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Planning news - 29 April 2021

Published: Thursday, 29th April 2021

Task force launched for digital planning, Government funding to help people build their own homes, Peatlands and native woodlands are best for carbon storage. 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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An independent panel has been launched with the intention to promote an integrated digitally informed approach of town and country planning.

The Digital Task Force for Planning is made up of ‘thought leaders’ relating to planning and digital technology. It will be chaired by professor Michael Batty FRTPI, chairman of the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at the Bartlett School, University College London (UCL). Dr Wei Yang FRTPI, president of the RTPI, is the co-chair.

The task force intends to examine how the planning profession and its education can embrace the digital revolution in a “more thorough and proactive way to empower planners with new skills to tackle the grand challenges of our times for public interest”. It plans to deliver a roadmap for the future of planning in the digital domain within an initial one-year timescale.

Batty, the 2016 RTPI gold medallist, said: “Computers are universal machines and can be used in all areas of social and scientific decision-making. The planning profession needs to engage deeply with new digital technologies that are changing not only how we think about our cities and regions and their futures but also how computers themselves are changing the very cities that we wish to plan for through automation.

“The mission of the digital task force is to raise awareness, promote new skills, and ensure greater urban sustainability in the digital age.”

Yang added: "The world needs a modernised, strengthened planning profession able to proactively address the challenges of the 21st century. 

“Clearly the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of the profession. At this crucial turning point, we need to examine some fundamental questions – how can digital technology and the use of data empower a better evidence-based plan-making and placemaking process? What are the skills we need and how do we unlock the full potential of the planning profession in the digital era?

“We look forward to speaking with a broad range of stakeholders to draw up a roadmap for the future of the planning profession.”

The members of the Task Force are:

  • Chair: Michael Batty CBE FRS FBA FAcSS FRTPI, Bartlett professor of Planning, University College London, and chair, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis.
  • Co-chair: Wei Yang FAcSS FRTPI, 2021 RTPi president and chair, Wei Yang & Partners.
  • Sir Alan Wilson FRS FBA FAcSS, director of special projects, The Alan Turing Institute, and honorary professor, University College London.
  • Janice Morphet FAcSS FRTPI, visiting professor in the Bartlett School of Planning at University College London.
  • Bridget Rosewell CBE FAcSS FICE, commissioner for the National Infrastructure Commission, and chair of the Independent Review into Planning Appeal Inquiries.
  • Cecilia Wong FAcSS FRTPI, professor of spatial planning and director of the Spatial Policy & Analysis Lab at the University of Manchester, chair of the UK 2021 Research Excellence Framework’s ‘Architecture, Built Environment and Planning’ sub-panel.
  • Kirsty Macari MRTPI AoU, lecturer in Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Dundee, member of the RTPI General Assembly, Scottish Executive Committee.
  • Mark Tewdwr-Jones FAcSS FRTPI, Bartlett professor of Cities and Regions, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London.
  • Volker Buscher, director, chief data officer at ARUP. Member of the Smart London Board and the Smart Cities Forum.
  • Jeremy Morley, chief geospatial scientist, Ordnance Survey.

22 April 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced £150 million in government funding to make it easier and more affordable for people to build their own homes.

The help-to-build scheme is intended to ensure that self and custom-building is a more realistic option to get on the housing ladder through lower deposit mortgages.

Lowering the required deposit, according to the government, will free up capital for people to embark on building their home. It could be commissioned, made to order or a design from scratch.

Help to Build will provide an equity loan on the completed home, similar to the help-to-buy scheme.

The government believes self and custom-build homes could deliver 30,000 to 40,000 homes a year – helping it to achieve its target of delivering 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

The new scheme is part of its wider plan for jobs because they will benefit small building firms.

Jenrick commented: “Building your own home shouldn’t be the preserve of a small number of people, but a mainstream, realistic and affordable option for people across the country. That’s why we are making it easier and more affordable – backed by over £150 million new funding from the government.

“Our plans will help get more people on to the housing ladder, ensure homes suit people’s needs like home working or caring for relatives, whilst providing an important boost to small builders and businesses too."

To increase the delivery of self and custom-build homes, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has commissioned Conservative MP Richard Bacon to lead a review on how it can be achieved. It is expected that the findings and recommendations will be published in the summer.

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, CEO of the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA), said the government’s announcements represent “the single most important announcement for the custom and self-build sector since the establishment of NaCSBA over 10 years ago”.

"For too long, England has been out of line with the rest of the world with regards to the lack of consumer choice in our new homes market. The consequences of this have become all too clear, as has the need for change.”

He said these plans “will ensure an environment exists in England that delivers more and better homes”.

“Our focus now is ensuring that the public sees this as a natural approach to getting a new home that meets their aspirations and needs. As a sector, we need to do more to build the business capacity and structures that underpin the choice that exists elsewhere. Finally, we need councils to do their bit to ensure the plots that are needed are permissioned, so that these homes can be built.”

Cash boost for neighbourhood planning

The government has announced £2.1 million in funding to guarantee that communities can have a greater say in how their area is developed. Local authorities in under-represented areas will receive additional support. The government is looking for 40 to 50 local authorities that are interested in increasing the uptake in the neighbourhood planning.

A second fund will see a £330,000 available to councils that want to pilot a simpler approach to neighbourhood planning. Ten local authorities will work in partnership with their communities to establish and explore this as a precursor or alongside a full neighbourhood plan. They will receive up to £30,000 each in grant funding.

RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills welcomed the neighbourhood planning funding, and it is "particularly encouraging to see that the government is focusing its attention in this announcement on under-represented areas – it is a startling fact that only 5 per cent of completed neighbourhood plans are in urban areas and only 6.7 per cent of neighbourhood planning areas are in the most deprived parts of the country.

“In our response to the planning white paper, we stressed the importance of neighbourhood planning in a reformed planning system, pointing out that it can help tailor development to local needs, increase communities’ knowledge of the planning system and, in some cases, improve attitudes towards development.

“There is also considerable, largely untapped, potential for neighbourhood plans to deliver innovative, local-level solutions to complex challenges, including climate change.

“We hope that the launch of these funds is evidence that the government understands the positive contribution that neighbourhood planning can make in all areas of the country and look forward to further funding becoming available in the future to build on this first step.”

26 April 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Peatlands and native UK woodlands have the greatest capacity to store carbon, according to research by Natural England.

Carbon Storage and Sequestration by Habitat 2021 considers the impact that different UK habitats have on taking carbon out of the atmosphere.

It suggests that peatlands and native woodlands have the greatest capacity in the UK, but others – such as coastal and marine habitats (salt marsh and seagrass meadows) – have a “significant” role to play in helping the UK to attain net-zero by 2050.

Additionally, the report maintains how important it is to protect traditionally managed habitats such as hedgerows, hay meadows, heathlands and old orchards as a way of preserving carbon stocks, all of which may have taken centuries to develop.

Opportunities will be forthcoming, according to Natural England, offering farmers and land managers a reward for creating and maintained habitats, such as native woodlands and peatlands, or hedgerows within farmed landscapes. The Landscape Recovery scheme, for example, is being designed to incentivise major land management changes and habitat restoration within wooded and peatland areas across England.

Dr Ruth Gregg, senior specialist for climate change at Natural England and lead author of the report, said: “Our natural and wild places will play a crucial role in tackling the climate crisis. This study gives the most complete picture of the impact of habitats around us in delivering carbon storage and sequestration. As well as highlighting the well-known importance of carbon stores such as peatland and woodland, we now have a much better understanding of the full impact of other habitats such as hedgerows and salt marshes, and how we should manage these going forward.

“Not only do our habitats capture carbon, but they provide many other benefits for biodiversity and the wellbeing of society. For habitat creation and restoration to achieve its full potential in helping the UK achieve net-zero by 2050 we need to act now, basing decisions on robust science and taking a strategic approach. This report will support Natural England, the government, and environmental organisations across the country to do just that.”

The study found:

  • Woodlands have high rates of carbon sequestration – depending on the species, age and location. New native woodlands can support biodiversity at the same time as taking up carbon. Old woodlands can become substantial carbon stores, with a hectare of native woodland sequestering the equivalent CO2 each year as flying London to Rome 13 times.
  • Salt marshes can be highly effective carbon stores, as well as helping coasts adapt to future climate change. Restoration of seagrass meadows also has potential to capture carbon from the atmosphere in its vegetation, and also trap carbon from elsewhere in sediments. One hectare of salt marsh each year buries the carbon equivalent of an average car’s annual carbon emissions.
  • Orchards and hedgerows are effective at storing significant amounts of carbon but generally cover a smaller area than other habitats and are cut regularly, limiting the amount of carbon gain. Their sensitive management, however, can increase carbon storage while providing benefits for wildlife and the cultural heritage in farmed landscapes.
  • Peatlands are the largest carbon stores. When in a healthy condition they soak up carbon slowly but can go on doing so indefinitely. Peatland soils can be over 10 metres deep, holding huge carbon stocks that have developed over many millennia. Carbon is held in the deep peat soils of fens and raised bogs hold eight times as much carbon as the equivalent area of tropical rainforest.
  • Heathlands and grasslands store more carbon than modern agricultural landscapes but less than peatlands, salt marsh and old woodlands. Protecting these old, established habitats is important for biodiversity, as well the carbon stocks they hold, as both may have taken centuries to accumulate.

Tony Juniper, chair of Natural England, added: “By combining different policies and strategies on land and at sea, then major climate related benefits can be achieved. Woodland creation incentives, peatland recovery, action on farms, renaturalisation of the coast and landscape-scale nature recovery projects can all contribute. The climate change and nature emergencies are two sides of the same coin and with this kind of information the UK can lead in showing how we can go low carbon and high nature at the same time.”

Earlier this month, the Woodland Trust's The State of the UK’s Woods and Trees 2021 found that native woodlands in the UK are “‘isolated and in poor ecological condition”, with just 7 per cent in good ecological condition.

Darren Moorcroft, CEO at the Woodland Trust said: “The Woodland Trust’s State of Woods and Trees 2021 report provided new evidence for the substantial levels of carbon held in ancient woods, storing 36 per cent of total UK woodland carbon, despite comprising only 25 per cent of all woodland.

“These carbon stores are expected to double over the next 100 years, demonstrating the importance of protecting and restoring these irreplaceable habitats. Acknowledging the significance of native woodlands and other valuable habitats as natural solutions to climate change and nature recovery is vital for tackling the climate crisis and we welcome this contribution from Natural England to the growing evidence base."

Carbon Storage and Sequestration by Habitat 2021 can be found here.

26 April 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Sevenoaks District Council has issued an article 4 direction to ensure that a green belt site in Shoreham being sold for development is protected.

The council said it has discovered that land is being sold as individual plots and that marketing information suggests that the site has the potential for development.

As it is a green belt site and in an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), it says planning permission for new residential development is unlikely to be granted.

To guarantee that it continues to enjoy protection, though, the council served article 4 directions last week (22 April), which restricts the activities that can be carried out without planning permission. Such activities include putting up fences, gates or walls, stationing caravans and other temporary uses.

Julia Thornton, the cabinet member for planning at Sevenoaks District Council, said: “We have committed to our residents that we will do everything possible to protect our much-cherished environment. Serving these latest article 4 directions clearly demonstrates that we are delivering on this promise.

“Green belt sites are protected and any proposal to build on them is extremely unlikely to be granted planning permission. People considering these sites should be warned – they are effectively being offered agricultural land.”

The council, which has issued article 4 directions on sites in Cowden, Edenbridge (Hever Road), Penshurst and West Kingsdown (St Clere Hill Road) because they were being sold as individual plots for development, has also reported the sales to KCC Trading Standards for investigation.

The issuing of article 4 directions come after the council was refused permission to appeal against a judicial review decision that overturned a planning inspector's reasons for refusing its local plan. In October 2019, inspector Karen L Baker expressed “significant” concerns about several aspects of the plan. In April 2020, the council launched a judicial review against Barker’s recommendation to withdraw its local plan but failed in the Planning Court to overturn her recommendation.

26 April 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Proposals for a major residential-led mixed-use scheme at a key site in Cardiff, which is set to provide more than 430 homes, gained the go-ahead this week.

Cardiff City Council’s planning committee approved a joint venture between Angelo Gordon and Ridgeback Group for a one-hectare site at the Anchor Industrial Estate on Dumballs Road in Butetown.

The development is designed to deliver 432 flats arranged in two buildings, set around a central garden and plaza.

The two blocks would consist of 252 one-bed and 180 two-bed apartments, with balconies, a gym and homeworking space. One block would be 16 storeys high and the other nine storeys.

The officer’s report considered by the planning committee recommended approval. It said: “The scheme would bring a vacant/underused site into beneficial use with associated regeneration benefits, would promote the efficient use of land, make a positive contribution to housing supply, and deliver a resource efficient and climate responsive design.”

23 April 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner

Homes England buys first phase of community development

Ptarmigan Land has announced that Homes England has purchased the first phase of a new residential development in Attleborough, Norfolk.

To be located between London Road and Buckenham Road, the “landscape-led community” is set to feature 4,000 homes, including hundreds of affordable homes for local people.

Overall, the development will comprise three new neighbourhoods, with parks, wetland and woodland habitats, natural play areas, allotments, and sports pitches.

There are also plans to establish new bus, pedestrian, and cycling routes into the town centre.

Breckland Council’s local plan identifies Attleborough as being a suitable location for substantial housing and employment growth. Ptarmigan Land’s plans were approved after a programme of consultation.


Fylde development rescued

Elan Homes has acquired a stalled housing development in the Fylde coast village of Wrea Green. The part-built site lies to the west of Bryning Lane.

Work on the scheme ceased when the previous developers, Hollinwood Homes, went into administration in October 2019.

Elan expects to restart construction imminently, and the homes are due to be released for sale in the summer.


Council homes approved

Dacorum Borough Council has received full planning approval to build new homes in Paradise Fields, Hemel Hempstead.

Mountbatten View will include 58 new apartments (25 one-bedroom and 33 two-bedroom apartments) across three buildings overlooking Paradise Fields, just off St Albans Road near the town centre.

All apartments will have private balconies, underfloor heating, “high levels” of thermal insulation and heating is provided by way of communal air source heat pumps. Wheelchair-accessible homes will be provided.

The development includes a formal central garden, play area for families, secure cycle stores and parking courtyards planted with trees. There will also be electric vehicle-charging capacity.

All the homes will be available for social rent to those on the council’s housing register.

The council is seeking tenders from contractors and plans to be starting work on site in early 2022. More information can be found on the council website.


Plans on show for Nottingham city centre site

Images of a development near to the former Broadmarsh shopping centre in Nottingham have gone on show.

Called New Albion Place, the development comprises 37,167m square metres of grade A office space. It is a joint venture between Peveril Securities and Sladen Estates – the team that delivered the new HMRC headquarters in Nottingham.

This new scheme would be built by Derbyshire-based Bowmer + Kirkland and delivered on two acres of land flanked by Canal Street, Collin Street and Greyfriar Gate. It is anticipated that the office space will create up to 5,000 new jobs.

The developers are aiming to submit a detailed planning application in the autumn.


Norwich site with planning permission sold

Cambridge-based property group Endurance Estates has sold the remaining phase of 75 acres of land at Birch Gate, South Wymondham, to Taylor Wimpey and Vistry.

The site has planning permission for 505 new homes and other amenities.

Endurance Estates Endurance Estates acted as promoter on behalf of a consortium of landowners.

For this last phase of the urban extension to Wymondham, Taylor Wimpey will deliver 253 homes and Vistry 252. Of the homes, 15 per cent have been designated as affordable. A primary school features in the plans, as does a woodland area.

The developers’ reserved matters application has been submitted to South Norfolk District Council.


Applications open for Public Practice autumn cohort

Recruitment for Public Practice’s autumn 2021 cohort has begun.

For the first time, local authorities within London and subregional partnerships will be able to secure match funding through Public Practice for placements that help deliver the London Recovery Board’s economic recovery missions.

These are high streets for all, a green new deal, digital access for all, and good work for Londoners.

More information can be found on the Public Practice website.


Land sold to Lidl

A 2.11-acre site in South Bedfordshire has been sold to Lidl for the development of a 24,500-square-foot store.

The Houghton Regis Management Company, the consortium bringing forward the 650-acre Linmere urban extension, completed the sale of the site for £3.345 million.

The Lidl store will be built over the next six months within the second phase of the Linmere development. It will be located close to ‘The Farmstead’, a visitor centre and café scheduled to be opened at the end of 2021 that will serve as a community hub.


Network Rail seeks private investment for telecoms infrastructure

Network Rail has announced that it is seeking private sector investment in its trackside fibre optic cable network to enable performance, safety and connectivity benefits for passengers.

It is thought that the deal would save the taxpayer up to £1 billion in costs. The deal also aims to support the government’s objectives to improve connectivity across Britain, including in rural areas

Over 16,000km of data cables next to the railway – which would carry information essential to running the railway such as signalling for trains, trackside sensors, CCTV, and internet for trains, railway depots and offices – are due to be upgraded.

Network Rail will not require the full capacity of new cutting-edge fibre optics, therefore there will be "sufficient capacity" for a third party to run its own telecoms services.

Interested parties are asked to contact Lazard – Network Rail’s adviser on the deal – at


116 residential homes at Rivington Chase

Bolton Council has granted planning permission for an affordable housing development at Rivington Chase.

The development of 116 affordable homes will be built on a 187-acre brownfield site on the former Horwich Loco Works and will consist of a combination of family houses and apartments. It will also feature open space and two pocket parks.

The site will be developed by Lane End Group for two social housing providers. 

It forms a part of the £262 million Rivington Chase regeneration scheme, which was granted outline permission in 2015 for 1,700 homes and associated retail and leisure space on the former industrial site.

The wider Loco Works development is being developed by Bluemantle alongside Bolton Council, Homes England, HKR, and Network Rail.


'Smart homes' approved in Sunderland

Sunderland City Council has granted planning permission for a development comprising "sustainable smart homes".

The homes will be built at the Vaux site, which is part of the Riverside Sunderland masterplan. Overall, four neighbourhoods will be delivered.

The Vaux neighbourhood comprises The Beam, City Hall, an eye hospital and housing phases one and two, which includes site for Sunderland’s Future Living Expo – an event that will showcase this new carbon neutral neighbourhood in 2023. An office space being developed by Landid and Legal & General, is also part of the development.

igloo Regeneration is managing the development of behalf of the city council.


Research shows planning appeal dismissals at five-year high

Almost 72 per cent of appeals determined during 2020 were dismissed, compared with just over 66 per cent in 2015, according to research by planning analytics platform Appeal Insight.

It finds that in the past five years the overall dismissal rate has risen by 1.7 per cent on average each year.

Appeals involving minor dwellings saw the highest dismissal rate in 2020, with 80.5 per cent dismissed. The biggest change in dismissal rate since 2015 was for large dwellings, increasing from 53.7 per cent to 64.4 per cent.

Appeals involving large retail and services and general industry, storage and warehousing were the only development types to see a reduction in dismissal rates over the five-year period, down from 68.3 per cent to 57.1 per cent and down from 73.7 per cent to 51.0 per cent respectively.

According to the research, of those local planning authorities with 50 or more appeals determined in 2020, the London Borough of Newham saw the highest dismissal rate – at 87.4 per cent.

The research was conducted using Appeal Insight’s Know Your Inspector platform.

27 April 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner