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Planning news - 22 July 2021

Published: Thursday, 22nd July 2021

Local authorities to be given CPO powers to renew derelict buildings to transform towns, Coventry submits plans for UK's first Gigafactory, PINS charts route out of lockdown. 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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Local authorities in England will be given compulsory purchase order powers (CPO) to take over and transform derelict buildings and convert them into homes if property owners stall on regeneration plans.

The government's high street strategy Build Back Better High Streets, launched 15 July, encourages councils to use existing powers to convert empty offices into housing, and to regenerate empty shops into entertainment venues or other new businesses without the need for planning permission.

The 15 Towns Deals

Birkenhead - £25 million

Bloxwich  - £21.3 million

Blyth - £20.9 million

Crewe - £22.9 million

Darwen - £25 million

Dudley - £25 million

Grays - £19.9 million

Millom - £20.6 million

Nelson - £25 million

Newhaven - £19.3 million

Runcorn - £23.6 million

St Helens - £25 million

Stainforth - £21.6 million

Tilbury - £22.8 million

Todmorden - £17.5 million


Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out his plans for high streets at the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) in Coventry. He said he wants to level up, unite the country, and breathe new life into town centres.

The high street strategy is part of Johnson’s commitment to level-up all areas of England.

Fifteen Towns Deals were confirmed, taking the total number of deals to 101. The funding will support community regeneration projects, such as repurposing empty shops on high streets, creating new public spaces and transforming a riverfront area into a community hub with entertainment and leisure venues.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “As we build back better from the pandemic, we are transforming our high streets across the UK into the kind of vibrant places we will want to visit, work and call home for generations to come.

“This strategy sets out a vision for entrepreneurship to thrive, where local shops and businesses are supported with permanent al fresco dining, derelict eyesores transformed into quality homes and new hubs for business and entertainment encouraged.

“With more funding for town centres and powers for communities to take a stake in their local area, we are delivering on our commitments to level up and put power in the hands of local people.”

Cash has also been committed to “mini-Holland” schemes in England that aim to establish greener forms of transport, encourage cycling and walking by installing segregated cycle lanes and create low-traffic neighbourhoods.

Build Back Better High Streets can be found on the UK Government website. More information on the Towns Deal can be found here.

15 July 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Coventry City Council has entered into a joint venture partnership to bring forward proposals for the UK’s first electric battery gigafactory.

The partnership with Coventry Airport Ltd has submitted a full planning application for a 53-hectare gigafactory for battery production and recycling. This would create 4,500 new jobs and tens of thousands more in the supply chain at Coventry Airport, while attracting up to £2 billion in investment.

“There is increasing pressure to ensure the UK is ready to take advantage of electrification and together the West Midlands is seizing the initiative to deliver for UK PLC as part of a Green Industrial Revolution,” said Coventry City Council leader George Duggins. “We are the ideal location for a gigafactory as the home of the UK automotive sector, alongside world-leading research in battery technology.”

The West Midlands is at heart of the UK automotive sector and home to a major automotive cluster with an advanced automotive skills ecosystem. The region is already home to 28 per cent of the UK’s automotive talent, while Coventry is within a four-hour travel time for 90 per cent of the UK population, with transport links set to be further improved by HS2.

The city also hosts the global headquarters of Jaguar Land Rover, the UK’s largest car maker, while LEVC, BMW, Aston Martin Lagonda, Lotus, TATA Motors are based in the wider West Midlands.

20 July 2021
Huw Morris, The Planner

Plans to resume in-person events have been unveiled by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) as it charts a route out of lockdown for its operations.

The lifting of lockdown restrictions heralds “a new phase of continued caution, learning to live with the virus and the risks”, said PINS, as it works through the implications for its casework and workforce.

As restrictions lift from today (19 July), office-based PINS staff will work some of their hours from the Temple Quay House headquarters in Bristol. Virtual hearings and inquiries organised until 10 September will continue as planned to avoid disruption and potential confusion.

However, hearings and inquiries taking place from 13 September will revert to the pre-pandemic approach of being arranged by local authorities.

In-person events will need to be facilitated by the local authority, even where participants including the inspector need to present their evidence or take part virtually, said PINS. Where in-person elements are planned, the local authority must be prepared for the event to be held fully virtually in case pandemic restrictions are reimposed, it warned.

The inspectorate is also consulting staff, stakeholders and customers about how hearings and inquiries should work in the longer term. Events run by local authorities from 13 September will provide “valuable evidence to help shape our thinking” on the balance to be struck between physical and virtual events, PINS added.

19 July 2021
Huw Morris, The Planner

Northern towns are facing ‘seismic’ changes, with Covid-19 and lockdowns making a huge impact on the retail sector as shifting working patterns and social distancing measures becoming the norm for millions of people, according to research.

A study by consultant Lichfields says retailers continue to face significant challenges, notably the growth in online competition, out-of-town shopping centres, disproportionate business rates, and changing consumer habits.

An estimated 11,000 retail and leisure units vanished from town centres last year, including more than 9,000 from such high-profile brands as Debenhams and Arcadia’s Top Shop and Burtons. But Northern towns are “fighting back” and showing “encouraging signs of early success”, notes the study.

Lichfields identified a package of funding streams used by local authorities, planners and policymakers to drive town centre regeneration across the north of England. This includes the £830 million Future High Streets Fund and the £3.6 billion Towns Fund. High Street Heritage Action Zones are also fuelling economic, social and cultural recovery by regenerating historic town centres.

Authorities are looking to transform towns and pull in more people by relocating health and wellbeing facilities closer to transport hubs, more town centre education facilities in vacant buildings, while tourism and heritage plans are being developed to attract visitors. They also see funding the development of buildings to accommodate new digital and creative industries and repurposing retail space as affordable and attractive living as critical to the future vibrancy and culture of towns.

“There are many positives on the horizon and our research points to a strong, vibrant and successful future for those Northern towns that take advantage of the funding streams and pursue exciting and innovative strategies designed to transform the heart and soul of our high streets,” said Lichfields’ Newcastle office director and the report lead author Jonathan Wallace.

Read the report Moving On Up? Levelling Up Town Centres Across Northern England (pdf).

19 July 2021
Huw Morris, The Planner

Leaders in Greater Manchester have set out their plan for new homes, enhancing green spaces and revitalising town centres.

The Places for Everyone concerns nine districts of Greater Manchester – Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Tameside, Trafford, and Wigan.

It outlines a long-term plan for jobs, new homes, and sustainable growth. It has been published ahead of a joint committee meeting next week (20 July) and a proposed public consultation this summer.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Greater Manchester is setting out a clear and ambitious vision for new homes, enhanced green spaces and revitalised town centres. Linked to our plans for a zero-carbon future and good jobs and growth, this vision represents a major milestone as our city-region maps out its recovery from the pandemic.”

Places for Everyone seeks to maximise brownfield land and urban spaces and protect the green belt from the “risk of unplanned development”. New development will need to be sustainably integrated into Greater Manchester's transport network or connected by new infrastructure

The plan follows the publication of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework in 2016. It was then delayed with a draft published in draft form last year. The original plan allocated housing for green belt land but the new plan allocates 90 per cent of housing in urban areas.

Burnham said: “If we want to build back from the pandemic in a way that brings everyone with us and strikes at the root of inequality, we need a plan that strengthens our economy and our society against future challenges, and puts us in the best position to take advantage of new opportunities.

“We all share the same priorities: we want to see better homes, better jobs, and better transport for everyone in our city-region. Everything we do is driven by that vision, and whether through Places for Everyone or other projects like the Homelessness Prevention Strategy and our plans for a world-class integrated transport network, we will continue to work together right across Greater Manchester to create a place where we can all succeed.”

After the joint committee meeting on 20 July, the plan will be shared with elected members from the nine councils for review and to approve for publication between 20 July and 5 August.

If passed by all councils, the plan will go out to an eight-week public consultation beginning on 9 August and ending on 3 October.

14 July 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Runnymede adopts new Tibbalds design guide

A design guide created by Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design for Runnymede Borough Council has been adopted to help shape future development.

The Supplementary Planning Document is designed to support the borough’s local plan and ensure that everyone involved in planning applications in the borough – from members and officers to applicants and local stakeholders – is clear about the council’s expectations for high-quality design in new developments and across different scales and types of proposals.

The guidance sets out four overarching standards for the area: strengthening Runnymede’s character; making people-friendly places; placemaking and creating character; and achieving sustainable design.

Beneath them sit 21 further design standards grouped within four principles: analysing site and context; developing a design concept; site layout and masterplanning, and detailed design. Runnymede’s communities were involved from the outset, engaging with both the local plan process and the development of this guidance.

Tibbalds’ director Hilary Satchwell said 7,507 are needed in Runnymede by 2030 and with much of the borough covered by green belt urban areas and town centres are likely to see most of the new development. “Quality needs to be high, and Runnymede’s intrinsic characteristics and residents’ quality of life need to be maintained,” she added.


Research reveals extent of social housing stigma

Latest research into the origins of and motivators behind the stigma attached to social housing in England has revealed its significant negative impact on residents’ lives and wellbeing.

The Durham University study says social housing stigma affects every aspect of residents’ lives – from negatively influencing communications with schools, local authorities, service providers as well as hindering employment opportunities and even impeding relationships with neighbours, the police and their local GP. Government policy has consistently prioritised home ownership as the tenure of choice and, in contrast, positioned social housing as a bottom rung on the status ladder, it states.

A lack of accountability across government, social landlords and housing associations was commonly reported in interviews and focus groups, with such bodies often disregarding residents’ needs, feelings or rights.

The report also criticises the typical ways social housing is built in communities, noting the deliberate construction of so-called ‘poor doors’ in mixed social and private accommodation blocks as a key example of reinforcing divisions.

Read Stigma and Social Housing in England.


Plans for major life science campus in Stevenage unveiled

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has unveiled plans for one of Europe’s largest life science campuses in Stevenage.

The company is seeking a development partner to transform land within the company’s 37-hectare research and development site in Stevenage into one of Europe’s largest clusters for biotechnology and other early-stage life science companies.

GSK is looking to sell 13.3 hectares of land, with the aim of unlocking up to £400 million in investment from a developer to build the campus and create up to 5,000 highly skilled jobs during the next five to 10 years. The company expects to select a development partner later this year, with a view to beginning masterplanning for the campus in 2022. 

“The past 18 months has shown the UK life sciences sector at its best and the UK has recently unveiled an ambitious 10-year vision for the sector,” said GSK senior vice-president Tony Wood. “Our goal is for Stevenage to emerge as a top destination for medical and scientific research by the end of the decade. We are excited to find a development partner to realise our vision to foster the next generation of world-class scientists and biotechnology firms in Britain.”

The campus aims to attract world-class research organisations to Stevenage. The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst are already based on the site and have attracted start-ups which have collectively raised about £1.6 billion of funding.


Boots selects developer for modular community in Nottingham

Specialist developer ilke Homes has been selected by Boots UK to deliver the UK’s largest low-rise modular housing scheme.

The developer will work with architects HTA Design to curate a model village development comprising 622 homes on a 17.4-hectare site in Beeston, Nottingham, near the health and beauty retailer’s headquarters. The site is part of the wider 116-hectare Nottingham Enterprise Zone.

All the houses will be manufactured at ilke Homes’ factory in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, and will achieve an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of at least a ‘B’, making them more energy-efficient than 92 per cent of all new-builds in the UK. Higher levels of energy performance are also expected to translate into huge long-term cost savings on energy bills for residents, with the homes run on as little as £1 a day.

Acting as a full “turnkey” developer, ilke Homes will manage the entire development process – from securing the land deal and obtaining planning permission through to developing the site and delivering the homes.

20 July 2021
Huw Morris, The Planner