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Planning news - 15 October 2020

Published: Thursday, 15th October 2020

Builders workloads increase due to home improvements, Nature is 'vital' to the economy, Spending review should be used to build resilient communities. 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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New data shows that 47 per cent of builders saw an increase in their workloads during the summer months.

According to the Federation of Master Builders’ State of Trade Survey, 42 per cent of respondents* predict that their workloads will be higher in the autumn.

Chief executive Brian Berry attributed these statistics to people wanting home upgrades.

The report says that total workload stayed in “negative territory” for builders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. “Expectations for future workloads are not optimistic, with respondents noting low levels of enquiries. Expected workload for the period September to October is relatively strong,” states the report.

The survey also found:

  • 78 per cent of builders expect material costs to increase over the next two months.
  • 17 per cent of SMEs are planning to increase the number of general labourers on site in the months ahead.
  • 16 per cent of SMEs are planning to increase the number of specialist tradespeople on site.
  • 74 per cent of SMEs say the impact of the coronavirus is currently constraining their firm’s output – down from 93 per cent in Q1 of 2020.

Berry said: “Builders’ workloads bounced back in the summer, as pent-up demand for home upgrades and more domestic space fuelled activity. However, builders in other sectors are struggling, especially those working on social new-build housing and on public buildings. To sustain recovery in the private repair, maintenance and improvement sector a national energy efficiency retrofit strategy is needed that will not only generate thousands of new jobs across the country but also help the government’s commitment to create a greener economy.”

He noted that builders forecasting higher workloads this autumn suggest that there is “clearly” a demand for new jobs in the industry.

Berry added: “Expected increases in material prices are a concern as builders have been reporting skyrocketing prices for years now. As we lead up to Brexit, we need to ensure that the supply chain is in step and that builders can access the materials they need.”

The report can be found on the FMB website.

* The survey was sent out to all members of the FMB, 166 of which responded.

13 October 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Natural England has pledged that in its role as an adviser to the planning system it will ensure that the value nature provides is not just a ‘nice-to-have’ but recognised as being ‘vital’ to economic and social needs.

Setting out its “vision” for the next five years, Natural England said a “truly green” recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic must allow nature to thrive in places where people live, work and play. Green space must be provided for health and wellbeing and to mitigate the effects of climate change.

In Building Partnerships for Nature's Recovery, Natural England, the government’s adviser on the natural environment also vows to:

  • Change its planning advice so that nature is considered at the earliest design phase of developments, providing high environmental quality development and greater clarity and certainty for developers.
  • Bring nature to everyone’s doorstep, build resilience to climate change and create better places to live, work and play by embedding green infrastructure standards into all development planning.
  • Ensure that all developments provide measurably more biodiversity than before they were built by taking a biodiversity net gain approach to all its advice, creating a framework for this important national initiative.
  • Work creatively and constructively in partnership to prevent breaches of environmental limits (for example of water or air pollution) at the country’s most important protected habitats, while enabling sustainable development.
  • Change its approach to wildlife licensing, making it more streamlined for businesses while safeguarding the most vulnerable species and increasing conservation benefits at a strategic level.
  • Help people and businesses to deal with complexity by ensuring that its advice brings together different policy objectives such as carbon, floods, trees, biodiversity and placemaking.
  • Help to level up the social inequality underlined by coronavirus by using green space and nature to build back greener.

The blueprint also seeks to guarantee that all children, wherever they live, can enjoy the benefits of a natural environment that is thriving. Natural England wants nature to be more resilient and more accessible by 2025.

It has undertaken a number of surveys recently. These have shown that about a third of parents wish their children could spend more time outside in nature to support their physical and mental health. In addition, there is a 20 percentage point difference in the time children from the most affluent areas spend outside every week compared with those from more deprived areas.

Marian Spain, chief executive at Natural England, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has made us all more aware of how essential access to a thriving natural environment is for our health and wellbeing. But it has also revealed shocking inequalities in who in our society can access nature.

“As we emerge from the pandemic Natural England is committed to taking action now which will revive our natural world and make it part of our daily lives. Restoring nature is a ‘win-win-win’: more wildlife, solutions to climate change and a healthier and more prosperous society.

“Imagine a world where woodlands, peat bogs and coastal marshes soak up carbon from the atmosphere? Where everybody can visit national parks that are rich in nature and beauty? Where beavers help manage our rivers, reducing flooding and tackling pollution? And where every child can play in green space near their home? That’s the world we are working to create and why it’s so important that we build partnerships for action to create positive and lasting change for our natural environment.”

Building Partnerships for Nature's Recovery can be found here on the UK Government website.

12 October 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The government should empower local authorities and local economic partnerships (LEPs) to lead the redesign of the built environment through the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

This includes embedding post-coronavirus resilience into communities.

The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) has set out its views in its submission to the Treasury regarding the forthcoming CSR.

ACE, which represents the large and small firms that design, deliver and operate national infrastructure, has also called for strategic infrastructure investments to bolster society’s economic, climate and social resilience.

Chief executive Hannah Vickers, said: “This year has brought into sharp relief the need for a more flexible and resilient society and the CSR is a great opportunity to embed this thinking across government. We have put forward practical ideas to build resilience – whether helping communities adapt to changing post-Covid needs, meeting the climate challenges of net-zero through tangible proposals, or helping the built environment play its part in wider economic recovery.”

To improve social resilience, ACE advocates for local authorities and LEPs being given a “bolstered role” as the leaders of regeneration. This can be achieved through the use of imaginative planning and design reforms that encourage flexible, multi-use local infrastructure as well as housing.

It also wants to see progress on several transport schemes including, Northern Powerhouse Rail, to connect communities to opportunity.

On net-zero, ACE highlights the need to invest in hydrogen as an energy source and carbon capture storage technology in Teesside, Humber and the North West.

In addition, ACE calls for the design and development phases of projects in the pipeline to be brought forward to fast-track economic activity.

8 October 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A planning application for the £17.5 million National Brownfield Institute (NBI) has been lodged with the City of Wolverhampton Council.

The institute would be built on the University of Wolverhampton’s Springfield Campus. The council has supported the university with the plans and final evaluations.

The scheme will receive £14.9 million in funding from the government’s Get Building Fund for the West Midlands, with the council, the Black Country LEP and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) working together to secure it. A request has been made by the council to the government’s Towns Fund for the remainder of the funding.

The NBI would research and develop new construction methods and ways to regenerate contaminated land.

The 12-acre Springfield Campus is home to the Thomas Telford University Technical College, the Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills, and the university’s School of Architecture and Built Environment. These facilities and the NBI will, says a statement from the WMCA, lay the foundation for the delivery of a National Centre for Sustainable Construction and Circular Economy. This would focus on sustainability and the climate change crisis.

Stephen Simkins, City of Wolverhampton Council cabinet member for city economy, said: “We have seen the university’s Springfield Campus blossom into the reality of a European-leading Built Environment education campus.

“The addition of the National Brownfield Institute will make Wolverhampton a world leader in construction, regeneration and built environment, offering teaching and skills development, cutting edge research and innovation, and enterprise and business engagement through multi-sector partnerships.

“Most importantly it will deliver new skills, jobs and opportunities for local people in the city.

“It is all part of the multibillion-pound investment on site or planned in our city – a city of opportunity – as we look to bounce back from the impact of Covid-19.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, added: “The NBI will be critical to the region’s economic recovery because, not only will it help us transform old industrial sites with new homes and modern business premises, it will also help give local people the modern construction skills they will need to gain employment and build these new schemes.

“This scheme is a key part of both our wider brownfield-first housing plan to continue our record house building whilst protecting the greenbelt, and our plan to get the West Midlands economy back on track by securing a green and inclusive recovery that offers local people the opportunity for a decent, affordable home, and a well-paid job in the industries of the future.”

The NBI has been designed by Associated Architects.

8 October 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Welsh Government has published a blueprint setting out its priorities for a Covid-19 recovery strategy that includes a focus on town centre investment and low-carbon housing.

The package of proposals will be bankrolled by £320 million of fresh funding.

A Strategic Sites Acquisition Fund will be launched to enable local authorities to acquire land and high street premises in local town centres in order to revitalise centres that may see increased footfall as more people work from home for some or all of the time.

Also promised is a co-investment scheme to enhance the attractiveness of town centres. This will focus in its initial stages on enhancing green space.

In a bid to improve the environment in town and city centres, ministers have confirmed that they will press ahead with pilot projects designating 20mph zones.

The blueprint commits the administration to step up construction of council and social housing. This will involve investing in low-carbon housing “at scale” and upgrading housing stock to make it more energy efficient.

The package of measures and policies set out in the blueprint includes support for young people, expanded enrolment for extra places in further education and digital devices to help learners to access their courses. More capital investment in schools and primary care facilities is promised.

9 October 2020
Roger Milne, The Planner

East London ice rink gets the go-ahead

Waltham Forest Council has granted planning permission for an ice venue in East London.

The Lee Valley Ice Centre would be built on the site of the current single pad venue in Lea Bridge Road, Leyton. It would comprise two Olympic-sized rinks side by side, a café, gym, exercise studios and community spaces that would be open to everyone.

The strategic planning application has been referred to the Mayor of London for consideration.

Designed by FaulknerBrowns Architects, the scheme is aimed to make a number of environmental improvements to the area with “significant” native planting and landscape enhancements that should result in a biodiversity net gain of over 35 per cent.

The venue owner, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, is set to fund a 10-year £250,000 community programme to open up access to the venue for groups and schools across Waltham Forest and Hackney, should the mayor approve the application.


National park approves hotel scheme

The planning committee for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has granted permission for a “green scheme” to be built on the site of a derelict Second World War camp for evacuees in Linton in Wharfedale.

It comprises a hotel with spa, gym, bar, restaurant and underground car park.

Committee members heard that Natural Land’s plan would secure a “significant level” of employment and visitor spend in the local economy.

At the meeting on 6 October, the committee also approved an agricultural diversification scheme at Gam Farm in Grassington for an open farm visitor attraction, an agricultural museum and a whisky distillery and ancillary tea room.


High-rise development approved in Birmingham

Birmingham City Council has granted permission for a high-rise “luxury” residential development in the city’s Southside. 

Essex St (Properties) Ltd will build a 28-storey tower on land at 31-33 Essex Street, on the corner of Bristol Street. 

The development comprises a mixture of one, two and three-bedroom apartments, a sky garden, rooftop cinema, a concierge service and a private gym. Commercial space will be available on the ground floor. 

The homes are to be made available for private sale, with a number made available at a discounted rate for local key workers.

Negotiations are currently under way to appoint a contractor, and work is expected to start on site in January. 


Body launched to shape care reform

ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators), has launched an advisory council to help to shape the policy, investment and operational landscape for housing-with-care.

The ARCO Advisory Council will meet regularly to make recommendations to the ARCO Board – its first meeting was held on Monday 5 October.

ARCO said it has created the council because “there has never been a more important time for drawing on wide-ranging expertise in the housing-with-care sector”.

Michael Voges, executive director at ARCO, said: “By pooling knowledge and insights on law, the customer experience, design, technology, healthcare and much more, ARCO will be in a much stronger position to help the housing-with-care sector to flourish.

“Our country is at an absolutely critical moment in deciding how we best care for and support older people. More of the same is not going to suffice, and we urgently need to expand models of housing and care that keep older people safe and secure, while boosting independence, health and wellbeing.”


Electric vehicle charge points coming to Tower Hamlets

Tower Hamlets Council has been successful in its bids for funding for electric charge points.

A total of 182 points will be available for use next year.

The first 82 new on-street charge points will be installed in early 2021, funded by a London Councils grant. The remaining 100 will be installed in government-funded locations later in the year.

The network of electric points can be seen in full here.


Scheme approved for London’s Old Kent Road

Southwark Council’s planning committee has granted planning permission for Sylvan Grove, a mixed-use development located within the Old Kent Road Area Action Plan.

Designed by HTA Design for developer Joseph Homes, the scheme includes 219 homes, 35 per cent of which have been designated as affordable. It also features 33,000 square feet of light industrial and flexible SME workspaces.

The apartments will be built in a 32-storey tower, while the commercial space will be housed in a five-storey building. A public square and children's play area will also be delivered, and new trees planted.

The Old Kent Road Area Action Plan will see the area undergo extensive regeneration.


Holiday park to go ahead in East Yorkshire

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council has granted planning permission for a holiday park comprising up to 420 static caravans in Skipsea.

The development, to be built on Hornsea Road, is expected to create more than 70 full-time jobs.

Outline planning permission has also been granted for a clubhouse and reception building.

The scheme will see up to 23,000 new trees planted and a lake established.

Pegasus Group provided applicant MB Goodwin (Skipsea) Ltd with planning, heritage, landscape design and urban design services.

13 October 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner