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Planning news - 25 March 2021

Published: Thursday, 25th March 2021

Local authorities to have longer to spend right-to-buy receipts, Legal challenge for continuation of virtual planning meetings lodged, Unlimited fines will apply to fire safety breaches. And more...

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

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Housing and communities secretary Robert Jenrick has set out a number of reforms to the right-to-buy policy, including extending the time local authorities in England have to spend right-to-buy receipts from three years to five years.

Jenrick said: “Councils have a crucial role to play in increasing housing supply, including building more affordable and social housing.

“I have listened to local authorities who responded to our consultation on the use of right-to-buy receipts and I am delighted to announce a package of reforms providing authorities with the flexibilities they need to develop ambitious build programmes and help get people on the housing ladder.”

The cap on the percentage of new homes councils can fund from right-to-buy receipts will be increased from 30 per cent to 40 per cent, a measure the government says will make it easier to replace homes sold under the policy.

Receipts could be used for shared ownership and First Homes, in addition to affordable and social housing, and a cap on the use of receipts for acquisitions to help increase new supply will be introduced.

The measures are intended to help the government meet its target to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

Nearly all of the measures will come into force on 1 April 2021. The new acquisition cap will be introduced from 1 April 2022 on a phased basis.

James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), said: “The LGA has long-called for reform to right to buy and we are pleased government has engaged with us and acted on councils’ concerns.

“Extending the time limit for spending right-to-buy receipts and increasing the proportion of a new home that councils can fund using receipts will boost councils’ ability to build desperately needed affordable housing for local communities.

“We now look forward to working with government to implement these reforms and it is good it will work through any specific local challenges some councils may face as a result of the acquisitions cap.”

23 March 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Association of Democratic Services Officers (ADSO), Lawyers in Local Government (LLG) and Hertfordshire County Council have lodged a legal challenge in the High Court that seeks a continuation of local authority remote meetings beyond 6 May 2021.

Under emergency legislation, planning committee meetings have been allowed to be held virtually during restrictions implemented to stem the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).

The Coronavirus Act 2020 gained royal assent on 25 March 2020 after being fast-tracked through both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The 1972 Local Government Act requires councillors to be present to decide applications. The new act makes provisions for “persons to attend, speak at, vote in, or otherwise participate in, local authority meetings without all of the persons, or without any of the persons, being together in the same place”.

The regulation is for meetings required to be held before 7 May 2021.

The two bodies and the council included an application for the court to expedite proceedings to guarantee that a decision is made before the deadline.

The Local Government Association (LGA), the National Association of Local Councils and the Welsh Government's housing and local government minister have been listed as interested parties. They will have the opportunity to submit evidence if they wish to.

A statement on the ADSO website says: “We are pleased with the quality of our evidence and we thank all those authorities who have both written to the secretary of state and submitted evidence to us in support of our claim.”

22 March 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Home Office has announced that building owners that breach fire safety regulations could face unlimited fines under measures being introduced in the building safety bill.

Fines will also be handed down to anyone who obstructs or impersonates a fire inspector.

The measures are a response to the consultation on fire safety consultation held last year. They will come into force as part of the legislation for the building safety bill.

A requirement for fire risk assessments to be recorded for each building will also be introduced, as well as improvements to how fire safety information is handed over during the lifetime of a building.

The measures will amend the Fire Safety Order.

The building safety bill has been drawn up to establish the first national Building Safety Regulator and overhaul the way buildings in scope of the new regime are designed, built and managed when occupied.

18 March 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Bristol City Council has approved plans by developer Firmstone to build new homes and a large retail space on a former Argos store site on East Street in Bedminster.

The scheme, designed by Bristol architects Stride Treglown for 60-66 East Street, consists of three buildings across the former Argos store site and a car park behind it. The building fronting East Street will be three-storeys high, rising to four and five storeys towards the rear.

The plans comprise 50 one and two-bedroom apartments and a 400-square-metre newly refurbished retail unit on the ground floor, fronting East Street. Many of the homes will have balconies and all will benefit from sustainable energy provision through individual air source heat pumps. Around 80 secure cycle parking spaces will be provided to support sustainable travel and to limit car use.

Francis Firmstone, director of Firmstone, said: “The combined impact of the redevelopment of the former Argos store and St Catherine’s Place will make a major contribution to the revival of the East Street area and inject significant investment into this part of Bedminster.

“It has taken some time but now we’ve been given the go-ahead, we’re keen to get moving on delivering our plans. We’ve been developing homes and shops in Bedminster for over 15 years, are very committed to the area and are looking forward to playing our role in creating the next chapter in its regeneration.”

The scheme, together with the recently-approved proposals for the redevelopment of St Catherine's Place opposite, is intended to revive East Street and bring new people and retailers to the area.

The work is set to begin on the development within the next few months.

16 March 2021
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

The Cardiff Capital Region has published a blueprint for passenger rail services across south-east Wales, which has been endorsed by the 10 local authorities involved in the area’s growth deal.

The report calls for a high-quality, integrated grid of rail and bus services to be delivered over the next 10 to 15 years that would create a single joined-up network to meet passenger needs and the Welsh Government’s decarbonisation targets.

The proposed integrated grid of rail and bus services – supported by new transport hubs – would connect communities across the region. It would also be the catalyst for a range of transport-related economic development and regeneration initiatives.

Key pillars of the strategy include:

  • a major upgrade of the South Wales Main Line to form the backbone of the region’s public transport network through new stations and a mix of intercity express and local commuter services;
  • measures to address current rail bottlenecks to allow more services on the Ebbw Valley, Marches, Maesteg, Vale of Glamorgan, City and Coryton lines;
  • upgrade of, and connections between, existing rail lines to create the Cardiff Crossrail and an extension from Aberdare to Hirwaun;
  • developing options for enhanced cross – valley connectivity, both bus and tram-train; and
  • the introduction of further new stations to connect more people and places to the proposed Metro network.

The strategy also calls for the reconnection of Caerphilly with Newport by making use of the Machen freight line and introducing tram train services in Newport to support regeneration.

Huw David, chair of the Cardiff Capital Region Transport Authority, said the proposals would drive major economic regeneration in places such as “Bridgend town centre and the Ford site, Cardiff Airport and St Athan, Cardiff city centre and the Bay, the Ebbw Vale Enterprise Zone, Merthyr town centre, Nantgarw, Newport city centre, Pontypridd town centre and Treforest – as well as inform the emerging plans for Cyfarthfa Castle and key hubs such Aberdare, Barry Town, Caerphilly and Pontypool”.

19 March 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner

Combined authority seeks developers of brownfield housing sites

West Yorkshire Combined Authority has called for developers to submit applications for help to remediate land that would otherwise cost too much to be viable.

Through its devolution deal with the government last year, the combined authority secured £67 million from the government’s Brownfield Housing Fund.

This will help to build 4,500 to 6,000 new homes across West Yorkshire over the next four years.

The combined authority said it is “especially keen” to hear from developers whose schemes can introduce measures to reduce carbon emissions. In addition, allocations will also be prioritised to schemes that are in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage and will deliver affordable homes.

More information can be found here on the West Yorkshire Combined Authority website.


Birmingham to draw up tree plan

A partnership between Birmingham City Council and Birmingham Tree People, alongside UK consultancy Treeconomics and the Nature Based Solutions Institute, is working together on an urban forest masterplan for the city.

The plan is the first of its kind in the UK and follows a model widely used across North America.

Birmingham has more parks than any other big city on this continent, according to a statement, and an estimated one million trees.

Simon Needle, principal arboriculturist at the city council, said, “Birmingham's treescape is a legacy of both city planning and the philanthropic work of notable residents who bequeathed land for public parks and open spaces. This history of joint working for the benefit of all is something we are continuing today with the Urban Forest Master Plan, it being a truly co-created document for the long-term protection and advancement of the urban forest”.

The plan will comprise an action-based strategy that sets out what the city wants for the long and establishes a vision, with input from businesses through to private householders.

It will include a 30-year-plus framework in which various action plans can be developed, while smaller goals will be identified for species diversity, environmental equity, tree protection and community engagement. Indicators will be used to monitor progress.


UKPN awards planning contract

UKPN has awarded property consultancy Fisher German a three-year contract to provide town planning services for its major projects.

The operator owns and maintains the electricity cables in south-east England, the East of England and London.

The contract will see Fisher German’s infrastructure planning team work with UKPN’s property and consent teams to support them in achieving planning permission for its major projects, including developments such as new substations. They will work together throughout the entire planning process.

The contract will be delivered by planning experts in Fisher German’s Bedford, Canterbury and Ashby offices. There is an option in the contract for it to be extended by two years.


Guidance set out for housing professionalism

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has introduced a set of professional standards that outlines the knowledge, skills and behaviour that underpin the work housing professionals do every day.

The standards were put together following work with members, tenants and residents, housing organisations and other professional bodies to ensure that they can be used by everyone working in housing, whatever their role or specialism.

The standards identify seven professional characteristics that encourage individuals to reflect on their professional development needs and recognise where they can make positive changes.


Modular housing developer secures South East site

Modular housing company ilke Homes has secured a 14.5-acre site in Southend-on-Sea, Essex.

Plans for the site feature up to 225 “affordable, environmentally friendly family homes” for the local community. They would be a mix of one and two-bedroom apartments, and two, three and four-bedroom homes.

Subject to planning consent, all of the houses being delivered will be manufactured off-site at the company‘s factory in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.

ilke Homes will manage the development process – from securing the land and gaining planning permission, to developing the site and delivering the homes.

The site is the second that ilke Homes has secured in Essex; in January, the company announced it had secured a 15-acre site in Stanford-le-Hope, Thurrock, to deliver 153 family homes.

ilke Homes said it is on target to submit a detailed planning application this month (March 2021).


Developer submits plans for factory homes in Kent

Modular housebuilder TopHat has submitted a planning application to deliver its first factory-built apartments at its flagship Kitchener Barracks site in Chatham, Kent.

Submitted to Medway Council, the application includes proposals for the construction of three four-storey factory-built blocks of apartments, which would deliver 96 one and two-bedroom homes – 32 of which have been designated as affordable.

The apartments, if approved, will be precision-engineered along production lines at TopHat’s factory in South Derbyshire.

In total, the developer is delivering 302 homes at the 4.8-acre Kitchener Barracks site. The new homes are being delivered across three phases.


Further investment for Camden Highline

Camden Council, LabTech, the King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership and Camden Town Unlimited have jointly invested £750,000 to support the design of the Camden Highline.

Camden Highline will be a new park on the disused railway viaduct running from Camden Town to King’s Cross.

The funding will support the Camden Highline as it progresses to the next phases of its design development and public engagement.

The project aims to reconnect local people to their town centres, as well as forming a visitor attraction in its own right. It will create a walking link between the commercial centres of Camden Town and King’s Cross.

23 March 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner