engaging. This rises to 73 per cent amongst those 613 respondents who said they had participated in a local plan consultation. 
  • Better promotion of information (41 per cent), and the clarity / simplicity of that information (37 per cent) were also cited as reasons for engaging.

Lowndes said the government is right to want local plans to be simpler. “We know from our work with communities that people care passionately about their areas and will engage positively if the consultation process is clear, accessible and easy to understand.

It is necessary to move away from asking people to read and respond to dense documents or attend events at village halls in order to give their feedback, Lowndes added.

In response to the survey, Fiona Howie, chief executive at the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), commented: “We know there is an urgent need to rebuild trust in the planning system. Supporting everyone within communities to participate in plan-making will be an important part of working to achieve that.

“As this research highlights, people must know that their involvement will be meaningful and listened too.

“There also needs to be culture change at national and local levels, so that involving communities in planning is seen as a good thing that will result in higher quality plans and better outcomes from the system. Community involvement must not be compromised in an attempt to simply speed up the system.”

* There were 2,296 respondents to the poll.

17 August 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

Homes England and Network Rail have announced an investment of £77 million into York’s city centre quarter regeneration development to help unlock housing and infrastructure. 

The funding is subject to the development being granted planning approval and has been allocated from the Housing Infrastructure Fund.

The project seeks to enable infrastructure to be delivered to connect the site to the surrounding area, including a bridge over the East Coast mainline rail route. There are currently “significant” access problems. 

Up to 3,705 homes are planned for the brownfield site, as well as 1.2 million square feet of commercial development, comprising 80 per cent of grade A office space. 

Investment in the York Central project was initially announced in the March Budget (pdf).

A ‘reserved matters’ planning application for the first phase has already been submitted to City of York Council. It comprises a new main road entrance to the development site; a new bridge over the East Coast Main Line; cycling and pedestrian routes; improved existing and new drainage systems; and to provide critical landscaping as the beginning of the new public park.

Homes England and Network Rail will assume responsibility for the infrastructure investment from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). 

The government’s housing agency and Network Rail have so far supported the development through the land acquisition and masterplanning stages. Thye hope that work can start on site in 2021.

Simon Dudley, interim chair at Homes England, said: “This investment is a clear signal of the government’s commitment to levelling up across the country by providing much needed homes and employment space in York. The confirmation of funding provides that market with some much-needed certainty around a major strategic site at a time when it is planning ahead to recover from the pandemic.”

Keith Aspden, leader of City of York Council, added: “The funding is a vital step to unlocking a £1.16 billion boost to our economy and delivering a new generation of better paid jobs and hundreds of affordable homes, at a time when York needs it most. The scheme will also set new standards for sustainable living and clean growth, utilising brownfield land in the heart of the city.”

York Central is being brought forward by a partnership comprising Homes England, Network Rail, the City of York Council and the National Railway Museum.

17 August 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and his deputy mayor for planning Jules Pipe CBE have backed plans by Barking and Dagenham Council for new film studios in Dagenham.

The plans were approved by the council’s planning committee in July and passed to the mayor for consideration. They comprise six sound stages, productions offices and set construction workshops. 

The studios will be built on former industrial land in Yewtree Avenue and are expected to create an estimated 1,200 jobs, contributing £35 million per year to the local economy.

In 2017, a study supported by Khan outlined how Dagenham East represented an “ideal” opportunity for a world-class film studio to meet the demand for studio space in the capital. A temporary studio is already open and welcoming major productions, including Black Widow by Marvel.

The mayor’s office says the demand for film and TV studios remains high despite Covid-19 and the industry will play an “important role” in the country’s economic recovery. 

Khan said: “These spectacular new studios in Dagenham East will be a huge boost for the borough, the industry and our city.

“Our culture and creative industries have been significantly impacted by Covid-19, but our successful film and TV industries can play a key role in our economic recovery.

“These new studios will cement our position as a global capital for film and television, create 1,200 jobs and show the world that London is open to creativity – and always will be.”

Darren Rodwell, leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, commented: “Not only will our film studios make Dagenham London’s Hollywood, they will generate thousands of jobs and opportunities which is hugely important in the light of the gloomy economic outlook caused by Covid-19. These Dagenham studios will give hope to the people of Barking and Dagenham and to London as a whole.”

17 August 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A planning application to redevelop the Catholic national shrine near Walsingham in Norfolk has been withdrawn after it attracted criticism for its impact on a 14th-century chapel.

The Walsingham Trust, the shrine’s administrative body, has withdrawn its application to North Norfolk District Council and will review its plans.

Under the redevelopment plans, the current Chapel of Reconciliation, built in the 1980s to resemble a barn, would have been replaced with a neo-Gothic church. The plans also included covered walkways, a pilgrim centre, a shop, new toilets and catering facilities.

The main source of controversy was the proposed church, designed by architect Anthony Delarue. The East Anglia Historic Churches Committee rejected the application for listed building consent as the scope, scale and style of the proposal would cause significant harm to its setting, particularly the Slipper Chapel and its picturesque rural backdrop. Historic England also raised “serious concerns” on heritage grounds. 

The chapel dates from around 1360 and is where pilgrims removed their shoes to walk the final ‘Holy Mile’ to the original Walsingham shrine. 

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, about 250,000 people a year visited the shrine, which is reached via narrow country lanes only slightly wider than coaches. The site is liable to flooding and residents of the nearest villages of Houghton St Giles and Barsham had complained of traffic, noise, litter and antisocial behaviour by some pilgrims in comments to the council on the application. 

“There is no doubt that many of the current facilities do need to be improved and developed, but we must ensure that the solution to the practical problems of the shrine do not harm its unique and special nature,” said Walsingham Trust chairman Alan Hopes. “The trustees have listened to the many contributions to the recent application for planning consent and have decided to review the objectives of the project and potential options in the light of recent concerns.”

14 August 2020
Huw Morris, The Planner 

A round-up of planning news

Commission outlines poverty in Brent

Brent’s Poverty Commission has found that one in six households (17 per cent) live below the poverty line. The findings follow a six-month review into poverty in the London borough.

The commission also found that 33 per cent live below the poverty after housing costs are taken into account. More than one in five (22 per cent) of children live in poverty, doubling to a startling 43 per cent after housing costs.

The report draws on evidence from residents, politicians and expert local and national organisations.

According to the commission, the borough’s proximity to wealth and the skilled employment offered by central London has driven housing costs up without raising pay locally. This has created an affordability gap that pushes people into poverty and is a key cause of homelessness. The borough has "an acute shortage" of social housing which has forced people into the private rented sector, but rents here are two or even three times higher.

To address this, the commission recommends that Brent Council builds on its ambitious plans to generate more affordable homes. It should use its borrowing powers to build these homes. It should also work with housing associations and take advantage of post-Covid opportunities to buy from developers and landlords who are exiting the market.

The commission has advised the council to launch an in-depth review into the private rented sector and enforce decent standards, not least to reduce fuel poverty and health problems caused by poor conditions.

The full report can be found here on the Brent Council website (pdf).

Sheffield to consult on local plan next month

Sheffield City Council is to start consulting on its local plan from 1 September for a period of six weeks.

This is an expansion on a previous consultation in 2015 when people raised concerns around the development of housing on green belt land, the city council said. 

"Careful consideration" has been given to this feedback, with this plan proposing to look at whether more homes could be built on brownfield land.

The consultation asks for views on how the city council can best tackle climate change and meet its carbon-neutral target of 2030, as well as the future of the city’s high-street, parks and attractions.

The Issues and Options document has been issued ahead of the start of the consultation. It can be found here on the Sheffield City Council website. The consultation will close on 13 October.

Shropshire bids for active travel cash

Shropshire Council has submitted a bid to the government for almost £2 million to help improve facilities for pedestrians and cyclists in the county.

The application - for £1.929 million - has been submitted to the Department for Transport’s Emergency Active Travel Fund, which aims to help councils improve safety for both walking and cycling.

The council has been provided with an indicative allocation of £414,000, but it can bid can bid for more or less than the allocated amount.

Four projects are included in Shropshire Council's bid.

Government appoints sustainability consultant

As the government prepares to host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow next year, it has selected consultancy Arup to help ensure the delivery of a sustainable summit.

Arup, with partners Crowberry Consulting, are to work with the government to prepare for the November 2021 event by advising on all aspects of sustainability. This includes developing a carbon management plan and the establishment of a sustainable supply chain with suppliers. 

Arup is to assess the event’s energy consumption, travel emissions, catering, waste and transportation to help achieve the ISO 20121 certification (the international standard for sustainable events management).

The work will be led by a multidisciplinary team including carbon consultants, transport planners, waste experts and sustainable supply chain specialists located in Arup’s Glasgow and London offices. 

Sustainable homes to be developed in Worcestershire

Modular housing company ilke Homes has signed a deal with Crea8ive Sustainable Homes that will see 76 sustainable homes delivered in the market town of Evesham, Worcestershire.

ilke Homes will acquire and develop the five-acre former hospital site that has lain vacant since 2018. The plan is subject to planning permission.

Close to Evesham Marina on King’s Road, the development will be the first modular housing development for Evesham. 

The King’s Road homes have been designed to be "highly energy-efficient and will reduce carbon emissions by a third against current building regulations". Manufactured offsite, they will be "extremely air-tight"to reduce heat loss. The homes are planned to generate 10 per cent of their energy use from renewable sources such as photovoltaic technology.

Plans for the 76 family homes, which will be a mixture of one-bed maisonettes and two, three and four-bedroom houses, will be submitted to Wychavon District Council imminently. 

Management change for Prince Philip Park

The Land Trust has announced that it is working with Whitehill & Bordon Regeneration Company to take on responsibility for the management of public open spaces within Prince Philip Park.

The park is part of Whitehill and Bordon, an NHS England Healthy New Town.

The trust will manage over 100 hectares of green spaces, including Hogmoor Inclosure*, which will be a "significant" community resource containing a café, play and activity facilities, as well as over five kilometres of trails for local residents and the wider community.

It will partner with local organisations such as Deadwater Valley Trust and the Whitehill & Bordon Community Trust to ensure the most is made of the green spaces.  

The Land Trust said one of its key objective is to ensure that the site is managed in a way that benefits biodiversity, wildlife and the local environment.

* Hogmoor Inclosure is the third largest Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) in the country with over 54 hectares of woodland and heathland.

Views sought on Chester retirement village plans

Retirement Villages has launched the second stage of consultation on its plans to build a retirement village near Chester. 

The development is proposed for the former Beechmoor Garden Centre on Whitchurch Road, Boughton Heath.

The scheme will include up to 147 apartments, available to buy and rent, alongside open spaces and amenities such as a community shop, café and wellness suite, which would also be open to local people.

The first stage of consultation was held in May this year. Since then, Retirement Villages has used the feedback to shape the detailed plans for the site.

Responses showed it was important to local people that the new buildings be in keeping with the local area, and that they integrate with green and open spaces. 

In response, Retirement Villages has proposed a series of villas, ranging between three and five storeys, which will be set back from the road and screened with planting and trees. This means they will be less visible than the plans currently approved for the site, which was granted to another developer.

The village is being designed by architects RCKa with Barton Willmore acting as the planning consultant. 

Anglesey goes digital

The Isle of Anglesey County Council has gone live with Arcus Global’s planning and building control applications. 

The new cloud-based system will give the council's planning team the functionality to process applications enquiries, appeals and enforcements quickly and easily. They can accept payments, query spatial data and satisfy consultation requirements. 

The building control team is able to communicate electronically with citizens and stakeholders, managing inspection dates in one place.

Before moving everything to the digital system, the council would have to consult on new planning applications by post. This meant printing out plans and all related documents.

Elena White, business systems manager at Isle of Anglesey County Council, explains: “As well as printing costs, we’d also spend a considerable amount on postage. With the portal in place we’ve saved time and cut down our costs.”

The new system allows council employees to work remotely; it can also be accessed by employees working on site.  

18 August 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner