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Planning news - 24 September 2020

Published: Thursday, 24th September 2020

Research urges government to build 75,000 modular homes a year, Jenrick makes key design and heritage appointments, Bristol Airport lodges appeal against airport expansion refusal. 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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The government should set a target of building 75,000 modular homes a year to create jobs and tackle climate change, according to latest research.

The report, co-authored by HTA Design partner Mike De’Ath and Cast Consultancy chief executive Mark Farmer, who is also the government’s champion for modern methods of construction, says the concept has struggled to become mainstream within the current planning system. But the proposed digitisation, pattern book and design code agendas set out in the planning white paper will give high-quality modular construction its chance to become an increasingly viable and mainstream form of construction, it claims.

The move would create 50,000 jobs, reduce carbon emissions by 40 per cent and help deliver the government’s “levelling up” agenda, says. It says the government should place modular homes at the heart of policy and the “build build build” agenda with co-ordination between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Treasury and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, to use this activity as a primary lever for levelling up the UK.

“New modular homes outperform traditional new homes in nearly every area, not least the quality of build and speed possible through innovation,” said De’Ath.

“Our ambition for 75,000 new, beautifully designed, modular homes is realistic and achievable, so our ask of government therefore is simple: help us stimulate and then galvanise the demand for modular homebuilding. With this help, a sustained long-term pipeline can underpin investment in manufacturing to deliver the quality homes we need while creating the jobs we want.”

The report is available here.

22 September 2020
The Planner


Nicholas Boys Smith is to establish the design body tasked with driving up design standards in England’s planning system, while Charles O’Brien is the new listing heritage adviser.

The move follows government proposals to reform the planning system, including requiring local authorities to introduce their own design codes to enhance “beauty, quality and environmental standards”.

Boys Smith, founding director of social enterprise Create Streets and co-chair for the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, will chair a steering group to advise ministers on how to help communities set design codes for local development. It will also support communities in producing binding design codes for their local area, massively increase focus on design and quality in the planning process and ensure local design and architecture is recognised and conserved.

The government said this work “marks the next step in placing beauty and design firmly at the heart of the government’s new planning system and consigning ‘anywhereville’ developments to history”. Housing secretary Robert Jenrick also announced the appointment of Charles O’Brien as the government’s listing heritage adviser to help conserve some of England’s historic buildings.

A leading architectural historian and commissioner at Historic England, O’Brien will spearhead work with councils to increase the number of buildings and structures of significant historical and cultural value that are locally listed, helping to protect them through the planning system. Speaking at the Create Streets conference, Jenrick said: “For the first time in this country, we are embedding beauty, design and quality in the planning system.

“The creation of a new design body will empower communities to demand developments are built to local preferences and reflect the character and identity of their communities - assigning ‘anywhereville’ developments to history.”

O’Brien will work with Historic England to identify the 10 counties, home to many historic buildings yet not protected, that would most benefit from the additional listings. Residents will be encouraged to nominate heritage assets in their area so that their significance is considered in any planning applications that affect the building and its setting.

22 September 2020
The Planner


Bristol Airport has appealed against North Somerset Council’s rejection of its application for expansion.

The airport's proposals to increase capacity from 10 million passengers to 12 million a year, while adding thousands more parking spaces, were rejected in February after the council decided the environmental and social costs outweighed the economic benefits.

“The decision to refuse the planning application was contrary to the recommendation of the council’s own planning officers,” Bristol Airport said.

“The plans to expand capacity at the airport will offer passengers more routes and flights from the South West directly, create jobs, facilitate inward investment and inbound tourism, and support greener and more sustainable, regional economic growth.

“As the UK emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is essential that all regions of the country are given the opportunity to grow to their full potential and contribute to the national recovery effort.

“International trade and connectivity will become increasingly important as the UK completes its departure from the European Union – increasing aviation capacity is essential in delivering this goal.”

However, Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN), which campaigned against the expansion, said it would be gathering a legal and expert team to give evidence on the impact of aviation on climate change at the appeal.

“This is an example of a business completely in denial about the catastrophic climate changes that are hurtling our way,” said BAAN Coordinating Committee member Tarisha Finnegan-Clarke.

“BAAN will be using this appeal to argue for radical transformation. The result of the appeal will test our government’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and their own legally binding carbon targets.”

18 September 2020
Huw Morris, The Planner


The Welsh Government has unveiled a tranche of funding for projects designed to improve access to the countryside and boost the sustainability of national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs).

Deputy minister for housing and local government, Hannah Blythyn, announced this week that the parks and AONBs have been awarded £4.7 million for investment in green infrastructure such as electric vehicles, retrofitting existing buildings with energy-efficiency measures, and restoring peatland and woodlands.

And £100,000 has been allocated to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority to foster a closer working relationship across all the designated landscapes in Wales. This will help to ensure that national parks and AONBs are able to develop more joined-up approaches to the challenges and opportunities they have in common.

A further £1.76 million is going local authorities to improve Wales’s network of footpaths and bridleways, making them easier to use and more accessible.

In addition, £337,000 will bankroll 11 projects to improve recreational access to water while £309,000 will be spent on community orchards and allotments to support community growing projects.

The deputy minister made the announcement during a visit to Moel Famau, in the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB, which is set to benefit from £180,000 from this programme to ease traffic congestion, carry out remedial work to address erosion to paths and surrounding land and reduce light pollution. An additional £54,000 has also been allocated to Denbighshire County Council to upgrade its network of footpaths and bridleways.

Blythyn said: “Our national parks and AONBs cover a quarter of Wales and are hugely important in helping to tackle the loss of biodiversity and attract millions  of visitors each year.  But access to local green spaces proved just as important during lockdown and this funding demonstrates that we greatly value our local footpaths and other rights of way.”

18 September 2020
Roger Milne, The Planner


The UK’s most famous film studio has unveiled major expansion plans including a blockbuster visitor attraction.

Pinewood Studios, which has hosted the James Bond and Star Wars movie franchises, has revealed plans to expand its current site close to Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire with a £450 million investment into a development named Screen Hub UK.

This will include the Pinewood Studios Experience, a 32,000-square-metre film-inspired attraction.

The Pinewood Group, the studios’ owner, said Screen Hub UK would also include film production facilities with ‘live’ links to the experience, a training and skills hub, a creative industries business growth hub and a green campus. The development is expected to create 3,500 jobs while generating £230 million for the economy and £125 million for the tourist industry each year.

The visitor attraction is likely to feature many of the famous films made or partly shot at the studios in its 84-year history. In recent years, these include: RocketmanMary Poppins Returns1917Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and the yet-to-be-released 25th James Bond film, No Time To Die.

Pinewood Group chairman Paul Golding said its plan was in response to the government and the Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership's (LEP) recognition of the studios as a “major economic asset”.

The LEP’s local industrial strategy pledged to build its plans around the “future elevation and evolution of our global assets”, which include the studios.

“We have been looking at a visitor experience for some time and feel that now is the right moment to bring it forward,” he added.

“The project will strengthen UK film and bring much-needed jobs and spending.”
Golding said the company hoped its planning application, which is currently being prepared, would “receive widespread support”.

Consultations with the local community and wider stakeholders will begin next week.

17 September 2020
Huw Morris, The Planner


The UK’s first heritage-led development plan has been launched in Liverpool to shape a multibillion-pound programme to regenerate the city’s historic docklands.

The North Shore Vision is the first development document in the UK to adopt guidelines set by the United Nations on sustainable development and UNESCO’s model for developing historic urban landscapes.

The vision will be used to guide the future growth of 105 hectares of largely derelict brownfield land in one of the poorest areas of the UK. This encompasses Peel L&P’s Liverpool Waters and the Ten Streets District, and lies almost exclusively with the city’s World Heritage Site and its buffer zone.

A consortium of planning professionals, designers and heritage experts including the city’s world heritage team and World Heritage Task Force and Steering Group worked on the vision alongside representatives from Historic England, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the University of Liverpool.

The vision is to be formally adopted by Liverpool City Council, which commissioned the document as part of a programme in response to UNESCO placing the city’s World Heritage Status on the at-risk register in 2013.

Everton Football Club, a key stakeholder in the area, has already informally used the vision to help to shape proposals for its new football stadium at Bramley Moore, which will require some of the dock to be infilled.

Further information is available here.

18 September 2020
Huw Morris, The Planner