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Planning news - 4 February 2021

Published: Thursday, 4th February 2021

NPPF to emphasise placemaking, 30-storey office block approved in City of London, Environment bill is delayed. 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 proposed a number of changes to England’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) so that it places ‘greater emphasis’ on beauty and placemaking.

The changes, which are subject to a consultation, would also seek to ensure that all new streets will be lined with trees.

These proposals were published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government alongside a draft national design code, all in response to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission's report Living with Beauty, which came out in February 2020. 

The draft national design code provides a checklist of design principles for new developments. Street character, building type and façade all feature, while new development should address wellbeing and environmental impact. Councils can use these as a foundation for their own local design codes, the ministry explained.

The department wants all councils to produce a local design code and guide.

Jenrick has also pledged to create an Office for Place within the next year to support local communities to turn their designs into the standard for all new buildings in their area. Nicholas Boys Smith, chair of the Design Body Steering Group, will chair the transition board of the interim Office for Place. “Our ultimate purpose will be to make it easier for neighbourhood communities to ask for what they find beautiful and to refuse what they find ugly.”

The interim Office for Place team will pilot the National Model Design Code with 20 communities, the government added, and expressions of interest are now open for the first 10 councils to sign up. Each will receive a share of an initial £500,000.

Additionally, a community housing fund has been proposed. This would support community-based organisations to bring forward local housebuilding projects for the £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme, with £4 million available to help Community Land Trusts (CLTs).

The government said the changes proposed mean the word “beauty” will be “specifically” included in planning rules for the first since the system was created in 1947.

Jenrick said: "We should aspire to pass on our heritage to our successors, not depleted but enhanced. In order to do that, we need to bring about a profound and lasting change in the buildings that we build, which is one of the reasons we are placing a greater emphasis on locally popular design, quality and access to nature, through our national planning policies and introducing the National Model Design Codes.

“These will enable local people to set the rules for what developments in their area should look like, ensuring that they reflect and enhance their surroundings and preserve our local character and identity.

“Instead of developers forcing plans on locals, they will need to adapt to proposals from local people, ensuring that current and new residents alike will benefit from beautiful homes in well-designed neighbourhoods.”

Other proposals in the consultation include:

  • Amendment to paragraph 22: Councils that wish to plan for new settlements and major urban extensions will need to look over a longer time frame, of at least 30 years, to take into account the likely timescale for delivery.
  • Amendment to paragraph 64: Where major development involving the provision of housing is proposed, planning policies and decisions should expect at least 10 per cent of the total number of homes to be available for affordable home ownership.
  • Amendment to paragraph 69: Removes any suggestion that neighbourhood plans can only allocate small or medium sites.
  • Amendment to paragraph 96: Emphasises that access to a network of high-quality open spaces and opportunities for sport and physical activity is important for the health and wellbeing of communities, and can deliver wider benefits for nature and efforts to address climate change.
  • Amendment to paragraph 104(d): Made in line with the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s recommendations on encouraging walking and cycling.
  • Amendment to paragraph 123: Suggested so it emphasises the role that area-based character assessments, codes and masterplans can play in helping to ensure that land is used efficiently while also creating beautiful and sustainable places.
  • New paragraph 132: Suggested in response to the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission’s recommendations to make clear that development that is not well designed should be refused, especially where it fails to reflect local design policies and government guidance on design.
  • New paragraph 159(c): Suggested amendment seeks to clarify that plans should manage any residual flood risk by using opportunities provided by new development and improvements in green and other infrastructure to reduce the causes and impacts of flooding (making as much use as possible of natural flood management techniques as part of an integrated approach to flood-risk management).
  • New paragraph 174: Amended in response to the Glover Review to clarify that the scale and extent of development within the settings of national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty should be sensitively located and designed so as to avoid adverse impacts on the designated landscapes.

The consultation can be found here on the UK Government website.

1 February 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The City of London Corporation has granted planning permission for a 30-storey office-led development within the Square Mile's City Cluster.

The Tenacity scheme at 55 Gracechurch Street is located between Monument Tube station and Leadenhall Market. It will comprise 34,000 square metres of offices and almost 2,500 square metres of retail space. 

According to a statement on the corporation’s website, the development “embodies many of the emerging trends for post-pandemic office space”. This includes delivering a “workplace destination” alongside retail, cultural, public art and open space.

The building, which seeks to achieve the BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating, will be available to large businesses, SMEs and ‘growth stage’ companies.

Recycled building materials will be used to deliver the scheme. There will be a free-to-access 1,600-square-metre garden terrace with a suspended treetop walkway open to the public, while an innovative ceiling system will harvest rainwater to simulate rainfall to irrigate the plants.

Founder and CEO of The Tenacity Group, Patrick Wong, said: “Despite the events of the last 12 months and the changes and challenges that we have all witnessed, Tenacity is quite clear that the era of the office is not over. Far from it. We believe the future is bright for the right kind of space – space that 55 Gracechurch Street will provide – that embraces sustainability and provides flexibility, puts the needs of the workforce at its core but also engages with the wider community around it.”

Alastair Moss, chair of the planning and transportation committee at the City of London Corporation, added: “We remain positive about the long-term future of the city office despite the current lockdown. It is fantastic, therefore, to see this significant vote of confidence from the developers of 55 Gracechurch Street.

“The building design embraces emerging development trends, such as flexible workspace, greening and access to fresh air – all of which were rising trends that have now been embedded into building design as a result of the pandemic.

“Of particular merit to this development is an innovative ventilation strategy which uses fresh air, filtered from outside, to cool the office floors.

“The development will even reuse stonework from the existing building and include recycled steel with a commitment of an impressive 98 per cent diversion of construction waste to landfill.”

29 January 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The government has delayed the environment bill and the proposed legislation won’t return to the House of Commons for debate until the next Parliamentary session.

The bill sets out environmental policies and principles in UK law following the departure from the European Union.

Theresa May introduced the legislation in July 2018 while she was prime minister. Her successor Boris Johnson introduced it to Parliament in October 2019. A general election two months later delayed the bill’s progress.

Ministers delayed the bill further last week (26 January), blaming the Covid-19 pandemic.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “We remain fully committed to the environment bill as a key part of delivering the government’s manifesto commitment to create the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on Earth.

“Carrying over the bill to the next session does not diminish our ambition for our environment in any way – with the report stage recommencing early in the second session and royal assent expected in the autumn.

“Key work on implementing the bill’s measures will continue at pace, including establishing the Office for Environmental Protection, setting long-term legally binding targets for environmental protection and creating a new deposit return scheme for drinks containers.”

Simon Alcock, head of public affairs at ClientEarth, said: “The prime minister promised the environment bill would be a flagship bill of this Parliament yet the government has completely failed to get it through this session. As the UK prepares to host COP 26, this is deeply embarrassing and undermines its credibility.

"This delay means a further extended period in which the government and public authorities are not being adequately held to account over their compliance with environmental law. That will be almost a whole year of the government avoiding any proper scrutiny.

The quality of the air that we breathe, the water we drink and the nature we enjoy will all be put at risk because of this incompetent and frustrating delay.”

1 February 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Ards and North Down Borough Council has approved a £50 million redevelopment of Bangor town centre, close to the seafront.

The mixed-use scheme will involve extensive regeneration work in the rundown Queen’s Parade area.

The project, developed by Bangor Marine Ltd, involves construction of 137 new homes, a 66-bedroom hotel, a cinema and leisure facility, public realm enhancements, new streets, an events space and cafés and restaurants. Existing buildings will be demolished.

Critics of the scheme voiced concern over the absence of affordable housing, the loss of car parking space, the risk of flooding and the overall design of the proposals.

The Department for Infrastructure’s Rivers Agency objected to the plan on the basis that the site was in an area of potential “reservoir inundation”.

The area to be regenerated was previously owned in the main by the Department for Communities. It had been largely derelict for two decades.

Communities minister Deirdre Hargey has welcomed the proposals. She said: “I know this development is much anticipated by the local community and I too look forward to seeing the scheme go from concept to reality. 

“With Queen’s Parade and the ongoing plans for the wider regeneration of the Bangor seafront area as part of the Belfast Region City Deal, there is much to look forward to for Bangor town centre in the future.”

The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Trevor Cummings, said: “The Queen’s Parade development, combined with the council’s own plans to regenerate Bangor Waterfront, offers the potential for more than £110 million of investment to come into the town, delivering new attractions, accommodations and commercial opportunities.”

29 January 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner

Proposals to convert an office block in Cardiff’s Queen Street into a major apartment hotel have been lodged with the city council.

George Capital Ltd, a Jersey-based real estate fund, is behind the scheme to add two new floors to the existing Windsor House to help to create a hotel with 140 serviced rooms.

The application involves the change of use of the upper floors and the addition of two floors under a new roof.

The existing ground-floor uses fronting Queen Street and Windsor Place, which are predominantly retail, will be retained.

Unlike a standard hotel, there would be no communal restaurants, bars or meeting and conference rooms. However, there would be a gymnasium.

Windsor Court, which has a total floor space of almost 4,180 square metres, was originally built in 1984 and later refurbished in 2010. The site is within the Queen Street Conservation Area and the block is surrounded by several listed buildings.

A scheme for a 166-bed hotel, also on Queen Street, was revealed earlier in January.

29 January 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner

Leigh homes approved

Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council has granted planning approval for 507 homes, a new link road and a local centre near Leigh, Greater Manchester.

The plans are part of Countryside Properties’ North Leigh Park development, a 1,800 home mixed-use development across 78 hectares.

The reserved matters application comprises 50 two-bedroom, 195 three-bedroom and 12 four-bedroom family homes. Of these, 161 have been designated as affordable.

A second ‘hybrid’ application for full planning permission for 250 dwellings and a new link road, from Leigh Road to Atherleigh Way, was also granted planning permission.


Planning application submitted for Walsall scheme

A planning application has been submitted for the £100 million Phoenix 10 development in Walsall.

Once home to the James Bridge Copper Works, the 44-acre derelict site has lain vacant for two decades but is earmarked for a regeneration scheme by property developer HBD.

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has already agreed a multimillion-pound deal to remediate the land ready for construction.

HBD has partnered with Walsall Council and Homes England to deliver the project, with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership providing funding for the remediation of the site, which is expected to begin this year. Construction is likely to start in 2023 with completion in 2027.

The project comprises up to 620,000 square feet of employment space, attracting new jobs and investment and supporting the creation of a strong regional economy. The site could be home to 1,100 new jobs.


Application for affordable homes in Dover lodged

Dover District Council has submitted plans for 24 new homes at Poulton Close in Dover.

The plans are part of the council’s ambition to build 500 new affordable homes in the district and reduce the reliance on B&B accommodation.

The homes would be delivered across two three-storey blocks on a 0.35-hectare site to the west of the St Radigunds Community Centre. The homes will be let to local people on the council‘s housing list before they are rehoused in permanent accommodation.

The mix of one, two and three-bedroom properties will be suitable for wheelchair users, as well as for couples and families with children.


Neighbourhood plan submitted in Stockport

High Lane Village Neighbourhood Forum has submitted a proposed Neighbourhood Plan to Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council.

High Lane Village Neighbourhood Forum is the second body within the borough to submit a proposed plan. The proposed neighbourhood plan and supporting documents are available on the council’s website.


Funding announced for Stafford river scheme

Highways England has donated £150,000 towards a £2.5 million scheme to increase wildlife numbers, provide better access for families and alleviate flooding around rivers in a Staffordshire town.

The project will be delivered by a partnership between Highways England, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, Stafford Borough Council and the Environment Agency.

Work will include making major improvements to habitats close to the Rivers Sow and Penk, and restoring and creating new habitats on a range of sites across the area – including Doxey Marshes, Kingsmead Marsh and Radford Meadows.

The study will identify around 25 sites that can be improved for biodiversity, flood mitigation and water quality.


Planning committee to decide on 5G mast

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority will decide an application for a phone mast in Coverdale.

A number of applications have been submitted as part of a government-funded trial to support the development of future rural connectivity in areas that have no mobile coverage.

The applications are being dealt with on a case-by-case basis. One for the installation of a 17-metre wooden utility pole with mobile communications antenna and equipment cabinet in West Scrafton will be considered by the authority’s planning committee on 9 February.


Education campus in Ebbsfleet approved

Ebbsfleet Development Corporation has granted planning permission for an education campus that will cater for children aged from three to 18, and includes Ebbsfleet Garden City’s first new secondary school.

The campus will also include a primary school with a nursery and a sports centre with an all-weather 4G pitch, cricket pitch, running track, four football pitches and three tennis courts.

It is anticipated that 100 per cent of primary schoolchildren will be within a five-minute walk of the campus, and a 92 per cent catchment of secondary school pupils will be within a 15-minute walk.

Only nursery schoolchildren will be allowed onto the campus to be dropped off by car as part of the Ebbsfleet Garden City healthy design guidance. The car park will be protected by a barrier.


‘Year-on-year decline’ in construction recovery threatens recovery

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has expressed concern that the year-on-year decline in construction apprenticeships threatens the UK’s ability to ‘build back better’ from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The warning came in response to the Department for Education’s apprenticeship and traineeship data released last week.

Brian Berry, chief executive at the FMB, said: “Decisive and timely action must be taken by the government to reverse the sharp fall in construction apprentices. 3,500 fewer apprenticeships started is not a record to be celebrated as we approach National Apprenticeship Week (8-14 February), and as construction seeks to do its bit to build back better. The government must act urgently on the reforms set out in the Skills for Jobs white paper, and give employers a greater voice in determining local skills needs, while strengthening links between employers and colleges.

“As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic and implement the UK’s new points-based immigration system, skills and training in key sectors, such as construction, should be at the forefront of policymakers’ minds. As local builders train 71 per cent of apprentices in the industry, they must be at the heart of plans to bring in the next generation of tradespeople, in a sector already facing a well-documented skills shortage.”

2 February 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner