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Planning news - 27 May 2021

Published: Thursday, 27th May 2021

Approval of build-to-rent homes on a high, 14 councils announced for national model design guide pilot, Views sought on Old Oak and Park Royal local plan. 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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In the first three months of 2021, 6,937 new build-to-rent homes were granted full planning permission in the UK during the first three months of 2021, according to research published 24 May.

The British Property Federation (BPF) said this is the highest number of permission granted for any quarter in the build-to-rent sector's history.

The third quarter of 2016 recorded 6,321 permissions and now sits in second place.

There are now 188,456 build-to-rent homes either complete, under construction or in planning across the UK. The research shows that this number is 21 per cent more than the number recorded 12 months ago.

Regions outside London have 105,722 build-to-rent homes either complete (29,673), under construction (19,827) or in planning (56,222). London has 82,734 build-to-rent homes either completed (28,365), complete (16,227) or in planning (38,142).

According to the study, there are now more than 5,000 completed build-to-rent homes in suburban areas, 10 per cent of all completed homes, which reflects “increasing demand for high-quality rental homes” in the UK. In areas like Crawley, Wigan and Wakefield, these developments mostly comprise houses, while in the city centre, they tend to be flats.

The research finds that suburban build-to-rent has gained momentum over the past few years; there are currently 3,449 homes under construction and 5,296 in planning.

Ian Fletcher, director of real estate policy at the BPF, noted that despite the lockdown to stem the spread of Covid-19 at the start of 2021, the build-to-rent sector “has remained resilient – supporting the economy, new construction, jobs, its customers and local communities”.

“Not only has the sector continued to build much-needed high-quality rental homes across the UK, but it is also diversifying – with plans to deliver more homes in suburban areas than ever before. It is hugely positive to see the sector offering more choice to customers who either choose or need to rent.

“As this quarter’s statistics show, planning permissions were at record levels despite current conditions. Local authorities have been able to hold planning meetings online, which has in large part supported this success."

Highlighting that the legislation to enable virtual meetings ended on 6 May, Fletcher concluded: “I hope the government considers the valuable lessons learned from having to operate the planning process remotely, and will seek to legislate to allow some of the positive outcomes from remote participation to continue in the future.”

The BPF commissions the quarterly research to Savills. It draws on Glenigan’s planning database and Molior in London.

Jacqui Daly, director of Savills residential research, said the figures demonstrated some of the factors that will drive the UK build-to-rent expansion over the coming year, whether from an investment, delivery or occupier perspective.

“The suburban build-to-rent model is one we expect to see grow strongly over coming years. A desire for more space, and for life in smaller communities, with local services close by, is likely to be a lasting legacy of Covid-19. That’s particularly true for families, pointing to rising demand for family homes in well-connected suburbs that offer longer tenancies.

“At the same time, we are now seeing clear evidence of demand returning to major cities as people plan for a return to a more regular presence in the office, and this will underpin growth of the sector in these key employment centres traditionally undersupplied of private-rented stock.”

24 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The 14 local planning authorities in England selected to apply the new National Model Design Code (NMDC) to their areas have been announced by housing minister Christopher Pincher.

The national design code seeks to ensure that new developments are "beautiful, well-designed and locally-led". Developments should also fit in with local character.

The government explained that the code gives local planning authorities a toolkit of design principles to consider for new developments, such as street character, building type and façade. It also features environmental, heritage and wellbeing factors.

The 14 councils (see table) will take part in a six-month testing programme in which they will apply the National Model Design Code (NMDC) in their area.

Local authority


Colchester Borough Council, Tendring District Council and Essex County Council


Guildford Borough Council

South East

Herefordshire Council

West Midlands

Leeds City Council

Yorkshire & Humber

Mid Devon Council

South West

Newcastle City Council

North East

Dacorum Borough Council


Portsmouth City Council

South East

Sefton Council

North West

Southwark Council


Hyndburn Borough Council

North West

North West Leicestershire District Council

East Midlands

Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council

West Midlands

Buckinghamshire Council

South East


The government's planning white paper, Planning for the Future, which was published in August last year, proposed that local planning authorities and neighbourhoods (through neighbourhood plans) would play a "crucial role in producing required design guides and codes to provide certainty and reflect local character and preferences about the form and appearance of development".

In February this year, housing secretary Robert Jenrick published a draft national design code for consultation, in response to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission's report Living with Beauty, which came out in February 2020. It was published alongside proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which sought to place ‘greater emphasis’ on beauty and placemaking.

At the time, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said the code provides a checklist of design principles for new developments. 

In a statement on 21 May, MHCLG said the code means "the word 'beauty' will be prioritised in planning rules for the first time since the system was created in 1947".

MHCLG received more than 70 Expression of Interest submissions to test the NMDC from across all regions of England. The 14 councils were chosen to ensure there is a geographical spread and a range of development types, such as an urban conservation area, town centres and rural settlements, taking part. Each pilot receives a £50,000 grant to carry out the project.

Pincher said: “We should aspire to enhance the beauty of our local areas and pass our cultural heritage onto our successors, enriched not diminished.

“In order to do that, we need to bring about a profound and lasting change in the buildings that we build, which is one of the reasons we are placing a greater emphasis on locally popular design, quality and access to nature, through our national planning policies and introducing the National Model Design Code.

“These will enable local people to set the rules for what developments in their area should look like, ensuring that they reflect and enhance their surroundings and preserve our local character and identity.

“Instead of developers forcing plans on locals, they will need to adapt to proposals from local people, ensuring that current and new residents alike will benefit from beautiful homes in well-designed neighbourhoods.”


RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills: “The government’s announcement today of the 14 places which will take part in a six-month testing programme for the National Model Design Code is a pragmatic way of identifying problems that may arise in the application of the code and will also hopefully provide some potential solutions.

“The RTPI has no doubt that only a multi-disciplinary approach – involving planners, architects, developers, ecologists, highways authorities and communities – will lead to effective delivery of quality design outcomes. These pilot programmes should help to identify how these relationships will work in practice. We will keep a close eye on the results.

“However, what is already clear is that substantial extra investment into the planning system will be needed if planners are to play their part fully – almost 90% of our members have told us that they want to prioritise ‘beauty’ in their work but lack the policy support and resources to do so.

“As part of our submission to the 2020 comprehensive spending review, we said that a Design Quality Fund of £81 million was needed to support cash-strapped local authorities through design training, specialist expertise and design-focused policy.

“These pilot programmes are an encouraging start but it is only through significantly increased funding for local authority planning teams that the government’s ambitions for design codes in every council will be realised.”

Anna Rose, head of the Planning Advisory Service: "I am looking forward to seeing what councils can achieve with their communities by using this new code. The testing programme is a step towards this aim and the findings will help inform potential further developments to the NMDC and the use of design coding in the planning system".

Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and transport at Newcastle City Council, Ged Bell: The pilots "are all about ensuring that developments are designed to the highest quality which is fundamentally important for communities who live and work in them".

"The Ouseburn is recognised nationally for successful city centre regeneration in a historical setting, and we are determined to maintain those high standards.”

21 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) has published a seven-week public consultation on changes to its local plan.

The modified plan was submitted in March this year. Much of the plan remains the same.

The changes to the draft plan were made after an inspector advised the development corporation to remove two sites during public examination in 2019. The inspector considered the corporation’s plans for phase 1a to be deliverable and had directed the development corporation to make changes to the local plan to support the delivery of this phase of development.

The development corporation has proposed to move development nearer to HS2’s Old Oak Common Station, with the potential to create an urban district that would include affordable homes, job opportunities for local people and public space.

Housing will no longer be brought forward in Old Oak North. This area will be protected for employment.

The development corporation said the changes were intended to support the delivery of "tens of thousands of homes and over a million square metres of employment space".

The consultation runs until 5 July 2021.

David Lunts, chief executive of OPDC, said: "Capitalising on the new High Speed 2 interchange at Old Oak Common, the changes proposed make for a more deliverable plan to support the regeneration of Old Oak and Park Royal that will create a busy and thriving district to stimulate growth, prosperity and opportunities for residents and businesses. As well as a big increase in employment space, we propose to create a desirable, lively town centre and housing district that’s welcoming, inclusive and takes full advantage of the exceptional transport connections across London and beyond."

More information can be found here.

20 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A report exploring the relationship between queer communities and public spaces recommends rethinking how towns and cities are designed to encourage inclusion for all.

Queering Public Space, by the University of Westminster and engineering and design firm Arup, says a fresh approach to planning, licensing and design is needed to mark and celebrate queer heritage in the public realm.

Recent research by Galop and Stonewall found that 50 per cent of the British public recognise that LGBTQ+ people altered their behaviour in public space to avoid hostile targeting. Trans people, it said, avoided certain areas altogether.

This is despite the emergence of queer enclaves - or 'gaybourhoods' - in some cities around the world. Report authors Professor Pippa Catterall, professor of history and policy at the University of Westminster, and Dr Ammar Azzouz, short-term research associate at the University of Oxford and architect at Arup, argued that inclusivity and inclusive design needs to go far beyond this.

Catterall said: “Far too much public space in our cities is exclusive rather than inclusive and often unsafe for various groups of people, particularly after dark. Our argument is that different approaches to planning, licencing and design can change this and make these spaces more inclusive and welcoming for all, day or night. That way public space could truly become safer and inclusive for all members of the public’.

The report recommends:

  • A fresh approach to planning, licensing and design is needed to mark and celebrate queer heritage in the public realm. LGBTQ+ heritage must be highlighted and preserved to ensure people understand the rich history of LGBTQ+ experiences and communities. This may help undermine the hostility and misunderstanding that continue to be widely expressed towards these groups.
  • Inclusive design should contribute to the desistance of hate crime and promote the inclusion of marginalised and disempowered groups in public space. Catterall and Azzouz suggest attention to the scale and mass of buildings, lighting features, colours and facades and the addition of curvilinear aspects are amongst the design techniques that can help achieve this objective.
  • LGBTQ+ inclusion and safety in public space should be incorporated into devices like equality impact assessments as a requirement, particularly when there is a loss of amenities for them in the planning application process. Designers should consult with marginalised communities when planning and designing spaces, involving them in the process to better understand their challenges and needs.

The recommendations aim to make public spaces more accessible, inclusive and welcoming to marginalised and disempowered groups of people.

Azzouz added: “The cities we live in are made of layers of history and memory. Through cultural heritage sites, memorials, statues, streets’ and buildings’ names, we read the story of our cities spatially. But often, the history and struggle of queer communities is absent from this story. We need to break this silence and to face this absence with innovative and creative ways to make our cities more inclusive.”

Funding was awarded to Professor Pippa Catterall from the University of Westminster and Dr Ammar Azzouz by Arup to undertake the research and create a supporting video which outlines the report’s findings.

20 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Proposals have been set out for a Skegness Gateway that would see a sustainable urban extension delivered on a 136-hectare site to the west of the town.

The plans are intended to be the subject of a local development order (LDO) with East Lindsey District Council later this year.

The masterplan comprises: about 1,000 new homes; specialist accommodation for older people; a tourism offering; a TEC partnership college; a crematorium; employment and commercial land; green spaces; and amenities for local people.

Sue Bowser of Croftmarsh explained: “We have farmed the land for over 30 years with a long-term view that certain areas of land could be used for development, and we are very excited to see those plans starting to take shape. We believe that the scheme being proposed will act as a catalyst for positive change for Skegness and position the town in its rightful place in the East Midlands as a place with opportunity and ambition.

“We have been working hard for a number of months alongside the team at East Lindsey District Council and other stakeholders to put together proposals for Skegness Gateway to ensure that it will be a development exemplar, creating a vibrant new community and we are very pleased to now be able to unveil them.”

Neil Sanderson of Croftmarsh added that Skegness Gateway will offer “high-quality education, opportunities for start-ups, commercial and industrial space as well as places to live, work and play”.

Tom Ashton, portfolio holder for planning at East Lindsey District Council, said the proposals “really will be a landmark development for Skegness, providing not just new homes, but a brand new learning facility to support our residents to develop new skills, and further business and employment land to support our local economy”.

More information can be found on the Skegness Gateway website.

24 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Cornwall road upgrade will protect wildlife

Highways England is upgrading the A30 in Cornwall to improve safety, journey reliability, and connectivity for local communities and wildlife such as otters.

The A30 Chiverton to Carland Cross improvement scheme aims to unlock one of the last main bottlenecks in the county by creating an 8.7-mile section of dual carriageway.

Highways England said the route has been designed to protect the environment; 33 multi-species crossing points are being constructed to assist the habitats and journeys of animals such as otters, badgers, bats and reptiles. The crossing points include 11 underbridges, two overbridges, five drainage culverts and two dry tunnels. There will be nine crossing tunnels specifically for otters, and a new and specially designed sett for badgers.


Council completes electric charge points installation

Oadby and Wigston Borough Council has completed the installation of charging points for electric vehicles across the area. It forms part of the council’s commitment to cut carbon emissions.

With support from the Energy Saving Trust, the council obtained 75 per cent of the cost of the £100,000 project from the government’s Office for Zero Emission Vehicles.

Electric Blue (EB Charging) contributed 15 per cent and undertook the installation works.

Three sites in the borough were chosen for the project – Wigston Leisure Centre, Wigston, Aylestone Lane Car Park, Wigston and East Street Car Park, Oadby – with 15 dual charging points located across the sites. To use the points, motorists will need to download the Electric Blue Payment App to their smartphone, which is available through Google Play and the Apple App Store.


TfL appoints bus programme designer

Transport for London (TfL) has commissioned professional services and engineering firm GHD to deliver a suite of scheme designs as part of the Bus Priority Programme.

GHD will support TfL to improve bus progression and speeds along a number of corridors in the capital to help to build a more efficient public transport network.

TfL has undertaken network performance reviews through on-site and virtual investigations to review existing bus priority measures, challenges and opportunities to identify locations where enhancements could be made.

More than 90 schemes have been identified. GHD has been tasked with progressing the 25 that have been identified as being high-impact and low-cost options.

These include investigating bus priority improvements to corridors, junctions, crossings and associated signals; changes to corridor parking and loading provision; and the creation of new bus lanes.


Luxury homes approved near Ascot

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council has approved plans for a luxury courtyard development on a historic site near Ascot Racecourse.

The development, in the green belt, will be delivered by Thornbury Group at Silwood Park Nurseries.

It will comprise four single-storey family homes, with each to follow an L-shaped footprint with an open-plan internal layout. Plans also include private gardens, car parking, a communal courtyard garden and soft landscaping.

The application was submitted by urban planning consultancy Hybrid Planning & Development.


 185 homes approved for Acton

Ealing Council has granted planning permission for 185 mixed-tenure homes at phase 7.2 of Acton Gardens, a £800 million regeneration of the former South Acton estate in West London. The approval was granted to Countryside Properties.

The homes, designed by GRID Architects, will be located between the recently constructed phase 7.1 and opposite Avenue Park.

Of the 185 new apartments, 50 per cent will be affordable on a habitable room basis. Forty-four will be for Active Living – independent apartments for over-55s and specifically designed to adapt to people’s changing needs over time.

An energy centre hosting a site-wide district heating system will be delivered as part of the phase to help to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality owing to reduction in gas emissions.

Public spaces also feature in the plans, including a courtyard garden with direct access for all residents.

Acton Gardens is a 52-acre redevelopment of the former South Acton estate, which will total 3,463 new mixed-tenure homes, 50 per cent of which have been designated as affordable.

The rehousing of residents is a key priority. Residents from the ‘red-brick’ area of the estate and existing sheltered accommodation will be moving into phase 7.2 once complete, which is scheduled for 2024.


Hub for training builders opens in Tamworth

The National House Building Council (NHBC) has launched a new training hub to create the next generation of housebuilders in Tamworth, West Midlands.

The hub will help to develop the next generation of skilled tradespeople starting out in housebuilding.

The NHBC Training Hub in Tamworth has been built in partnership with Redrow and Tamworth Borough Council, with input from an industry working group.

It will be able to support more than 100 apprentices annually and is a purpose-built facility that will immerse apprentices in a realistic working environment. It was officially opened on Thursday 20 May by Christopher Pincher, housing minister and MP for Tamworth.

Bricklaying has been chosen as the initial focus for the training hub because of the shortage of skilled bricklayers in the housebuilding sector, which has been compounded by the pandemic.


Leeds flood defences approved

Councillors at Leeds City Council have approved plans that seek to reduce flood risk for communities along the River Aire.

Plans will see the construction of a flood storage area between Horsforth and Rawdon.

The scheme is being led by Leeds City Council in partnership with the Environment Agency, Bradford Council, Network Rail and Yorkshire Water.

The storage area project is part of an extensive programme of work that will cut flood risk for 1,048 homes and 474 businesses along a 14km stretch of the River Aire upstream of Leeds train station.

This upstream programme is phase two of the wider Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme. It has been split into two steps and includes natural flood management across the River Aire catchment as well as new defence walls, embankments and a flood storage area.

Work on step one, which is costing £87 million, began in January 2020. It has involved building flood defence walls between Leeds city centre and Newlay.


Deal signed to provide care homes

Specialist bank Leumi UK has completed a £39 million deal with Hamberley Care Homes for four high-specification care homes.

They will comprise 307 beds and will be developed by sister company Hamberley Development. The homes will be in Dorking, Eastleigh, Keynsham and Bromsgrove.

Leumi UK, the London-based subsidiary of Israel’s international bank, has closed a deal with care home operator Hamberley Care Homes, backed by pan-European real estate investor Patron Capital, to finance the development costs for the care homes.


Sensory garden in Walton-on-Thames approved

Elmbridge Borough Council has granted planning permission for a sensory garden at Burview Hall in Walton-on-Thames.

Nexus Planning secured the permission on behalf of Elmbridge Mencap, a charity that works independently for the benefit of those with learning disabilities (as well as their parents/carers) in Elmbridge and the surrounding area. The garden is intended to provide a stimulating and beneficial environment for disabled people.

25 May 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner