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Planning news - 14 January 2021

Published: Thursday, 14th January 2021

Section one of North Essex local plan deemed sound, Leaseholders will be able to buy their homes as government announces reforms, Kwarteng becomes energy secretary. 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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A planning inspector has concluded that section one of the local plan put together by Tendring District, Braintree District and Colchester Borough councils is sound.

Section one sets out the strategic direction for growth.

In June 2018, inspector Roger Clews found the strategic plan not sound – but stressed this was not a rejection of plans to deliver three new settlements.

Nearly a year later in May 2020, the Planning Inspectorate decided that a garden community development on the Tendring and Colchester border would be sustainable, but two other garden communities proposed in the North Essex Garden Communities’ plan should be removed.

Clews ruled that if “unsound” proposals for new settlements on the Colchester and Braintree borders and the West of Braintree garden community are removed, the North Essex Authorities Strategic Section 1 Plan is “capable of being made sound”.

He found that the the financial viability of the Tendring/Colchester borders garden community is “very strong”. The proposed Colchester/Braintree borders garden community would not achieve a viable land price, according to Clews, while the proposed West of Braintree garden community is below – or at best is at the very margin of – financial viability, contrary to advice in the PPG.

In his report published in December 2020, Clews set out a number of main modifications, which were subject to public consultation and were requested by the local authorities in order to make North Essex Authorities’ [NEAs] Shared Strategic Section 1 Plan sound. They are:

  • Deletion from the plan of the proposed Colchester/Braintree Borders garden community and the proposed West of Braintree garden community.
  • Modifications to the policies for the Tendring/Colchester Borders garden community, to ensure that the plan provides a justified and effective policy framework for its development.
  • Modifications to the policy on housing requirements to ensure that the plan effectively sets out how those requirements are to be met.
  • Modifications to the policy for employment land to ensure that its requirements are soundly based and that it sets out effectively how they will be met.
  • Modifications to ensure that the plan’s vision, strategic objectives and spatial strategy, and its policies on the presumption in favour of sustainable development, infrastructure and connectivity, and place-shaping principles, are justified, effective and consistent with national policy.

As part of the modifications, the inspector stated that planning and funding approval for the A120-133 link road and Rapid Transit System must be secured before planning approval is granted for any development that forms part of the garden community.

Clews endorsed the annual housing targets set out for Braintree (716 a year), Colchester (920 a year) and Tendring (550 a year) over the plan period to 2033.

Clews advised the local authorities to seek their own legal advice on whether a section of a local plan could be adopted separately from the rest of it.

Graham Butland, leader of Braintree District Council, said: “I am pleased that section one has now been determined and we can look ahead to promptly getting on with section two. This will mean our local communities can now move forward with more confidence.”

Neil Stock OBE, leader of Tendring District Council, said: “The collaboration and partnership working between the three district councils has been exemplary and groundbreaking; we have led the whole country in that regard. Our proposals and particularly our garden community aspirations on the border with Colchester have passed intense scrutiny, so I am extremely pleased with the progress we have made.”

Each local authority will work on its individual section two of the local plans.

The inspector's report can be found here.

11 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has set out measures that will enable leaseholders in England to extend their leases by a maximum term of 990 years at zero ground rent.

This measure is part of what the government describes as the “biggest reforms” to English property law for 40 years. They seek to make home ownership “fairer and more secure”.

Currently, many leaseholders face high ground rents as well as their mortgage payments. The freeholder can increase the ground rents costs with little benefit to those living in the properties, the government explained, which can lead to increased costs when buying or selling the property.

The changes outlined by the government will mean that if a leaseholder chooses to extend the lease on their property, they won’t pay any ground rent to the freeholder.

Jenrick said: “Across the country people are struggling to realise the dream of owning their own home but find the reality of being a leaseholder far too bureaucratic, burdensome and expensive.

“We want to reinforce the security that home ownership brings by changing forever the way we own homes and end some of the worst practices faced by homeowners.

“These reforms provide fairness for 4.5 million leaseholders and chart a course to a new system altogether.”

The government has also established a Commonhold Council, which is a partnership between leasehold groups, industry and government. It will prepare homeowners and the market for the widespread take-up of commonhold, a model that is used around the world. It allows homeowners to own their property on a freehold basis, giving them greater control over the costs of home ownership.

Blocks are jointly owned and managed, so when someone buys a flat, it is theirs.

Professor Nick Hopkins, commissioner for property law at the Law Commission said: “We are pleased to see government taking its first decisive step towards the implementation of the Law Commission’s recommendations to make enfranchisement cheaper and simpler.

“The creation of the Commonhold Council should help to reinvigorate commonhold, ensuring homeowners will be able to call their homes their own.”

The government’s reforms mean leaseholders of flats and houses will be able to extend their lease to a new standard 990 years with a ground rent at zero.

11 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a minor reshuffle to his cabinet. Alok Sharma will take on the role of president of the UN COP26 climate conference in Glasgow this November.

Kwasi Kwarteng, SoS for BEIS / © UK Parliament (CC BY 3.0)The move sees Kwasi Kwarteng promoted to Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He served as a minister under Sharma when he was the secretary of state.

COP26, which was postponed from November 2020 to November 2021 owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, will bring together representatives such as world leaders and campaigners from nearly 200 countries.

In order to meet “high ambitions” for COP26, the government said Sharma would solely focus on “driving forward coordinated global action to tackle climate change”.

“A successful summit in November will be critical if we want to meet the objectives set out by the Paris agreement and reduce global emissions. The UK has set a high bar, with our recent commitment to reduce emissions by at least 68 per cent by 2030, but we also need other countries to do their bit.”

Sharma became the president of COP26 in February 2020. The role will be based in the Cabinet Office and Sharma will continue to be a full member of the cabinet. He will chair the Climate Action Implementation Committee.

Sharma said: “The biggest challenge of our time is climate change and we need to work together to deliver a cleaner, greener world and build back better for present and future generations.

“Through the UK’s presidency of COP26 we have a unique opportunity, working with friends and partners around the world, to deliver on this goal.

“Given the vital importance of tackling climate change I am delighted to have been asked by the prime minister to dedicate all my energies to this urgent task.”

Kwarteng will lead and bring together work on “business, science and innovation to unleash investment and growth in his new role as secretary of state,” the government explained.

RenewableUK’s chief executive Hugh McNeal said: “Kwasi Kwarteng has championed renewable energy indefatigably in his role as energy minister, engaging with us constantly on how to ramp up the deployment of onshore and offshore wind and innovative technologies like floating wind, tidal stream and wave power and renewable hydrogen, so we can reach net-zero emissions as fast and as cheaply as possible. His keen focus on vital work to develop the UK renewable energy supply chain with us will help to create tens of thousands of jobs over the course of this decade in the prime minister’s Green Industrial Revolution. We’re also looking forward to working closely with Anne-Marie Trevelyan in her new role as minister for business, energy and clean growth.”

Trevelyan will become Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth. She will work on climate and energy policy, such as the implementation of Johnson’s 10 point plan for a green recovery from Covid-19. She will continue in her role as the UK’s international champion on adaptation and resilience for the COP26 presidency.

11 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Newport City Council has approved plans to redevelop the University of South Wales's former Caerleon campus with housing.

Housebuilder Redrow plans to convert a number of historic buildings on the campus into flats, as well as building new homes at the site.

The main campus building, which is grade II-listed and featured in Netflix drama Sex Education, is set to be refurbished and converted into 44 flats, while conversions are also lined up for the TJ Webly, Ty Hywel and Felthorpe heritage buildings.

Other existing buildings on the site are to be demolished to allow for the construction of 170 homes, alongside open space, landscaping and infrastructure works.

In total the scheme will provide 219 homes, significantly less than an earlier proposal for 310 dwellings and significant commercial floorspace. That 2018 scheme was refused for traffic, air quality and amenity reasons.

Concerns remain over the impact of the development on air quality in Caerleon, which is breaching targets for nitrogen dioxide levels. But a report says air quality is “slowly improving”, and that the agreed fallback position for access to the site would have a similar impact on levels.

8 January 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has relaxed the green belt directions in the London Plan following a direction issued by housing secretary Robert Jenrick.

Khan’s initial ‘intend to publish’ version of the plan, which was sent to Jenrick in December of 2019, said development that would harm the green belt and metropolitan open land should be refused.

In March 2020, Jenrick asked Khan to soften this stance by adding the clause “except where very special circumstances exist”. In letters exchanged in December, Jenrick issued a further direction on the green belt, explaining that it was a “modest amendment to my previous direction which will provide boroughs in the difficult position of facing the release of green belt or Metropolitan Open Land with a greater freedom to consider the use of industrial land in order to meet housing needs”.

Policy G3, which is about Metropolitan Open Land, states that such land "should be protected from inappropriate development in accordance with national planning policy tests that apply to the green belt. Khan has deleted the instruction that development proposals for this land should be refused.

Alterations to Metropolitan Open Land should be undertaken during the local plan process and boundaries should only be changed in exceptional circumstances.

This publication version of the plan provides for the delivery of 522,870 new homes, as recommended by the Planning Inspectorate recommended in 2019.

Jenrick has six weeks to consider this version of the London Plan, from the date on which Khan let him know he intended to publish the plan.

The mayor’s letter and the London Plan can be found here on the Greater London Authority website.

Policy G2 London’s green belt now reads:

A. The green belt should be protected from inappropriate development:

1) development proposals that would harm the green belt should be refused except where very special circumstances exist.

2) subject to national planning policy tests, the enhancement of the green belt to provide appropriate multifunctional beneficial uses for Londoners should be supported.

B. Exceptional circumstances are required to justify either the extension or de-designation of the green belt through the preparation or review of a local plan.

7 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Sites sought for national park’s local plan

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has invited people to put forward potential sites for new housing in their towns and villages.

The body has sent emails to about 400 organisations, including parish councils.

The public and landowners are encouraged to take part in the consultation, which closes on 26 February.

The consultation can be found here on the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority website.


Masterplan for area of Ebbsfleet approved

Ebbsfleet Development Corporation has backed a residential masterplan for one of the main areas of Ebbsfleet Garden City.

The site is a former cement works, which closed in 2008.

Northfleet Embankment West will extend the existing Northfleet community, providing up to 532 homes, including up to 160 affordable houses and apartments, three parks and a community centre.

The scheme proposed would open up part of the River Thames, creating a waterfront promenade and providing a network of pedestrian and cycle routes. It includes up to 160 affordable houses and apartments. The wider site would accommodate employment buildings and waterfront bars and cafés.

The site forms part of the corporation's strategic Northfleet Riverside site, for which Keepmoat Homes has been granted planning permission for 600 homes.


Contract awards valued at £4.9bn

The value of contract awards in November 2020 was £4.9 billion based on a three-month rolling average.

This is a 0.2 per cent increase on October 2020, but 9.1 per cent lower than November 2019.

The statistics, published by Barbour ABI, show that contract award numbers decreased by 17.9 per cent in November 2020 to 715 compared with 871 in October.

London was the leading region with 16.8 per cent of awards and a total of 77 projects. The North West accounted for 16.3 per cent of awards and 98 projects. The third largest region was the South East with 13.9 per cent of awards.

The latest edition of the Economic & Construction Market Review can be found on the Barbour ABI website.


Application submitted for Nottingham

Proposals for a scheme comprising hotels, co-working space, apartments, green public realm and leisure facilities have been submitted to Nottingham City Council.

Phase 1B is the flagship of The Island Quarter development.

Permission is sought for a 223-room hotel and 247 residential apartments, which received outline planning approval in April 2019.

Richard Watson, of developer Conygar, said: “The Island Quarter is one of the biggest city centre regeneration schemes in the UK, and we believe it is vital for the development to bring something outstanding to Nottingham, for which the city and the Midlands can be proud of.

“It is an ambitious project – unmatched across the UK. The scheme will raise the profile of Nottingham, so we are working closely with our team of architects and designers to create a lasting legacy and community for Nottingham.”

Hotel operator IHG has committed to bring two of its brands to this development – Hotel Indigo and Staybridge Suites.

More information can be found on the Island Quarter website.


Purfleet receives government funding

Purfleet-on-Thames has received £75 million of funding from the government to support the regeneration of its town centre.

The money comes from the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF).

Thurrock Council, in conjunction with development partner Purfleet Centre Regeneration Limited – a joint venture between Swan Housing Association and developer Urban Catalyst – submitted a bid to Homes England for funding in 2018.

The funds will be used by Purfleet Centre Regeneration Limited to pay for key infrastructure provision in the early phases of development, including roads and a pedestrian and vehicular bridge over the railway line. It will also support land acquisition, remediation and site preparation works.


Funding for missing cycleway link

Highways England has announced that it will invest £630,000 in a missing link on one of the National Cycle Network’s key routes.

The funding will make the A36 Southampton Road in Salisbury, between College Roundabout and Bourne Way Roundabout continuous. The 800-metre cycle way will reduce the need for detours, dismounting or cycling within the carriageway.

The link forms phase two of the scheme; previous work introduced a route from Petersfinger Park and Ride to Bourne Way Roundabout.

Work, which has already begun, includes footpath widening, reconfiguration, new signs and lining, and high friction surfacing at entrances.

It is expected work will be complete by the end of March this year.

12 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner