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Planning news - 28 January 2021

Published: Thursday, 28th January 2021

New regulator to monitor safety of construction materials, Pincher urges councils to keep local plans up to date, Redevelopment of riverside site promises 2,500 homes. 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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Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced the establishment of a national regulator to guarantee that materials used to construct homes would be made safer.

The construction products regulator will have the power to remove products from the market if they present a “significant safety risk” – and to prosecute companies that don’t follow the rules on product safety.

The regulator will be empowered to conduct its own product-testing when investigating concerns.

The government explained that establishing the regulator follows testimony at the Grenfell Inquiry which had highlighted “dishonest practices” carried out by some construction material manufacturers, such as altering the results of safety tests.

Jenrick said: “The Grenfell Inquiry has heard deeply disturbing allegations of malpractice by some construction product manufacturers and their employees, and of the weaknesses of the present product-testing regime.

“We are establishing a national regulator to address these concerns and a review into testing to ensure our national approach is fit for purpose. We will continue to listen to the evidence emerging in the inquiry, and await the judge’s ultimate recommendation – but it is already clear that action is required now and that is what we are doing.”

Dame Judith Hackitt, chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, added: “This is another really important step in delivering the new regulatory system for building safety. The evidence of poor practice and lack of enforcement in the past has been laid bare. As the industry itself starts to address its shortcomings, I see a real opportunity to make great progress in conjunction with the national regulator.

The government said the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) would be expanded to include the new regulator. It will be given up to £10 million in funding to establish the new function.

21 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Housing minister Christopher Pincher has exhorted councils to keep their local plans up to date to guarantee that England ‘gets on with building the homes it needs and in the right places’.

In a written ministerial statement, Pincher highlighted the government’s ambition to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, making up-to-date local plans “central” to achieving it.

Refreshed plans, he said would “not only unlock land for development and ensure that the right number of new homes are being built in the right places, they also provide local communities with an opportunity to have their say on how their local areas will change over the coming years, and how the local environment can be protected and enhanced”.

Although 91 per cent of local planning authorities have adopted a local plan, many are not being kept up to date, said Pincher.

“In March 2020, the government set a clear deadline of December 2023 for all authorities to have up-to-date local plans in place. It is critical that work should continue to advance local plans through to adoption by the end of 2023 to help ensure that the economy can rebound strongly from the Covid-19 pandemic. Completing local plans will help to ensure that we can build back better and continue to deliver the homes that are needed across England.”

Contributions to the consultation on the planning white paper, Planning for the Future, which closed in October, should help to make the planning system “simple, faster and more predictable”, he said. Although the proposals need to be developed further, Pincher explained, local authorities “should not use this period as a reason to delay plan-making activities”.

"Authorities who have an up-to-date plan in place will be in the best possible position to adapt to the new plan-making system,” he said. Pincher concluded his statement by saying he is considering writing to the authorities where delays have occurred.

The housing minister's full statement can be read of the UK Parliament website.

21 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The masterplan for the regeneration of a key brownfield site in Cardiff with thousands of new homes and a significant amount of business floor space was unveiled for consultation by developer Vastint UK this week.

The scheme, called the Embankment, is earmarked for 16 hectares of land at Dumballs Road by the River Taff, where up to 2,500 new homes are proposed –12.5 per cent of which would be affordable – alongside 54,000 square metres of business space and opportunities for leisure, hospitality and retail uses.

The developer has stressed that the scheme is designed to open up access to the riverside by reconnecting the city to the bay with an uninterrupted pathway and would provide much-needed connections between Grangetown and Butetown with the addition of a new cycle and footbridge across the river.

The proposals also include considerable open space with a new riverside park and water taxi stop on the Taff. Cardiff Council has expressed support for the scheme because the land has remained largely derelict for the past 30 years. The council agreed to sell 3.5 hectares of land off Dumballs Road to the developer in September 2020 to assist with the masterplanning.

An outline planning application is due to be submitted shortly.

22 January 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner

Cornwall Council’s strategic planning committee has granted planning permission for a renewable power energy centre.

The energy centre will provide “low-cost” green power for residents of the council-led Langarth Garden Village project. The scheme forms part of the council’s climate change strategy, and could deliver around 20 megawatts of green energy generated at Langarth.

The complex will act as a central hub for electrical power on the site to bring together on-site and offsite renewable energy. It will be connected to the grid to guarantee security of supply – and any excess energy would be exported.

There will be a primary substation as part of the development, which will have a capacity of 24 MVA, while provision has been made for battery storage. Solar panels and heat pump technology, as well as higher levels of insulation, will be used to power and heat the buildings in Langarth Garden Village, including homes.

The council explained that the energy centre would be used to support the development of the new £100 million Women and Children’s hospital building, and other planned improvements on the Royal Cornwall Hospital site. 

21 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Anglian Water has unveiled an ‘ambitious programme’ to address concerns about a water deficit in the East of England alongside a planned delivery of 175,000 homes.

Indicative routes for new strategic pipeline sections / Anglian WaterThe water and recycling services provider for the East of England has highlighted that it operates in the “driest and most environmentally sensitive” region of the UK, receiving a third less rainfall that anywhere – but must meet demands posed by a total projected housing delivery of 175,000 units by 2025.

If this is not solved, the region will face a water deficit of 30 million litres by then.

Anglian Water plans to design and construct up to 500 kilometres of interconnecting water pipelines across the region and to deliver the scheme in five years. Water will be moved from areas of surplus in north Lincolnshire to areas of deficit in the south and east of the region.

The company states the scheme will be the “biggest water infrastructure project in generations”. The overall aim is to make the East of England resilient to drought.

James Crompton, director of Anglian Water’s strategic pipeline alliance, which has been set up to deliver this scheme, said: “This strategic pipeline programme is a significant part of our planned investment in the region over the next five years, which will begin to tackle those challenges and secure customer supplies well into the future.

“Our work will make it possible to reduce the amount of water taken from the environment, as well as strengthening resilience by reducing the number of homes and businesses which rely on a single water source.”

Despite its scale, the scheme is not classed as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) because the pipelines will deliver potable water, rather than raw water. The project team will work with the local authorities along the proposed route (see map) “to understand local circumstances to inform planning applications”.

Planning lead for the programme, Natalie Durney-Knight, said: “As a linear infrastructure project, each section is as critical as the last. We are using the latest digital tools to support our environmental assessments, design delivery and stakeholder engagement to help planning officers and communities to understand what we are seeking to achieve and why. 

“While the majority of the pipelines will be underground, they will have significant planning considerations. It’s certainly a very different and interesting scheme for the planning officers to get involved in.”

21 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Homes England chief executive steps down

The chief executive of Homes England, Nick Walkley, will leave the government agency on 28 February.

He joined the agency as chief executive when it was the Homes and Communities Agency in March 2017.

His work included leading an overhaul of the organisation, built around the move to Homes England with a mission and strategic plan to increase housing supply and change the housing market.

Walkley said: “I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved and I’d like to thank my colleagues and our many industry partners for their dedication and support. My successor will find an organisation brimming with talent, purpose and heart. Homes England is well-positioned to support the country’s economic recovery and I wish my colleagues the very best.”

From 28 February, Gordon More, the agency’s chief investment officer, will act as interim CEO, supported by Lynda McMullan, chief financial officer. They will work alongside an executive team drawn from the public and private sectors.


Application for business park submitted near Brighouse

A reserved matters planning application for a business park in Clifton, near Brighouse, has been submitted to Calderdale Council.

The Clifton Business Park scheme is a regeneration project that aims to transform the site on Wakefield Road into a regionally significant employment site.

Proposals for the site also include new walking and cycling routes, as well as landscaping, trees and plants.

Calderdale Council explained that it is working with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to progress the scheme and secure additional funding.

The project received outline planning approval late in 2019. A decision on the reserved matters application is expected to be made by the planning committee in spring.


Deal to increase affordable housing struck in West Midlands

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and five of the region’s housing associations have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a business case for driving affordable housing developments, economic activity and housing policy objectives.

Commenting on the Affordable Housing Collaborative Development Vehicle (CDV), Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, said: “Our region has led the way on housebuilding with record numbers in recent years, but our focus now is on how we build even more homes that are truly affordable. Alongside our new definition of affordability, which links to income rather than the market rate, this partnership will help do exactly that.”

The CDV collaboration includes Accord Housing Association Limited, Bromford Housing Group, Citizen Housing Group Limited, Midland Heart Limited and whg (Walsall Housing Group Limited). 

The priorities of the partnership include building more affordable homes in the region; broadening the range, mix and supply of available homes; and addressing market failure to unlock dormant sites.


Council seeks views on transport choice

Sutton Council has invited those who live, work or study in the borough to have their say on ambitious plans to give more transport choices locally.

The council said its sustainable transport strategy is designed to create opportunities for residents to travel safely, actively and healthily around the borough. It also seeks to support Sutton’s growth.

As well as giving residents more choice, the strategy aims to improve the quality of life of Sutton’s residents by improving road safety, reducing air pollution and providing more accessible transport, especially for children, families, older people and other people who are vulnerable.

The strategy supports the council’s updated Environment Strategy and Climate Emergency Response Plan.

The consultation is open until 25 March and can be found here on the council's website.


Housebuilder buys land in Greater Manchester with permission for housing

Housebuilder Redrow has acquired 13 acres of land in the village of Lowton, Greater Manchester. It has planning permission in place for 117 new homes. Work on the new development, named Oakwood Fields, is set to begin this month.

Plans include a mix of three and four-bedroom homes, with open-plan layouts and flexible living spaces. Footpaths for walking and cycling will connect residents to the open land to the north and east, as well as the playing fields to the south. An existing watercourse will also be enhanced to create new wildlife habitats.

Claire Jarvis, managing director for Chorley-based Redrow Lancashire, said: “Our new site in Lowton is a great location for homebuyers, situated a similar distance to both of the major Northern hubs of Liverpool and Manchester. It will deliver over 100 new homes, the first of which will be completed towards the middle of 2022.”

The planning agreement will see Redrow contribute almost £175,000 towards secondary education provision and around £130,000 for improvements at local play areas.


Cash boost for the Newport Transporter Bridge

The 114-year-old Newport Transporter Bridge in South Wales has been awarded £8.75 million by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales. It is one of only eight remaining transporter bridges in the world.

With the funding, Newport City Council will repair and preserve the structure, as well as open a new visitor centre at the site.

Opened in 1906, the aerial ferry transported workers from the west of Newport across the river Usk without increasing traffic into the town’s busy port.

Andrew White, director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales, said: “This investment, the third largest we have ever made in Wales, will help sustain jobs, support economic growth, drive tourism and create a sense of pride in Newport’s unique heritage."

Visitors to the attraction will be able to climb to the top of the walkway, 55 metres above the water. The visitor centre will include information about the social history and heritage of the bridge and the tidal environment of the river Usk.


Edgbaston care home site to become housing

Spitfire Bespoke Homes has purchased a 3.1-acre site from Calthorpe Estates, the former Weston House care home, in Edgbaston, Birmingham.

The Solihull/Midlands-based developer will deliver 43 homes on the site. Plans for the site were approved by Birmingham City Council at the end of 2020.

Designed by Birmingham-based Glancy Nicholls Architects, the homes will comprise 26 new-build apartments and nine houses. Weston House will be refurbished into six “grand apartments"” and the adjacent coach house will become two smaller, semi-detached properties.

26 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner