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Planning news - 4 March 2021

Published: Thursday, 4th March 2021

Framework published for homes that provide better quality of life, First Welsh national spatial strategy published, Runnymede adopts CIL charges. 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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The Quality of Life Foundation has launched a framework that seeks to address the changes that the development industry can make to make sure that homes are ‘acquired, planned, constructed and managed to actively provide a better quality of life for everyone’.

It has been written in partnership with design and research consultancy URBED and published following research, discussions and engagement with communities, politicians and wider industry stakeholders in the past year. 

The foundation highlights that more than 170,000 homes were developed in 2019, but too many of them were built without consideration of people’s long-term quality of life. It warns that this results in developments that are of “poor quality, badly designed or built in the wrong place”.

It says an estimated 10 million people are living in 4.3 million poor-quality homes, which results in poor health and a reduced quality of life. Citing the The Centre for Ageing Better’s 2020 report Home and Dry on the need for decent homes in later life, the foundation claims the cost of non-decent homes in England is costing the NHS around £1.4 billion a year.

In addition, the foundation states that the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns brought this issue into “sharp relief”, such as living and/or working in cramped accommodation, with little or no access to outdoor space.

The body says the framework brings together its work on six themes – control, health, nature, wonder, movement and belonging and is built around a series of case studies. It sets out practical steps on how communities, developers and their designers, and local authorities “can create better places for people to live by placing greater emphasis on health and wellbeing”.

Professor Sadie Morgan OBE, founding director of the Quality of Life Foundation, said: “This framework comes at a pivotal moment for the industry and the UK as a whole. Covid-19 has brought the need for good-quality housing into sharp focus and has demonstrated the importance of building resilient communities.

“Paired with the upcoming planning reforms, it is imperative that there is a fundamental reassessment of how we think about the built environment and its relationship with our overall health and wellbeing. As a society, we should be coming together to ensure that no one has poor health just because of the house they live in. This framework sets the precedent for future schemes by exploring just how we can do that.”

The Quality of Life Foundation was set up in 2019 with the intention to raise people’s quality of life by making wellbeing central to the way homes and communities are created and cared for.

More can be found on the Quality of Life Foundation website.

1 March 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Housing and local government minister Julie James has launched the national spatial strategy in a 180-page document called Future Wales.

This blueprint sets out where housing, employment and infrastructure should be developed to support town and city centres; achieve decarbonisation and climate resilience; and improve the health and wellbeing of Wales in the period up to 2040.

Future Wales: The National Plan 2040 focuses on growing existing urban areas and ensuring that homes, jobs, and services are located in the same area.

It identifies Wrexham and Deeside; Cardiff, Newport and the Valleys; and Swansea Bay and Llanelli as nationally significant areas for growth.

The framework sets out the spatial issues that the four regional strategic development plans (SDPs) – for North Wales, Mid Wales, south-west Wales, and south-east Wales – will be expected to accommodate.

The requirement for the planning system to be “plan-led” is reiterated, as is the need to prepare SDPs. Local development plans will have to be compliant with both Future Wales and forthcoming SDPs.

The focus of housing policy remains on delivering new affordable homes, although it is made much clearer that it is for local authorities to set overall housing requirements – a key function of the new SDPs.

The requirement to prepare green belts in the south-east Wales and North Wales regions remains, but Future Wales is less prescriptive than the earlier version of the blueprint. In the case of the south-east Wales region, green belts should cover an area to the north of Cardiff and Newport and the eastern part of the region. In respect of the North Wales SDP, identification of a green belt “around Wrexham and Deeside to manage urban form and growth” is expected.

Over the next 20 years – the lifetime of the blueprint – the additional housing need in Wales, under the latest central estimate, is around 110,000 dwellings.

During the initial five years (2019-20 to 2023-24) it is estimated that on average 7,400 additional homes will be required annually, with close to two-thirds of these homes needed in south-east Wales, just over a fifth in south-west Wales, and the remaining additional homes largely in North Wales. Only a relatively small number is needed in Mid Wales.

It is estimated that over this five-year period the annual additional homes should be split almost equally between affordable housing (social housing or intermediate rent) and market housing. This represents an average of approximately 3,500 (48 per cent) affordable homes and 3,900 (52 per cent) market homes a year.

The document (on page 94) identifies 10 so-called pre-assessment areas where significant onshore wind farms can be located. These areas avoid the three national parks and the five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty that make up a quarter of Wales.

The blueprint details 18 separate policies covering issues such as transport, connectivity, heat networks, biodiversity, the need for a significant amount of new tree cover, and a lengthy and detailed policy on strategic placemaking.

It stresses that urban growth and regeneration should be based on the following strategic placemaking principles:

  • creating a rich mix of uses;
  • providing a variety of housing types and tenures;
  • building places at a walkable scale, with homes, local facilities, and public transport within walking distance of each other;
  • increasing population density, with development built at urban densities (50 dwellings a hectare) that can support public transport and local facilities;
  • establishing a permeable network of streets, with a hierarchy that informs the nature of development;
  • promoting a plot-based approach to development, which provides opportunities for the development of small plots, including for custom and self-builders; and
  • integrating green infrastructure, informed by the planning authority’s green infrastructure assessment.

The ‘town centre first’ principle will be at the heart of urban policymaking, the document insists, stressing that ministers can intervene in the planning application process “where a ‘town centre first’ approach is not being followed”.

The blueprint highlights that ministers will be investing significantly to improve active travel and public transport. “This needs to be combined with the implementation of policies in Planning Policy Wales which require development to be directed towards sustainable locations and designed to make it possible for everyone to make sustainable and healthy travel choices for their daily journeys. It will also require planning authorities to refuse planning permission for car-dependent developments which would otherwise encourage car use and undermine sustainable travel”.

The document notes that “transport in Wales is currently dominated by the car”. Future Wales insists that “we must reduce our use of cars and allocate more space for walking and cycling”.

The government intends to prepare and publish a review of Future Wales at least every five years and to assess progress against the national wellbeing indicators; policy-related indicators, integrated sustainability appraisal, and what it calls contextual evidence.

James said: “The past year has shown us just how important where we live is to our health and happiness. It’s easier to be healthy and active when we have safe and attractive green space nearby. If more of us are able to work locally or at home we can shorten commutes, reduce congestion, and use our local high streets more.

“We have already committed to a ‘town centre first’ approach, which means locating services and buildings in town centres wherever possible. This plan will help to deliver it.

“This plan sets out our priorities for growth in employment and housing, in particular affordable housing. It sets out a vision for our villages, towns and cities developing at a walkable scale, with homes, local facilities, green spaces, and public transport within easy reach.

“This work predates the Covid-19 pandemic, but living through it has brought home for everyone how important liveable communities are to our health and wellbeing.”

In a related but separate development, the government has also published an updated version, edition 11, of Planning Policy Wales to align with Future Wales.

In a letter to James, RTPI Cymru Roisin Willmott FRTPI said the framework would be an important mechanism to shape the future of the country, particularly as Wales recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Welcoming Future Wales: The National Plan 2040, Willmott highlighted that the institute has been asking “for some time for a national spatial strategy for Wales with an express vision reflecting general national goals with stated outcomes”.

“We recognise the impact Covid-19 has had on public resources and the bringing forward of projects such as this, so we congratulate the government on progressing this important plan during difficult times.

“It is now essential that all ministers support the application of Future Wales. Other national strategies, such as the Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan (WIIP), must work alongside Future Wales, providing a strong integrated policy direction across all of government.”

RTPI Cymru warned that the framework’s publication was the first step in a much longer process; long-term support from all portfolios within the Welsh Government and from the wider built environment sector is needed for its ambitious aims to be achieved.

Future Wales: The National Plan 2040 can be found on the Welsh Government website.

24 February 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner

Councillors at Runnymede Borough Council have approved a set of community infrastructure levy (CIL) charges that will see developers seeking permission to build within certain areas paying towards the cost of new infrastructure.

Money raised will be used to help fund infrastructure such as improvements to roads, schools, parks and playgrounds, said the council.

From 1 March 2021 plans that propose more than 100 square metres of additional floor space or one or more new homes will need to pay the charge unless they are exempt. There are few exemptions to the charges, including social housing schemes, charitable development and residential exemptions.

Areas of the borough that have a neighbourhood plan in place can have up to 25 per cent of the total payment from an application spent in the area. Up to 15 per cent will be spent in communities that don’t have a neighbourhood plan in place. In both cases, spending would be agreed in consultation with residents where possible, the council explained.

There are four communities developing a neighbourhood plan: Englefield Green, Ottershaw, Thorpe and Virginia Water.

Myles Willingale, chairman of the council’s planning committee, said: “I would encourage all local areas of the borough to think about how they can work together to set up a neighbourhood forum and create a plan. The benefit is significant and a prime example of how the council is supporting local people by giving them a direct way to influence improvements where they live.

“The rules around approving or rejecting planning applications are strict and set by government and local planning policies, but the ability for us to set a charge means there should now be a level of benefit from the majority of successful applications.”

The CIL Charging Schedule can be found here on the Runnymede Borough Council website.

25 February 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Shropshire Council has granted full planning permission for a purpose-built airbase and charity headquarters for the Midlands Air Ambulance Charity.

The development will see a final approach and take-off area (FATO), helicopter hangar, offices, aircrew accommodation, and a state-of-the-art clinical training simulation suite delivered in Cosford, Shropshire.

The airbase and headquarters will have a limited impact on the surrounding area but meets the need for future advanced patient care in the region. 

It will help to address several challenges facing the air ambulance service in the region, including the annual rising demand for on-scene patient care; the increased complexity of patient needs requiring specialist skills, medicines and equipment; and the lack of sufficient training facilities for the critical care paramedics and pre-hospital emergency medicine doctors.

Hanna Sebright, chief executive of Midlands Air Ambulance Charity, said: “Over our 30-year history, our charity has been driven by a commitment to continuously improve advanced pre-hospital patient care across the Midlands.

“Our new airbase and charity headquarters will be a vital development for the whole of the Midlands region and will feature clinical training facilities, which are fundamental to delivering the advanced training programmes required for our clinicians.”

Planning consultancy Turley acted on behalf of the charity.

Owen Francis, director at Turley, said: “Following in-depth consultations, we had the full support of the parish council, local MPs and all statutory and non-statutory consultees. This was a great achievement that also demonstrated just how vital this new airbase and headquarters will be for the whole of the Midlands area.”

Work is scheduled to start this spring.

25 February 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Liverpool City Council’s planning committee has granted permission for Everton Football Club’s plans for a new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock and outline permission for a community legacy project at Goodison Park.

It follows a special committee meeting with Everton CEO Denise Barrett-Baxendale and stadium development director Colin Chong about the plans

Premier League club Everton FC have been at Goodison Park since 1892 and have been looking for a new home 25 years. The new stadium will have a capacity for 52,888 fans.

The plans, which equate to a £750 million investment and could create up to 15,000 jobs, will be referred to the housing secretary to see if he wants to call them in.

Wendy Simon, acting Mayor of Liverpool, welcomed the approval. “The club has undertaken a huge amount of work to understand the many ecological, transport and heritage issues connected to this site and I applaud their approach to listen to all the relevant bodies to help inform their design.

“This resolution to approve is a big step forward for the club to realise a 25-year dream to relocate from Goodison Park, and this development would unquestionably be a dynamic catalyst for our wider ambition to regenerate this long-neglected part of North Liverpool and create much-needed jobs.

“Of course, we now await feedback from the secretary of state on whether he wishes to call in the application for determination, but the city council is committed to supporting a development that will economically benefit this city for decades to come and help fast-track our post-pandemic recovery and our City Plan.”

Real estate adviser CBRE worked with Everton FC on the application. The firm says the stadium would act as a “much-needed catalyst for the regeneration of north Liverpool” and contribute £1.3 billion to the economy.

Under the plans, the stadium has the potential to host up to four concerts a year as well as weddings, funerals, Christmas parties and conferences.

The outline planning permission for Goodison Park could see affordable housing, a health centre and retail and leisure space delivered there.

Historic England objected to the new stadium, stating that it could harm the city’s heritage. The Maritime Mercantile City of Liverpool is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

25 February 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Builders' workloads are stagnant or declining

A third of builders experienced lower workloads in Q4, up from 21 per cent in Q3, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) latest State of Trade Survey (November to December 2020).

The survey of the FMB's members also found:

  • 42 per cent of builders reported no change in workload, continuing a sluggish recovery from the pandemic, said the FMB.
  • Employment dropped back into negative territory after growing for just two months in 2020.
  • 23 per cent of builders are struggling to hire carpenters/joiners.
  • 22 per cent are struggling to hire bricklayers.
  • 82 per cent of respondents reported material price increases, but just 29 per cent of builders are increasing the prices they charge for work – down from 37 per cent in Q3.

Speaking ahead of the 2021 Budget (3 March) Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Given that one in four builders is struggling to hire bricklayers and carpenters the government should be encouraging people looking for new opportunities to consider the construction industry. However, builders need greater support to train while contending with rising material prices. The government needs to extend the apprenticeship grant uplift beyond March 2021 so that SMEs are rewarded for their training at this difficult time.”


Hull named a Tree City of the World 

Hull has been named a Tree City of the World for its commitment to urban forests.

The Arbor Day Foundation has praised Hull and included the city in the list of 120 cities from across the globe for its continued efforts to grow and maintain green spaces.

Founded by The Arbor Day Foundation and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Tree Cities of the World intends to recognise cities around the globe that have committed to growing and maintaining their urban forest.

Anita Harrison, portfolio holder for operational services, said: “To become a Tree City of the World is a fantastic achievement for our city.

“In a year where our green outdoor spaces have meant so much more for us, it is deserved recognition for the work the council, voluntary groups and residents have done to improve our parks and open spaces and plant new trees to make our city better for people and nature. Being one of only 120 cities recognised globally is fantastic.”

Kingston upon Hull has earned recognition in the foundation’s second year of the programme.


Investment for Ebbsfleet riverside park announced

Ebbsfleet Development Corporation’s board has approved an investment of nearly £3 million towards developing a riverside park in Northfleet. 

The investment will be used to acquire land and undertake detailed feasibility and design work on creation of a park around Northfleet Harbour.

This is part of an initial phase of plans to open up access to a longer stretch of the waterfront in Northfleet and is part of the Northfleet Riverside Park project.

The promenade will be developed in phases over several years as land becomes available.

Ian Piper, chief executive at Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, said: “This new park is one of seven proposed by the corporation throughout the garden city as we connect up places, and provide residents and the wider community with fantastic places to visit.

“Our long-term aim is to create a riverside park that will provide joggers, walkers and cyclists with a route from Gravesend to Northfleet as well as allow people to view parts of the Thames that haven’t been seen in more than 100 years as part of our vision to open the garden city and maintain healthy and active lifestyles.”


RAF base to become garden village

Part of the former RAF Newton is going to be transformed into Nottinghamshire’s first garden village.

Acting on behalf of the landowner, commercial property developer Innes England agreed a deal with housebuilder Redrow Homes.

The 250-acre site is near Bingham. Development has already begun on site, with Bellway and David Wilson Homes delivering the first phase of the scheme. The second phase, ‘Newton Garden Village, will see Redrow Homes build 528 homes. The units will comprise between two and five bedrooms. Plans also include open space, traditional village greens and allotments.

Innes England secured planning permission for both phases; the phase to be developed by Redrow Homes was approved in 2018.


Lewes introduces advice notes for developers

Lewes District Council has implemented three new technical advice notes (TAN) for developers that put a greater focus on sustainability in the planning phase of construction and when work is under way on site.

The planning notes cover sustainability, the circular economy and biodiversity. They apply to any new homes or commercial development, large or small, in the district.

Emily O’Brien, cabinet member for planning and infrastructure, said: “With construction, demolition and excavation waste accounting for 51 per cent of the 1.7 million tonnes of solid waste generated in East Sussex and Brighton & Hove each year, it is essential that developers and other planning applicants achieve greater sustainability in new developments.

“The built environment is responsible for a massive 40 per cent of our carbon footprint – I don’t think anyone should need any more evidence than that to recognise the urgent need to put sustainability at the heart of all new developments.”


Plans for gas turbine dropped

Energy company Drax has dropped plans to modify coal-fired generating units to gas-powered ones at its power station in Selby, North Yorkshire.

Then-energy secretary Andrea Leadsom approved the development consent order (DCO) in October 2019, against the advice of an inspector.

Environmental law charity Client Earth launched a legal challenge in January 2020 but was unsuccessful.

Drax has said it will burn wood pellets to generate electricity instead when it phases out coal this month.


Land with planning permission in Suffolk sold to housebuilder

Cambridge-based property group Endurance Estates has completed the sale of a site in Bacton, Suffolk, with outline planning permission for 81 residential homes to housebuilder Taylor Wimpey.

Endurance Estates acted as promoter and secured the planning permission for the 11.5-acre site.

The scheme comprises a mixture of two, three, four and five-bedroom private and affordable houses. Taylor Wimpey will contribute more than £600,000 to community infrastructure, as well as 28 new affordable homes.


Partnership announced to deliver 42 Nottinghamshire homes

Modular housing company ilke Homes has agreed a deal with emh group for the delivery of an affordable-led scheme in Beeston, Nottinghamshire.

The two companies will deliver 42 affordable homes on a vacant brownfield site next to Beeston station

ilke Homes acquired the site from Network Rail in July 2020. It will act as a full ‘turnkey’ developer as part of the deal, meaning emh group can purchase a complete development sourced and delivered by ilke Homes.

Subject to planning permission, a mix of two and three-bedroom homes will be delivered on the 2.2-acre site in Beeston. They will be available for affordable rent or shared ownership.

All of the homes will be precision-engineered along production lines at ilke Homes’ factory in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.

2 March 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner