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Planning news - 8 October 2020

Published: Thursday, 8th October 2020

Jenrick: Homes delivered through PDR will have to meet space standard, Council approves Cumbrian underground mine, Application for memorial to Manchester Arena victims submitted. 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 announced that all new homes in England delivered through permitted development rights (PDR) will have to subscribe to a Nationally Described Space Standard.

A one bedroom flat with a shower room will have to be at least 37m² in size, or 39m² in size if the flat has a bathroom. This seeks to ensure there is enough living space for a single resident.

Permitted development homes do not need to go through the full planning process, but are instead subject to a prior-approval process. The government says they “make an important contribution to delivering the housing the country needs” and “have little difference in quality” when compared to a home that has gone through the full planning process.

In July, a government commissioned report research into the quality of homes created through PDR concluded that such conversions create "worse-quality" homes than those created after going through the full planning process.

On internal design, the research says there was a “significant difference” between PDR properties and full permission schemes: only 22.1 per cent of dwelling units created through PD would meet the nationally described space standards (NDSS), compared with 73.4 per cent of units created through full permission.

The government says the Nationally Described Space Standard will stop a minority of developers delivering small homes without justification.

Jenrick commented: “Permitted development rights are helping to deliver new homes and making an important contribution to our economic recovery from the pandemic, supporting our high streets by encouraging the regeneration of disused buildings and boosting our housing industry to safeguard the jobs of builders, plumbers and electricians.

“The pandemic has further highlighted the importance of having somewhere secure and comfortable to live. While most developers deliver good homes and do the right thing, I’m tackling the minority of developers abusing the system by announcing that new homes delivered will have to meet space standards.”

RTPI head of policy Richard Blyth welcomed the announcement.

“There is no doubt that the increased use of PDRs has led to housing which is detrimental to the wellbeing of residents. We flagged up the need to incorporate minimum quality standards in PDRs in our response to the consultation last year and called for action again on space standards in a letter to the housing secretary earlier this year.

“However, it is important to note that many problems remain with the increased use of PDRs, such as the location of homes in highly unsuitable places and that there is no requirement for any access to public or private open space, or balconies despite lessons learned from the pandemic.”

David Renard, Local Government Association housing spokesperson, agreed the change is welcome but that concerns remain. He noted the government commissioned report and its finding that PD  conversions "mostly avoid making any contribution to local areas, fail to meet adequate design standards and often create worse quality residential environments".

“It is vital that councils and local communities have a voice in the planning process and are able to oversee all local developments. This is the only way they can deliver resilient, prosperous places and ensure developers build high-quality affordable homes in the right places and with the right infrastructure.”

Under planning reforms outlined in August, communities would be involved in discussions to shape design codes for their area, with the design codes to cover PDR homes. Also over the summer, the government legislated that all PD homes must have windows.

1 October 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Cumbria County Council’s regulation committee has granted planning permission for a new underground mine to be located on a brownfield site south-west of Whitehaven.

West Cumbria Mining’s Cumbria Metallurgical Coal Project will be known as Woodhouse Colliery. The £165 million scheme could create about 500 jobs.

The firm has been working on the plans for the mine since 2014. It will supply metallurgical coal, which is listed by the EU as one of 27 raw materials critical to the steel industry.

Other proposals alongside the underground mine include associated development comprising the refurbishment of two existing drifts leading to two new underground drifts, coal storage and processing buildings.

These also include: an access road; ventilation, power and water infrastructure; security fencing; lighting and a new coal loading facility and railway sidings linked to the Cumbrian Coast Railway Line.

West Cumbria Mining said its work has involved “careful thought and consideration” of surface infrastructure design to minimise the potential nuisance from noise, dust and light. An “extensive” programme of environmental and ecological surveys has also been completed, as has onshore and offshore exploration to prove there is “high-quality” coal present.

Once operational, the company plans to extract and process 2.7 million tonnes of metallurgical coal a year for UK and European steel-making plants.

This is the third time the council has considered the application. Campaign groups brought a judicial review against the mine, which has seen the application amended.

This approval is subject to several planning conditions, including a legally binding greenhouse gas assessment commitment, which is as part of the section 106 agreement. The production end date must be no later than 2049.

Mark Kirkbride, CEO of West Cumbria Mining, said the approval “marks another very important milestone in our journey to develop a world-class mine in Cumbria and is the culmination of six years of dedication and determination by the WCM team to realise our vision”.

“Woodhouse Colliery will bring significant local benefits to Whitehaven, Copeland and Cumbria in terms of jobs and investment at a critical time given the impacts of Covid-19 upon employment and economics both locally and nationally.”

The project is subject to a holding direction while communities secretary Robert Jenrick considers whether or not to call in the project.

West Cumbria Mining anticipates that work will start on site early next year with initial coal production beginning around 18 months from the start of construction.

5 October 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The planning application for the memorial to victims of the Manchester Arena bombing has been formally submitted.

A public consultation on plans for the regeneration of Manchester’s Medieval Quarter, the wider area which the memorial sits within, was held in May and June this year and revealed significant public support for the project.

If the application is approved, the memorial will be located between Manchester Cathedral and Chetham’s School of Music, at the foot of Fennel Street where it meets Victoria Street.

The Glade of Light memorial is designed to be a tranquil garden space, with a planting scheme planned to ensure year-round colour and reflect the changing seasons. Tree locations have also been calculated to maximise light and ensure the garden gets as much sunlight as possible.

A white stone ring “halo” lies at the heart of the memorial and will bear the names of the 22 who lost their lives set in bronze, with personalised memory capsules held within the stone.

“The council made a solemn commitment that Manchester will never forget and to ensure a special and fitting memorial to those who lost their lives on 22 May 2017,” said Manchester City Council chief executive Joanne Roney. “We believe the proposals in this planning application, which have been painstakingly developed, honour that promise.”

30 September 2020
Huw Morris, The Planner

A Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) application for the Great Yarmouth Third River Crossing scheme has been approved by transport secretary Grant Shapps.

The application form, submitted by Norfolk County Council, states that the scheme comprises the construction, operation and maintenance of a crossing of the River Yare. 

This would link the A47 at Harfrey's roundabout on the western side of the river to the A1243 South Denes Road on its eastern side. 

The "double leaf bascule (lifting) bridge" involves the construction of two new 'knuckles' extending the quay wall into the river to support the bridge, the submission explains. 

The Planning Inspectorate - the examining authority - recommended that a development consent order (DCO) be granted. 

Shapps and the inspector considered the application in accordance with the National Policy Statement (NPS) for National Networks (NPSNN) and the National Policy Statement for Ports (NPSP).

They agreed that navigation matters had been "robustly examined" and that there were no outstanding issues likely to cause navigational dangers; that the development is compliant in terms of flood risk; that the transport and traffic effects would be positive and therefore should afforded significant weight in favour of granting the DCO; that the overall social and economic effects of the scheme would be positive due to the "enhanced connectivity and economic development benefits"; and that scheme would not affect the UK’s "ability to comply with the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive".

The examining authority found that there would be some adverse visual effects on "a small number of sensitive receptors such as private properties". They agreed though that these "are not unacceptable in planning terms'' with Shapps satisfied that the crossing is compliant with the NNNPS policy. They concluded that the effect on water quality would be neutral.

Overall, the benefits of the scheme outweighed any harm identified.

Norfolk County Council said it would now submit a final business case to the government. If approved, it would unlock £98 million of national funding to go towards the estimated £120 million cost of the project. 

Graham Plant, deputy leader at both Norfolk County Council and Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said the scheme will make getting around easier for many people currently living and working in the borough, and that "it will support the town’s key industries, including those linked to the offshore energy and maritime sectors, tourism and manufacturing".  

"This is more important than ever now as we seek to help Norfolk’s economy recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Construction is scheduled to begin early in 2021 with the bridge expected to be open for use in 2023.

The decision letter and all documents relating to the scheme can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website.

1 October 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Welsh Government is establishing a company to focus on developing the site of the former Trawsfynydd nuclear power plant in Gwynedd.

The development company - to be known as Cwmni Egino - will help exploit the economic benefits of small modular reactors and associated technologies on site, including the potential for a medical research reactor.

This could provide a secure and sustainable supply of medical radioisotopes for Wales, the UK and Europe.

Minister for economy and North Wales Ken Skates said: “There is huge potential for the development of small modular reactor technologies at Trawsfynydd. To be able to maximise and deliver this we are establishing Cwmni Egino to pursue this to the full, ensuring this great potential is unlocked.

"There is expertise and skill in the nuclear field in North Wales, with AMRC Cymru and developments at Bangor University, as well as the sites at both Trawsfynydd and Wylfa [on the Isle of Anglesey].

“I want to ensure that we make the most of this and are at the forefront of new developments.”

Skates insisted that North Wales remained one of the best locations for new nuclear development.

Dr John Idris Jones, chair of the Snowdonia Enterprise Zone, which includes the Trawsfynydd site, added: “The creation of Cwmni Egino is great news for the enterprise zone. It opens up the opportunity for developing the site at Trawsfynydd for low carbon energy development to the long term benefit of the local community and the wider regional economy.”

Meanwhile, in a separate but related development, there has been speculation that US nuclear company Westinghouse is interested in reviving plans for a new nuclear plant on Anglesey.

This news broke as UK business and energy secretary Alok Sharma delayed a decision by three months on a development consent order for Horizon Power’s now aborted multi-billion nuclear project on the island.

2 October 2020
Roger Milne, The Planner

Volunteer positions available at the RTPI

The RTPI has announced that applications are open for membership for some of its key committees.

The committees help to deliver the institute’s vision mission, which is set out in its 2020-2030 corporate strategy.

Those who are already members of a committee still need to reapply for 2021.

Applications are sought for membership to the following committees:

  • Audit;
  • Appointment and remuneration;
  • Membership and ethics;
  • Education and lifelong learning;
  • Policy, practice and research;
  • England policy panel; and
  • International.

Victoria Hills, chief executive at the RTPI, said: “All our committees are powered by the extraordinary work of RTPI members who volunteer their time, expertise and professional insight. Being a committee member is a rewarding experience, and can contribute to your personal and professional development – so don’t miss this fabulous opportunity to volunteer and accelerate your career development.”

The institute added that it is keen to encourage as wide and diverse a committee membership as possible so that the views, experience and knowledge of all members would continue to enrich its work.


RTPI members join UN forum

The RTPI has announced that two of its members have been appointed to the UN’s Habitat Professional Forum.

The announcement comes on World Habitat Day 2020.

The institute’s vice-president Wei Yang FRTPI and member Vincent Goodstadt MRTPI will represent the Global Planners Network on the forum, which is a UN-Habitat body that consults planners, architects and engineers on global policy and strategic issues.


Prime minister backs wind power

Boris Johnson is set to pledge that offshore wind farms will generate enough electricity to power every home in the UK by 2030.

The prime minister, in a speech at the Conservative Party Conference, will announce £160 million for the upgrading of ports as well as factories to build turbines as he plans to ‘build back greener’ from Covid-19.

The plan is aimed at creating 2,000 jobs in construction and supporting 60,000 more.

Johnson will also explain that the government is raising its target for offshore wind power capacity by 2030 from 30 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts.


Charity appointed to help council map route to net-zero carbon

The Central Lincolnshire Joint Strategic Planning Committee has appointed sustainability charity Bioregional to help to develop its response to the climate emergency.

The charity will provide the region's local authorities with an evidence base for creating a net-zero carbon local plan.

Working together with sustainability engineers Etude and asset management consultancy Currie & Brown, Bioregional will be supporting central Lincolnshire, which covers the city of Lincoln, North Kesteven and West Lindsey, to adapt its local plan to achieve its net-zero carbon 2050 goal.

Bioregional said this would be achieved by preparing an evidence base to determine how the target should be defined and accounted for, what measures would be necessary in key sectors, including costings and feasibility, and the potential role of offsetting.

Philip Hylton, team leader at the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan Team, said: “The Central Lincolnshire Joint Strategic Planning Committee recognises the importance of climate change and of the responsibility for us all to do what we can to address it. Through this piece of work we hope to understand what we can do through the local plan with an ambition of delivering a carbon-neutral plan.”


Modular homes revealed for capital homelessness scheme

A scheme comprising modular homes that have been designed as accommodation for homeless Londoners has been assembled on a test site in Tower Hamlets.

These prototype units belong to PLACE (the Pan-London Accommodation Collaborative Enterprise), a not-for-profit company established by London boroughs with a mission to provide high-quality temporary accommodation for homeless families. This is the first batch of homes.

The initiative is supported by £11 million of funding from the London mayor.

The units have been manufactured by ESS Modular and can be moved to a different site when required.

PLACE is working with participating boroughs to confirm sites and accommodate homeless households within the next year. Tower Hamlets and several other boroughs are looking into suitable locations and PLACE aims to supply 200 homes across the capital by February 2022.

The organisation was developed by the London Housing Directors’ Group and the umbrella body London Councils in response to the capital’s homelessness crisis and the lack of temporary accommodation options.


TfL appoints support partner

Transport for London (TfL) has appointed professional services GHD to support it in the development of designs for Cycle Future Route 15.

As TfL‘s traffic engineering support partner, GHD is tasked with supporting the delivery of feasibility and concept design packages for projects within its roads, streets and places department’s cycling portfolio.

One of the projects will be the feasibility design for Cycle Future Route 15 (CFR 15), which will link Streatham to the Oval. It is one of 25 routes identified by TfL as having the highest potential demand for cycling in the capital and is part of TfL’s Healthy Streets Approach, which seeks to deliver a healthier, more inclusive city.

The appointment was made following a competitive tender process.


Plans for Brent set out

Development firm Argent Related and Barnet Council have set out their vision for the £5 billion, 180-acre North London neighbourhood Brent Cross Town.

The plans are for a new park town which seeks to establish a new standard for large-scale urban regeneration.

Previously known as Brent Cross South, the new development is set to incorporate 50 acres of parks and playing fields. Brent Cross Town would comprise 6,700 new homes for sale and for rent and three million square feet of office space for 25,000 employees.

Restaurants, retail including local amenities and services, leisure, culture and events also feature in the plans.

The town will connect to King’s Cross in 12 minutes via the new Brent Cross West station. This is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

Argent Related wants the development to be a 15-minute town, where work, shop, education and leisure activities are all within 15 minutes of where a person lives.


Eco-friendly homes designated for oil refinery site

Modular housing company ilke Homes has partnered with developer Abode Waterstone to deliver six factory-built affordable homes on a site near Neath, South Wales.

The site was once home to the UK’s first oil refinery.

ilke Homes will deliver the homes and Abode Waterstone will manage the on-site development.

The scheme – Abode Coed Darcy – forms part of phase one of a wider development that seeks to transform the former BP Llandarcy Oil Refinery site into a 4,000-home development. Plans also include the creation of primary and secondary schools, a district centre, community facilities and green open spaces.

Housing Association Coastal Housing Group will manage the homes, which will be manufactured at ilke Homes's factory in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.


Johnson launches review to boost UK connections

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has launched an independent review into transport connections across Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. It will be led by Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy CBE.

The review will explore ways to build back better from the Covid-19 pandemic through transport infrastructure and level up across the UK, said the government.

It will consider new links between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, upgrades to Welsh railways and better road and rail access to Scotland.

The government said work on the review would be undertaken with the devolved administrations and local authorities. It would look at the potential feasibility and economic case of options for:

  • Reviewing air links within the UK;
  • Exploring the cost, practicality and demand for a new fixed link between Great Britain and Northern Ireland;
  • Boosting road and rail links to Scotland;
  • Cutting journey times to North Wales by reviewing the Welsh railway network; and
  • Improving major road links across the country, like the A1.


Deadline extended for ‘call for evidence’

The cross-party Suburban Taskforce has extended its deadline for a call for evidence until 5pm on Friday 16 October.

The call was issued in August.

The evidence is expected to help to chart a course towards a “suburban renaissance” across the country.

Co-chaired by Dr Rupa Huq MP and David Simmons MP, the task force aims to support the long-term sustainability of suburban areas. It was announced in March 2020.

The task force will seek to identify national trends, particularly in London, for its first phase of work.

6 October 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner