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Planning news - 1 July 2021

Published: Thursday, 1st July 2021

Measures to guarantee fire safety added to PPG, Apprentice scheme to aid heritage construction starts this week, New protected areas to be created in England. 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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Measures that seek to ensure that fire safety matters are incorporated at the planning stage for high-rise residential developments have been added to Planning Practice Guidance (PPG).

They apply to applications for planning permission made on or after 1 August 2021.

The government made a commitment in Building a Safer Future: Proposals for Reform of the Building Safety Regulatory System to introduce planning gateway one. It was made in response to the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety led by Dame Judith Hackitt, which the government commissioned following the fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017.

There are two key elements to planning gateway one:

  • To require the developer to submit a fire statement setting out fire safety considerations specific to the development with a relevant application for planning permission for development which involves one or more relevant buildings.
  • To establish the Health and Safety Executive as a statutory consultee for relevant planning applications.

The government said the changes are aimed at making certain that applicants and decision-makers consider planning issues relevant to fire safety. They will be considered at the earliest possible stage in the development process.

Buildings relevant to planning gateway one are those that contain two or more dwellings or educational accommodation and ones that meet the height condition of 18 metres or more in height or seven or more storeys.

Dwellings mean flats, and educational accommodation means residential accommodation used by students at a boarding school or in later stages of education.

Other changes to the PPG include a fire statement. This will support the consideration of information on fire safety matters as they relate to land use planning matters, such as site layout, water supplies for firefighting purposes and access for fire appliances. It will form evidence that thinking on fire safety matters, as they relate to planning, has been incorporated into the planning application.

Fire statements will not be a statutory requirement for outline applications although in most cases, applications for permission for a material change of use of land or buildings will require a fire statement.

The guidance can be found on the UK Government website.

28 June 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Hamish Ogston Foundation and Historic England have announced a £4.325 million programme that seeks to address ‘long-term and severe’ heritage skills shortages in the construction sector.

It will open for applications on 30 June, with the apprenticeship to start in September 2021. There will be 40 training opportunities over the next five years with five apprentices being recruited now.

According to a statement, the grant from The Hamish Ogston Foundation is the largest one-off investment ever awarded to heritage construction training in England.

The apprenticeship will be an in-work scheme that intends to increase expertise in essential crafts such as bricklaying, carpentry and joinery, painting and decorating, plastering, roofing and stonemasonry. Such skills could be lost if nothing is done, warned Historic England.

Apprentices will work alongside Historic England experts at sites in the north of England that are on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.

They will work on the restoration of historic buildings, such as grade I listed Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire.

The apprenticeship will offer new routes into heritage construction, whether they are young people interested in a future in heritage construction or experienced professionals working in mainstream construction considering a move across to the heritage sector.

In 2022, the scheme will be open to experienced workers who want to transition into heritage construction and learn specific heritage craft skills.

Hamish Ogston CBE of the Hamish Ogston Foundation, said: “It gives me a huge sense of fulfilment to make this investment in a project that I am confident will make a real difference to people’s life chances, setting them on a path to sustainable, satisfying jobs."

The foundation and Historic England “will help supply the high-level practical skills that our built heritage needs if it is to survive and flourish”.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive at Historic England, commented: “As life moves closer to normality again, this is an exciting employment and heritage skills training opportunity for young people starting their careers and for professionals in the construction industry looking for a rewarding change. This programme will inspire others by making a huge contribution towards saving some of England’s most important historic buildings.”

The opportunities available and more information can be found on the Historic England website.

28 June 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Natural England has announced that it is considering proposals for new National Nature Reserves and that it will establish new protected areas.

The proposals for new National Nature Reserves are a response to the review led by writer and journalist Julian Glover, who examined how national parks and AONBs are meeting the public’s needs in the 21st century.

Although Glover recognised the efforts of those who fought for and worked in national parks and AONBs, and that “there’s much that is good”, the report states that it “falls far short of what can be achieved and what the people of our country want”.

Natural England said it will implement a “more collaborative and swifter” process to designate new national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).

Its ambition is to develop new approaches to drive nature’s recovery and improve the connections people have with it, particularly surrounding towns and cities. Natural England’s programme intends to improve people’s quality of life and address inequalities in access to the natural environment. This could include building on the idea of ‘national park cities’.

Chair of Natural England Tony Juniper said: “The benefits of our stunning, protected landscapes go far beyond their visual appeal, from enhancing our wellbeing, providing places for living and working communities, to making an important contribution to nature recovery and combating the climate emergency.

"I’m delighted to see the growth and protection of these areas is an increasingly prominent government priority. I look forward to working closely with Defra, National Parks England and the National Association for AONBs to make these special areas richer in nature, accessible for all to connect with for their wellbeing and to deliver a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic."

Natural England also revealed that four areas will be considered for “greater protections”, which could deliver 40 per cent of the additional 4,000 square kilometres required to meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson's commitment to protect 30 per cent of land in England by 2030 for nature.

The areas being considered are:

  • Yorkshire Wolds AONB.
  • Cheshire Sandstone Ridge AONB.
  • An extension to the Surrey Hills AONB.
  • An extension to the Chilterns AONB.

Natural England plans to develop a “strategic and visionary” map for England in the 21st century. This would reflect the spirit of the ‘Hobhouse Map’, which led to national parks being established 70 years ago. It will work with stakeholders and communities to identify conservation needs across the country, including any remaining places suitable for future national park or AONB designations, as well as those places where alternative forms of action will be more appropriate and are wanted by local communities.

Environment secretary George Eustice set out the government’s support for improved nature recovery in a written statement to Parliament on 24 June. This comes ahead of consultation on draft proposals later this year. Read Eustice's statement here on the UK Parliament website.

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: "Given the seismic shift in how we value green space and the countryside, we are delighted that Natural England will begin work to extend two existing AONBs in the Surrey Hills and Chilterns and to consider the case for two new AONBs in the Yorkshire Wolds and Cheshire Sandstone Ridge. Importantly, both of these designations would be near to people living in towns and cities, improving access to outstanding landscapes. 

"But we know that not all of the land within existing national parks and AONBs is effectively managed for nature. Our evidence also shows that a developer led planning system with centralised housing targets has driven up pressure on these nationally important areas, particularly in the South. So, there is a long way to go before these areas help meet the government’s target to protect 30 per cent of land for nature by 2030."

Jo Smith, CEO at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, said: “The government seems to think there is more land currently protected for nature than is actually the case. Our national parks and AONBs are landscape not nature designations, and whilst there are some fantastic places for wildlife and great partnership restoration projects being delivered, many of these places are severely depleted of wildlife because of overgrazing, poor management or intensive agricultural practices."

Smith explained that the four new designations will "not magically help meet the target of 30 per cent of land where nature can thrive". 

"Instead, what’s needed is urgent action, political will and more resources, to repair and heal the natural world across the national parks that we already have.

“Within national parks, for example, only 25 per cent of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), are in a favourable condition. These SSSIs are supposed to be protected for nature – they are the crown jewels of the natural world – so it’s pitiful that three-quarters are not in tip-top shape.'

She said that sites within national parks and AONBs need better management to help wildlife recover.

The government "must properly fund meaningful action to restore habitats across our protected landscapes" if it is to meet its ambition to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation.

28 June 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Homes England's various housing programmes saw the completion of 34,995 homes between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.

The statistical release also shows that 37,330 houses were started on site. Of these, 28,191 (76 per cent) were for affordable homes.

Last year, construction was shut down for a period of time during the first lockdown implemented to stem the spread of Covid-19.

The proportion of affordable homes started and completed was less than the numbers recorded for April 2019 to March 2020. This has been attributed to the pandemic.

Of the affordable homes started, 10,713 were for affordable rent, and 7,249 were for schemes including shared ownership and rent to buy. A similar number, 7,564 haven't yet been designated an affordable tenure, while the remaining 2,665 were for social rent, 11 per cent more than the previous 12 months.

The number of affordable rent homes completed totalled 13,306, while 8,811 were completed under intermediate affordable housing schemes. There were 1,906 social rent completions, an increase of 29 per cent on the previous year.

Peter Freeman, chair of Homes England, said the statistics show that Homes England has “kept making homes happen despite the huge impact of Covid-19 on the housing industry”.

“Alongside this, throughout the pandemic we’ve also adapted as an agency, learnt more about our partners and found ways to support them; learning that will help us as we enter our next phase.

“We know there are still hurdles to overcome but we’re encouraged by recent data to suggest the sector is recovering well.

“With increased government support through the new £12 billion Affordable Homes Programme, we’re sure the foundations are in place for the housing sector to come back stronger to deliver the new homes the country needs.”

Housing statistics: 1 April 2020 – 31 March 2021 can be found on the UK Government website.

28 June 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced that a community forest will be created in Plymouth, South Devon.

The Plymouth and South Devon Community Forest is part of the government’s plans to treble tree planting rates in England by the end of this Parliament.

It will be supported through the Nature for Climate Fund (NCF) and join England’s Community Forest network.

Funding will be used to develop canopy cover across the city and plant up to 500 hectares of woodland by 2025. Cover is expected to increase to 1,600 hectares by 2034.

Plymouth is set to plant up to 25 hectares in the first year of the project and receive up to £480,000 in funding from the NCF funded Trees for Climate.

It is expected that green jobs, training and skills development for young people will come out of the project. They will be invited to lead on aspects of the community forest, including its design, management and strategy.

The project also supports Plymouth City Council’s Plan for Trees scheme. This aims to help trees in urban areas become fit for purpose, resilient to the challenges of climate change and disease, and adaptable to whatever new challenges the future may hold.

Part of England's Trees Action Plan, this is the first of three community forests to be created in areas that need it. It is hoped that England’s community forests will contribute more than 6,700 hectares to woodland creation.

Paul Nolan, chair of England’s Community Forests, said: “Plymouth and South Devon Community Forest will create space for nature, encourage enterprise and support the area’s commitment to tackle climate change. Joining the powerful partnership of 10 established community forests across the country will support these ambitions, enabling local people and partners to achieve truly transformational environmental and social change.”

Patrick Nicholson, deputy leader of Plymouth City Council, said: “We are thrilled to be joining the Community Forest family and excited for the many benefits that it will bring Plymouth and the surrounding area.

“The forest chimes a chord with so many of the aspirations we’re trying to achieve economically, environmentally and for health and wellbeing here in Plymouth and I’m excited to get started on the next stage.”

24 June 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Solar farm consultation on Anglesey

Enso Energy Ltd is seeking views on its plans for a solar farm and energy storage facility on land in central Anglesey.

Alaw Môn Solar Farm, located to the south of Llyn Alaw, would comprise the construction and operation of a grid connected solar farm with energy storage. It has a proposed operational life of 40 years.

It is estimated that the solar farm would supply up to 160 megawatts (MW) of clean renewable electricity to the National Grid – the equivalent to the electricity demands of approximately 33,935 homes each year.

More detail about the scheme will be available at a virtual webinar on Tuesday 6 July 2021 at 6pm. The consultation closes on Wednesday 4 August 2021.

More information can be found on the Enso Energy website.


Cash for Bristol regeneration

Legal & General has announced that it will invest £350 million into Bristol Temple Island, which will be regenerated into a new urban quarter. The terms have been agreed with Bristol City Council.

There will be a focus on social inclusion through affordable housing, training and employment opportunities. Regeneration of Temple Island intends to support the city’s plans to ‘build back better’ and to help create 2,000 new jobs.

The UK’s pensions and savings will be used to drive economic growth in the region, with Temple Island set to complement the wider Temple Quarter partnership, which includes Bristol City Council, the University of Bristol and Network Rail.

The scheme has been designed by Zaha-Hadid Architects (ZHA). It will include a large-capacity conference centre and exhibition space, a 345-room hotel, 550 new homes, 220 of which have been designated as affordable, and two grade A office buildings.


Hertfordshire appoints partner for urban extension

Hertfordshire County Council has selected Urban&Civic as the master developer for the £500 million Baldock North Urban Extension Project.

The partnership will work to deliver up to 3,300 homes alongside commercial uses and associated infrastructure, including new schools and a country park

Its proposal features the delivery of strategic infrastructure, payments to the council and strategies to deliver a scheme that integrates with the existing town of Baldock.

The appointment was made through a competitive dialogue process managed on the council’s behalf by Carter Jonas’ Strategic Land team and with legal advice from Sharpe Pritchard.


London council to get £750,000 in funding

Waltham Forest Council has announced that its bid to the One Public Estate (OPE) and Land Release Fund programmes was successful and it has been awarded £750,000 from the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

The funding will be used to move forward property projects in the borough.

Leyton Mills Area Regeneration has been awarded £225,000 from the Office of Government Property, part of the Cabinet Office, to undertake masterplanning and to provide an urban design strategy and development framework.

The plans, which would deliver 3,700 homes, are for vacated land in Leyton and the key strategic sites that surround it – an area of over 25 hectares.

MHCLG awarded £528,000 from its Land Release Fund to part-fund the redevelopment of the former Wood Street Library. This includes a families and homes hub and 67 homes, 50 per cent of which will be affordable for local people.

The funding will be used to undertake site enabling works before construction starts.


Lichfield bids for government funding

Lichfield District Council has submitted a bid for £5 million to the government’s Levelling Up Fund. This is part of its strategy to fund the development of Lichfield’s new leisure centre.

The proposed leisure centre will be built at Stychbrook Park in Lichfield, subject to obtaining planning permission.

Work is continuing around the park to survey ground conditions in preparation for the drawing up of outline plans and public consultation later in the year.

Liz Little, cabinet member responsible for major projects, said: “The new leisure centre is vitally important to the future of the city and the district and represents so much more than just building. I believe our bid articulates an exciting vision, that this new facility, alongside Burntwood Leisure Centre, will become a focal point for helping increase participation in leisure and sport across our district, helping tackle health issues and creating a new hub for the community to complement existing facilities."


Parliament to debate housing-with-care

MPs will hold its first formal debate on the housing-with-care sector on 1 July.

The debate was secured by Jim Shannon MP and will take place from 3:15pm.

It will focus on the way in which housing-with-care offers a new, innovative model for delivering care, and keeping older people active and healthy for longer.

Shannon is one of 18 official parliamentary supporters for retirement communities, which spans six different political parties and groupings.

Michael Voges, executive director of ARCO, said: “We’re really pleased that the housing-with-care sector will finally be getting the parliamentary attention it deserves. This represents a huge milestone for our fast-growing sector which is ready to play a key role in the UK’s social care system in future.”

He said he hopes that the debate “spurs the government action that we need to see for the housing-with-care sector to transform the lives of many more thousands of older people”.


Housing for NHS staff approved

Barnet Council has approved Community Health Partnerships’s (CHP) plans for one of the country’s first homes for NHS staff schemes in Finchley, North London.

The plans comprise up to 130 homes for NHS staff, with 100 per cent of the homes being affordable. The homes will be primarily for rent but there will be some available for shared ownership.

They also include communal facilities in which NHS staff can socialise, car and cycle parking, and publicly accessible, landscaped spaces with trees, vegetation and planting to improve biodiversity.

The homes will be built on land next to Finchley Memorial Hospital that was originally part of the hospital itself but has been identified as being surplus to clinical requirements.

CHP, a company wholly owned by the Department of Health and Social Care, acquired the site in 2013 when the local Primary Care Trusts were abolished.

CHP was advised by planning and development consultancy Montagu Evans.


Car depot to be redeveloped

Featherstone Homes Ltd has set out plans to deliver 19 homes on the site of a former car breakdown and recovery depot in Bermondsey, Southwark.

The £5.4 million development in Lynton Road will involve the demolition of the existing depot to make way for a four-storey apartment block building.

The homes will have either one, two or three bedrooms, and the block will have a ‘green’ roof terrace and a play area for families with young children.

Shawbrook Bank is supporting the scheme with a £5.4 million development finance loan.

29 June 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner