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Planning news - 15 July 2021

Published: Thursday, 15th July 2021

Natural England launches updated biodiversity metric, High Court rules self-build man owes more than £115k in CIL, Local authorities hold key to addressing climate crisis. 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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Three new tools designed to help developers measure biodiversity net gain have been launched by Natural England.

It is hoped that they will guarantee that new developments are “nature positive”.

The Biodiversity Metric 3.0 will replace the beta Biodiversity Metric 2.0, which was published in 2019.

If a development affects biodiversity, the tools should ensure that development is delivered in a way that helps to restore any biodiversity lost, and delivers “thriving” natural space for local communities.

The environment bill, currently making its way through Parliament, proposes that biodiversity net gain must be measured using a recognised biodiversity metric.

According to Natural England, the Biodiversity Metric 3.0 will provide a way to measure and account for nature losses and gains resulting from development or changes in land management.

Natural England chair Tony Juniper said: “Investing in nature’s recovery is a vital national priority. These innovative new tools will help advance that ambition via the development planning process, ensuring we leave the natural environment - both terrestrial and marine – in a measurably better state than it was before.

“As well as benefiting nature, biodiversity net gain can also give greater access to nature where people live and work, and can streamline the planning process by objectively and transparently quantifying any losses and gains in biodiversity.”

Biodiversity Metric 3.0 will become the industry standard biodiversity metric for all on-land and intertidal development types in England. It will be a requirement for ecological consultants, developers, local planning authorities, landowners and others through the environment bill.

Natural England has also launched Small Sites Metric (SSM), a beta version designed to simplify the process of calculating biodiversity net gain on smaller development sites, and the Environmental Benefits from Nature Tool (EBNT) to give developers a way to explore the benefits habitats bring to people, such as improvements to water quality and flood management services.

12 July 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A High Court judge has ruled that a man from Radlett must pay £118,227.62 in community infrastructure levy (CIL) after finding that self-build exemption from the payment does not apply if a development does not have planning permission.

Mrs Justice Thornton heard that Hertsmere Borough Council granted Nathan Gardiner of Aldenham Avenue planning permission to part-demolish and extend his bungalow in March 2019.

During development works, the existing foundations of his home were deemed unable to support the original extension plans. Instead, it was found that they needed to be removed and rebuilt.

Gardiner had to apply for retrospective planning permission for full demolition and construction of a new six-bedroom property. This was approved in February 2020. The council said Gardiner accepted that he was now liable for CIL, but at the same time he applied to the council for CIL exemption as a self-builder, a rule that was introduced in 2014. The council rejected the claim and Gardiner was served with a demand notice last year.

Justice Thornton says the claim for judicial review “raises a point of principle as to whether the self-build exemption provided for in regulation 54A of the Community Infrastructure Regulations (2010/948) (the CIL Regulations) applies to the grant of planning permission, pursuant to S73A TCPA, for development already carried out”.

Gardiner contended that, “on the plain wording of the CIL regulations, the exemption does so apply, and this is consistent with the purpose of the exemption”. The council disagreed.

Gardiner argued that “on an ordinary common-sense reading of the CIL regulations the self-build exemption is available for development with retrospective planning permission”.

Thornton explained that Gardiner “undertook development for which he had no planning permission, and which was therefore unauthorised, and did not notify the defendant of the unauthorised works. He was not granted an exemption which he then lost by virtue of a relatively minor procedural indiscretion”.

The claim for judicial review failed.

Dr Harvey Cohen, portfolio-holder for planning, said CIL “is an important tool for local authorities to use to support growth in their area”.

“We, as a council, appreciate that CIL regulations can seem quite complex, however, we expect all developers and self-builders to follow them to the letter.

“In this instance, we tried our hardest to work with Mr Gardiner and explain the reasons for our decisions, and I’m sorry the dispute escalated to this point.

“We aim to deal with all parties, whether large-scale developers or individuals building their own homes, fairly and openly. We hope this case provides clarity for other self-builders and local authorities who find themselves in the same position.”

The judgment can be read here.

12 July 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

A coalition of local government, environmental and research organisations have called for urgent powers and resources for local authorities so that they can help to address the climate crisis.

The call comes ahead of the government’s net-zero strategy.

The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), Ashden, Friends of the Earth, Grantham Institute at Imperial College, Green Alliance, Greenpeace UK, London Environment Directors’ Network (LEDNet), Place-Based Climate Action Network (PCAN) and Solace all want local authorities to be recognised as key partners in the strategy.

Their report, Recognising Local Authorities as Key Partners in the Net Zero Strategy, sets out how local authorities have developed plans and can “rapidly” scale up actions to meet climate targets. To do this however, the government must back local authorities.

The coalition acknowledges that there have been reductions in carbon emissions by the power sector, in particular, but sets out that the government must now focus on the housing and transport sectors.

The coalition says tackling these requires behavioural change as well as the delivery of low-carbon solutions, which is why local government is “best placed to influence due to having a closer relationship with local communities”.

Local authorities have control over a number sectors, such as transport planning, waste management, economic regeneration, land use planning and regulation of energy efficiency standards. In some of these areas, such as planning, national policy and regulations “can hinder not help” local climate action, said the coalition.

They also have huge influence over emissions through their procurement, which was worth at least £63 billion in 2019/20 and accounts for 70-80 per cent of an individual council’s carbon footprint. But in some of these areas – like planning – national policy and regulations can hinder rather than help local climate action.

Empowering local authorities is not a “nice to have”, the coalition maintains, but is essential to several government priorities such as decarbonisation, levelling up, reducing inequality, health and wellbeing and delivering a green economic recovery.

The government should adopt four key priorities to ensure the success of the net-zero strategy:

  • A clear commitment to a mutually agreed central framework to embed local authorities as delivery partners in decarbonisation policies. Local government needs long-term, stable funding, realistic time frames and sufficient support to deliver at both pace and scale.
  • A clear message that a place-based solution is the best approach for several sectors to ensure that local infrastructure, behaviour and partnership activities are aligned to net-zero. National policies will only be delivered when supported by local decision-making and behavioural changes.
  • A cross-departmental approach to working with local authorities. The current siloed approach is a continuous struggle for local authorities and without a collaborative approach, there is a risk that national net-zero goals will not be met. Any contradictions in policies and funding programmes must be removed.
  • Acknowledgement of the wider co-benefits of delivering on decarbonisation policies, and how local authorities can support these in a way that will also deliver better public health, reduce inequalities, restore nature and build thriving local economies.

Paula Hewitt, president of ADEPT, said: “The government will not meet its targets without the work of local authorities, and we want to ensure the transition to a low-carbon society is just. As leaders in our areas, we bring together partnerships from across different sectors, as well as our communities, businesses, suppliers, strategic bodies and the voluntary sector. No one else has the reach, the levels of trust or ability to provide targeted support that will encourage and enable behavioural change. We have already started this work as our case studies show. What we need now is the recognition and resource to go further, faster.”

12 July 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Climate change minister Julie James announced this week that part of Wales will become a pilot area for new measures such as changes to tax and planning regulations in a bid to tackle Wales’s second homes crisis.

Once the yet-to-be decided measures have been trialled they will be potentially rolled out across the country.

The administration is looking at changing planning rules and making all holiday accommodation owners register their properties as such.

National and local taxation schemes could be put in place to “ensure second home owners make a fair and effective contribution to the communities in which they buy”.

Officials are looking at a scheme in Scotland which proposes a licensing scheme for holiday lets that will allow a local authority to limit numbers of such properties.

Plans to create a registration scheme for all holiday accommodation and a consultation on changes to local taxes will begin over the summer.

A Welsh Language Community Housing Plan, to protect the particular interests of Welsh-language communities, will be published for consultation in the autumn.

The minister told AMs: “To address the issue of second homes, we will provide for better management of additional second homes and short-term holiday lets through changes to the regulatory framework and system.

“Parts of the system need to change, and we will change them. We will establish a statutory registration scheme for all holiday accommodation, including short-term lets. We will consider the legal complexities of how we can test changes to the planning system, and I am also determined that all systems either in place or explored will champion social justice.”

9 July 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner

Birmingham City Council has published a draft Perry Barr 2040 Masterplan that seeks to improve the suburban area over the next two decades.

The local authority aims to build on the current £700 million package of projects in the district as Birmingham is the host city for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The draft masterplan features attractive places for people to live, work and visit with the introduction of new homes, the strengthening of the town centre and providing sustainable travel options to help Birmingham to become carbon-neutral by 2030.

It will prioritise parks, waterways, allotments, and public spaces to create a joined-up green network that supports wellbeing and access to nature.

Ian Ward, councillor and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “For many years there has been a clear need and ambition to unlock the obvious untapped potential of Perry Barr, but we needed the resources to do it.

“Now, our successful Commonwealth Games bid has helped us kick-start a major regeneration project that will transform the lives and life chances of Perry Barr residents for many years to come.

“The government talks a lot about ‘levelling up’ but our communities need action now and we’re getting on with the job, working with a range of partners to transform Perry Barr. The projects being delivered, thanks to the games – such as improved public transport, the redeveloped Alexander Stadium and new homes – are just the start of things as this masterplan demonstrates.”

All of the masterplan details are available on Birmingham City council’s website, and online engagement sessions for people to find out more and have their say on aspects of the draft masterplan will become available in the coming weeks.

Once the consultation period is over the final masterplan will be submitted to the council’s cabinet later this year.

12 July 2021
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

Northamptonshire joins great crested newt scheme

NatureSpace has announced that its Natural England approved District Licensing Scheme has expanded into Northamptonshire.

Great crested newts are a protected species in the UK and their numbers are declining. The district licensing scheme seeks to remove the risk and uncertainty for planners and developers, speeding up the licensing process.

It also intends to ensure a sustainable future for great crested newts by creating and managing new habitats across the region.

The addition of Northamptonshire increases the geographical area covered by the NatureSpace scheme to over 10,000km².

The scheme has already been operating for three years in the South Midlands, including in the neighbouring districts of south Northamptonshire, Bedford Borough and Milton Keynes. The extra areas now covered by the scheme are the new West Northamptonshire Council, a new unitary authority serving the previous administrative areas of Daventry District, Northampton Borough and South Northamptonshire, and the new North Northamptonshire Council, a new unitary authority serving Wellingborough, Kettering, Corby and East Northamptonshire.


Westminster approves extra care homes

Westminster City Council’s planning committee has granted planning permission for the council’s plans to redevelop the former Carlton Dene care home site into 65 affordable extra care homes and 22 new affordable homes to replace Peebles House, which was a social rented block.

Carlton Dene care home residents were supported in a move into the new, dementia-friendly Beachcroft care home in Maida Vale at the end of last year.

Redeveloping the Carlton Dene site is the next step in the council’s adopted Specialist Housing Strategy for Older People Programme.

The strategy identified the need for more homes and a better choice of housing for older people so they could live independently.

The homes will be available at social rent for people aged 55 and over and will feature onsite support services and facilities.


Zero carbon homes unveiled

Modular housing firm ilke Homes has unveiled the UK’s 'first mainstream' zero carbon home.

ilke Homes said the home can cut energy bills to zero due to progress in manufacturing, materials and renewable energy. The factory manufactured homes also create less waste.

The homes have been trialled by five councils and housing associations. Now, Yorkshire-based ilke Homes is rolling out a mainstream zero carbon home.

Zero carbon homes do cost a bit more than standard fossil fuel heated homes due to the cost of installing additional insulation, heat pumps and solar panels. ilke Homes has said that this small cost premium will be eradicated by 2030 thanks to reductions in key component costs and advances in its manufacturing processes, robotics and AI-driven design.


Miller Homes buys Gedling site

Northern Trust Company Ltd, working alongside the landowner, has completed the sale of a 10 acre site in Gedling, Nottingham to Miller Homes.

The site is owned by Midlands Land Portfolio Limited (MLPL), the property development arm of Severn Trent.

It is located off Burton Road. The site has outline planning permission for up to 120 new homes, approved by Gedling Borough Council earlier this year.

Of the homes, 20 per cent will be affordable. Plans also comprise public open space, financial contributions towards primary school provision, library and health facilities and bus stop enhancements.

Fisher German acted as agents to market the site for sale.


Shoreditch development approved

The London Borough of Hackney has granted developer Southern Grove planning permission for a £40 million 'sustainable' office development on the banks of the Regent’s Canal.

The Tiller Building, to be located on Orsman Road, will consist of 40,000 square feet of office space with views over the canal to the rear, replacing two derelict buildings.

There will be outside space on every floor of the building’s six storeys.


School refurbishment approved

Islington Council has granted Reed Watts Architects planning permission and listed building consent for the refurbishment and extension of the assembly hall building of the grade II listed school in Tufnell Park, London.

The assembly hall at Acland Burghley was completed in 1967. Over recent years, the building has suffered from poor technical infrastructure, lack of accessible WCs and inadequate ventilation.

Reed Watts said it has worked with the school and students to develop a "sympathetic suite of modifications" to help the school and enable the local community to use the building more intensively.

Acland Burghley is home to the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE).

Work will include improving flexibility for seating and staging within the hall; improving links between the hall and external amphitheatre; adding new accessible WCs for audiences and performers; and improving energy use by upgrading ventilation through the construction of a passive ‘earth duct’ to supply tempered air.

The school will now start its fundraising drive and hopes to start work on site early next year.

13 July 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner