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Planning news - 18 March 2021

Published: Thursday, 18th March 2021

RTPI to raise profile of urban planning globally, Government announces £2.7m tree fund, MHCLG appoints firm to reimagine planning notifications. 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 RTPI has launched a strategy that seeks to raise the profile of urban planning as a ‘pivotal’ issue in the global policy to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The International Strategy 2021-2030 is part of the institute’s corporate strategy, which was published in 2020.

It aims to promote the value of planning internationally as a lever for advancing a prosperous, fair, sustainable and peaceful world. The institute also wants to use it to “empower” its 26,000 members across 80 countries to support global sustainable development and climate action.

RTPI president Wei Yang FRTPI launched the strategy at an international online event today. She commented: “In this crucial moment of our planet’s history we need to think globally and act locally. Town planners must take the lead in enabling the built environment to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and we need to find innovative and sustainable solutions to tackle the world’s biggest challenges – from poverty to the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis, from inequality to the humanitarian crisis, and from pollution to the public health crisis.

“This strategy aims to raise the profile of planners globally and unite planners around the world to tackle these challenges together.”

At the launch, international committee chair Janet Askew MRTPI set out the strategy’s structure and objectives while Commonwealth Association of Planners vice-president Ian Tant MRTPI spoke about the strategy’s alignment with continuing global efforts to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The strategy sets out four key aims:

•             To promote the value of RTPI membership internationally;

•             To support planning knowledge globally;

•             To raise the profile of planning for global challenges; and

•             To increase diversity and inclusion through internationalisation.

Some of its key aims include connecting planners around the world through internationally focused networks, adding an international component to the RTPI’s research programme, playing an active role in promoting excellence in planning through international platforms and ensuring inclusivity and diversity in all of the Institute’s international work.

The RTPI explained that an implementation plan would sit alongside the strategy.

16 March 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The government has announced a new £2.7 million initiative as part of its plans to increase tree planting and natural regeneration in local communities.

The £2.7 million Local Authority Treescapes fund, which is available from the government’s Nature For Climate Fund, aims to establish more trees in places such as riverbanks, hedgerows, parklands, urban areas, and beside roads and footpaths.

Trees in these locations can provide the greatest levels of benefit to ecosystems and societies such as carbon absorption, flood protection and support for biodiversity, as well as connecting fragmented habitats, said the government.

The funding will be targeted at landscapes that have been neglected in the past, ecologically damaged or affected by tree diseases like ash dieback. Ash is the most common species of tree found in non-woodland locations.

Lord Goldsmith, forestry minister, said: “This is an opportunity for communities to work with their local authorities to identify land, design projects and apply for funds. Trees and land restoration are central to our plans for nature recovery and to get to net-zero emissions, and we know how much value people place on trees and green spaces in their local communities.”

The applications will be open to all local authorities through top-tier authority applications. The government wishes local authorities to work with other organisations, NGOs, community groups and private individuals to deliver the most “exciting” projects. Bidding can begin from early April and successful applicants will be informed by the end of July 2021.

The Nature For Climate Fund was revealed in the 2020 Budget.

16 March 2021
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner


The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and Innovation UK have appointed Commonplace to help reimagine planning notices.

More than 400,000 planning applications are submitted in England every year, and local planning authorities are required to notify the public and neighbours of each one – including through site notices or in local newspapers.

Commonplace, a digital engagement specialist for the built environment, believes that new forms of digital technology could enhance this process by connecting residents and neighbours to important information. Transparent, digital-first communication with communities could increase the awareness of, and engagement in, decision-making.

Mike Saunders, CEO and co-founder of Commonplace, said: “By offering planning notices only on lamp posts, inside community facilities and in local papers, the planning system is missing a huge and obvious opportunity to engage.

“Commonplace was founded on the principle of connecting people to the places they love, bringing together the public, planning applicants and decision-makers together to get better results. We’re delighted to be working with Innovate UK and MHCLG to explore new possibilities for planning notices”.

As part of the work, Commonplace will ask people who have engaged through its platform for their views on improving planning notifications and also to engage with professional planners in development management. The results will be shared within the planning industry to support thinking on digitising the planning system, the firm added.

Housing minister Christopher Pincher said: “We welcome the opportunity to work with Innovate UK and the PropTech sector to bring the outdated planning system into the 21st century with the use of digital planning notices – as part of our wider reforms.

“New forms of digital technology will mean the ability to connect residents and neighbours to important information on decisions impacting their areas and enable them to engage directly in major planning decisions.”

15 March 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


To secure the long-term success of cities and ensure that they are sustainable, equality and social inclusion must go hand in hand with climate protection and economic growth, according to a report.

Such moves will also help to make sure the post-pandemic recovery is a green one, suggests Rethinking Sustainable Cities: This is All in the Air.

Published by London Transport Museum and technical and professional services firm Jacobs, the study highlights that Covid-19 has led to a “greater imperative” to unify efforts and change our cities for the better, so they protect the planet and people.

Lockdown and social distancing, introduced to stem the spread of the virus, exposed limitations in existing urban design and left city centres empty. In addition, a lack of access to green spaces in residential zones has resulted in feelings of claustrophobia, the report explains. 

The inability to work and socialise safely has rendered many city centres empty while a lack of access to green spaces in residential zones has caused a sense of claustrophobia. All of this has caused “psychological distress to worsen substantially”.

To create sustainable cities, cutting carbon emissions is only one part of the jigsaw. The report suggests that to be successful, sustainable cities also rely on the social inclusion and wellbeing of residents being prioritised alongside climate protection and economic growth. 

It also considers the opportunities and challenges in achieving this balance, urging government, planners, policymakers and businesses to “seize” the opportunity to rethink how our cities can work for people.

The creation of a unified blueprint for inclusive and environmentally friendly design is recommended. This can be localised and replicated at scale. In order for maximum value to be delivered in all of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the design of transport, infrastructure, housing and development projects will need to be rethought alongside how impact and success is evaluated.

To deliver sustainable cities, the blueprint should:

  • Redefine the value of projects to prioritise social value.
  • Educate and empower individuals to change their behaviours.
  • Overhaul policy and governance to drive change.

Donald Morrison, Jacobs, people & places solutions senior vice-president Europe and digital strategies, said: “The pandemic brought into sharp focus the importance of collaboratively designing bolder city infrastructure solutions that reinvent tomorrow and maximise long-term benefit and value to all of us socially, environmentally and economically. If we are to truly level up our society and build back better and more inclusively, we need to apply past learnings quickly and think carefully about the actions needed now to add tangible, long-term value to our cities and the people who live in them.”

Sam Mullins OBE, director of London Transport Museum said: “The pandemic has been a defining moment in modern history, exposing limitations to the way we currently create and use our city spaces. Coupled with an impending climate emergency, it is clear we need to act quickly to rethink our vision of sustainable cities. Now is the time to take these learnings and apply them to transport, infrastructure and city-making projects before it is too late, creating value for the people who live in our cities now and in the future.”

The report was produced in partnership with the law firm Gowling WLG, global transportation company Thales, and mobility and logistics software solutions business PTV Group. The report was produced following digital round table discussions with industry leaders, policymakers and academics throughout 2020 as part of Interchange, London Transport Museum’s thought leadership programme.

Rethinking Sustainable Cities: This is All in the Air can be found on the London Transport Museum website.

15 March 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The government has announced £86 million in funding –  contributed from two funding streams – to hasten the delivery of 3,000 homes in Fairham, near Nottingham.

The 606-acre site will accommodate a mixed-use development.

The £86 million will go towards delivering the infrastructure so work can begin on the new homes. This includes new roads, cycleways, utility provisions and landscaping to form part of the infrastructure delivered as part of the development.

A new school, community centre, health centre, sports pitches, community parks and woodland also feature as part of the plans for the site, as well as 100,000 square metres of employment space. 

Government housing agency Homes England acquired 250 acres of the 606-acre site in May 2019. It is working jointly with Clowes Developments as master developers to deliver the primary infrastructure for the “sustainable urban extension”.

Homes England’s £1.3 billion Land Assembly Fund will contribute £62 million of the funding, while Clowes Developments has secured a £21 million loan from the Home Building Fund.

Gordon More, interim chief executive for Homes England, said: “This is a big milestone for Fairham and means that work can start in earnest. As the country starts to think about the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, large projects such as this not only meet a demand for high-quality new homes but also support the housebuilding sector by creating a pipeline of work, providing much-needed stability.

“We’ve been working hard with Clowes Development and Rushcliffe Borough Council to ensure that our plans for Fairham will help to meet local need and provide facilities that the whole community can enjoy.”

Robert Hepwood, land and planning director at Clowes Developments, added: “By working in partnership with public bodies we can now accelerate the delivery of new jobs and new homes for Nottinghamshire. We’re sure that people will begin to see further progress on site throughout this year with our first new homes due to start construction in the autumn.”

15 March 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Submit your entry to the RTPI’s research awards now

The RTPI is accepting entries to its 2021 Awards for Research Excellence.

The awards reward and promote planning research from RTPI-accredited planning schools and RTPI members from the UK and around the world.

There are four categories this year:

  • Sir Peter Hall Award for Excellence in Research and Engagement
  • Student Award
  • Early Career Researcher Award
  • Planning Practitioner Award

The biennial Practitioner Research Fund will also be awarded this year, which will see two grants of £5,000 to enable planning practitioners to conduct fresh research over the next 12 months.

Apart from people employed by, enrolled at, or affiliated to, an academic institution at the time of submission, all RTPI members can apply.

Wei Yang FRTPI, president of the RTPI, said: “With the pandemic bringing into sharp relief the urgent challenges facing our communities, I believe that the RTPI Awards for Research Excellence are more important now than ever before. There is no doubt that innovative planning research will have a vital role to play in shaping a sustainable future for our urban and rural environments.”

The award-winners will be announced in September during the opening ceremony of the UK-Ireland Planning Research Conference, which will be hosted by the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at Newcastle University.

Idox Knowledge Exchange and Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group) are sponsoring the awards.

 

DfT expands in Birmingham and Leeds

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that it will establish a second headquarters in Birmingham and a Northern hub in Leeds, as part of its ‘levelling-up’ plans to create 650 roles in the cities.

The government says the move is part of its “commitment to diversifying the civil service, ensuring decisions are rooted in the communities it serves”.

By 2030, the government aims to move 22,000 civil service roles from London to communities across the UK.

 

Footbridge at Cleethorpes railway approved

The cabinet at North East Lincolnshire Council has approved plans for an accessible footbridge over the railway at Suggitt’s Lane in Cleethorpes.

The £3.6 million project will provide an alternative access over the railway in the seaside town. Funding is being provided by Network Rail and the Department for Transport to build the bridge.

The plans will be shared with the public during a community engagement period that will run from now until Friday 26 March. The community will be able to view more details and comment on the plans online, ahead of the start of a formal planning process for the new accessible footbridge.

The plans can be viewed on the council website.

 

133 homes near Falmouth green-lit

Cornwall Council has granted planning permission for 133 homes near Falmouth. The development also includes significant road improvements and contributions to the local community.

Built by Barratt Homes, Pen Bethan, in Kergilliack, Budock, west of Falmouth, will offer one, two, three and four-bedroom homes, including 47 affordable homes for rent and shared ownership.

Plans also include a new Cornish bank, which will be built along the front of the development and a range of biodiversity enhancements, such as increased hedgerows and planting. A tree-lined boulevard will be created in the centre, featuring new oak trees and offering shade and greenery.

 

Welsh Government announces appointments to the Design Commission for Wales

Welsh housing minister Julie James has announced four new appointments to the board of directors of the Design Commission for Wales (DCFW).

The commissioners are Mike Biddulph, Jon James, Cora Kwiatkowski and Joanna Rees. They will all take up their roles on 1 April of this year until 31 March 2025.

They are not paid and will make a time commitment of approximately two days a month.

James said: “These appointments will undoubtedly support the DCFW in its important role to implement our national planning policies on design and placemaking in order to create better places for the people of Wales.”

 

Mixed-use development approved in Cheshire

Cheshire East Council has granted planning permission for a major mixed-use scheme in Congleton, Cheshire.

The permission was secured by land promoter Richborough Estates. A contract has been exchanged with Clowes Developments for the 55-acre site.

The site is allocated in the Cheshire East Local Plan and forms part of the wider North Congleton Masterplan.

Plans for the mixed-use scheme comprise the 23-acre Viking Park, which will form an extension to Congleton Business Park and is expected to deliver 500 jobs. It also includes up to 175 homes, a park, wildlife corridors and a neighbourhood retail centre. Access will be via the new Congleton Link Road, which is due to be completed within weeks.

 

Government investment supports M&G Shared Ownership fund

Homes England has agreed a £10 million investment with M&G Investments to support the launch of its new Shared Ownership fund, which forms part of its aim to provide investors with greater confidence that housing – including shared ownership – has strong government backing and can play a more prominent part in residential investment strategies.

The investment will be used to accelerate delivery of 2,000 affordable homes through M&G’s partnership with The Hyde Group. The partnership will provide Hyde with the capital to grow its development ambitions and build additional homes in the areas it serves.

The fund has so far attracted £215 million of initial investment from two local authority pensions schemes, Hyde and two M&G client funds.

 

Oxford-Cambridge Arc to put environment ‘at heart of every decision’

The Oxford-Cambridge Arc Leadership Group has endorsed a set of environment principles that “provide a clear statement of regional intent that embodies local commitment to adopting an approach that results in environmentally sustainable economic growth”.

The intention is for the principles to inform emerging arc plans and statements, including local plans, local council activities as well as delivery programmes for bodies operating in the arc.

They will also form the basis for creating an Ox-Cam-wide environmental strategy, with both environment principles and environment strategy informing input to the government’s arc spatial framework, which is expected to be published in 2022.

The Environmental Principles can be downloaded here.

 

U+I secures support for new phases at Slough development

AshbyCapital and U+I have received planning consent for No 1 and No 3 The Future Works, a 260,000-square-foot commercial quarter in the heart of Slough in Berkshire, adjacent to its new Elizabeth line station.

Designed by Sheppard Robson, the buildings will offer multiple roof terraces as well as an improved public realm including botanical pavilion and an outdoor auditorium.

The resolution to grant planning permission was made at a virtual committee on Wednesday 10 March, subject to satisfactory completion of a section 106 agreement.

Peter Ferrari, chief executive of AshbyCapital, commented: “As interest grows in high-quality, well-connected workspaces outside of major city centres, the new phases of The Future Works are ideally placed to capitalise on this demand.”

 

Council and Nuffield College commit funds to Oxpens site

Oxford City Council and Nuffield College, shareholders in the joint venture Oxford West End Development Limited (‘OxWED’), have agreed to commit up to £1 million each to progress the indicative proposals through to the planning application stage.

Work can now move forward on preparation of illustrative designs for public consultation later this summer. Additional technical work and studies will also be carried out to inform the emerging proposals.

The emerging and early-stage designs are for a mixed-use development, with a range of potential residential uses.

OxWED owns most of the land allocated for redevelopment under the Oxford Local Plan. Indications are that the site has potential capacity for 70,000 square metres of commercial floor space as part of a total 120,000 square metres of mixed-use development.

16 March 2021
Laura Edgar and Martin Read, The Planner