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Planning news - 8 April 2021

Published: Thursday, 8th April 2021

Chief planner outlines policy changes, London council consults on second licence for HMOs, Regeneration plans approved in Southend. 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 Joanna Averley has written to local authority planners about the changes to the planning system and temporary measures that will remain to ease the path out of lockdown and aid economic recovery.

Concerning the regulations laid on 31 March to create a new permitted development right (PDR) for the change of use from the new class E to residential use – which have been heavily criticised by built environment organisations including the RTPI – Averley says the right will take effect from 1 August 2021.

The right will be subject to a size limit of 1,500 square metres of floor space changing use and will apply to buildings that have been in a class E use for two years, including time in former uses now within that class. The buildings must have been vacant for at least three months and will be subject to prior approval on a range of planning matters.

The chief planner highlights that where there are article 4 directions in place for office-to-residential conversions, these will apply until 31 July 2022. The Planning for the Future consultation includes a new policy for article 4 directions; the government is considering the consultation response and will issue a response “as soon as possible”, which will set out any policy changes.

Averley notes that the PDR aims “to help support housing delivery and enable more homes to be created in town centres”.


Averley references housing secretary Robert Jenrick’s written ministerial statement issued on 25 March, in which he said that where there are planning restrictions on retail opening hours, local planning authorities should not undertake enforcement action that would result in unnecessary restriction of retail hours between 7am to 10pm, Monday to Saturday. This is relevant from step 2 of the government’s road map for leaving lockdown (no earlier than 12 April) until the introduction of step 4 of the roadmap (scheduled for no earlier than 21 June). It aims to support the safe reopening of non-essential retail shops.

Flexible construction working hours will also remain in place until 30 September 2021.

Averley adds that the government intends to create a temporary PDR so that pubs, restaurants and cafés can erect temporary moveable outdoor structures for the summer season. This will also apply to listed buildings – provided there is no harm to the heritage asset. The government hopes that this will support the hospitality sector as the economy reopens.

Legislation will be laid at the earliest opportunity.

What else did the chief planner write about?

The government has published its response to the First Homes consultation. In order to update policy, the government will issue a written ministerial statement “in due course”. This will include the policy framework for:

Policy detail on the process for setting developer contributions for First Homes.

The types of developments that will be exempt from the requirement to provide First Homes.

The transitional arrangements that will apply to local and neighbourhood plans depending on their level of advancement through the plan-making process, as well as for planning applications.

The policy framework for First Homes exception sites.

A technical consultation on changes to PDRs for electronic communications is to be published “shortly”.

The letter can be read on the UK Government website.

6 April 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council has published a consultation on draft plans that seek to improve housing standards and take action against landlords that don’t provide safe accommodation for tenants in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

Under existing mandatory licensing rules, the council can only licence about 185 properties.

The consultation seeks views on introducing an extra licence that would add another layer of protection for tenants, identifying licensed and responsible landlords.

There are 8,244 HMOs in Kensington and Chelsea, and 44 per cent of the borough’s housing stock is privately rented. According to the council’s research, there are about 2,400 privately rented properties that have the most serious hazards. Many are “poorly managed” and are associated with antisocial behaviour.

Director of streets and technical services Mahmood Siddiqi said: “Everyone deserves a safe place to live and most landlords in our borough are fair and responsible. This proposed licensing scheme would boost housing standards and give us more information so we can enforce against the few landlords who persistently provide poorly managed housing to their tenants.

“It could be good news for tenants and good news for compliant landlords, who would be able to operate in a fairer market.”

The council explained that the proposals have been designed as a “light touch” scheme for landlords to reduce paperwork such as the licence application and make compliance as simple as possible. 

The consultation can be found on the council website.

6 April 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Regeneration plans approved in Southend

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s development control committee has granted planning permissions for the Better Queensway regeneration project, which includes more than 1,700 new homes.

Porters Place Southend-on-Sea LLP is behind the development. At the meeting, the firm’s overall masterplan, designed by award-winning architects dRMM and LDA Design, was granted outline permission while detailed consent was approved for highway changes by Civic Engineers.

The masterplan comprises:

  • A phased demolition of the four existing tower blocks on the Queensway estate and their replacement with up to 1,760 modern new homes.
  • Up to 10,000 square metres of commercial space, including retail and cafés that will complement the existing high street retailers; employment space for start-up businesses and creative industries and a crèche or nursery.
  • A new central community concierge.
  • Attractive new public realm and improved links to the town centre for those travelling from Southend Victoria railway station or on foot or bicycle from surrounding streets.
  • A new urban park and public squares designed by LDA design, the same landscape architects who created the acclaimed Olympic Park in Stratford.
  • Additional residential car parking.

At least 512 of the homes have been designated as affordable. There will be a mix of 300 social rented homes and 212 intermediate homes (shared equity and shared ownership). The 300 social rented and 12 shared equity homes will be delivered through a section 106 agreement, and 200 shared ownership homes will be delivered through a contractual commitment in the approved business plan.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Swan also intend to deliver an additional 100 affordable homes through a separate contractual agreement.

The highway changes are phased engineering works to remove the roundabout and associated underpass at Queensway/Sutton Road/Southchurch Road and replace it with the “latest in sustainable” highways design to retain four lanes of traffic. It will be a tree-lined avenue with cycle lanes. An urban park, 190 new trees and electric car charging points also feature as part of the overall plans.

Geoff Pearce, chair of the Porters Place Southend-on-Sea LLP board and deputy chief executive of Swan Housing Association, said: “At a time when many towns are calling for investment to help improve the local area, we are confident that the £500 million-plus investment in the Better Queensway regeneration will help ensure that Southend-on-Sea doesn’t just recover from Covid-19 but thrives and becomes an exemplar scheme driving economic recovery, wellbeing and supporting the community.”

Alison Griffin, chief executive at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, added: “Key within the borough’s 2050 ambitions is providing additional housing to meet people’s needs, creating opportunity and prosperity through new jobs and attracting investment to Southend-on-Sea. The Better Queensway regeneration scheme goes a long way to delivering those ambitions and we are pleased to be able to progress the project.”

6 April 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

More brownfield land across Greater Manchester is set to be converted into sites for housing using funding from the government’s Brownfield Housing Fund.

Late last week, leaders of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) approved the allocation of £41 million to develop 21 more brownfield sites across the city-region.

The £41 million represents the second tranche of a total £96.8m allocation. A first tranche of £37.2 million was allocated to 24 schemes from which 4,318 homes across the Greater Manchester region are set to be built. The new £41 million tranche is focused on the delivery of a further 2,720 homes, of which around half would be affordable housing. (Schemes funded in the first tranche should result in 1,100 affordable housing units.)

Specific plans for the new schemes will now be developed ahead of further consultation.

Approval for allocation of the latest funding tranche was due to have been given at a meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) on Friday 26 March.

The new tranche will mean 8,363 homes on brownfield sites across the GMCA area being funded through the Brownfield Housing Fund.

Mayor Paul Dennett, City Mayor of Salford and the GMCA lead for housing, planning and homelessness, commented: “This funding will allow us to regenerate brownfield sites, support districts in working towards meeting national government targets, and deliver just shy of 2,500 good quality affordable homes.

“However, while we welcome this contribution, it remains the case that affordability as defined by the Government does not always translate into affordability for our residents, and further funding will be needed to deliver genuinely affordable homes across Greater Manchester to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis we face.”

1 April 2021
Martin Read, The Planner

Welsh minister for economy and transport Ken Skates has spelled out the importance of regional economic frameworks (REFs) as Wales moves towards its first regional planning regime. This clarification came in a written cabinet statement.

Skates stressed that: “Delivery will be focused around a single shared vision for each region and supported by a suite of shared regional priorities.

“Underpinning this will be the principle that regions are not subordinate to the national level in respect of their own priorities agreed under shared principles, and we must make paramount the importance to respect subsidiarity and democratic accountability at different national, regional and local levels.”

He said the frameworks would “enable greater alignment and integration across government, bringing benefits including joined up economic development and strategic planning on a range of issues from land use to skills as well as supporting cross border collaboration – working with the new and existing governance structures across local authority boundaries on issues such as regeneration, strategic transport and infrastructure, for example.”

REFs would be founded on the principle that “places matter and will seek to make real our ambition of delivering better jobs closer to home and raising prosperity for all” he explained.

“They will tackle our inherent structural challenges but be responsive by turning them into opportunities for dynamic and distinct regions which demonstrate inclusive, fair and sustainable economic growth.

“REFs will not duplicate the plethora of plans that already exist but draw together the key elements to address regional inequalities and will aim to directly influence how Welsh government delivers in regions and places”.

He added that work to develop the frameworks would continue through the spring and summer for consideration by the next devolved government, well ahead of the establishment between February and June next year of the corporate joint committees, which will oversee strategic planning in the four Welsh regions.

1 April 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner

Housebuilders join forces on Bridport development

Regeneration specialist Vistry Partnerships, part of the Vistry Group, and housebuilder Barratt Developments Plc have teamed up to deliver 760 much-needed homes in Bridport, Dorset.

The development, at Vearse Farm, is expected to deliver more than 120 affordable homes, public open space and wildlife and ecological enhancements. Homes will have two, three, four or five bedrooms.

New homes will unlock the delivery of a new primary school, local retail centre, employment land and a care home. The development will also have allotments, cycle routes and footpaths.

Vistry Partnerships and Barratt Developments will be responsible for the delivery of the homes, 245 and 515 homes respectively, plus associated infrastructure.

The partnership has exchanged contracts to acquire and develop the site, and will provide and bring all section 106 obligations as part of the outline planning consent for the land at Vearse Farm.


Derelict site to be transformed with factory homes

Herefordshire County Council has granted planning permission for 120 factory-built affordable homes on College Road. The brownfield site on the Holmer Trading Estate in Hereford has been derelict for six years.

Supported by Homes England, the scheme is being delivered through a £23 million partnership between modular housing company ilke Homes and housing provider Stonewater.

The site was secured by ilke Homes from the land owners and subsequently bought by Stonewater last year.

The development is set to deliver 74 affordable rent and 46 shared ownership homes, comprising one, two, three and four bedrooms. All the homes will be manufactured at ilke Homes’ factory in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.


Unilever’s HQ approved

Kingston Council has approved plans for Unilever’s global headquarters in the town centre.

Submitted by developer Cube Real Estate, the development will comprise two interlinked office buildings and residential dwellings. Car parking designed for electric vehicles and 450 cycle parking spaces will also feature.

Unilever intends to consolidate its workforce from five existing sites in London and Surrey in the new Kingston upon Thames site by winter 2023/24 – bringing 2,000 jobs to the town.

Phase one of the development will see the demolition of Surrey House, Bo Concept retail store and the Hippodrome, to be replaced by the two interlinked office buildings, one of nine storeys and one 12 storeys high.

Phase two can only begin once the first phase of development is substantially complete. Lever House will be demolished and replaced by 115 one, two and three-bedroom homes, 35 per cent of which will be affordable, in a building of no more than 16 storeys. The site will also include a ground floor café and retail pod.


Application for Ely submitted

Property developer Godwin Developments has submitted proposals for 116 build-to-rent homes and flexible commercial space in Ely, Cambridgeshire. Named Cathedral Green, the scheme will be located on Angel Drove.

Plans include 57 two and three-bedroom houses with private gardens, and 59 one and two-bedroom low-rise apartments including balconies. There will also be 122 resident and guest parking spaces, and landscaped open spaces.

The scheme incorporates a 1,457-square-metre, three-storey commercial building providing flexible working space in the area.


Affordable housing approved in Plaistow

Newham Council has approved seven affordable homes in Plaistow, which will be available through Notting Hill Genesis' shared ownership program. The homes were designed by Jan Kattein Architects.

The scheme will complete the plot around an existing residential building by redeveloping a garage site and improving the street frontage around the buildings.

It features improvements for existing residents, including new refuse storage, cycle parking, landscaping improvements, new seating and incidental play.

The project has advanced to detailed design with tender programmed for later this year.


Apartments approved for Wolverhampton

Wolverhampton City Council has granted planning permission for 100 new apartments to be built in the city. The application was submitted by urban planning consultant Hybrid Planning & Development.

The homes will be built on a brownfield site on the corner of Dudley Road and Bell Place.

The scheme, to be developed by M&E Group, comprises 100 one and two-bedroom apartments, 230 square metres of office space, basement car parking for every apartment, cycle parking, communal rooftop gardens and associated landscaping.


London skyscraper on sale for £1.8bn

A London skyscraper has been listed for sale at £1.8 billion, which would make it the UK’s most expensive office block. The price tag is more than the £1.3 billion paid for the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building in 2017.

The 37-storey 100 Bishopsgate building, which is in the heart of the financial district, was completed in 2019 and is home to the law firm Freshfields, the Royal Bank of Canada and the investment bank Jefferies.

The Canadian asset management firm Brookfield is planning to sell the entire building, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

Putting the building up for sale comes despite a shift towards working from home during the pandemic.


Councils join forces on regeneration corridor in Birmingham

Birmingham City Council and Sandwell Council will work together to develop a long-term strategy to shape the regeneration of the Smethwick-to-Birmingham corridor.

The regeneration area covers the edge of Birmingham’s city centre at Icknield Port Loop to the Galton Bridge in Smethwick. 

The project will be led by the two councils, which will work with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), Homes England, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust and the Canal and River Trust.

The councils have appointed Tibbalds Campbell Reith JV to assist on the project. Tibbalds will provide support on the development of the masterplan for the corridor’s Grove Lane area in Sandwell, which could include more than 800 new homes and a new primary school on land near the Midland Metropolitan University Hospital.

The masterplan will adopt Black Country Garden City principles and aim to address the guidance and principles set out within Sandwell Council’s Residential Design Guidance SPD and the West Midlands Design Charter.

Tibbalds was appointed under the Homes England Multidisciplinary Framework.

7 April 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner