Latest news

Planning news - 18 February 2021

Published: Thursday, 18th February 2021

‘Housing Accelerator Fund’ launched, Guidance for self-build strengthened, Bradford posits green belt-tightening in local plan to meet homes quota. And other stories...

Our planning news is published in association with ThePlanner, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

RTPI logo
Planner jobs

The government’s housing accelerator, Homes England, and United Trust Bank have announced a £250 million fund with the aim of supporting small and medium-sized builders with development finance at up to 70 per cent loan to gross development value.

The fund will provide construction loans between £1 million and £10 million.

The partnership between the specialist lender and Homes England seeks to improve access to finance for smaller builders and “drive the continued diversification of the housing market” in the coming years.

Applications will be accepted from 16 February.

Gordon More, chief investment officer at Homes England, said: “The Housing Accelerator Fund is open for business from today. In line with Homes England’s commitment to support SMEs, it will help smaller builders get on and build now, as well as improve the lending landscape for SMEs by driving competition in the market, improving choice and encouraging innovation.

"United Trust Bank have consistently supported housebuilders of all sizes and are an experienced and capable lender. We’re pleased to be collaborating with them on this long-term partnership and look forward to seeing the fund support the delivery of new homes across the country.”

Noel Meredith, executive director at United Trust Bank, said: “SME housebuilders have a vital role to play in delivering the UK’s new housing needs and UTB has amassed considerable experience helping such businesses to complete thousands of successful developments. This is an exciting new partnership with Homes England which will make a real difference to both long-established and newly formed development companies requiring competitive funding and the long-term support of a knowledgeable and experienced specialist lender. This alliance will help to reinvigorate and increase diversity in the SME housebuilding sector, and boost housing supply in areas under the greatest affordability pressures.”

More information can be found on the United Trust Bank website.

16 February 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The government has published an update to its Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Planning Practice Guidance (PPG), fortifying the requirement for local authorities to consider local demand for self-build and custom-build homes when preparing local plans.

The Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 outlined that councils must have regard to their self-build and custom housebuilding register as part of their housing and planning work.

The previous iteration of the PPG stated that the registers “may be a material consideration in decision-taking”.

The update is stronger, however, stating that registers and the duty to have regard to them “needs to be taken into account in preparing planning policies, and are also likely to be a material consideration in decisions involving proposals for self and custom housebuilding”.

In addition, local authorities will have to consider the evidence of the demand for self-build and custom-build housebuilding when carrying out housing functions, strengthened from “should consider the evidence”. This includes delivering affordable housing, supporting community-led housing and housing plans for council-owned land.

Other changes to the guidance include:

  • A new paragraph: “Self-build or custom build helps to diversify the housing market and increase consumer choice. Self-build and custom housebuilders choose the design and layout of their home, and can be innovative in both its design and construction.”
  • Clarification that a local authority can “choose to work with a private sector supplier to maintain the register provided the relevant authority holds and publicises its register in accordance with the legislation”.
  • “Relevant authorities can only set fees on a cost recovery basis. Any fees charged must therefore be proportionate, reflect genuine costs incurred, should not act as a deterrent for people to be entered on or remain on the register and should not be viewed as a mechanism to manage demand. Authorities are advised to provide a transparent rationale for why they are charging, and how charges have been arrived at, and to review this to ensure costs remain proportionate and fair.”

In her February letter to chief planners, England’s chief planner Joanna Averley said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (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, she wrote.

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, CEO of the National Custom and Self Build Association, said: “We warmly welcome the recent activity that builds on government announcements at the end of last year. The letter to chief planning officers contains a particularly positive statement as to the benefits of custom and self-build that I would encourage everyone to read. The data helps to highlight the wide variation in numbers on registers due in no small part to the barriers put in place by many authorities. The guidance helps to create a positive environment and temper some poor practice, and is a step in the right direction.

“Even better news is that there is more to come – with Help to Build, the upcoming grant-funded Serviced Plot Fund (Brownfield Land Release Fund) and the wider review of the right-to-build legislation. Spring is on its way.”

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

15 February 2021
Laura Edgar

The City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council has published for consultation its draft local plan for the period 2020 to 2038, which sets out a small decrease in the district’s overall green belt total in order to support growth.

The draft plan states that allocations within the green belt are likely to reduce the level of such designations “by a very limited overall quantum – from 65.2 per cent of the overall district area to 64.32 per cent” but exceptional circumstances exist.

As a result, the council believes there are “clear opportunities” for it to “enhance the redefined green belt in terms of improving damaged land, access, leisure, visual amenity, landscape and biodiversity and support appropriate levels of green and other infrastructure within the proposed allocated sites”.

All proposed green belt releases are identified in the draft plan and are intended for market and affordable housing. They include land east of Harrogate Road, Greengates; Highgate Grove, Clayton Heights; and High Stead, Street Lane, East Morton.

The council has also deemed that exceptional circumstances exist for release of green belt sites to meet an “acute and intense” need for employment land. Three sites are listed for release: North of Westgate Hill & West of Tong Lane; Walkhill Farm, Apperley Lane; and Apperley Bridge/Esholt (former filter beds – water treatment works).

All sites released from the green belt will be required to offset the impact through compensatory improvements to the environmental quality and accessibility of remaining green belt land.

Overall, the plan is seeking to deliver 1,704 homes a year, which equates to 30,672 over the 18-year plan period. This includes 8,000 affordable homes.

Published in August, the government’s proposed alteration to the standard method for calculating housing need – introduced in 2019 – suggested that the baseline figure used in the calculation of the number of homes required in an area should become an either/or – either 0.5 per cent of existing stock or the figure produced by the 2014 household projections data that is currently used.

This was heavily criticised, including by former prime minister Theresa May, as MPs were concerned the South East would be “concreted over”.

However, in December last year, housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced that the proposed housing formula for England has been updated to focus on urban areas.

The government said an updated method will instead be introduced to help councils to enable the delivery of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. It seeks to prioritise brownfield sites and urban areas. Cities, the government explained, will be “encouraged” to plan for more family homes and to make the most of vacant buildings and underused land so that green spaces are protected. England's 20 biggest cities and towns would be required to deliver 35 per cent more housing.

Bradford’s draft plan, however, says a 35 per cent uplift on the standard method “cannot be realistically met in terms of deliverable land supply, strategic constraints (green belt) and potential significant adverse impacts within the regional city of Bradford”.

Setting a housing target of 2,300 homes (1,704+ per cent), “without the identification of significant additional funding to unlock substantial amounts of new land and opportunities and supporting neither currently justified or deliverable”.

A target of 1,704 homes would “meet (and exceed)” demographic housing needs and provide additional market and affordable homes.

The draft plan also aims to deliver over 80 hectares of employment land; nearly 29,000 jobs over the plan period; 325 housing sites; designation of 1,693 open spaces totalling 2,781 hectares of land; and protection of 1 special protection area, four SSSIs, four local nature reserves, 108 local wildlife sites and 16 local geographical sites.

Sarah Ferriby, portfolio holder for healthy people and places, said: “Sustainable development and climate action are two of our key priorities for the future of the district, so the inclusion of measures to help us live in a greener, cleaner way with lower carbon emissions is vital for us to make the necessary progress to be net-zero by 2038. We also have to lay the foundations of a green economy to ensure that living and working sustainably can benefit as many people as possible.”

The draft local plan can be found on the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council website.

15 February 2021
Laura Edgar

Ministers have laid regulations in the Senedd that formally commit Wales to legally binding targets designed to deliver net-zero carbon emissions within 30 years.

The Welsh Government has also accepted the revised advice of the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) that this goal is credible, feasible and – crucially – affordable.

Environment and energy minister Lesley Griffiths made it clear the administration would push to achieve zero-carbon sooner than 2050.

Latest analysis from the committee reveals that the most significant potential to accelerate emissions reductions in Wales is based on evidence suggesting greater abatement is possible in the industry and power sectors. This reflects the presence of a small number of high-emitting point sources in Wales, such as the Port Talbot steelworks.

However, the committee has also highlighted that the path to net-zero will be partly or fully driven by societal or behavioural changes.

“This means government, communities and businesses working together to change how we travel, shop, heat our homes, and switching to lower-carbon diets. In all cases, large reductions in the amount of energy and natural resources we use is necessary to achieve the targets,” said the government.

The committee assessment highlighted an accelerated shift in diets away from meat and dairy products, reductions in waste, slower growth in flights and reductions in demand for travel.

Improved energy and resource efficiency would be critical, stressed the committee. “By the early 2030s, all new cars and vans and all boiler replacements in homes and other buildings must be low-carbon – we expect largely electric.

“By 2040, all new heavy goods vehicles should be low-carbon. The South Wales industrial cluster (as well as other industrial sites in Wales) must either switch away from fossil fuels to low-carbon alternatives and/or install carbon capture and storage (CCS) at scale from the mid-2030s.”

Significant land use change will be involved, argued the committee. “A transformation is needed in Wales’s land while supporting Welsh farmers.”

By 2030, this should involve planting a cumulative 43,000 hectares of mixed woodland to remove CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow, increasing to a total of 180,000 hectares by 2050.

Another 56,000 hectares of agricultural land should shift to bioenergy production (including short rotation forestry) by 2050.

The committee’s report stressed that peatlands must be restored widely and managed sustainably. Low-carbon farming practices must be adopted widely while raising farm productivity.

Ministers have promised to set out how the government intends to deliver the country’s new net-zero ambition in its next All Wales Plan. This will be published in advance of the United Nations climate summit, COP26, which is being held in Glasgow later this year.

The Path to Net Zero and Progress on Reducing Emissions in Wales can be read on the Committee on Climate Change website.

12 February 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner

The number of completed build-to-rent homes increased by 23 per cent in 2020 compared with the number completed in 2019, according to research published by the British Property Federation (BPF).

This, the BPF said, signals the sector’s “resilience” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

BPS commissioned Savills to produce the research. It considers Glenigan’s planning database and analysis by market consultant Molior London.

All regions of the UK recorded an increase in future supply: the planning pipeline in Northern Ireland increased the most, with the East of England recording the second highest pipeline, and Scotland in third place.

The research also shows that regions outside London outstrip the capital in current and future supply. The North West has the most build-to-rent homes outside of London – with 32,395.

The North East, North West and South West (-19 per cent) all recorded a decline in the number of build-to-rent homes under construction with -38 per cent, -23 per cent and -19 per cent respectively. However, they saw significant increases in the number of homes in planning: the North East has a planning pipeline of 1,475, the North West has 9,899 in the pipeline, and the South West has 1,862.

The BPF highlights that London saw no uplift in the number of build-to-rent homes under construction and only recorded a two per cent rise in the number in planning, meaning the capital’s future growth “will remain subdued”.

Ian Fletcher, director of real estate policy at the BPF, said: “The build-to-rent sector has shown its resilience throughout 2020, with investors continuing to drive the sector’s growth across every region of the UK. The quantum of planning applications in London, however, is static – suggesting that the capital is having to compete more for investment.

“Throughout 2020, around one in five homes completed in London have been build-to-rent – in the regions this share is lower, despite the volume of build-to-rent homes in the regions now surpassing London. There remains a significant opportunity for the sector to increase its share of completions in our regional cities and towns, further supporting local housing supply ambitions, and this will include more suburban houses that families can call home."

Of the completed homes in the UK, ten per cent are in suburban areas, reflecting the “increasing demand for high-quality rental homes that provide more space and retain good access to city centre locations”, said the BPF. And it is not just apartments being built in city centres – in areas such as Wigan and Wakefield the homes mostly comprise houses.

Jacqui Daly, director, Savills residential research, added: “We saw investment and interest in the build-to-rent market continue in 2020 despite the lockdowns. Suburban build-to-rent has had a particularly strong year, proving very popular with customers. Investors have reported high reservations, with demand driven by customers looking for more space for family and work as a direct result of the experience of lockdown.

“Our analysis has identified a pipeline of 8,500 suburban homes in planning and under construction that will help meet this demand for rental homes in locations that can combine more space, good amenities and connectivity. We expect suburban schemes to play a key role in delivering homes in 2021 and in providing high-quality rental housing in regional markets, helping to address housing need, particularly for young families.”

10 February 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Landmark Supreme Court ruling over Essex town or village green registration

An area concreted over at the Port of Mistley, a working commercial port in Essex, was correctly registered by the county council as a town and village green, the Supreme Court has ruled.

TWL Logistics Ltd owns and operates the port and uses the land in question for the movement of port vehicles, including heavy goods vehicles, and the temporary storage of cargo on the quayside.

Concurrently with these commercial activities, the land has also been used by local inhabitants to walk dogs, to stop and chat on the quayside, and for general recreation.

These two sets of activities have coexisted for many years, the Supreme Court noted after dismissing the challenge brought by the landowner which sought to overturn earlier rulings in both the High Court and subsequently the Court of Appeal.

Eight years ago, the council appointed a planning inspector to consider whether the land could be registered as a town or village green. He confirmed that the registration, albeit not the whole area originally proposed.


Town centre ‘vision’ published for Liverpool region

Liverpool City Region has published a vision that aims to deliver “prosperous, future-proof local town centres” to drive the city region’s post-Covid recovery.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority established an independent commission to set out the vision and is composed of leading figures across the business, public and third sectors and chaired by Dr Sarah Longlands, director of the think-tank IPPR North.

Alongside IPPR North, the commission undertook research that found the Covid-19 pandemic has had a “very severe impact” on the Liverpool City Region, accelerating a number of the challenges that local town centres have faced in recent years, like retail decline.

It also found that town centres are vital to communities and the economy.

To achieve towns that anchor, belong and connect, the commission has set out its recommendations to policymakers, including:

  • Revenue investment that maximises the value of capital projects, to sustain them over time and let them develop and adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Encouragement and opportunities for creative and cultural businesses, social enterprise and diverse entrepreneurship, including small scale grants and loans.
  • Innovation in funding, ownership, design and the use of space such as encouraging pop-up spaces for community activity, local businesses or public service delivery; and ensuring vacant land is well-managed and activated to contribute positively to town centres until its future use is decided.
  • Policymaking that puts people first in town centres – for example, making health and wellbeing a key aim of policy, helping people to build skills for jobs in their local area, and giving local people more control over their town centre’s future through cooperative planning.

Six-storey scheme approved in Leicester

Urban planning consultancy Hybrid Planning & Development has secured permission for a six-storey residential development in Leicester city centre.

The consultancy worked on behalf of a private developer and alongside Leicester-based architects, InkDrawn.

The scheme involves the construction of 21 one and two-bedroom apartments and associated amenities on a derelict brownfield site, which is on the corner of Jarvis Street and All Saints Road in the city centre.

All apartments will be accessible to wheelchairs and in the framework of Building for Life standards, according to Hybrid Planning & Development.

The development also includes a ground-floor lobby, communal lounge, cycle storage, refuse storage and visitor car parking.


Lewes outlines climate strategy

Lewes District Council has launched a climate change and sustainability strategy that aims to ensure that the council is net-zero carbon and fully climate resilient by 2030.

The council declared a climate emergency in July 2019. This triggered 18 months of work, auditing the council and wider district’s carbon footprint as well as extensive consultation with individuals and organisations across East Sussex through a series of sustainability panels involving experts in the field and the Climate Action Forum.

According to the analysis, buildings and transport are the largest sources of emissions. The council’s emissions for 2018/19 were 1,590 tonnes of CO2, and 458,000 tonnes (based on 2017 data) for the district as a whole.

Matt Bird, cabinet member for sustainability, said: “The Climate Change and Sustainability Strategy provides a comprehensive evidence base for carbon emissions in both the council and the district and underpins the many actions laid out in the action plan and sets out the pathway to a climate-resilient future in the district.”

The Climate Change and Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan can be found on the council website.


UK’s has battery storage pipeline 16GW

The UK has more than 16.1GW of battery storage capacity in operation, under construction or being planned, according to RenewableUK’s latest Energy Storage Project Intelligence report.

This comes from 729 projects.

RenewableUK’s previous report, which was published in December 2019, identified a total pipeline of 10.5GW across 600 energy storage projects.

The 2021 document shows that 1.1GW of battery storage capacity is currently operational compared with 0.7GW identified in December 2019. Capacity for about 0.6GW is under construction, 8.3GW of capacity is consented, and 1.6GW is in the planning system.

In addition, 4.5GW are identified as being at an early stage of development.


Team appointed to deliver Folkestone town plan

Folkestone and Hythe District Council has appointed We Made That to deliver a place plan for Folkestone town centre that rebalances the relationship between the seafront and the rest of the town.

To deliver a plan that holistically considers the needs of the town as a whole, We Made That said it has brought together a team of specialists: transport and infrastructure consultants Steer, socio-economic analysts PRD, and professional licensing policy advisers from the Night Time Industries Association. Fletcher Priest architects are also on the team.

Holly Lewis, co-founding partner of We Made That, said: “Our team is excited to build on the enthusiasm of the people of Folkestone for their town centre and work together with them to produce a clear plan for its future that encompasses public spaces, roads, development and new activities.”


Affordable homes approved in Peckham Rye

Southwark Council has granted planning permission for an affordable housing development in Peckham Rye, on Metropolitan Open Land that is derelict.

The permission will see Studio Givanni and Rye Hill Developments Ltd deliver “much-needed” family housing and a new publicly accessible pocket park.

The six-storey building will comprise nine three-bed dual aspect apartments for family use and one two-bed flat on the ground floor that has been designed for a disabled resident.

The development has been designated as 100 per cent affordable housing, 40 per cent of which will be for social rent.

Gianmaria Givanni, director of Studio Givanni said: “It has been a real pleasure to work closely with local residents and councillors to modify this project until it is absolutely tailored for its site. The design is simple and robust but with an elegance that we believe will mean that both the building and the pocket park become an important part of the surrounding community.”


Southampton sculpture listed

Historic England has agreed to the Twentieth Century Society’s application to list the Puy de Dôme sculpture, which sits next to Sir Basil Spence’s Nuffield Theatre at Southampton University.

The sculpture, by Frederick Edward McWilliam, has been listed as grade II.

It is sited in a shallow rectangular pool designed by Sir Basil Spence and is fixed on four points within the pool so that it rests just above the waterline, giving the impression that it is floating.

The relationship with the pool is therefore important to the work. It provides a mercurial base in which the weather produces changes in the character of the sculpture.

Basil Spence and Partners oversaw the university’s development plan in 1956. Spence was keen that alongside the new buildings, the campus should also feature sculpture and murals

The sculpture was inspired by a visit to the Puy de Dôme in Auvergne, a rounded volcanic plug at the heart of France’s Massif Central.

The C20 Society also submitted a listing application for the adjacent Nuffield Theatre, but that was turned down.

16 February 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner