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Planning news - 17 June 2021

Published: Wednesday, 16th June 2021

Government announces cash for Town Deals and a nature programme for Cornwall, Alliance seeks to mitigate changing rainfall patterns in Kent woods. 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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Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that 30 towns in England will receive a share of £725 million to help to boost local economies and create jobs.

The money is also intended to help the towns to “build back better” from the pandemic.

Towns to benefit include Loughborough (£16.9 million), Hartlepool (£25 million) and King’s Lynn (£25 million).

The money could go towards transforming neglected areas or unused buildings into businesses or community spaces, or new homes.

Jenrick said: “We are levelling up towns and cities across the country by building stronger and more resilient local economies, boosting prosperity and opportunity in our communities, and helping them build back better from the pandemic.”

He said the money will “support locally led projects to transform disused buildings and public spaces, deliver new green transport and create new opportunities for people to develop new skills. This is a boost for communities and businesses across England”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also declared that there will be Towns Deals for Penzance, St Ives and Camborne to create a “long-term legacy” from the G7 summit, which will be held in Cornwall from 11 to 13 June. Members will discuss global issues and are expected to agree on action to tackle the climate crisis, protect nature and lead a recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Town Deals announced for Penzance, St Ives and Camborne are worth more than £65 million. Projects include a new network of foot and cycle paths across Camborne, Penzance and from St Ives to St Erth. Theatres, sports clubs and historic buildings will be restored and expanded to make sure that the most can be made of the region's cultural heritage. Funding will also go to the business and commercial sectors.

The decision on these Towns Deals means that more than 80 have been agreed in total since Johnson originally revealed in July 2019 that the £3.6 billion Towns Fund would support an initial 101 deals across England. The deals are part of the government’s bid to level up the country.

The government also announced that in partnership with Natural England and Cornwall Wildlife Trusts it is launching a “major land restoration and regeneration programme across 21,000 hectares of land”. The nature recovery project is set to involve planting trees, restoring peat, making improvements to water quality, recreating scarce habitats and reintroducing lost and declining species such as dormice and the marsh fritillary butterfly.

The government is aiming to safeguard the “beauty and biodiversity” of Cornwall for future generations.

Johnson said: “As the eyes of the world look to Cornwall this week, not only will they see an area of outstanding beauty, they will witness a region that is innovative, exciting and looking firmly towards a bright future.

“The exciting projects we have announced are a fitting legacy for a region playing host to some of the most important diplomatic talks in a generation. As the world builds back better from coronavirus, Cornwall will lead the way.”

9 June 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The RSPB and ecological consultancy Ecological Planning and Research (EPR) Ltd have teamed up to alleviate the impact of the climate crisis on critical ancient woodland in Kent.

The work would also seek to safeguard various bird species, including the lesser spotted woodpecker, nightingale and spotted flycatcher.

The RSPB and EPR note that woodlands across the south of England were once “highly biodiverse and dynamic”, mostly owing to temperate conditions and reliable rainfall, which supports varied insect life. This, in turn, provided food for larger species.

However, the impact of the climate crisis, which includes heavier rainfall over winter and hot dry summers as well as drainage for historical wood cropping, has seen many woodlands dry out. This has resulted in fewer insects for birds and other wildlife to feed on.

Habitat loss and fragmentation are also contributing factors to the loss of woodland biodiversity.

The RSPB, in partnership with Kent Wildlife Trust and Canterbury City Council, secured £1.9 million for a restoration project that aims to help mitigate the effects of climate change on local woodland and grassland habitats.

The money has come for the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, which is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund alongside Natural England and the Environment Agency.

EPR will use GIS and LiDAR tools to map the topography of the area to predict where water will flow.

This will inform a dam placement strategy to slow down water movement throughout Blean Woods reserves. This should mitigate the effects of changing rainfall patterns and prevent areas of woodland from drying out.

The survey work will be conducted from now and through the summer. It is expected that dams will be constructed later this year.

Dave Smith, eastern region director and principal ecological consultant at EPR Ltd, said: “It is critical to ensure important sites such as Blean Woods can act as a refuge for wildlife while providing a space that local communities can explore and use to learn about the natural environment. Healthy woodland spaces are essential for our mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as for the wildlife that directly rely on them for sustenance and shelter."

Julian Nash, north Kent reserves site manager at the RSPB, added: “Blean Woods is one of the most popular nature reserves in Kent, and as an ancient woodland and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) it represents both precious heritage and a crucial educational resource. Our work with EPR to rewet the site will ensure future generations can develop a connection to nature in a healthy, biodiverse environment.”

Chloe Sadler, head of wilder landscapes at Kent Wildlife Trust, said the project would also prove “hugely valuable” in strengthening the connection of local communities with their local wild spaces.

14 June 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A systematic approach to planning, funding and powers is needed to meet net-zero ambitions at the local level, rather than the current ‘sporadic funding’ described as ‘stifling’ in a new report.

Enabling Smart Local Energy Systems: Finance and Investment, by Energy Systems Catapult, suggests a move away from one-off energy, transport and heat projects towards a more systematic approach that delivers joined-up local energy communities that attract investment, drives clean economic growth and funds net-zero.

Energy Systems Catapult was set up by Government to boost innovation in specific sectors and help drive future economic growth. Its report, based on research undertaken with local government and UK investors, contains the following recommendations:

  • Generate awareness of the value and opportunities of smart local energy systems (SLES). The government should clarify the long-term direction of travel in relation to energy market design, policy and regulation to reduce regulatory risk and provide clarity on sources of value and potential revenues. Local authorities should engage and collaborate with SLES developers and support organisations who are looking to clarify the SLES opportunity.
  • Legislate so that local authorities have power and capability to deliver local net zero strategies (including SLES). The government should clarify the local authority role of LAs and empower them to achieve net zero targets and ensure that local authorities have appropriate powers, capability and capacity to coordinate implementation of place-based net-zero policies and strategies tailored to local circumstances.
  • Create a consistent net-zero planning framework for local authorities to develop SLES. The government should promote consistent planning and programme development processes for local authorities to understand progress against targets and investors to understand opportunities suitable for a range of local areas.

Philip New, chief executive at Energy Systems Catapult, said: “Local authorities have a pivotal role to play in the net-zero transition, leveraging public funding to attract the private finance needed to deliver the clean technologies and infrastructure required by local communities.

“Yet there is a risk that the potential value and co-benefits that integrated local systems can offer will be missed if investors focus only on siloed technologies and separate asset classes.”

The report and recommendations in full can be read here.

14 June 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Cardiff Council has begun consulting on its post-Covid-19 recovery and renewal strategy for the capital.

It has published a report that highlights the need to make the city centre more attractive, reinforcing Cardiff’s status as a major events city and improving its “liveability” by ensuring that it enjoys cleaner air, high-quality public spaces and green areas and improved public transport.

The council says it will reclaim the streets for people, with more shared space, greater flexibility in how that space is used, and a focus on placemaking.

Its report stresses that the city centre’s long-term future must include measures to reactivate the night-time economy, improve the cultural offer, animate public spaces and diversify public transport options.

This strategy should also accelerate the Canal Quarter development and explore proposals to develop a network of new squares, green streets and public spaces at St Mary St south, Greyfriars Road, Park Place and Metro Central south.

Other measures to be canvassed include bringing forward a new metro link between the Central Station and Cardiff Bay and completing the cycle loop around the city centre to connect up each of the key city cycleways.

As well as renewing the city centre and delivering major new developments, the strategy includes a focus on making Cardiff a “city of villages” based on the existing network of successful local and district centres.

The council says it will develop local areas with better and safer access by bike or foot to amenities and jobs on their doorstep, and with quick access also to the city centre.

“This fits with a hub-and-spoke approach to cities which may become more attractive after Covid-19, with more appetite for split-working between local centres and the central business district,” notes the report.

It adds: “Achieving a city of villages with integrated transport and land use also requires a strong regeneration and economic development capacity which should be invested in as part of the establishment of ‘place infrastructure compact’-style arrangements between the public and private sectors.”

11 June 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner

East Hampshire District Council has granted planning permission for Havant Thicket Reservoir near Havant to secure water supplies for the future and protect chalk streams.

East Hampshire approved the scheme on 9 June, while Havant Borough Council, whose area the scheme also falls into, approved it on 3 June, in line with an officers’ recommendation.

The approval is subject to legal agreements with both councils. Portsmouth Water also sought permission for the pipeline that is needed to fill it from Bedhampton Springs and take water to customers.

Bob Taylor, chief executive officer at Portsmouth Water, said: “As well as securing much-needed future water supplies, Havant Thicket Reservoir will help safeguard the River Itchen and River Test – two of Hampshire’s rare and world-famous chalk streams, by enabling less water to be taken from them. It will also create a new green leisure hub for people and wildlife.

“As the nature of the existing site will change, we’ve worked with environmental regulators to create an extensive programme to support the environment on and around the site. This includes the creation and improvement of around 200 hectares of woodland and pasture to support wildlife, and the creation of a 10-hectare wetland on the reservoir’s northern shore, which will be a major boost for threatened bird species.”

Environmental campaigners criticised the plans. The BBC reported in May that the Woodland Trust was concerned about a loss amounting to 14 hectares of ancient woodland.

14 June 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

McNairney awarded CBE

Scottish chief planner John McNairney FRTPI has been awarded a CBE for public service in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2021.

He has been the chief planner for nine years, and has a total of 22 years of service with the Scottish Government.

RTPI president Wei Yang FRTPI, said: “It’s wonderful to see John’s dedication over many years as Scottish Chief Planner recognised in this way.

“His time in the role, and over more than two decades with the Scottish Government, has demonstrated the core value of being a chartered town planner – serving the public. Many congratulations John! You make us proud.”

In May, McNairney announced that he will be retiring from the role later this summer.

Also named in the Queen's Birthday Honours was Peter Gerald Stewart Murray, who was awarded an OBE for services to leadership in the arts, architecture, city planning, design, publication and charity (London, Greater London).

The Queen's Birthday Honours List can be found here (pdf).


52 homes approved in central London

Westminster City Council’s planning sub-committee has approved the council’s plans to build 52 affordable homes in Churchill Gardens, London.

Of the homes, 34 community supportive homes will be built to replace the current 31 homes in Darwin House.

In addition, 18 homes for intermediate rent will be built on the site of the former Balmoral Castle pub and the nearby garages. The purpose-built community supportive homes have been designed to be dementia-friendly and will be fully accessible, with two lifts and step-free access.

The affordable homes for intermediate rent will be prioritised for those living locally. They are suitable for people with single or combined household incomes of between £32,000 and £60,000 who do not qualify for social rent but cannot find affordable market value homes in the area.

The homes have been designed to Passivhaus principles.


Homes England appoints chief executive

Peter Denton has been appointed as the chief executive of the government's housing agency Homes England. He is currently the chief executive of the Hyde Group. He joined initially as group finance director in 2017.

Nick Walkley left Homes England in February. Gordon More, who has been acting as chief executive, delayed his retirement plans pending this appointment.

Denton said: “The government has an ambitious agenda of not just more homes but decent, affordable, safe, energy-efficient ones that sit well in their community and landscape. I cannot wait to help realise that ambition.”


Carlisle adopts SPD for garden village

Carlisle City Council has adopted a supplementary planning document (SPD) for design at St Cuthbert's Garden Village in advance of the proposed adoption of the St Cuthbert's Local Plan in 2022.

The garden village will comprise 10,000 homes upon completion in around 25 years’ time.

The council said the SPD “amplifies” policies in the adopted district-wide local plan, “whilst using the masterplan framework as a key evidence base to provide strategic guidance on good design”.

"It crucially defines what a healthy, low-carbon, green environment will look like, provides clarity around expectations for innovations, and supports a constructive planning process.”

Hyas Associates was engaged to scope and produce the SPD, with consultation held digitally during lockdowns one and two.

The council is now progressing a St Cuthbert’s specific local plan.


Businesses write to PM to put nature's recovery at heart of the planning system

More than 100 businesses have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for net-zero transition, nature’s recovery, and climate resilience to be at the heart of the new planning system.

Coordinated by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) and the Aldersgate Group, the letter states that to guarantee that housing targets and environmental commitments are met, it is “vital” that the forthcoming planning bill drives a strategic approach to the net-zero transition. It must ensure that development is resilient to the effects of climate change and that nature can be supported and restored.

The signatories called on Johnson to ensure that the bill directly aligns with the obligations under the UK Climate Change Act and plans to reverse nature’s decline in the environment bill.

They also sought clarity on how land allocated for ‘growth’ will be compatible with achieving net-zero, securing nature’s recovery and delivering development resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Read the letter here on the UKGBC website (pdf).


Developer chosen for London schemes

Kensington & Chelsea Council has appointed Willmott Dixon to deliver two housing schemes that are part of the council’s new homes delivery programme. It was procured under the SCF framework.

The largest project is at Kensal Road, where Willmott Dixon will deliver a £17.1 million development comprising 37 homes above new ground-floor commercial accommodation. They will be delivered across a five and six-storey building. There will be shared garden space and a podium deck with a landscaped terrace.

The second development is a £8.5 million scheme at Hewer Street to provide 20 homes that are expected to be complete by winter 2022/23.

Both projects include air source heat pumps that eliminate the need for gas, providing a sustainable heating solution.

15 June 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner