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Planning news - 10 December 2020

Published: Thursday, 10th December 2020

Marginal increase in affordable homes delivered, UK planning systems must hold housebuilders to account on design, Charity proposes turning former shopping centre into green space. 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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In England there were 57,644 affordable homes completions during 2019/2020 – a one per cent increase on the number delivered over the previous year, according to statistics published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

These represent an estimated 23 per cent of the total number of new additions to the housing stock in 2019/20.

Of the 57,644 affordable homes built, 82 per cent were delivered by private registered providers, local authorities delivered 11 per cent and non-registered providers created four per cent.

In that year, 68,346 affordable housing starts were made on site, which is 13 per cent more than the number started the previous year.

Breaking that down, affordable housing for rent (including social, affordable and intermediate rent) represented 65 per cent of completions, the statistical release states, and 56 per cent of all starts.

Other statistics include:

  • 52 per cent of all affordable homes delivered in 2019/20 were funded through section 106 agreements, higher than in previous years.
  • 92 per cent of affordable homes delivered in England were new-build, a proportion similar to previous years.
  • In 2019/20, there were 37,520 new affordable homes for rent (i.e. excluding shared ownership and affordable homeownership), slightly lower when compared with 37,671 in 2018/19.

Affordable Housing Supply: April 2019 to March 2020, England explains that up to 2011/12, social rent was the most common affordable housing tenure for new supply. Since its introduction in 2011/12, affordable rent has become the most common.

"This change was driven in part by the 2011/15 and subsequent affordable homes programmes which funded affordable rent tenure homes. Recent programmes also funded shared ownership, which contributed to an increase in these properties, from 4,084 in 2015/16 to 17,998 in the latest year," the document states.

Affordable Housing Supply: April 2019 to March 2020, England can be found on the UK Government website.

8 December 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The housebuilding industry ‘must stop receiving a free pass’ on design, states a report published 7 December.

The English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland planning systems must hold housebuilders more adequately accountable.

This is just one of 12 recommendations set out in Delivering Design Value: The Housing Design Quality Conundrum by a team led by the University of Glasgow.

12 recommendations for policy and practice in Delivering Design Value: The Housing Design Quality Conundrum

  1. Housing and neighbourhood design principles should be regulated by the four UK governments in ‘design value standards’.
  2. Creating well-designed places should be a core national planning objective in each of the four nations.
  3. Volume housebuilders should be held to account on design matters.
  4. The four UK governments should encourage and support a more diverse housebuilding industry.
  5. Housing land allocations should be based on sustainable development principles and prioritise brownfield development.
  6. Design governance leadership should be championed in local authorities.
  7. Local plans should be more place-based and outcome-focused.
  8. Masterplans should be produced and enforced for larger housing sites.
  9. Genuine community engagement should be undertaken early in the planning and design process where it can have the most influence.
  10. Design and construction procurement decisions should be more design driven.
  11. Post-occupancy analysis and development monitoring should be used much more widely.
  12. The four governments should provide more direct funding for design governance, especially at the local level.

Lead report author Dr James White MRTPI, senior lecturer in urban design at the University of Glasgow and a co-investigator at the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE), said: “Delivering Design Value is the first in-depth study to examine the process of planning and designing new housing in well over a decade. It uniquely features case studies from all four UK nations and is based on interviews with a wide range of people involved in the planning, design, and development process at the local level.”

The report team – from the University of Glasgow; University of Reading and the RTPI – features cases studies in five local authority areas: East Lothian (Scotland), Bridgend (Wales), Belfast (Northern Ireland), South Oxfordshire (south of England) and Rotherham (north of England).

The research found that the design quality of homes in all four nations “remains stubbornly low”.

"New homes and neighbourhoods fail to meet the aspirations of the national planning policy statements in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland," it states.

Each government, local authorities and housebuilders are all accountable for "allowing poorly designed places" to be created, and the four planning systems "do not deliver better (or worse) design outcomes than each other".

It also found that there is an "endemic" culture of reprioritising design in the housebuilding industry, while another barrier is the extent to which local authorities set out that design is an important local concern.

White pointed out that the housebuilding industry is “dominated by a small number of large and powerful developers that have little interest in creating well-designed places”

“On the contrary, the research reveals that small and medium-sized developers are motivated by design but struggle to gain a foothold in the industry.”

White explained that governments should identify how small and medium-sized developers can be supported to enter the housebuilding marketplace through tax incentives and changes to the way land is allocated for housing development.

Incoming president of the RTPI, Dr Wei Yang FRTPI, said: “Future planning reforms across the UK must put place-making and design quality at their heart and more must be done to translate positive policy rhetoric on design quality into actionable, measurable and well-funded solutions.

“Local authority planning teams across the UK have seen reductions in funding over the past decade, with design quality suffering as a result. Housing is not simply a question of numbers. A survey of RTPI members carried out in 2019 revealed that at least half of professional planners said they had limited influence on housing design, while an overwhelming 87 per cent said they wanted more of a say. Nearly 80 per cent said they believed design is of equal importance to factors such as affordability and the availability of infrastructure.”

White added: “Future planning reforms must put design at their heart and the four UK governments must do more to translate positive policy rhetoric on design into actionable, measurable and well-funded design governance solutions.”

Delivering Design Value: The Housing Design Quality Conundrum can be found on the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence website.

7 December 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has set out its proposals to rewild the site of Nottingham’s former Broadmarsh shopping centre.

The site covers around a million square feet in the centre of the city. When the pandemic began, the site was part of the way through a redevelopment into a leisure and retail centre. As a result, owner intu has gone into administration.

The site has passed into the ownership of Nottingham City Council, which is currently holding a ‘big conversation’ on what should happen to the site.

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has worked with Influence Landscape Architects to reimagine the site into a green space that begins the idea of reconnecting the city to Sherwood Forest and invoke the spirit of Robin Hood, it said. It includes wildlife habitats that reflect the site’s history as a wetland alongside the ancient course of the River Leen and long-lost gardens.

Since it passed into the ownership of the city council in the summer, a petition to turn the site into a green space received more than 11,000 signatures. It has closed because of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s proposals.

Paul Wilkinson, CEO of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trusts, said: “Transforming the Broadmarsh into a natural green space would bring people together and start putting the city’s nature into recovery at a time when natural green space has never been more valued or needed. It could also act as a springboard to securing investment in green growth and green infrastructure and deliver the long-term aspiration of reconnecting our city to the ancient Sherwood Forest landscape and we’re calling on people to back our vision.” 

As the city seeks to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust believes that everyone should have the opportunity to live in “a healthy, wildlife-rich natural world, and that we all depend on contact with nature for our wellbeing”

Wilkinson urged the city council to “grasp a once-in-a-generation opportunity” to make the city greener.

“As well as signalling the city’s commitment to helping secure 30 per cent of land across the UK for nature by 2030, this new vision would support Nottingham’s ambition to be the UK’s first carbon-neutral city, boost tourism and ensure that Nottingham stands out from the crowd as cities across the UK compete for investment to rebuild their economies after the impact of Covid-19.”

For the trust, the location of the site would allow the city council to demonstrate its commitment to its Wellbeing Design Guide.

Sara Boland, managing director at Influence Landscape Architects, commented: “Open space in cities is often formal, structured and in pockets and this presented the opportunity for a completely unfettered and wild approach to a substantial space. A chance to make a fundamental difference and influence the landscape of our closest city Nottingham.

“Combine that with the fact that rewilding of urban spaces is now an identified and real opportunity in landscape design and that money is in short supply for extensive aftercare strategies of heavily designed landscapes, the opportunities to think outside the box presented itself in a unique way with this partnership approach to the unique space of Broadmarsh.”

More information about Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s vision for the Broadmarsh site can be found on the trust’s website.

A new petition in support of the plans can be found here.

7 December 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The holiday home ‘emergency’ within Gwynedd has reached a critical point, Gwynedd Council has said, with research suggesting measures that should be taken to address the situation.

The report was commissioned by Gwynedd Council’s cabinet and will be represented to the Communities Scrutiny Committee on 10 December.

Carried out over the past year, the research found:

  • Almost 60 per cent of local people are priced out of the housing market in the county;
  • Gwynedd has the highest percentage of holiday homes in Wales; and
  • 6,849 homes – 10.77 per cent – of Gwynedd’s housing stock are holiday homes or second homes compared with an all-Wales average of 2.56 per cent.

Gareth Griffith, Gwynedd Council cabinet member for the environment, said: “There have been concerns about the number of holiday homes in some areas of Gwynedd for many years. This new research confirms that this trend has intensified over recent years with the development of online platforms such as Airbnb, HomeAway and Bookings.com, which make it far easier to market residential units for holiday use.

“In some areas of the county, the situation is truly alarming with an AirDNA survey showing an increase of 915 per cent in available units in Gwynedd in the summer of 2019 as compared to January 2017.

“At a local level, county councils like Gwynedd are implementing policies and initiatives to enable local people to access the housing market. But, there is only so much that councils are able to do within current legislation, and there is an urgent need for Welsh Government to introduce all-Wales legislation before it becomes too late.”

Griffith explained that the council’s research notes the systems already in place to manage the situation in other countries that could be implicated in Wales.

“In Scotland, for example, a system is being introduced which will require all holiday units to obtain a license before they start letting as well as planning permission in some areas. Such a system in Wales would be a significant step forward, and we need to see the Welsh Government introducing similar rules.

The council, Griffith added, is looking in detail at its local planning policies to see what steps it can take to control the situation.

Craig ab Iago, Gwynedd’s cabinet member for housing, added: “Ensuring a suitable supply of housing for local people to live in their communities is a key priority for us. But spiralling house prices due to the demand for holiday homes and second homes is pushing the fundamental right to a home in their own communities beyond the reach of local people in an increasing number of our communities.

“This research makes it crystal clear that action must be taken at the national level and there are many steps that need to be taken by the Welsh Government if we are to truly tackle the problem.”

The report the committee will consider calls on the Welsh Government to emulate what is happening in Scotland and amend the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order to include an additional use class for short-term holiday accommodation.

After consideration by the committee, the research will be discussed by the Gwynedd Council Cabinet on 15 December.

4 December 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Brent Council has granted planning permission for a 454-home development by Wembley Park London Underground station.

The development will be delivered by Transport for London (TfL) and Barratt London as a joint venture.

Emma Hatch, senior property development manager at TfL, said: “We are thrilled to get the go-ahead for our development at Wembley, which will deliver hundreds of new homes as well as a new retail opportunity and improvements for the local community.”

Of the 454 homes, 40 per cent have been designated as affordable homes, offered as shared ownership and London Affordable Rent. They will be a mixture of studio, one, two and three-bedroom properties.

The scheme, which will be built on a 1.6-acre site, also comprises a retail unit, improvements to the public realm and operation space for TfL. The roofs will be green and biodiverse, trees and hedges will be planted, and bird boxes and bee bricks will be installed. Solar panels and air source heat pumps are also part of the scheme.

With the exception of blue badge parking, the scheme will be car-free. Cycle storage will be provided.

Jim Wood, London operations managing director at Barratt London, said: “This is an exciting project for us and we are particularly pleased to be able to deliver such a high percentage of much needed affordable homes for the borough, alongside retail and train crew accommodation.”

3 December 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Liverpool’s mayor arrested in connection with building contract bribery

The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, has been arrested and bailed as part of an investigation by Merseyside Police into building and development contracts in the city.

He was one of three men to be arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation on Friday 4 December. Two others were arrested on suspicion of witness intimidation

An update on the Merseyside Police website, published on 5 December, states that all five “have been released on condition bail, pending further inquiries”.

The Labour Party has since suspended Anderson from the party. He has been mayor since 2012

Read the full story here on The Planner website.

 

Government agency signs building safety charter

Homes England has become a registered signatory of the Building Safety Charter.

The charter, which has been developed by industry leaders and supported by government, responds to recommendations by Dame Judith Hackitt’s building safety review.

Registered signatories commit to putting people’s safety first during the design, construction, refurbishment and occupation of residential buildings

Homes England has called on the sector to follow sign up and said it is exploring options to require developers that work with Homes England to become registered signatories of the charter.

 

Council opposes plans for village green

A bid by housebuilder Taylor Wimpey to deregister a village green in Borehamwood is being opposed by local planning chiefs.

Ross Whear, Hertsmere Borough Council’s Head of Planning and Economic Development, has written to the Planning Inspectorate to object to the application, which seeks to deregister the village green at Woodcock Hill and exchange it for a neighbouring area of land.

Whear explains that the current village green “is used and enjoyed by the local community, as is evidenced by the weight of objections to the current proposals from local residents”. The proposed new site, he contends, would be less accessible for residents, especially those with mobility difficulties.

He calls for a “rigorous assessment” of ecological and heritage evidence submitted to support the application.

According to Taylor Wimpey’s website, the application is “not linked to any potential housing development at this site and is solely related to providing an enhanced village green for the local community”.

Whear states that is misleading because the current village green is being promoted as a potential site for housing in Hertsmere’s new local plan, due for publication in 2021.

 

Network Rail plans thousands of trees

Network Rail and conservation charity The Tree Council have joined together to plant more than 80,000 trees and hedgerows across the country this winter.

This is part of a four-year, £1 million tree planting pledge.

The local planting schemes are funded by Network Rail and managed by The Tree Council in communities from the Wirral to Worcester, in ancient woodlands and city parks.

The aim is to plant the first 20,000 trees by Christmas, with another 60,000 planted by the end of March 2021.

The pledge was announced at the end of 2019. This year, the schemes are all on community land rather than alongside railway lines. The community planting schemes are part of Network Rail’s wider commitment to biodiversity, as set out in the Biodiversity Action Plan, published on 3 December.

 

72 homes approved in East Sussex

Brighton & Hove City Council has granted planning permission for 72 homes on a sensitive edge-of-town site in Saltdean, East Sussex.

InsideOut secured the permission on behalf of Gold Properties Limited. The permission is subject to a section 106 agreement.

The site was purchased with outline permission for 60 homes. InsideOut increased the number of homes by 20 per cent. The firm said it has also increased ecological habitat areas by 167 per cent. This was achieved by increasing the density of the housing to release land for ecological enhancements.

 

Go-ahead for London office space

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council has granted planning permission for the refurbishment and one-storey extension of a 1980s office building at Holbein Place in Belgravia.

Architecture firm Barr Gazetas secured the permission on behalf of Grosvenor Britain & Ireland.

The site is next to Sloane Square. The existing five-storey structure will be retained, materials will be reused and “extensive” greenery introduced. The “sustainable” office buildings will provide 25,000 square feet of flexible workspace.

The architect said an “early whole life carbon assessment minimised upfront embodied carbon, meaning the development will meet the LETI Pioneer Project embodied carbon target of 500kgCO2/m2”. Renewable energy will be generated on-site, blue roofs installed and sustainable urban drainage systems put in place.

The scheme seeks to contribute to Grosvenor’s goal for all managed buildings to be net-zero operational carbon by 2030 and to increase biodiversity in Mayfair and Belgravia.

Work is scheduled to start on site in the second quarter of 2021.

8 December 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner