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Planning news - 8 July 2021

Published: Thursday, 8th July 2021

Building safety bill to include regulator, SoS confirms article 4 restrictions to control PDRs, Cardiff Capital Region signs up to two global carbon initiatives. 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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Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has outlined legislation that will introduce a building safety regulator and give residents more power to hold builders and developers to account.

The building safety bill will also enable tougher sanctions against those who threaten safety to be taken. It will be laid before Parliament on 5 July.

The new regulator will oversee the new regime and have responsibility for ensuring that building safety risks in new and existing high-rise residential buildings that are 18 metres and taller are effectively managed and resolved, taking cost into account.

According to the government, this will include implementing specific gateway points at design, construction and completion phases to make sure that safety is considered at “each and every stage” of a building’s construction. It seeks to ensure that safety risks are considered at the earliest stage of the planning process.

The proposals would also see the amount of time residents can seek compensations for substandard construction work increase from six to 15 years. The changes will apply retrospectively.

Developers will be required to be members of the New Homes Ombudsman scheme, which will require them to provide redress to a homebuyer, including through the awarding of compensation. The changes are intended to simplify the existing system.

Jenrick said: “This bill will ensure high standards of safety for people’s homes, and in particular for high-rise buildings, with a new regulator providing essential oversight at every stage of a building’s life cycle, from design, construction, completion to occupation.

“The new building safety regime will be a proportionate one, ensuring those buildings requiring remediation are brought to an acceptable standard of safety swiftly, and reassuring the vast majority of residents and leaseholders in those buildings that their homes are safe.”

The proposed legislation builds on Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. It found that there needs to be significant cultural and regulatory change.

She said: “It is vital that we focus on getting the system right for the future and set new standards for building safety. Residents and other stakeholders need to have their confidence in high-rise buildings restored and those who undertake such projects must be held to account for delivering safe buildings.”

The Association for Project Safety's president (APS) Jonathan Moulam said the bill “offers the opportunity to reset building safety in England by designing safety in and appointing a safety expert to every team when projects are being developed”.

“APS members believe everyone should have the right and expectation to work and live in buildings that are safe. Firms that have failed in their duty to guard the safety of residents and workers should play their part in putting things right. But safety cannot be an afterthought. And it is a collective effort. Everyone in construction – designers, construction workers, clients, government and regulators, at every stage of life of a building – must work together using all our skills and experience to make construction safer for everyone.”

The APS is the membership body for professionals who operate in, or have an interest in, health and safety risk management in the construction industry.

The draft building safety bill was first announced in July 2020.

5 July 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has set out measures to ensure that article 4 directions are used in a ‘targeted way’ to the protect ‘thriving core of historic high street areas’ but do not restrict the delivery of housing through permitted development rights (PDRs).

In a written statement, he says the policy will apply to all article 4 directions in England.

“As part of our ongoing measures to improve the planning system, increase housing supply on brownfield land, stimulate investment in urban areas and sustain jobs, we have in recent years introduced new permitted development rights which allow the change of use to residential without the need for a full planning application,” he states.

The new paragraph 53 of the National Planning Policy Framework will read:

“The use of article 4 directions to remove national permitted development rights should:

  • Where they relate to change from non-residential use to residential use, be limited to situations where an article 4 direction is necessary to avoid wholly unacceptable adverse impacts (this could include the loss of the essential core of a primary shopping area which would seriously undermine its vitality and viability, but would be very unlikely to extend to the whole of a town centre).
  • In other cases, be limited to situations where an article 4 direction is necessary to protect local amenity or the well-being of the area (this could include the use of article 4 directions to require planning permission for the demolition of local facilities).
  • In all cases be based on robust evidence and apply to the smallest geographical area possible.

This change does not apply to changes between different residential uses, only to changes from non-residential to residential use.”


Through the measures, Jenrick explains that a “significant” contribution has been made to housing supply by developing brownfield land.

In specific circumstances, local authorities are able to issue article 4 directions to suspend permitted development rights, which must be backed by evidence.

Jenrick writes: “This written ministerial statement sets out measures I am taking to ensure that our policy on article 4 directions is used in a highly targeted way to protect the thriving core of historic high street areas, but does not unnecessarily restrict the ability to deliver much-needed housing through national permitted development rights. Our new policy will apply to all article 4 directions."

The measures were subject to a consultation earlier this year.

From this, Jenrick will make other changes to the National Planning Policy Framework later this year. For now, he explains that he wanted to announce the article 4 policy so local authorities and communities can “take it into account from today when they consider bringing in any new article 4 directions”.

“Our aim is to support high streets and by ensuring a higher threshold for making article 4 directions relating to change of use to residential we will maximise the potential for underused buildings to be converted to an alternative use,” says Jenrick.

Read the full written ministerial statement on the UK Parliament website.

5 July 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

The Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) cabinet has agreed to participate in two major international initiatives: the Race to Zero campaign and the Carbon Disclosure Project.

The former is a global campaign focused on rallying leadership across business, cities, regions, and investors to create a healthy, resilient and zero-carbon recovery that unlocks sustainable and inclusive growth.

The latter is a worldwide environmental disclosure system that helps cities, regions and companies to disclose their environmental data and impact.

Involvement in these initiatives will feed into the energy vision for the region, which was created in collaboration with the Welsh Government Energy Service and was approved by the regional cabinet last December.

Kellie Beirne, CCR city deal director, said: “Both of these global collaborations will undoubtedly shine a harsh spotlight on the substantive challenges we need to face in our collective endeavours; but they also illuminate the determination we have to create a decarbonised CCR that can build a prosperous future in a sustainable world.”

2 July 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has committed another £6 million of funding towards improving green spaces in the capital.

The Grow Back Greener fund, worth £1.2 million with £500,000 contributed by Thames Water, will offer grants to community-led projects to help more Londoners access green space in their neighbourhoods.

The money will be focused on the most disadvantaged areas to support community gardens, food-growing projects, pocket parks and cleaner waterways.

The new £4 million Green and Resilient Spaces Fund will support large-scale green space projects that help to tackle the climate emergency by reducing the risk of floods and keeping the city cool.

Projects could include restoring rivers, creating new wetlands, opening up new green connections between parks or creating new woodlands.

The mayor’s office said “cutting-edge data” such as climate risk mapping will be used to highlight where people in London are most vulnerable to impacts of the climate crisis. Areas with the least access to public open space will also be targeted.

Khan said the new funding, announced during London Climate Action Week, “is just the start of even more investment in green spaces, nature and projects to help tackle the climate emergency”.  

“The community-led projects that benefit from this programme provide so much more than just improved green space for local communities. The Cookbook Edible Library project I am visiting today provides an educational, safe space for young people to develop new skills – providing positive opportunities and alternatives to those who might be vulnerable to getting drawn into gangs.”

The Cookbook Edible Library project is a partnership between Haringey Council, Edible London and Volunteer It Yourself. It was awarded funding in the first round of the Grow Back Greener Fund in December 2020.

1 July 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

There were 49,470 homes completed in England in the first quarter of 2021, according to government statistics.

This is the highest figure in more than 20 years and a 4 per cent increase compared with the last three months of 2020.

The government said 46,010 homes were started between January and March 2021, which is the highest number started in nearly 15 years. It represents a 7 per cent increase on the number started in the final three months of 2020.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “It is encouraging to see a continued rise in the number of new homes being built. The housebuilding sector has shown extraordinary resilience and the government has continued to demonstrate its support for the industry throughout the pandemic.

“By enabling construction sites to remain open and operate safely, builders have been able deliver the homes this country needs as we build back better from the pandemic.”

In London, there was an 18 per cent increase on the number of homes built in the year to March 2021 to 14,530, compared with the previous 12 months. Starts were up by 10 per cent in the North East, while the North West saw a decrease of 13 per cent in the year ending March 2021 compared with the year ending March 2020.

All regions reported a diminution in completions in the year to March 2021 compared with the year to March 2020.

Housing Supply: Indicators of New Supply, England: January to March 2021 can be found on the UK Government website.

5 July 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Derelict farm becomes National Nature Reserve

Kingcombe Meadows in Dorset has joined the list of National Nature Reserves in England.

The 309-acre nature reserve comprises Kingcombe Meadow and Powerstock Common, two of Dorset Wildlife Trust’s flagship schemes.

The land was originally a derelict farm, which was put up for auction in 1987. This made the national news on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and the Daily Telegraph, which kick-started a public campaign to raise the funds for Dorset Wildlife Trust to buy the land and preserve it as a functioning example of unimproved grassland.

The landscape now features marsh fritillary butterflies and wildflowers such as bee orchids, pepper saxifrage and devil’s-bit scabious. Woodland edges and scrub provide the conditions for foraging bats while ponds support toads, frogs and three species of native newts.

This designation takes the number of National Nature Reserves in England to 225.


Tolworth station to be transformed

A partnership between six London local authorities, chaired by Kingston Council, has been awarded more than £2 million for plans to transform a number of places across south-west London.

The funding comes from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG: £1.6 million from the Land Release Fund (LRF) and £460,000 from One Public Estate, which is delivered in partnership by the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Office of Government Property within the Cabinet Office.

The South London One Public Estate (OPE) Partnership is made up of Kingston, Merton, Sutton, Croydon, Richmond and Wandsworth councils.

The scheme includes £150,000 for Kingston Council and Network Rail to upgrade Tolworth Station so it is a more accessible transport hub with community and enterprise spaces.


Surrey neighbourhood backs plan

Residents in Thorpe, north Surrey, have backed a community-led neighbourhood plan that sets out how the village can grow by supporting new homes and infrastructure.

The plan secures an amendment to the existing green belt boundary to allow for sustainable growth to meet local needs.

Of those who voted at the referendum, 85 per cent supported the plan.

Runnymede Borough Council’s planning committee has approved the plan and it went live on 30 June. It will be used to determine planning applications within the neighbourhood area alongside the Runnymede 2030 Local Plan.

Read about Thorpe Neighbourhood Plan on the Runnymede Borough Council website.


Eye care centre approved

Camden Council has granted planning permission for a patient-centred eye care, research and education centre in the heart of the Knowledge Quarter, a hub for science and innovation.

Oriel is a joint initiative between Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (Moorfields), UCL Institute of Ophthalmology (IoO) and Moorfields Eye Charity.

Subject to approval by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and conditions being met, Moorfields and the UCL IoO will relocate from their current buildings on City Road, Islington, to the St Pancras Hospital site in Camden.

The planning consultants for the scheme were Montagu Evans, Penoyre & Prasad were the lead architects, AECOM provided engineering and sustainability advice, and White Artkitekter worked on the interiors and landscaping.


Views wanted on Lichfield local plan

Lichfield District Council is seeking views on the review of the area’s local plan.

The Lichfield District Local Plan 2040 Regulation 19 consultation will ask the public and stakeholders to give their views on the soundness and legal compliance of the pre-submission (publication) version of the district’s local plan.

This plan, for the period to 2040, is based on updated evidence and the feedback from previous consultations.

Iain Eadie, cabinet member responsible for the local plan, said: “Our pre-submission version of the local plan sets out where we believe we should allow this growth to take place and how we think the district should be shaped over the next decade and beyond. So far in the review process we have had more than 8,500 comments, which shows how passionately our communities feel about local planning."

The pre-submission plan can be found on the council website.


John Lewis announces intention to build 10,000 homes for rent

High street retailer John Lewis has announced that it wants to build 10,000 homes for rent over the coming years.

Nina Bhatia, the company’s executive director – strategy and commercial development, explained: “As a business driven by social purpose, we have big ambitions for moving into property rental to address the national housing shortage and support local communities.

“It will also provide a stable, long-term income for the partnership, new employment opportunities for our partners and plays to our strength as a trusted brand known for strong service.”

John Lewis expects its diversification into property will give it a stable future and offer more opportunities for its employees. Its tenants will be able to choose whether to furnish the properties themselves or have them fully furnished with products supplied by John Lewis.

The move comes close to a year after John Lewis announced that it intended to work with partners to repurpose some of its vacated stories as affordable housing as the firm seeks to adapt to the gradual decline in high street retail.


Council plans week of public events as part of local plan consultation

Fareham Borough Council is planning a week of public events as part of its consultation on the next step towards its new local plan, the Revised Publication Plan.

Assuming the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, events will run from 20-26 July with up to 15 members of the public able to attend at any one time for up to 30 minutes. Community Action Team (CAT) meetings will include a presentation by the council of its revised publication plan.

The council’s consultation on the Revised Publication Local Plan began on 18 June and runs until 30 July.

A special edition of the council’s magazine containing further information about the revised plan will be delivered across the borough by 2 July

This, together with the virtual exhibition and supporting evidence for the plan, is available on the council website.


Competition aims to encourage diversity in 5G network supply

The government is putting up £30 million to encourage tech firms to develop new ways of guaranteeing competitive equipment supply for the UK’s 5G network.

Seeking to make the UK “a pioneer in building 5G networks”, the scheme is aimed at tackling the over-reliance on a small number of telecoms vendors, which is seen as a problem in all international telecoms markets.

The Future RAN Competition (FRANC) will fund R&D projects aimed at speeding up adoption of Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN), a form of wireless communication technology that allows equipment from multiple suppliers to be used in 5G networks, preventing their dependence on a single company’s technology to function.

Firms will need to submit proposals for projects that help fast-track availability of viable Open RAN products and suppliers, in so doing creating “a stronger case for government and business investment in the technology”.

Proposals could include exploring issues around power efficiency, the management of radio wave ‘spectrum’ resource, the availability of advanced software platforms, systems integration and security.

The government hopes that the competition will promote collaboration between British and international firms operating in the UK’s public telecoms networks.


Legal & General announces SBTR plan for North Horsham scheme

Legal & General (L&G) has submitted plans to deliver what would be the company’s first suburban build-to-rent (SBTR) scheme as part of its £1 billion multi-tenure site in North Horsham, Sussex.

L&G seeks to deliver 200 new homes as part of its 2,750-home masterplan. The scheme will use modern methods of construction to accelerate the delivery of the site. The company also wants the site to be one of the first EPC A-Rated SBTR and affordable development in the UK.

If granted planning permission, the £70 million scheme will deliver 124 suburban build-to-rent homes, alongside 97 homes for social rent, affordable rent and shared ownership.

The North Horsham development follows two net-zero schemes announced through its later living business, Inspired Villages, earlier this year.

L&G sees its latest activities as burnishing its credentials as “one of the UK’s leading housebuilders across all forms of construction, price points and tenures”.


Plans to ‘green over’ Plumstead high street area in London

The first phase of 11 redesigned shopfronts along Plumstead High Street in the London Borough of Greenwich have received planning permission.

The improvements are being jointly funded by the council and Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund to regenerate Plumstead High Street, Lakedale Road and White Hart Road.  Works will start later this year with up to 40 shops due to be complete by spring 2022. Each will receive advice from a team of architects, builders and designers.

Making the high street greener and celebrating Plumstead’s local character and identity were community priorities identified in consultation.

Denise Scott-McDonald, deputy leader and cabinet member for regeneration and good growth, said: “All the positive changes as part of this project are the culmination of listening to the local community and putting their ideas into action.”

6 July 2021
Laura Edgar and Martin Read, The Planner