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Planning news - 7 January 2021

Published: Thursday, 7th January 2021

Prior approval requirements added to PDR for upward extensions, Decline in the number of decisions granted by councils, Wind farm off Norfolk coast gains approval. 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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Another prior approval condition has been added to the permitted development right (PDR) that allows upwards extensions to be added to residential and commercial properties without planning permission in England.

The PDR came into effect at the end of August 2020.

It permits:

  • Class AA: Construction of up to two new storeys of flats on top of detached buildings in commercial or mixed use, including where there is an element of residential use.
  • Class AB: Construction of new flats on top of terrace buildings (including semi-detached buildings) in commercial or mixed (including residential) use. Two storeys can be added if the existing building is two or more storeys tall, or one additional storey where the building consists of one storey.
  • Class AC: Construction of new flats on top of terrace dwelling houses (including semi-detached houses); two storeys may be added if the existing building is two or more storeys tall, or one additional storey where the building consists of one storey.
  • Class AD permits the construction of new flats on top of detached dwelling houses; two storeys may be added if the existing building is two or more storeys tall, or one additional storey where the building consists of one storey.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Order 2020 requires a developer seeking prior approval under these classes in relation to an existing building that is 18 metres or more in height “to provide a report from a chartered engineer or other competent professional confirming that the external wall construction of the existing building complies with paragraph B4(1) of Schedule 1 to the Building Regulations 2010 (S.I. 2010/2214) to the local planning authority”.

This was set out in a letter from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to local planning authorities in England.

It adds that the external walls of the building “shall adequately resist the spread of fire over the walls and from one building to another”.

If a report is not provided, local planning authorities “must refuse prior approval”.

According to the letter, the ministry does not expect local planning authorities to have the necessary expertise to scrutinise the reports in detail, but “they should take reasonable steps to satisfy themselves there is no reason to doubt the conclusions of the report”. The letter suggests checking with the building control department to see if they have any concerns about the building in question.

Local planning authorities should also be satisfied that the reports have been produced by suitably qualified and experienced professionals. If the authority is not satisfied, prior approval should be refused.

The measures came into affect on 30 December last year.

The letter in full can be found on the UK Government website.

Read The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Order 2020 here on the website.

5 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

In the year ending September 2020, district-level planning authorities in England granted 311,800 decisions, a decline of 12 per cent compared with the year ending September 2019.

This is according to statistics published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in December 2020.

A regional breakdown


Applications received


Decisions granted

% of decisions granted






North East





North West 





Yorkshire and the Humber





East Midlands





West Midlands





East of England










South East 





South West 





National parks*






Breaking that down, district councils granted 40,400 decisions on residential development. Of these, 5,200 were for major developments, down 14 per cent on a year earlier, and 35,300 were for minor developments, down 11 per cent on the year ending September 2019.

In total, 398,600 planning applications were submitted to district councils in the year ending September 2020. This is 9 per cent less than the number submitted a year earlier.

Between July and September 2020, district-level planning authorities received 106,200 applications seeking planning permission, the same as the corresponding quarter in 2019, the statistical release states. They reported 90,300 decisions for planning applications during this period, 12 per cent less than the 103,100 decisions made in the same period a year earlier.

District councils granted 79,300 decisions, a decline of 13 per cent compared with a year earlier. The release states that the 82 per cent of major and minor decisions were granted, down one percentage point from the period July to September 2019.

The statistical release – Planning applications in England: July to September 2020 – can be found on the UK Government website (pdf).

* National parks are counted separately from each region: a few national parks straddle more than one region.

5 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Energy secretary Alok Sharma has granted a development consent order for Ortsted Hornsea Project Three, an offshore wind farm comprising up to 231 turbines.

The offshore wind farm will be located in the Southern North Sea. Its generating capacity will be larger than 100MW so it was considered under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure (NSIP) regime.

The examining authority – the Planning Inspectorate – had recommended that Sharma should not make an order granting development consent.

The application form states that permission was sought for all associated offshore and onshore infrastructure, including:

  • Up to 300 wind turbines.
  • Up to 12 offshore collector substations.
  • Up to four surface or six subsea offshore HVAS booster stations (or a combination of them).
  • Up to three offshore accommodation platforms.
  • A connection to the National Grid substation south of Norwich.

The secretary of state’s decision letter states that after examination and in response to a request for information from Sharma, Orsted submitted modifications to the wind farm, including a reduction in the number of turbines from a maximum of 300 to a maximum of 231. Sharma did not consider that this or other relevant modifications amounted to “a material change to the development as applied for”.

Sharma determined, in line with the examining authority, that substantial weight should be given to the contribution that the development would make towards meeting the national need set out in the Overarching National Policy Statement for Energy and towards delivering renewable energy.

Disagreeing with the examining authority, Sharma concluded that after completing the Habitats Regulations Assessment, the development, “in combination with other plans or projects, would have an adverse effect on the integrity of the Flamborough and Filey Coast Special Protection Area for kittiwake". Together, they would also give rise to impacts on sandbanks that are slightly covered by seawater all the time.

However, Sharma is satisfied that that the public benefits of the development would “override the impacts” to the Flamborough and Filey Coast Special Protection Area, the North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef Special Area of Conservation and The Wash and North Norfolk Coast Special Area of Conservation, “if appropriate compensation is secured”.

Again in disagreement with the examining authority, the secretary of state believes that the offshore wind farm would “not significantly hinder” the conservation objectives of either the Cromer Shoal Chalk Bed marine conservation zone (MCZ) or Markham's Triangle MCZ.

Taking this into consideration, Sharma decided that the DCO should be granted.

Hornsea One started production in 2020 while Hornsea Two is under construction and due to be operational in 2022.

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

5 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that up to £830 million from the Future High Streets Fund will be split between 72 areas in England.

The money will go towards helping these towns and cities “transform” their high streets so they are “vibrant hubs” for future generations, as well as towards protecting and creating jobs.

The government also said the money, which was announced in December 2020, will help areas recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Areas will be able to set out plans for regeneration, improve transport infrastructure, deliver new homes and transform underused spaces.

The 15 places and councils that will receive full funding are:

Tamworth town centre – Tamworth, £21,652,555

Sunderland city centre – Sunderland, £25,000,000

Sutton – Sutton, £11,346,704

Bishop Auckland – Durham: £19,856,853

Blyth town centre – Northumberland: £11,121,059

Kidderminster – Wyre Forest: £20,510,598

Old Kent Road – Southwark: £9,605,854

Swindon – Swindon: £25,000,000

Stockport – Stockport: £14,500,000

Winsford – Cheshire West and Chester: £9,980,000

Sheffield high street – Sheffield: £15,817,001

Blackfriars, Northern city centre – Worcester: £17,939,000

Birkenhead – Wirral: £24,581,011

Brierley Hill town centre – Dudley: £9,985,689

Stretford – Trafford: £17,605,674

The government said the confirmed plans include:

  • £24.6 million: To support the delivery of 186 new homes, road safety improvements and a permanent new space for the historic market in Birkenhead.
  • £17.9 million: Renovation of the Scala Theatre and Corn Exchange in Worcester town centre, as well as transforming underused space to create new homes for first-time buyers and improving connectivity.
  • £25 million: To support Swindon’s plans to modernise the town centre, including a new public transport hub and improved cycle and pedestrian routes.

Jenrick said the investment “is one of many ways the government is working to help our much-loved town centres get through this and prosper into the future”.

“The role of high street has always evolved. We want to support that change and make sure that they are the beating heart of their local community – with high-quality housing and leisure in addition to shops and restaurants.

“This investment will help us build back better and make town centres a more attractive place to live, work and visit.”

A total of £255 million from the Future High Streets Fund will be split between 15 areas. The other 57 areas, including Walsall and Scunthorpe, have received “provisional funding offers” totalling up to £576 million. The government said it would work with them to finalise proposals.

The Future High Streets Fund was launched in December 2018. Of the fund, £107 million has been allocated to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to support the regeneration of heritage high streets.

5 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Federation of Master Builders’ (FMB) latest survey of its members reports that nine in 10 builders – 87 per cent – have found material costs to have risen.

This is up from eight in 10 (78 per cent) in the summer of 2020.

The latest State of Trade Survey covers September and October 2020. It also sets out that after a busy summer, workloads slowed down in the autumn.

According to the survey, builders in the North of England and the Midlands “enjoyed a more significant climb in workloads than those in London and the South, however, the latter two regions are set to catch up in the winter months as enquiries are reported to be much higher here”.

In addition, the survey found that builders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were “more optimistic” about activity during September and October compared with their English counterparts.

The findings include:

  • 9 in 10 builders (87 per cent) said material costs are rising, up from 8 in 10 (78 per cent) in the summer.
  • 4 in 10 builders (39 per cent) reported a rise in workloads, down from 5 in 10 (47 per cent) in Q2. 21 per cent reported lower workloads.
  • Employment edged into positive territory for the first time since Q4 2019.
  • 1 in 3 builders (29 per cent) struggled to hire bricklayers, and 1 in 4 (25 per cent) struggled to hire carpenters.

Brian Berry, chief executive at the FMB, said: “In the face of rising unemployment and continued economic uncertainty, my members are reporting that homeowners are holding off planning home improvements next year. Builders in the new-build and industrial or commercial sectors are also reporting contracting workloads. By investing in a long-term plan to green our existing homes, and by ramping up funding for local authority planning departments, the government can help support recovery and job retention in construction.”

The survey, which received 135 responses, can be found on the Federation of Master Builders website.

4 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

RTPI sees its numbers swell

The RTPI has announced that its membership has reached 26,000 – a record.

This includes continued growth in the student and affiliate categories.

The institute also reported an “excellent” take-up of the new chartered town planner apprenticeship, with more than 200 apprentices currently studying at 10 universities across England. Of these, 65 per cent are female, more than 80 per cent are employed in the public sector and more than half come from families where neither parent has a degree.


Deal agreed to deliver 43 homes in Warwickshire

ilke Homes has agreed a deal with Midlands landlord whg to deliver 43 factory-built homes in Southam, Warwickshire. 

The four-acre brownfield site already has outline planning permission. 

All 43 homes will be affordable, and will be built using modern methods of construction. ilke Homes secured the site from a private landowner and will manufacture the homes for whg subject to full planning permission.

The homes will be manufactured at ilke Homes’ factory in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, before being completed on site in Southam.

The company intends to make a reserved matters planning application immediately.


West Yorkshire devolution before Parliament

The order for West Yorkshire’s devolution deal has been laid in Parliament by regional growth minister Luke Hall.

The region is seeking to become a mayoral combined authority. Subject to parliamentary approval, elections for a mayor will take place on 6 May 2021.

The mayor would have control over an annual £38 million investment fund, and powers over transport, education, housing and planning.

It was laid before Parliament on 17 December.


Kennington homes approved

Lambeth Council has granted planning approval for a mixed-use development of 139 rental homes and more than 2,700 square metres of light industrial workspace in the north of the borough.

The proposals have been drawn up by Connected Living London (CLL), which is a partnership between Grainger plc and Transport for London (TfL), and have been designed by architects Hawkins\Brown.

The development will be located on a site currently being used to facilitate the delivery of the Northern Line Extension, which is within walking distance of Vauxhall, Kennington and Oval Tube stations.


Recycling centre plans submitted

A full planning application has been submitted to Stockport Borough Council for the redevelopment of Climax Works in Reddish, Stockport.

Manchester-based P4 Planning submitted the application on behalf of Elsa Recycling Group, a family-run waste recycling company.

It will expand the firm’s existing operations to help the company to operate more efficiently.

In 2019, Elsa acquired Climax Works, a site immediately adjacent to its current location. The application is for the redevelopment of both pieces of land in order to provide better on-site circulation and the storage required to operate more efficiently and with a lower impact on the local highway network and neighbours.


Modular housing scheme approved

Bristol City Council has granted planning permission for 185 modular homes in Lockleaze.

Legal & General Modular Homes developed the scheme in conjunction with Bristol City Council. It will see two, three and four-bedroom houses, as well as one and two-bedroom apartments, developed on land at Bonnington Walk.

Of the homes, 50 per cent have been designated as affordable housing. It is intended that these should become part of Bristol City Council’s affordable housing stock.

All homes have been designed to achieve an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ‘A’ rating.

6 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner