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Planning news - 22 October 2020

Published: Friday, 16th October 2020

People should live ‘never more than 10 minutes’ from basic facilities, Council upgrades planning tools to improve customer service. 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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When designing neighbourhoods, the aspiration should be for everyone to live within a five-minute walk of ‘significant’ green space or a park and ‘never be more than 10 minutes’ from basic facilities.

This is one of several recommendations set out in a report – Home Comforts – published by the Place Alliance, which is hosted by UCL, with support from Urban Design London, Good Homes Alliance and the Urban Design Group.

It comprises the results of a survey of 2,510 households across the UK to find out how the design of homes and neighbourhoods affected their experience of the lockdown implemented to stem the spread of Covid-19.

It finds that houses are more comfortable than flats, with the homes built since 2010 recording the lowest proportion of comfortable residents. Two-thirds of people felt either comfortable or very comfortable, but a sixth were uncomfortable or very uncomfortable. Extrapolated across the UK, the report states, this represents 10.7 million uncomfortable people.

Overall, social renters suffered the most and were the least comfortable by “some margin”.

Having access to private open space determined who was the most comfortable – households with no access to any sort of private open space were the least comfortable. Just 7 per cent reported that they struggled to work from home, with social renters “prominent amongst them”.

“Common problems included a physical lack of space, difficulties in separating home and work life, poor home technology (notably Wi-Fi), and poor physical conditions,” states the report.

Regarding neighbourhoods, the proximity to parks or green space indicated how satisfied people were with their neighbourhood during lockdown. Satisfaction declined the farther away people were living, particularly if they were more than 10 minutes away. Likewise, the survey found, the situation was the same with local facilities such as shops. Wider pavements and space for cycling were also appreciated.

A sense of community was felt the most in rural areas and in older housing stock, while there was less of a community feeling in apartment blocks and newer housing. The report states: “People living in rural areas, in houses (as opposed to apartments), in older housing and in owner-occupied dwellings experienced a greater deepening of community support. Residents in high-rises, post-2010 homes, and local authority-owned developments experienced the smallest boost in community feeling.”

Lead author Professor Matthew Carmona, of the Bartlett School of Planning at UCL, commented: “We need to learn from the stress test that lockdown has given our homes and neighbourhoods to build better living environments and to adapt those we are living in today.

“In recent years we have let design standards drop. As our survey shows, people tend to be less satisfied in new housing. This may in part be down to a lack of clear national space standards over past decades, leading to homes that are too small, but also because we are building neighbourhoods without ready access to basic amenities.

“We need to make sure that all homes have access to private open space, whether a garden, terrace or balcony, and that they are big enough to comfortably live in, with fresh air, daylight and good insulation from noise.”

Recommendations set out in Home Comforts include:

The design of homes:

  • All new homes and newly converted homes should have mandated access to private open space, even if just to a balcony.
  • All new and newly converted homes should be built to decent national minimum space standards and have access to fresh air, daylight and good insulation against the transmission of noise.
  • The nationally described space standards should be amended to reflect working from home needs.

The design of neighbourhoods:

  • The higher and the denser we build, the greater the need for high-quality parks and green spaces and local facilities within the neighbourhood.
  • The aspiration should be for everyone to live within a five-minute walk of a significant green space or park, and never more than 10 minutes.
  • Everyone should live within a five-minute walk of basic local facilities, including shops, and never more than 10 minutes.
  • Homes, facilities, and green spaces should be linked by connected, walkable, and green streets and cycling infrastructure.

A more community-focused city:

  • To encourage a stronger sense of community in newer and denser developments, shared public and private spaces for safe interaction and play should be built into schemes, as well as convenient access to local amenities and facilities.
  • Social housing should enjoy the same essential amenities as housing for sale or to privately rent, including access to the qualities recommended above across dwelling and neighbourhood scales.
  • Carmona added: “There has been much talk of a ’15-minute city’, where people can meet most of their needs within a short walk or cycle. Our study suggests that 15 minutes may be too far for many of us and that we ought to aim for a 10 or even five-minute city.”

Home Comforts can be found here on the Place Alliance website (pdf).

20 October 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Derbyshire County Council has begun using a suite of planning tools as it seeks to deliver a customer-focused service that can respond more quickly to changes in planning legislation.

MasterGov, designed by DEF Software, is a back-office system comprising a variety of modules to support the planning process.

The council will use these applications for county planning, enforcement, legal agreements, strategic consultancy, site monitoring and application response.

The administration is responsible for larger applications and providing highways development control consultation responses to district councils and the Peak District National Park Authority, so by using MasterGov it hopes to create a more efficient planning process.

The system replaces the council’s legacy system, which was no longer supported when it moved to Office 365. Applications needed to be compatible with its new IT provision and its back-office system.

David Arnold, head of planning services at Derbyshire County Council, said: “We are pleased to be working with DEF Software to support us in delivering the objectives of our service plan, to provide a more efficient planning process across all service areas including development management, development plans and strategic planning. We hope the MasterGov suite will help us to improve the service we provide to our clients and Derbyshire residents.”

Graeme Cooke, commercial director at DEF Software, added: “We are pleased to be working closely with Derbyshire County Council to support them on their journey to creating a more efficient planning process. We recognise that new planning legislation will create challenges for councils and we will be on hand with advice on how our software can help.” 

The contract between DEF Software and Derbyshire County Council runs for three years with the option to extend a further two years. The council has been using the system since July.

19 October 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Councillors at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council have given their support to plans for the government’s plans for better digital engagement and online local plans.

The proposals are set out in white paper Planning for the Future.

It outlines that decision-making should be faster and more certain, with firm deadlines, and make greater use of digital technology. This includes greater digitalisation of the application process; a new, more modular, software landscape to encourage digital innovation and provide access to underlying data; shorter and more standardised applications.

The council said it would put itself forward to be a pilot area for the government’s digital proposals.

Its response to the consultation was approved at a council meeting on 8 October. Alongside its views on digitisation, the council outlined its concern about housing targets and limited local influence over new developments.

The proposed method for calculating housing need would set Kensington and Chelsea a target of delivering 3,285 homes a year, the council explained, an increase from the 448 set out in the new London Plan. Planning officers advised that this is unachievable given the land and conservation areas in the borough.

Johnny Thalassites, lead member for planning, said: “The government is right that more digital engagement is vital for the future of planning. We already use digital engagement and we want to be at the forefront of these new ideas.

“However, the proposals raise important issues. We want to build more new homes, while protecting quality of life for people who already live here. Our compact borough has conservation areas which would make high housing targets like those in the government white paper impossible to reach.

“We need the ability to write local policy and communities should be able to have a say on developments on their doorsteps.”

The council said in its response that it also concerned about less community involvement in new developments, with Planning for the Future limiting consultation with residents to the local plan, compared with now, when residents can influence this and individual planning applications.

It outlined that some local policies unique to Kensington and Chelsea could be overturned by these proposals, through national law, including:

  • A one-storey limit on basement developments, which has reduced conflicts between neighbours and reduced complaints to the council.
  • Protection of some buildings for employment uses to support the local economy, for example, music industry businesses.
  • Limiting the use of buildings for new diplomatic uses to defined areas.

The council signed off the response in principle and will still consider further feedback from resident associations before submitting the response before the deadline, which is 29 October.

15 October 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Welsh housing minister Julie James has announced changes to planning policy that allow councils to compulsorily purchase empty houses and vacant land.

The changes have been made following a consultation and a call for evidence last year.

The new rules seek to strengthen these powers so that empty houses and vacant land can be redeveloped and brought back into use when it is in the public interest to do so. Revisions have been made to paragraph 3.53 of Planning Policy Wales (PPW) under the ‘Strategic Placemaking’ section to facilitate this.

At the same time, James published a consultation on additional reforms intended to “streamline and modernise” compulsory purchase procedures to support recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as ensure that land is available for affordable housing.

The Welsh Government has identified a number of priority areas to aid the recovery, including focusing on sustainable development, housebuilding and the regeneration of town centres. The compulsory purchase policy changes can help to address the estimated 30,000 empty homes in Wales and bring commercial properties back into use to help create job opportunities for local communities.

James noted that empty homes, former commercial properties and vacant land can “often be a huge blight on local communities”.

“Improving the delivery of homes in the right locations through the planning system is critical and we are determined to do everything we can to help build the homes people want, and help create jobs closer to people’s homes.

“The Welsh Government has put placemaking at the heart of the planning system in Wales and believes compulsory purchase powers are an important action tool which can help support local authorities and communities recover from the Covid-19 crisis. Used properly, compulsory purchase powers can contribute towards effective and efficient regeneration, the revitalisation of communities, placemaking, and the promotion of business, leading to improvements in quality of life.

“These changes to planning policy will not only make the process fairer, more efficient and understandable, but remove barriers and help local councils and public bodies to implement positive changes in their communities.”

19 October 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Welsh Government launched a consultation this week on the policy intent of regulations for the new-look strategic development plan (SDP) regime, which is designed to introduce a de facto regional element to the planning system.

It has also started consulting on the secondary legislation required to establish the regional Corporate Joint Committees (CJCs), which will undertake strategic development and regional transport planning in the future. This will include preparing SDPs.

The administration has made it clear that the existing Development Plan Manual provides a “strong steer” on the content of a SDP.

“Much of the guidance in terms of the key plan stages, preparation and examination procedures, SEA requirements, the ‘soundness’ tests and evidence base requirements will continue to remain relevant to the process we are proposing for an SDP,” the consultation document stresses.

An SDP should be capable of being prepared and adopted within four years – similar to the current LDP process.

“The only difference is one of scale on the issues being considered. The key aim is to devise a legislative process that is not unduly long or complicated and provides opportunities for communities and stakeholders to influence and make representations at key stages of the emerging SDP,” says the document.

The government intends to prepare specific SDP guidance to assist the CJCS that will be responsible for SDPs. It has just started consulting on the regulations for these new joint local authority entities.

The document highlights that in areas with an adopted SDP an LDP would still need to be prepared.

LDPs prepared under an adopted SDP would be more focused in nature, dealing with local issues and policies, and would identify site specific allocations, prepared in general conformity with the adopted SDP.

They will be prepared and adopted in around two years, the administration has decided. For this purpose, fresh regulations will be required.

The Welsh Government currently anticipates that work will start on the SDP regulations in spring 2021, with a view to the regulations coming into force by spring/summer 2022.

Meanwhile, in a related development, the government has begun consultation on the draft regulations for the planned four regional CJCs that will exercise functions relating to:

  • strategic development planning;
  • regional transport planning; and
  • economic well-being of their areas.

Ministers have stated that CJCs will be established for Mid Wales, south-west Wales, North Wales and south-east Wales.

16 October 2020
Roger Milne, The Planner

Firm to conduct feasibility study for Peterborough masterplan

Consultancy firm WSP has been appointed to lead the feasibility study for the masterplan of Peterborough's Embankment.

Plans for the 90-acre area include a new university campus, a proposed new stadium for Peterborough United Football Club, retention of assets such as the lido, Key Theatre and open green spaces for leisure and recreational use. 

The development seeks to open up the city’s river frontage to make it a destination in its own right. A pedestrian bridge would be installed to Fletton Quays, subject to funding.

Peter Hiller, cabinet member for strategic planning, commercial strategy and investment at Peterborough City Council, said: “While our Embankment is a wonderful place in our city centre, so much of it is currently underutilised, particularly in the dark autumn and winter months, when the grass is wet and muddy and few people venture far as it’s poorly lit. 

“Likewise, while many other cities showcase their river frontage, ours has always been a bit hidden and tucked away. What we want to do is retain the huge expanse of green space around the river and encourage more people to visit and make use of it, not just in the summer months, but all year round.” 

WSP said the masterplan would demonstrate how the university campus for up to 12,500 students by 2030, a potential new multipurpose stadium with a capacity of 19,500 supporters and plans to host up to 200 events a year, could function. 

Funding for the feasibility study has come from Peterborough City Council, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and Peterborough United Property. It is hoped it will help to secure investment from the government’s Towns Fund. 


Winery building approved

Hampshire County Council and the South Downs National Park Authority have granted planning approval for a 2,000-square metre winery building at Grange Estate Wines near Winchester.

The permission was secured with the help of Pro Vision.

Located on the edge of the South Downs National Park, the building will have dedicated areas for winemaking, ageing, labelling and packaging, as well as an office, tasting room and space for marketing/corporate events. Solar panels will also be installed.


Doncaster rental homes to go ahead

Doncaster Council has granted planning permission for a build-to-rent scheme comprising 60 houses in the city.

The plans, submitted by Godwin Developments, working with Teakwood Partners Ltd, are set to transform a 3.5-acre site on Watch House Lane in Bentley. The brownfield site has been vacant for around 10 years.

The homes will be a mix of two and three-bedroom family homes. Plans include open play space and a range of local amenities, such as an infant and junior school, and supermarket as well as food and beverage offerings.


ilke Homes to regenerate Nottingham site

Nottinghamshire County Council has chosen ilke Homes to develop up to 140 homes on a site in Arnold, subject to a grant of planning permission.

The deal was struck following a competitive tender process. It involves the redevelopment of a nine-acre site in Rolleston Drive. The former depot was derelict for six years before being destroyed by fire in 2017.

The homes will be manufactured at ilke Homes’ factory in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, before being delivered to Rolleston Drive.

Innes England advised Nottinghamshire County Council acting as its agent.


London housing association to review safety of development

Notting Hill Genesis has announced a “comprehensive safety review” across a six-block residential development in London after receiving advice that the construction of the buildings may be putting residents at risk.  

All residents living in Paragon – around 1,000 people – will be asked to leave immediately to protect their health and safety while more investigative work is undertaken. 

Paragon, a development of six blocks comprising 1,059 homes, is in Brentford, Hounslow. It was developed by Berkeley First, part of The Berkeley Group plc. The estate was owned initially by the former Presentation Housing Association, which became part of Notting Hill Housing – now Notting Hill Genesis – in 2009.

Notting Hill Genesis said that it would ensure that all residents living in the Paragon Estate were able to access safe alternative accommodation this week. It will also work with residents to find a longer-term solution to their housing needs where necessary.

It is expected that the investigations will establish the full extent of the structural and fire safety issues that have been uncovered at the development and identify next steps.


Application submitted for Ellesmere development

Shropshire Council’s housing firm Cornovii Developments Limited has submitted planning permission for a new development in Ellesmere.

The proposed development – Ellesmere Wharf – comprises 23 two, three and four-bedroom detached and semi-detached homes, as well as one and two-bedroom bungalows.

Eight homes on the development will be affordable housing for purchase or rent for first-time buyers.

Subject to planning approval, site construction is expected to start in summer 2021.


National Lottery funding to support revamp of town hall

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has approved an £8.3 million grant to redevelop grade-I listed Rochdale Town Hall.

The restoration of the town hall is part of the continuing £400 million regeneration of Rochdale town centre.

The funding will support ambitious plans, led by the council and Rochdale Development Agency (RDA), to restore the building’s historic features.

Parts of the 149-year-old structure set to be restored include the Magna Carta mural and ornate ceiling panels in the Great Hall, as well as the building’s historic rooms.

The project will bring neglected parts of the building into public use for the first time in many years, including with a ‘Bright Hall’ being created in the old library. Access will be improved, including installation of new lifts and terracing to make it easier for people to get in and around the building.

20 October 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner