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Planning news - 17 December 2020

Published: Thursday, 17th December 2020

Overall housing starts slump, says Homes England, Government announces cash for 68 green projects, Land disposal system to change in support of SMEs. 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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Homes England’s housing programmes saw 11,313 new houses started on site and 11,358 homes between 1 April and 30 September 2020.

This is a decrease compared with the same period a year earlier, according to statistics published by the government’s housing agency Homes England.

Starts on site were down by 38 per cent during the first half of 2020 compared with the first half of 2019 and completions were down 25 per cent.

Homes England has attributed the fall to the national lockdown implemented in March to stem the spread of Covid-19.

This resulted in Homes England’s delivery partners immediately pausing on some sites and implementing social distancing on others. Partners reported that between 60 per cent and 100 per cent of employees and contractors were unable to be on-site, Homes England explained.

The 8,897 affordable housing starts made up 79 per cent of total starts on site, although this is a drop of 32 per cent on last year. The number of affordable starts in 2020/21 is the lowest since 2017/18, Homes England reports. Much of this can be attributed to Covid-19, but the Shared Ownership Affordable Homes Programme (SOAHP) 2016-21 entered its final year and lower levels of affordable starts were expected.

Breaking down the 8,897 affordable homes started, 3,295 were for affordable rent – 38 per cent less than the 5,340 started in the previous year. Another 2,768 were for intermediate affordable housing schemes such as shared ownership and rent to buy), which is a 34 per cent decrease on the same period a year earlier. The number of social rent starts was 541, compared with the 734 started last year.

The tenure for 2,293 affordable homes is yet to be confirmed, a drop of 21 per cent on 2,896 in 2019/20.

Nick Walkley, chief executive at Homes England, said: “As anticipated, Covid-19 had a significant impact on the construction industry in the first half of this year.

“Homes England has been working closely with delivery partners and colleagues in government to support the sector to build back its capacity. Confirmation of £12 billion of funding through the Affordable Homes Programme gives confidence to the sector to support delivery over the next five years.

“By working with our strategic partners and the wider sector, we can ensure that the £7.5 billion allocation Homes England received, along with the additional funding announced in the recent Spending Review, helps to stimulate the sector and ultimately gives our delivery partners the confidence they need to invest in new homes.

“We are encouraged by the latest economic data showing that the construction sector is recovering and growing strongly, with housebuilding performing particularly well, and hope that the positive news on the development of several effective vaccines will aid further recovery.”

Homes England programmes are funded by central government to enable private registered providers, housebuilders, community groups and local authorities to deliver affordable housing.

The housing agency also reported that housing built for sale at market rates were down by 56 per cent in comparison with the previous year, again because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Total starts for the same period in 2019/20 were 18,221 and 15,046 were completed.

Regarding completions, data from late March suggests that nearly 1,900 schemes had been closed or delayed, directly affecting the completion of nearly 240,000 new homes, said Homes England. Some sites were able to reopen relatively quickly after the first lockdown, but backlogs in the supply chain meant that some schemes faced delays. Partners reported shortages of plasterboard, bricks, and mortar, as well as logistical challenges.

In total, 7,612 affordable homes were completed – 26 per cent less than a year earlier.

Housing statistics: 1 April 2020 – 30 September 2020 can be found on the UK Government website.

15 December 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The government has announced that projects in England seeking to protect landscapes and retain thousands of green jobs will receive a share of nearly £40 million of funding.

The projects, announced as part of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, will see more than 800,000 trees planted and habitats such as moorlands, wetlands and forests restored

Conservation work will be supported through the funding, as well as improved education about the environment.

In November, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out his £12 billion 10-point plan for a green recovery from Covid-19, which includes the Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

The £40 million is the first round of funding, which will be delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency. The second round of funding will open early in 2021.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “These projects will drive forward work across England to restore and transform our landscapes, boost nature and create green jobs, and will be a vital part of helping us to build back greener from coronavirus.

“I look forward to working with environmental organisations as these projects develop and help address the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change, while creating and retaining jobs as part of the green recovery.”

Ros Kerslake, chief executive at the National Lottery Heritage Fund, added: “Supporting our natural environment is one of the most valuable things we can do right now. All these projects are of huge benefit to our beautiful countryside and wildlife, but will also support jobs, health and wellbeing, which are vitally important as we begin to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis.”

Of the projects, 21 projects will receive the larger grants (£250,000 to £5 million) and 47 projects will be awarded smaller grants, ranging from £50,000 to £250,000).

The winning projects

  • The Woodland Trust and National Trust are being awarded £3,860,200 to restore ancient woodlands and trees in 63 landscapes across England. The funding will also go towards helping to increase skills and capacity within the wider forestry and conservation sectors and to reinvigorate UK timber markets.
  • A partnership led by the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) in England and Wales will receive £2,543,600. It seeks to connect young people to nature and build a new workforce for the green recovery, targeting young people from deprived areas through virtual, field or class-based learning, day and residential trips, citizen science programme and volunteering with experienced environmental tutors across 200 diverse natural heritage sites, such as conservation areas, AONBs, national parks and more.
  • The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare has been awarded £580,400 to improve access to green spaces at NHS sites across England, including by planting 10,000 trees at 50-plus NHS sites, and providing outdoor ecotherapy sessions and refurbishing a garden for a chemotherapy suite, which will allow patients to have treatment outside.
  • The Conservation Education & Research Trust will receive £249,900 to help to plant 12 ‘tiny forests’ (the size of a tennis court) in urban areas across England.
  • The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Owl Box Initiative is being awarded a grant of £123,700 to work with 100 farms and supply communities with barn owl boxes, monitoring their success and involving farming families in this process.

Woodland Trust CEO Dr Darren Moorcroft said: “This is a great stimulus package for both the environment and the economy. Green recovery begins with sustaining and nurturing the best of what we have. Ancient trees and woods are the Westminster Abbeys of our terrestrial habitats and are culturally resonant landmarks – restoring them will be a cornerstone in wider landscape renewal and nature recovery.

“We and our friends at the National Trust will deliver and demonstrate renewal on our own land and support it beyond those boundaries, restoring damaged woods and conserving our neglected ancient trees. By training and mentoring staff and volunteers, and reaching out to contractors, land managers and students, we will increase skills and capacity within the wider forestry and conservation sectors for a future of more ecologically diverse and economically sustainable broadleaved woods.

“Ancient woods and trees are invaluable for nature conservation and restoration offering a range of nature-based solutions, such as carbon sinks, and they deepen people’s connection with nature. This programme will deliver on all themes of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund and we are delighted to have been awarded this funding.”

14 December 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Homes England has announced that it is simplifying how it engages with developers and housebuilders to bring its land to the market next year.

The government’s housing agency said that a new Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) will replace the current Delivery Partner Panel (DPP3). This will take effect from July 2021.

The new system is intended to increase flexibility and introduce a more proportionate approach to ensuring partners’ ability to deliver homes on-site

The DPS is expected to open for the first round of applications in April 2021.

Homes England said housebuilders would have the option to apply to join the DPS at any time because its pipeline of sites coming to market are publicised on the Homes England Land Hub or are brought forward by public sector landowners.

The system is different from the DPP approach in that housebuilders could only join up when the panel was renewed.

Homes England believes that this approach will open its sites up more widely to the whole market and be more flexible to accommodate market changes.

It will be available to help other public sector bodies – such as local authorities and registered providers – to procure a housebuilder or contractor to build homes on their land.

Under the DPS, there will be different categories of membership.

“SMEs bidding to deliver smaller sites will benefit from simpler entry criteria whereas the entry criteria for developers bidding to deliver larger strategic sites will proportionately have more testing,” said the government agency. Larger developers will have to demonstrate leadership on issues like design quality, building safety and improving equality and diversity in the industry.

Membership can be tailored to specific locations or types of development, so Homes England can better market sites to interested parties. Housebuilders would be able to apply to enter new categories and amend their membership, meaning that SMEs would be able to take on more ambitious schemes.

Nick Walkley, chief executive of Homes England, said: “Whilst a government procurement framework may not sound like exciting news, our new Dynamic Purchasing System and land-led approach really does modernise how we invite bids for public land. I hope our partners can see that we’ve actively listened to their feedback and acted on it.

“Our new DPS, with its new flexibilities, new membership criteria and more effective approach to marketing sites, will benefit our partners in the public sector and the housebuilding sector, particularly new entrants and SMEs.”

14 December 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Gwynedd Council is gearing up to deliver 1,500 affordable homes over the next six years, which will involve a financial commitment of at least £77 million.

Earlier this year the council announced that work had started on four council homes, its first for 25 years.

Now its cabinet is due to consider a housing action plan outlining more than 30 projects across the county that will enable the council to:

  • facilitate at least 500 new affordable homes including the construction of 100 of new homes to be sold or let to Gwynedd residents;
  • offer loans to 250 local first-time buyers;
  • deliver more than 600 new social housing units including buying 72 former social housing units to rent to local people in accordance with the council’s new local allocation policy;
  • extend a grant scheme to bring 250 empty houses back into use across the county; and
  • invest in eco-friendly homes like the innovative scheme involving Passivhaus-style properties currently being developed in the Segontium area of Caernarfon.

This initiative will be led by the recently formed housing and property department established by the council to address the shortage of suitable homes available for locals.

Craig ab Iago, cabinet member for housing, said: “My top priority is to ensure that we as a council do everything we can to offer homes to the people of Gwynedd within our communities. We know that our young people face a greater challenge than ever to find a suitable home locally, and this is an unfair and unjust situation.”

The initiative will be partly funded by the extra council tax levied on second homeowners.

10 December 2020
Roger Milne, The Planner

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has approved a development comprising 500 homes, half of which have been designated as affordable.

Khan approved development of the 10-acre site at a hearing at City Hall last week

Hammerson and Ballymore are behind the plans, in a joint venture that seeks to transform the Bishopsgate Goodsyard site into an area that drives the recovery and growth of Shoreditch and more widely, London.

Consultation for the development, which sits across two London boroughs, has been going on since 2011.

The revised plans will see all heritage assets restored and 1.4 million square feet of workspace delivered. The affordable workspace in Hackney doubles the amount provided in the borough since the council adopted the policy in 2015. This workspace will be provided at a 60 per cent discount market rate.

The masterplan, designed by architect FaulknerBrowns, features a high line-style elevated public park sitting on top of the restored historic railway arches, together with a wide variety of biodiversity, including trees and planting. The park was designed by landscape architect Spacehub.

The car-free development will provide more than 3,000 cycle spaces and two flexible culture and arts buildings, one in Hackney and one in Tower Hamlets.

It is expected that once it is completed the development will support 11,000 jobs.

Sean Mulryan, chairman and group chief executive at Ballymore, commented: “We bought this site almost 20 years ago when this area was a very different place. As the last opportunity for significant growth in Shoreditch, the time has come for what will be a great boost to the local area and London. The Goodsyard will be an exemplary neighbourhood, fit for a revived London. With a mix of new homes, sitting alongside workspace, shops, cafés and restaurants, cultural buildings, new streets and one of central London’s largest new parks, this will be a place designed with wellbeing in mind, where people want to live, work, and enjoy themselves.

10 December 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Housing application submitted for site in Durham

An outline planning application for up to 440 homes has been submitted to Durham County Council.

Banks Property's application is for 17.25 hectares of land to the south of the A181 Sherburn Road, between Gilesgate and the A1, which has been allocated for residential development in the County Durham Plan.

The development would see improvements made to the local road network and provision of 3.5 hectares of public open space.

Plans also include a network of footpaths and cycleways that will link to nearby facilities.


Airfield to be redeveloped with 154 homes

Stratford-on-Avon District Council has granted planning permission for 154 new homes at Long Marston Airfield.

Pegasus Group achieved the reserved matters approval on behalf of Bovis Homes – part of Vistry Group – for the residential development at Lower Quinton, Stratford, which was made under delegated powers.

The development at Lower Quinton is part of the wider Long Marston Garden Village, which is set to deliver 3,500 new homes, three new schools, a local centre, employment land and 70 hectares of public open space.

The 154 homes will be in a range of styles and sizes, and 30 have been designated as affordable.

Pegasus Group’s Cirencester urban design and landscaping teams assisted CALA Homes in securing approval for the original 400-unit phase one scheme in March 2019, before Vistry Group’s acquisition of the site.


Homes approved for Tulse Hill

The London Borough of Lambeth Council has granted planning permission for 45 affordable homes in Tulse Hill.

Henley Construct, a division of Henley Homes Group, will deliver the apartments for housing association Optivo.

The 0.36-acre site lies on the corner of Norwood Road and Thurlow Park Road. Two houses and a commercial unit for a car wash business will be demolished.

The four, five, six and seven-storey development will comprise one, two and three-bedroom homes. Landscaping, amenity areas, disabled parking, cycle parking and refuse and recycling stores will be provided. The development will consist of 45 affordable homes provided within two adjoining blocks.

The scheme was designed by Tigg Coll Architects, and Henley Construct will deliver it using modern methods of construction.


400 canal-side homes to be delivered in London

A scheme consisting of 400 homes at Clayton Road, close to Hayes town centre, has been approved by the London Borough of Hillingdon Council.

The plans, by A2Dominion and Assael Architecture, respond to the council‘s aspirations to open the Grand Union Canal up to the public.

A brownfield site next to the canal will be redeveloped as part of a wider masterplan that includes the neighbouring Crown Trading Estate site

The development includes a variety of new homes with a range of tenures, including affordable family homes comprising four-bedroom townhouses, and three-bedroom duplexes and apartments.

The scheme also includes a mix of one and two-bedroom apartments for sale, electric car parking spaces, biodiverse green roofs, photovoltaic panels and 1,300 square metres of commercial space.

The site is close to the new Crossrail train station.


100 homes green-lit in Alperton

Residential and commercial property developer Woolbro Group has been granted planning permission for 100 homes – 50 per cent of which will be affordable – in Alperton.

Granted by the London Borough of Brent, the development also features 12,000 square feet of commercial space.

The scheme is located alongside the Grand Union Canal on Beresford Avenue and consists of two stepped buildings. It will feature a mix of one, two and three-bed apartments.

Located in the Alperton Growth Area, the scheme is part of meeting the borough’s ambitious housing targets by 2026.

It was designed by HWO Architects, in partnership with Evolution Estate Developments.

Work is due to start on site in summer 2021.


Council submits application for first solar farm

City of Wolverhampton Council has submitted a planning application for its first solar farm, which would power New Cross Hospital.

The city council has partnered with The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust to deliver the solar farm at the former Bowman’s Harbour site, an unused landfill site adjacent to an industrial estate on Planetary Road.

By supplying 6.9 megawatt peak, the solar farm would help the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust to meet its target to reduce its carbon output.


Khan annouces partner to deliver more than 900 homes

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has selected Catalyst Housing Limited as his development partner for the redevelopment of the St Ann’s Hospital site in Tottenham.

Catalyst plans to build 934 homes, with 50 of these affordable homes set aside for community-led housing. A search for the community organisation to take on these homes will be launched early in the new year.

The remaining affordable homes will be 60 per cent London Affordable Rent, 20 per cent London Shared Ownership and 20 per cent London Living Rent.

Haringey Council will be given the opportunity to purchase half of the homes at London Affordable Rent.

The mayor said there would be key worker housing for NHS staff, and the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust would be able to make use of 22 London Living Rent homes for 10 years to ensure that staff can be housed locally.

The homes will range from family town houses to apartment blocks and will be designed by Karakusevic Carson Architects and 6a architects.

The scheme includes 10,000 square metres of new and existing tree cover and the existing Peace Garden is being tripled in size, while St Ann’s Victorian water tower will be preserved.


Dover to consult on local plan

Dover District Council has announced that it will consult with residents, community groups, local businesses and key stakeholders early in the new year on the first draft of its new local plan. 

The eight-week public consultation will start on 20 January 2021.

As Covid-19 restrictions are likely to be in place, local residents can have their say via a dedicated local plan website and virtual exhibition.

Responses to the consultation will be published and considered by councillors before a further period of consultation on the revised version of the local plan in the autumn.

The council expects the final version of the plan to be submitted for independent review by the Planning Inspectorate in 2022.

15 December 2020
Laura Edgar, The Planner