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Planning news - 11 February 2021

Published: Thursday, 11th February 2021

Averley outlines planning proposals to local chief planners, Nine Manchester councils to discuss joint plan, Tendring adopts part one of local plan. 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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England’s chief planner has outlined the government’s proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and given local authorities the opportunity to apply for funding under a pilot programme to apply design coding in their areas.

Proposed changes to the NPPF would see the framework place “greater emphasis” on beauty and placemaking. 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. All are subject to consultation.

The draft national design code provides a checklist of design principles for new developments. Street character, building type and façade all feature, and new development should also address wellbeing and environmental impact. Councils can use these as a foundation for their own local design codes, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

In a letter to chief planning officers in England, Joanna Averley explains that she hosted an event with colleagues across the country to present and discuss the design code.

"As part of this programme, interested local authorities are invited to submit expressions of interest to take part in the first of two pilot programmes to apply design coding in their areas. We will be awarding £500,000 across 10 local authorities in this first wave and plan to launch a further wave of pilots in the coming months,” she states.

This opportunity is being offered for a limited period.

She also urges planners and colleagues across the wider building environment industry to take part in the consultation.

Averley's letter also includes:

  • A note on communities secretary Robert Jenrick proposals for legal protections to protect England’s cultural and historic heritage – such as statues. Should people want to remove a historic statue, whether listed or not, listed building consent or planning permission would be required. Averley says the changes will be introduced in the spring.
  • Owing to an “overwhelmingly positive” response to a call for expressions of interest from local authorities that want to develop new and updated lost heritage lists, the government doubled the funding available to allow 22 areas to be supported instead of the 10 originally intended. The successful areas include Lancashire, Somerset, Tyne and Wear, and Gloucestershire.
  • Entries to the 2021 Housing Design Awards are now open. The deadline for entry is 26 February, More information can be found here.
  • MHCLG has worked with stakeholders in self and custom-build housing to put in place a number of measures to overcome barriers the sector has identified. A review of the effectiveness of the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 is being conducted in the context of the government's planning reforms. Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) will be updated to provide “greater clarity and certainty” for authorities to bring more land forward.
  • The government is conducting a survey, in partnership with the Association of Local Government Ecologists, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport, and Defra, to determine the current levels of expertise and capacity to establish what the baseline is and then seek to identify the additional skills and capabilities required to deliver biodiversity net gain through the planning system.

Averley's full letter can be found on the UK Government website.

8 February 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Nine councils from across Greater Manchester are set to consider a report this week on whether to form a joint committee to work on a long-term plan for homes, jobs and sustainable growth across their boroughs.

The councils involved are Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Tameside, Trafford, and Wigan.

The development strategy, called Places for Everyone, would underpin an “ambitious vision” for Greater Manchester, said the councils. They want it to set out the steps needed to strengthen the region's economy, society and environment, as well as build resilience into communities against future challenges.

The strategy would set out that inclusive development can take place in areas already connected by sustainable transport links in order to create homes and jobs. It would also be a “key tool” for Greater Manchester to achieve its goal to be carbon-neutral by 2038

The Places for Everyone strategy comes after Stockport Council decided to withdraw from the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework last year to produce its own local plan. The nine councils will work with Stockport Council on shared objectives and strategies, such as the 2040 Transport Strategy.

Paul Dennett, city mayor of Salford and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) lead for housing, planning and homelessness, said: “The need to map out sustainable growth and protect against unplanned development hasn’t gone away. In the midst of a public health crisis that has struck hardest in the most disadvantaged places, having a positive and ambitious vision for our city-region is more important than it’s ever been. The best way to do that is with a plan that sets out clearly where good homes and jobs will be created, secures our most important natural assets, and supports our goal of a carbon-neutral future.

“We know that we have to deliver genuinely affordable and good-quality housing across Greater Manchester, bring in new investment, and ensure that people here have access to good jobs in well-connected villages, towns and cities. The extensive work already carried out means that we won’t be starting from scratch, and together our nine councils can get on with bringing forward a new plan that maximises brownfield development and protects green belt as much as is possible.”

The report will be considered on Friday 12 February.

8 February 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Tendring District Council has adopted the first part of its local plan after members at a full council meeting backed it.

The initial section of the plan, which covers the period from 2013 to 2033, was drawn up jointly between Tendring District, Colchester Borough and Braintree District councils, supported by Essex County Council.

At the end of 2020, a planning inspector concluded that section one of the local plan put together by the council was sound.

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 two years 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 were removed, the North Essex Authorities Strategic Section 1 Plan is “capable of being made sound”.

Tendring’s local plan includes a requirement for 550 homes to be built a year during the plan period.

The councils will continue with section two of the local plan, which will include adding more detail to the “strategic blueprint” in the first part.

A public inquiry to examine this is due to begin this month.

Neil Stock OBE, leader of the council and planning portfolio holder, said: “This part of our new local plan is ambitious and innovative, in our proposals for a garden community, in the way we worked jointly with our neighbouring councils, and in the way it will deliver for our residents and businesses.

“I am also particularly pleased at the cross-party support this has received from my colleagues here, showing that through all of the scrutiny this has undergone it is recognised that the local plan will benefit our district and is not political.”

Colchester Borough Council’s full council backed this section of the local plan for adoption on 1 February. It sets out that the council must deliver 920 homes a year.

Braintree District Council’s local plan sub-committee has considered section one of its local plan, which sets out a housing target of 716 homes a year, and it will go before the full council on 22 February for formal adoption. Public examination of section two is expected to open in July 2021, but is subject to confirmation.  

Gabrielle Spray, cabinet member for planning at Braintree District Council, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the examination will be taking place later than we had originally hoped, however, the timing is a matter for the Planning Inspectorate. Once the examination process starts, it will mean our local communities can move forward with more confidence knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel for us to be able to better defend ourselves against inappropriate planning applications. Once section two has been examined in public it will go out to further public consultation before it can be adopted.” 

8 February 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Welsh Government has highlighted issues surrounding second homes as ripe for further policy initiatives.

In a written statement, housing and local government minister Julie James stressed: “We are acutely aware of growing concern in some parts of Wales about the impact of second homes on communities, access to housing and affordability and the impact this has on the Welsh language.

“Whilst not a pan-Wales issue, it is one that is affecting communities and provokes strong feelings at local or hyper-local levels.”

She revealed that the government is commissioning research designed to make a more qualitative assessment of government interventions in other parts of the UK and beyond.

James pointed out that Wales was the only UK administration that has enabled council tax premiums to be levied on second homes.

“I welcome the creative use by some local authorities of these powers to stimulate the better use of the dwelling stock in their areas and utilise the additional funding to underpin housing plans and the development of affordable housing.”

Eight councils are currently charging premiums on second homes, and from the next financial year one, Gwynedd, is due to levy the full 100 per cent currently available. It plans to use the money raised to bankroll a drive to provide more affordable homes.

The minister said: “We are aware of claims that some owners are gaming the system, with a suggestion that they have had their properties listed as non-domestic, self-catering accommodation to avoid liability for council tax premiums.

However, she said that available evidence indicated that properties listed as self-catering accommodation met the required legal criteria and were being used as short-term lets

James stressed that one of the key contributions planning could make is ensuring that there is adequate supply of sites for new homes for local people.

“We are developing a new methodology for understanding the need for local market and affordable housing which will introduce consistency into the process”.

She added: “We are exploring the potential for a statutory registration scheme for all holiday accommodation, including short-term lets.”

James promised to continue to work across the Senedd and with local authorities and others “as we seek to develop the right solutions.”

5 February 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner

Planning Aid for London (PAL) has launched an online planning library to help the public understand why and how their neighbourhood is changing.

It is part of a new project to expand PAL’s services.

The town planning support service said the library helps people to respond to new planning policy and development proposals. It also collates more than 150 resources explaining the planning system in a “single, free and easy-to-navigate hub”. It has been organised according to format and topic, to help educate and upskill people on town planning matters.

PAL trustee Katy Lock said: “PAL aims to empower Londoners to understand what changes are happening around them and how to get involved. Our new info hub provides easy access to resources which will help cut through the jargon and explain the technicalities. It is also a calling card – we hope individuals and community groups will use our free advice service and explore the different opportunities to get involved in PAL.”

The planning library can be found here on the Planning Aid for London website.

4 February 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Bid for government funding submitted for Morley

A regeneration plan has been submitted to the government to claim funding from its Towns Fund.

The plan has been informed by residents and put together by a partnership of local businesses and community representatives. Developed by the Morley Town Deal Board with support from Leeds City Council, the Town Investment Plan is seeking funding for up to £25 million.

The projects forming the Town Investment Plan include:

  • The New Pavilion Skills Campus: The historic site would be redeveloped into an adult skills hub.
  • Work on Morley Town Hall and Town Square: Aims to deliver a high-quality refurbishment of the grade I listed building and develop a cluster of arts and culture spaces.
  • The Morley Station Gateway: This would build upon Network Rail investment to better connect the train station to the town centre and wider Morley area.
  • A heritage investment fund: This would target improvements to prominent town centre buildings through restoration and reuse, as well as business support.
  • A greener town: Work would deliver new and upgraded green space across Morley to tackle local air quality and health challenges.

The proposals were informed by a large-scale public consultation, which received responses from more than 1,600 people.


Regeneration parliamentary group established

Gagan Mohindra, MP for South West Hertfordshire, will launch an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Regeneration this month.

The establishment of the APPG aims to bring together a new cross-party group of MPs who are committed to promoting the importance of urban regeneration and development.

It will promote the commercial property industry within the government and showcase regeneration success stories. The APPG’s “goal is to spread the benefits of regeneration more widely and enable every town and city to share in the economic and social rewards of regeneration, development and urban renewal”.

The APPG has committed itself to engaging with the industry as “only industry has the expertise, and only industry has the ability to put plans into action”.

Mohindra said: “The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Regeneration & Development is being established in order to spread the benefits of regeneration more widely, and enable every town and city to share in the economic and social rewards of regeneration, development, and urban renewal. Whilst housing has risen up the political agenda, and attracted considerable financial support in the process, the rest of the property sector is struggling. I am setting up this new group to help transform the prospects of the commercial property sector in the same way that the housing market has been transformed. Housing has led the way in generating ideas and overcoming obstacles, and now the rest of the property market needs to follow.”


Heritage strategy published in Sheffield

A heritage strategy created by the community has been published in Sheffield. It is called Joined Up Heritage Sheffield.

“This is a hugely important step for Sheffield,” explained Valerie Bayliss, chair of Joined Up Heritage Sheffield (JUHS). “We are presenting a 10-year plan for improving understanding of the city’s diverse and fascinating heritage – a heritage that embraces many aspects of Sheffield life. Many people think of heritage as about historic buildings. Heritage is indeed about the built environment, but it’s also about so much more than that: places as well as buildings, collections and records, customs and traditions, memories, stories and languages. We’ve neglected a lot of this for far too long.”

The strategy features an action plan, which sets out work to be undertaken over the next decade. 

Bob Johnson, leader of Sheffield City Council, welcomed the strategy. “It is particularly powerful that it’s been developed by Joined up Heritage and the Sheffield community. The council supports the aims and intentions of the strategy, seeing it as an important foundation for collaboration and joint work in the future.

Joined Up Heritage Sheffield has also been supported by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University.


Application for former brewery site submitted

A planning application for the first 132 properties of a 1,000-home development has been submitted to Sunderland City Council.

The “sustainable smart homes” would be built on Riverside Sunderland’s former Vaux brewery site.

The 132 homes (91 houses and 41 apartments) would be a mix of one, two and three-bedroom units. They have been designed by architects at Proctor & Matthews and MawsonKerr.

The scheme, which will be built using modern methods of construction, is being managed by igloo Regeneration on behalf of the council.

The full development is scheduled to be completed by 2023, in time for the Sunderland Future Living Expo, a public event that aims to showcase a new way of city living.


West Yorkshire to progress schemes

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Investment Committee has approved recommendations to progress eight schemes totalling £140 million to the next stage of development. Two new rail stations are among the projects.  

The government’s Getting Building Fund, through which the combined authority secured a total of £52.6 million, is being used to accelerate 15 ‘shovel-ready’ projects in response to the pandemic, helping to create nearly 2,300 new jobs and safeguard another 500 jobs. 

These include the first phase of the Bradford city village scheme, which features plans to invest £23.3 million into developing a “diverse independent shopping experience”, at the heart of which would be the new Darley Street market.

Roger Marsh OBE DL, chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the NP11 group of Northern Local Enterprise Partnerships, said: “We’re committed to leading the economic recovery from the impact of Covid-19, and schemes such as these will help pave a way forward for our region, alongside the work being undertaken by our West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Board.”


Wolverhampton secures cycle infrastructure funding

The City of Wolverhampton Council and West Midlands Railway have secured £525,000 in grant funding for the construction of a new cycle hub offering more than 100 spaces for bikes at Wolverhampton Interchange.

The hub should provide 92 undercover and 18 uncovered spaces, as well as controlled access, LED lighting and CCTV security. It will be located next to the railway station multistorey car park, near the pedestrian footbridge to the city centre. The hub forms part of the city’s £150 million interchange development, which is intended to deliver improvements to bus, tram, train and cycle connectivity.

Walking and cycling charity Sustrans has contributed £472,500 in funding as part of the Department for Transport’s programme Cycle Rail. The remainder mostly comes from the government’s £1 million Towns Fund Accelerator Grant for the city.

Final design work on the hub will now begin.


New council housing proposed for Canada Water transformation

Southwark Council has agreed to acquire a site in Canada Water from British Land.

This will see the delivery of 79 affordable homes – 60 homes for council rent and 39 three-bedroom family homes. The new homes will be built by British Land on behalf of the council, with detailed planning permission already in place for the development.

The development will be fully electric, featuring air source heat pumps to achieve Southwark Council’s carbon reduction targets.

The site is next to Roberts Close and is a few minutes’ walk away from Canada Water station.

The Roberts Close development forms part of Southwark Council’s New Homes programme to build 11,000 new council homes across the borough by 2042.

9 February 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner