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Planning news - 20 May 2021

Published: Thursday, 20th May 2021

Government urged to consider flooding in planning bill, MPs to investigate how rural productivity can be boosted, Housing divide between young and old widens due to Covid-19. 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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Flood Re and the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) have called on the government to make sure that new homes are not built in areas at risk of flooding.

The call comes after a planning bill was announced in the Queen's Speech on 11 May.

The Queen said the government wants to bring forward the bill to make sure more homes can be built and more people can own their own home. It also said it wants to enhance the rights of renters.

It drew both criticism and support from professionals working in the built environment, with some concerned that communities won’t have a voice, while others welcomed a "more efficient" planning system.

In a letter published in the Times last week, Flood Re and the TCPA also urged the government to use the planning bill to ensure communities have a legal right to feed in their local expertise and have their voices heard in planning decisions that affect flood risk in their areas.

New homes, they said, must be built in the right places and be of the right quality to meet the challenges of climate change.

The letter notes that homes built after 2009 are not included in the Flood Re scheme, which is a joint initiative between the government and insurers that seeks to make the flood cover part of household insurance policies more affordable. This means the affordability of insurance cannot be guaranteed.

"Ensuring the three steps that we have highlighted are introduced will leave homeowners less vulnerable to flooding and hence able to shop around for affordable insurance," the letter explains.

Andy Bord, chief executive at Flood Re, warned that flooding is a "real threat" to people and their homes now and continued climate change will see the threat increase. "Homes that are built now must last for generations to come and therefore we must ensure that they are fit for purpose and flood risk is considered. We have the opportunity with the planning reform bill to get this right."

Fiona Howie, chief executive at the TCPA, added: “As the UK assumes global leadership in tackling climate change through COP26, we must act now to protect our communities from future climate risks and the devastation flooding causes. The planning bill must consider flood risk and give local communities a legal right to have their voices heard in planning decisions.”

17 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

An inquiry to explore how the rural economy can be boosted in a post Covid-19 world has been launched by a group of cross-party MPs and peers.

It will be led by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Rural Business and the Rural Powerhouse.

The inquiry is to explore why rural productivity is 18 per cent below the national average and then identify solutions that aim to bridge the divide. It will focus on a number of themes, including whether or not the planning system works for economies and communities in rural areas and how land can be better managed to meet the demand for environmental and climate delivery, as well as food production.

It will also consider connectivity, skills, tax and government processes.

The APPG has called for written evidence from across the rural economy. Oral evidence sessions will also take place.

Julian Sturdy, MP for York Outer, will co-chair the inquiry. He commented: “There are over 500,000 rural businesses across England and Wales, and together they form the backbone of the rural economy.

“It is critical to understand why this productivity disparity exists between urban and rural areas, and to explore meaningful ideas for how it can be eradicated. We encourage rural organisations and businesses to get in touch with their ideas.”

The Country Land & Business Association (CLA), which represents 28,000 farmers, land managers and rural businesses in England and Wales, is supporting the inquiry. Mark Bridgeman, president, said: “The reasons for the countryside’s lower productivity are complex. Key contributors are poor digital connectivity, an outdated planning system, unnecessary bureaucracy and decades of underinvestment which have resulted in fewer opportunities for those living in rural areas. But none of these can be improved without political engagement.”

To submit evidence, email, indicating the area(s) you wish to answer. The closing date is 30 June 2021.

17 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated housing inequalities between the young and old, according to recent research.

The Intergenerational Foundation highlights that younger generations have lost jobs and homes, with some suffering mental health issues, while the older generations “have stockpiled space”.

Stockpiling Space: How the Pandemic Has Increased Housing Inequalities Between Older and Younger Generations says that between 2011 and 2020 there has been a ‘significant” increase in second homes, up by 50 per cent to 5.5 million. One in 10 people now own a second property and these are primarily older owners.

The think tank found that 52 per cent of owners now under-occupy their homes, with “housing assets and space passing from renters to owners and from younger generations to older generations”.

England, it concludes, now has “two housing nations”.

“Those living in the first nation – well-housed, often well-off and with space to work and self-isolate – have found the experience bearable, in some cases enjoyable. Those living in the second housing nation – in cramped flats with no access to outside space, or in shared houses – have suffered the most,” the report states.

Home ownership, it finds, has held steady for those over the age of 55 and increased for the over-65s. The percentage of the younger generation owning their own home has declined since 2003.

The pandemic has seen older and well-off people buying larger and more expensive properties in larger numbers, the think tank explained. London tops this trend, with purchases of second homes outside the capital up 309 per cent over 2019.

Colin Wiles, report author, commented that as well as a housing affordability crisis, there is an under-occupation crisis. “The failure to build enough new affordable homes for the young, combined with government policies that prevent the release of land, tackle the green belt, or build retirement homes for the old, have conspired to choke supply, push up prices, and encourage older generations to put off downsizing.”

Recommendations in the report include:

  • The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) should require local authorities to plan for housing needs rather than demand, and require the housing mix in new schemes to reflect local demographics.
  • Local plans should include specific targets for retirement housing, providing quotas within larger schemes, in the same way that quotas for affordable housing are set.
  • The NPPF should include a new requirement for local authorities to assess the degree of under-occupation within their existing housing stock and include measures in local plans to provide bespoke retirement housing, and other measures to incentivise downsizing.
  • The government should ensure that the proposals in the planning white paper are followed through to make the planning system simpler and more transparent. It should explore ways to open up the system to a wider range of views, both for strategic planning and for individual planning applications, using new technologies and other methods that will reach out to under-represented groups, especially the young.
  • The government should reconfirm a target of 300,000 homes a year in England and use all available policy levers to stick to it.
  • The government should commit to a programme of 100,000 social rent homes each year and provide funding and land to make this happen, diverting funds from help-to-buy and other failed policies where necessary.
  • The government should commission a parliamentary review into the state of the housebuilding industry to assess whether it is meeting the nation’s needs.
  • The government should seek to support smaller housebuilders, and encourage new entrants to the housebuilding industry, by a package of fiscal and other measures, including measures to reduce bureaucracy and make land available to smaller providers.
  • Permitted development rights should be scrapped. All proposals for change of use from commercial to residential should be considered within the normal planning procedures, open to local democratic scrutiny.

Stockpiling Space: How the Pandemic has Increased Housing Inequalities Between Older and Younger Generations can be read here on The Intergenerational Foundation website (pdf).

13 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

April saw a drop in the number of planning applications submitted to the Planning Portal for England and Wales, with the most applications being submitted in the South East.

According to the latest Planning Portal Insight Report, April was the first month this year to show a decline in the number of applications submitted in 2021. A total of 65,357 applications were submitted during April, down from 77,289 in March.

The report states: "While the data indicates an overall higher number of applications submitted through 2021, April 2021 has followed previous seasonal trends in it regularly received lower application numbers than March."

In April 2020, which was the first full month of the first lockdown in the UK, just 38,541 applications were submitted, which is 19 per cent lower than the number submitted in April 2019.

The 2021 submission figure is 70 per cent more than 2020's.

Regionally, there was a decrease everywhere, but the report notes that the Easter fell in early April, reducing the number of working days.

Local authorities in the South East (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey, East and West Sussex) received 52,020 applications, more than any other region. London came in second with 48,121 submissions.

Compared to April 2020, the South East saw a 40 per cent increase, up from 37,206 submissions.

Buckinghamshire Council received the most applications - 4,023, 36 per cent more than the 2,953. Planning Portal said it is not surprised by this, as it is the largest planning authority in the region, having become a unitary authority* in April 2020.

Brighton & Hove City Council received 1,078 applications for submission, the second most in the South East.

Applications for home improvement was again the top type of planning permission sought. More than double were received than in the same month last year, representing a "strong recovery well beyond expected baseline levels".

Since March 2020, advertisement consent applications have been the worst affected, the report explains, down by 34 per cent if 2020 is compared to 2019.

To download the Planning Portal's full report and subscribe to future editions, click here.

*Buckinghamshire Council was formed following the merger of South Bucks, Chiltern, Wycombe and Aylesbury Vale.

17 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has released figures that show 13,318 affordable homes were started in the capital in 2020/21.

This, he noted, surpasses the annual target agreed with the government at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.

According to his statement, Khan has delivered 63 per cent more affordable homes during his five-year tenure as mayor than was delivered during the final five years under previous mayor Boris Johnson.

Of the 13,318 affordable homes started last year, 6,000 will be available at social rent levels.

According to the figures, 9,051 affordable homes were completed in 2020/21, up from 7,775 homes in 2019/20 and 4,881 homes completed in the last year of the previous mayoralty.

The Greater London Authority figures show that Newham started ((1,689) and completed (1,275) the most affordable homes.

Khan said: “London’s housing crisis remains one of the greatest barriers to addressing the inequality we face in our city, and a key priority for my second term will be doing all we can to overcome it.

“Today’s (13 May) figures show what councils, housing associations and the wider London housing sector have been able to achieve despite the instability and uncertainty created by Brexit and the pandemic. They also underline the huge progress made since I became mayor, when just three homes for social rent were left in the pipeline by my predecessor.

“I am determined to build on the record-breaking delivery of genuinely affordable homes in my first term as mayor to secure a brighter future for our city.”

Helen Evans, chair of G15, the group of London’s largest housing associations, and chief executive of Network Homes, said: “The pandemic has highlighted more than ever the importance of good,quality affordable homes to people’s health and wellbeing.

“These figures show that housing associations have remained determined to keep delivering the affordable homes Londoners need, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“The G15 is proud to have contributed almost six thousand of these new homes last year and we stand ready to continue to support the mayor’s housebuilding ambitions.”

Khan won a second term as the Mayor of London following the elections held on 6 May. This term will be three years long, as the first was extended by a year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. Elections should have been held in May 2020, but were postponed for a year.

The statistics can be found on the Greater London Authority (GLA) website.

13 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Partners announced for Nottingham development

Developer the Conygar Investment Company PLC has announced its latest project partners to take forward The Island Quarter development in Nottingham.

Engineering consultancy Couch Perry Wilkes is the latest Nottingham-based company to join as a partner.

The firm joins a number of national and local contractors, designers and consultants, including local companies CPMG Architects, Leonard Design and Macaulay Sinclair.

Couch Perry Wilkes will provide mechanical and engineering services for phase two of the development.

Also announced are Quartz Project Services as quantity surveyors for phase 1A, Canal Turn, and Studio Egret West, which will be responsible for placemaking and the public realm.

Work is underway on the first phase, 1A, of the development, which will regenerate the canal basin area on the southwest corner of the site. – with two restaurants, an event space and rooftop terrace, as well as a bandstand and public spaces. An application for planning permission for the second phase, 1B, was submitted in January.


Railway design competition winner announced

Edinburgh-based architectural practice 7N Architects has won a competition to shape Britain’s future railways.

The competition was held by Network Rail and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

It sought architects, engineers and designers from across the world to reimagine how small to medium-sized stations can improve the travel experience of passengers. More than 200 entries from 34 countries were submitted.

7N’s entry considers the needs of passengers and their local communities. The station frontage includes an "eye-catching" clock tower, which serves a strong civic purpose as a local landmark and a natural meeting place for social activities. Beyond the station entrance, sweeping platform canopies provide shelter for passengers. The modular station design can be integrated into a variety of locations that complement the local landscape. 

Panel members thought the winning concept had been cleverly pared back to create an open and flexible system.   


Council seeks to protect healthcare services in Chelsea

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council has introduced guidelines for developers that aim to help protect healthcare services at the site of the Royal Brompton Hospital for future generations.

The planning guidance was approved by Kensington and Chelsea Council after a six-week consultation with residents.

Developers that want to build at the site in the future will need to show how they have protected healthcare services in their plans and how new developments compliment medical uses on the site. 

The guidance has been introduced because NHS proposals sparked concern from residents and councillors that the specialist cardiac facilities could be lost from the area, which would negatively impact the community and local economy.

The guidance sets out five principles that must be adhered to, including: retaining and enhancing "world class" medical facilities; upgrading connections and local urban spaces; and meeting the council’s environmental requirements such as improving air quality and boosting biodiversity.

The supplementary planning document can be read on the council website (pdf).


Project seeks to tackle transport-related exclusion for young people

Walking and cycling charity Sustrans and the University of the West of England have launched a research project that aims to address transport-related barriers faced by young people aged 12-24 years in the UK. 

Transport to Thrive is set to explore why transport is important to young people’s ability to reach opportunities they need to become thriving and healthy adults, whilst highlighting the issues they face.

It will identify and examine the effectiveness of a selection of policy and practice solutions in supporting young people to reach opportunities. A panel of young volunteers will be recruited to guide priorities.

The project will run until August 2023. It will produce insights and outputs that will support policy and industry action.

More information can be found on the Sustrans website.


Natural burial ground approved

Melton Borough Council has granted planning permission to turn an arable field at a family-run Leicestershire farm into a natural burial ground.

The permission is for land at Castle View Farm, in Bottesford.

Individual graves will not have traditional headstones but will be marked by discrete plaques within a wildflower meadow. Other infrastructure includes a grid-reinforced car park with grass growing through, benches, a shelter, fencing, hedgerows and trees.

Wildflower planting, landscaping and fencing is expected to take place later this year, with the site set to open in 2022. It will be able to accommodate up to 100 burials per year.

Fisher German acted on behalf of Castle View Farm.

18 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner