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Planning news - 13 May 2021

Published: Thursday, 13th May 2021

More than a million homes waiting to be built, suggests analysis, Welsh Labour ends one short of Senedd majority, Office space in Wandsworth approved. 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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Analysis suggests that there are at least 1.1 million homes in England with planning permission that have yet to be built.

In response to its research findings, the Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the government to legislate in the forthcoming planning bill for councils to be given powers to incentivise developers to build housing more quickly.

The planning bill is expected to be announced in the Queen’s Speech (11 May).

Using Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) data, the LGA says 2,782,300 homes have been granted planning permission by councils since 2010/11. However, over that period, only 1,627,730 have been built.

Also, since 2010, the number of homes approved has “more than doubled”. Councils are approving nine in 10 planning applications.

The LGA acknowledges that there are legitimate reasons why some development stalls and that there is a time lag between approval and homes being built. But, new-build completions have increased by just over half as much in that time.

This shows, says the LGA, that planning is not the barrier to housebuilding. Rather, it is the housing delivery system that needs to be reformed.

Although developers are completing homes at the highest level in the past 10 years, with 220,600 built in 2019/20, the LGA points out that this is short of the government’s target of building 300,000 homes a year.

To address this and to help councils to get developers to build out their permissions quicker, the LGA says the Queen’s Speech should include legislation that enables councils to charge developers full council tax for every unbuilt development from the point the original planning permission expires.

The planning bill should also make it easier for councils to use compulsory purchase powers to acquire stalled housing sites or sites where developers do not build out to timescales contractually agreed with a local planning authority.

Building more council homes would help to tackle the housing crisis and meeting the government’s housing target, insists the LGA. Councils should be given powers to start a social housebuilding programme of 100,000 homes a year.

David Renard, housing spokesperson for LGA, said: “Councils are committed to working with government and developers to build the housing the country needs.

“It is good the number of homes built each year is increasing. But by giving councils the right powers to incentivise developers to get building once planning permission has been granted, we can go further and faster.

“Councils are granting permission for hundreds of thousands of homes but families who desperately need housing cannot live in a planning permission.

“This is why we need the Queen’s Speech to deliver the reform needed to enable councils to tackle the housing crisis.”

Poll:

Savanta ComRes – on behalf of the LGA – polled MPs between 9 November 2020 and 13 January 2021, and  peers between 2 November 2020 and 4 February 2021. The poll found that 80 per cent of MPs and 88 per cent of peers think councils should have more financial freedoms and powers to build new homes.

10 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Welsh Labour won 30 seats in the Senedd election – one short of an outright majority.

The party will remain in power after winning 30 seats, which is enough to form a minority government if it chooses not to invite members of other parties into a Labour-led administration.

The Conservatives won 16 seats, while Plaid Cymru won 13.

As there hasn’t been a significant challenge from the opposition, Drakeford is expected to be reappointed as first minister.

However, as the party is one short of a majority, he may in future need help from the opposition to pass laws and get spending plans through the Welsh Parliament.

Drakeford told BBC Wales: “We have demonstrated over a number of governments that you can govern successfully on 30 seats, but I'm open to working with any party where there is common ground between us.

“I'm always much more interested in policy agreements that I am in a sort of political fixing.”

He added: “No party has a monopoly of good ideas, and where there are things that we can work on together, then my administration will certainly look to do that with anybody who thinks that we can work to the advantage of Wales.”

RTPI Cymru said: "The Welsh Labour manifesto meets many of the issues raised by the RTPI, including tackling climate action, investing in public transport and active travel, and the delivery of quality affordable homes, including a focus on strengthening Welsh language communities.

"The manifesto commits to strengthening the autonomy and effectiveness of local government to make them more successful in delivering services. We have highlighted the need to invest in planning services to enable the delivery of Welsh Labour’s priorities."

Policies in Welsh Labour’s manifesto include:

  • Keep the 1 per cent increase in land transaction tax charged on second-home purchases. Work with communities to consider new tax, planning and housing measures, including local rates of land transaction tax.
  • Ensure that each region in Wales has democratically accountable means of developing their future economies with coordinated regional transport and land use planning.
  • Build 20,000 low-carbon social homes for rent; support cooperative housing, community-led initiatives and community land trusts.
  • Launch a 10-year Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan for a zero-carbon economy; and complete major projects including the £1 billion dualling of the Heads of the Valleys road.
  • Designate a new national park to cover the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley.
  • Expand renewable energy generation by public bodies and community groups in Wales by over 100MW by 2026, working towards a target of 1GW in the public sector and community renewable energy capacity by 2030.

10 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Wandsworth Borough Council has granted planning permission for a 12-storey, 240,000-square-foot office building on the site of Royal Mail’s former South London depot in Nine Elms.

Quadrant, a UK real estate asset management and development company, completed the purchase of the site in partnership with AIMco on behalf of its client in December 2020.

The firm’s plan has a focus on nature. The office will have ‘extensive” internal planting, and on-floor terraces and a roof terrace will “work to bring the outside in”. Quadrant is targeting BREEAM Outstanding, Wired Platinum and Well Platinum-enabled.

Tristram Gethin, founding partner at Quadrant, said: “Receiving consent for plot A is a huge step forward for this site and is exciting for us and the Nine Elms community. The space we’ll create here will be well suited to post-pandemic occupiers, with a focus on collaboration, wellness, sustainability and quality.

“With the US Embassy and Apple creating a new campus close by, we expect strong demand for office space in Nine Elms. The considered design we have developed is aimed at accommodating the wide variety of occupiers seeking out offices that nurture innovation and creativity.”

Construction is due to start this summer.

7 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


A toolkit that seeks to promote best practice when consulting with neurodivergent people about the built environment has been launched.

Neurodiversity in Planning, commutations consultancy BECG and a working group of industry professionals are behind the toolkit.

Neurodiversity is the diversity of all human brains; it includes people with dyslexia, autism, ADHD and dyspraxia, amongst other neurological conditions.

Referred to as ‘neurodivergent’, these individuals account for more than 15 per cent of the UK population.  

These conditions can leave people excluding from the planning process due to the challenges they create when undertaking engagement activity.

The toolkit features seven principles that aim to guide those engaging with the public and stakeholders as part planning and infrastructure development to ensure consultations are accessible to a neurodiverse audience.

It intends to support people to contribute to the planning system in a way that suits them best rather than what is easiest for industry professionals.

BECG chief executive Stephen Pomeroy said: "More than one in seven people in the UK are neurodivergent, but often little thought is given to ensuring that engagement and consultation activity is accessible to this significant portion of the population. Accessibility measures can often have a narrow focus and be grounded in personal preference, rather than what would work best for large numbers of people.

"Our toolkit seeks to change this by providing practical advice on how to ensure that engagement is genuinely open to everyone. These tips range from small changes which can have a huge impact on the ability for neurodivergent and neurotypical people alike to participate in the planning process, to ideas targeted specifically at broadening access for the neurodivergent."

On behalf of Neurodiversity in Planning, Jenny Offord added: "We could all be better at communicating more concisely, clearly and impactfully. We hope that the toolkit will help to start a conversation and help to inform changes in planning and the ways in which we engage with each other."

The toolkit can be found on the BECG website.

6 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Lichfield District Council has said it is looking at ways to continue broadcasting its meetings to the public following the failure of a legal challenge for virtual meetings to be allowed to continue beyond 6 May.

Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, planning committee meetings have been allowed to be held virtually during restrictions implemented to stem the spread of Covid-19 – as have other local authority meetings. Members of the public are able to watch and participate in virtual meetings live, or view them later.

The 1972 Local Government Act requires councillors to be present to decide applications. However, the Coronavirus Act 2020 made 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 deadline for which meetings can be held this way is today. From tomorrow, meetings must return to being held in person.

The Association of Democratic Services Officers (ADSO), Lawyers in Local Government (LLG) and Hertfordshire County Council had sought to extend the period in which virtual meetings can be held. On 28 April, the president of the Queen's Bench Division, Dame Victoria Sharp, and Mr Justice Chamberlain dismissed the challenge.

Though "reluctant" to hold them, Lichfield District Council has said two meetings next week – a planning committee meeting on Monday 10 May and a cabinet meeting on Tuesday 11 May – will be held in person but simultaneously broadcast to the public via YouTube. According to the agenda, only pre-agreed participants will be able to attend the meeting, in addition to all the members of the committee and relevant officers.

Diane Tilley, chief executive at Lichfield District Council, said that online meetings had increased public engagement with council processes: “We’ve really seen the value of online meetings over the past year and had excellent engagement from our local community. It’s a shame to see this opportunity removed following the failure of a legal challenge last week and the legislation which gave us the ability to hold virtual meetings falling away on 7 May. 

“We will continue to look at the different options available that will enable us to broadcast our meetings online. Our initial challenge is arranging meetings that comply with Covid safety guidelines and maintain social distancing. This means we can’t yet hold full council meetings in our council chamber. An alternative location for our scheduled annual general meeting on 18 May is being sourced that will allow members of the public to attend, though this capacity will be very limited until restrictions ease.”

The RTPI believes that a change in the law is needed to guarantee that virtual planning meetings in England can continue. Chief executive Victoria Hills has called on the government to introduce primary legislation as “a matter of urgency” to allow virtual meetings to continue while also exploring how a hybrid model could operate.

6 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


PINS updates guidance

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has updated its Covid-19 guidance as England prepares for step three of the route out of lockdown roadmap.

Currently the guidance remains unchanged.

As part of step 3, some restrictions will be eased for both social contact, businesses and events. PINS said this might allow it to commence some accompanied site visits but not immediately after 17 May.

“We will ensure that any changes will be communicated to affected customers, and we will update our guidance accordingly on this page when things change,” PINS stated.

If step 4 goes ahead as planned from 21 June, PINS explained that owing to the planning involved in its work, it expects that most cases will be heard through virtual events for the remainder of the year, with some blended or in-person events being arranged.

More information can be found on the UK Government website.

 

166 homes approved near Gloucester

Tewkesbury Borough Council has granted planning permission for 166 homes off Whittle Square, Brockworth, on the edge of Gloucester.

The scheme, to be built on a vacant site once home to the Brockworth Aerodrome and Gloucestershire Aircraft Company, will see around £2 million invested in the local area, as well as the creation of green open spaces and community facilities.

It will be delivered by Bluebell Homes, part of the Edenstone Group.

Planning permission comes 30 years after outline permission to redevelop the site was first granted to another developer.

The first properties to be delivered will be affordable housing, which will be available from Gloucester City Homes. Bluebell Homes plans to release private sale homes in the autumn.

The 3.44-hectare site forms part of an allocation in the Tewkesbury Borough Local Plan to 2011.

 

Couple move into Europe’s first 3D-printed house

A Dutch couple has moved into Europe’s first 3D-printed house in Eindhoven, which is first of five within ‘Project Milestone’.

The house complies with the Netherlands' building requirements. It is a detached single-storey home with 94 square metres net floor area, a living room and two bedrooms in the Eindhoven neighbourhood of Bosrijk.

Shaped like a boulder, the home demonstrates the freedom of form that is offered by 3D concrete printing. It has extra thick insulation and a connection to the heat grid so it has an energy performance coefficient of 0.25.

Project Milestone is a joint construction and innovation project by Eindhoven University of Technology, Van Wijnen, Saint-Gobain Weber Beamix, Vesteda, the Municipality of Eindhoven and Witteveen+Bos.

 

350 Stafford homes approved

Housebuilder Vistry Group has received planning permission from Stafford Borough Council for a £78 million development of 350 homes in Beaconside, Stafford.

The 95-acre site was acquired in partnership with Barratt Homes on a 50:50 basis.

Vistry’s share will include 350 homes, comprising one-bed flats and bungalows, two-bed bungalows and houses, and three, four and five-bed homes. Of these, 30 per cent of the homes built will be affordable housing and the remainder for private sale.

The scheme will see the housebuilders provide upgraded highways infrastructure to support the delivery of a local centre and care home, while 1.05 hectares of serviced land will be made available for a primary school and allotments.

The builders will make a combined £10 million contribution to the community, which will go towards local primary and secondary schools, a Special Area of Conservation, and sports and leisure facilities.

 

Partnership to deliver custom-build project

Custom Build Homes (CBH) has joined forces with land promoter and development company Landström Group Ltd to deliver a custom-build project near Hailsham, East Sussex.

Landström's PropTech solution for identifying suitable land for development is bringing forward land appropriate for custom housebuilding.

The custom-build community has outline planning permission for five large detached homes. New homeowners will work with CBH to design and create their homes to meet their lifestyle needs now and in the future.

CBH said it is currently preparing a design code as part of its work to secure reserved matters approval from Maidstone Borough Council. It will set the parameters for individual house design, size, and specification.

 

Lichfield launches pedestrian study

Lichfield District Council is carrying out a two-week pedestrianisation feasibility study from today (11 May) as part of its work to deliver the Lichfield City Centre Masterplan.

Small cameras are located on Tamworth Street, Conduit Street, Market Street, Breadmarket Street and Bore Street to study pedestrian, cycle and vehicle movements and identify peak times of use.

Liz Little, cabinet member with responsibility for economic development, said: “We believe that city centre pedestrianisation can deliver many benefits, not least of which are decreased traffic and reduced air pollution, which create a safer and more attractive environment for city centre users.

There is also evidence that pedestrianisation and other public realm improvements can increase footfall in city centres, have a positive impact on retail activity, and raise property values.

“This study is just the start of work we are planning around the feasibility of increased pedestrianisation in Lichfield city centre. Based on the findings from this initial study, our intention is to come back later in the year with a range of ideas to discuss with residents, businesses and other city centre users.”

11 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner