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Planning news - 5 August 2021

Published: Thursday, 5th August 2021

Fire safety planning requirements have come into force, UK builders see Q2 rise in workloads, £40m committed to trees and nature recovery. And more stories...

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Measures to ensure that fire safety matters are incorporated at the planning stage for high-rise residential developments have come into force.

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

It was announced in June that the measures would be added to Planning Practice Guidance (PPG). Known as planning gateway one, the measures intend to ensure that high-rise developments consider fire safety at the earliest stages of planning.

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 (HSE) as a statutory consultee for relevant planning applications.

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 Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety led by Dame Judith Hackitt, commissioned by the government following the fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017.

Local planning authorities are required to seek specialist advice on relevant applications from the HSE as the statutory consultee on fire safety before a decision is made on the application. The statutory consult role is likely in future to become part of the new Building Safety Regulator, which will be led by HSE.

Housing minister Christopher Pincher said: “This is a key step in our progress towards a new, risk-based building safety regime that will ensure fire safety is prioritised at every stage in the development of high-rise buildings.

“I am pleased to appoint the Health and Safety Executive as the statutory consultee, which will be on hand to provide its expertise to local planning authorities on these important fire safety elements.

“We are driving up the standards of safety for people’s homes and our new regulator – to be introduced under the building safety bill – will provide this essential oversight, from a building’s initial design, to providing homes in the future.”

Peter Baker, chief inspector of buildings at the HSE, said: “The introduction of planning gateway one is an important milestone in the journey to radically reform building safety so that residents are safe, and feel safe, in their homes.

“It will ensure that fire safety is considered from the very beginning of a building’s life and that developments benefit from integrated thinking on fire safety.

“The Health and Safety Executive is now a statutory consultee for planning applications involving relevant high-rise residential buildings and will apply risk-based fire safety knowledge and expertise to evaluate planning applications. This will enable local planning authorities to make sound and informed decisions.”

2 August 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Builders’ workloads are at their highest levels for 10 years, and materials prices have also risen during the second quarter of 2021, April to June.

According to the Federation of Master Builders's (FMB) latest State of Trade Survey, there is a growing struggle to secure enough workers – in particular carpenters and bricklayers.

The FMB’s survey of its members found:

  • Overall, 71 per cent of builders received higher numbers of enquiries for the future compared with Q1 of 2021.
  • 67 per cent of Scottish builders are seeing higher enquiry levels this quarter.
  • 93 per cent of Northern Irish builders are receiving higher levels of enquiries for work compared with Q1.
  • 76 per cent of Welsh respondents reported higher workloads compared with Q1.
  • 59 of all respondents reported an increase in workloads.
  • 53 per cent of builders are struggling to hire carpenters and joiners. This is 23 per cent more than six months ago.
  • 47 per cent are struggling to hire bricklayers, up from 22 per cent in Q4 2020.
  • 98 per cent of builders are facing material price rises, with the same number expecting this to continue into the third quarter 2021.
  • 80 per cent of respondents have reported raising prices in Q2.

FMB commentary

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said the survey results tell a “tale of extremes”.

“While it’s brilliant to see small, local building companies and sole traders bouncing back from the difficulties of 2020, record workloads and enquires are bringing significant challenges.

“An extraordinary 98 per cent of small builders now face rising prices for building materials, with the same number expecting this to continue into the autumn. Half of those who responded to our survey are struggling to hire a carpenter or a bricklayer. Without these fundamental inputs, how can Britain build back better?

“In the absence of greater support from government and industry to explain to consumers why prices are going up, I fear a growing number putting themselves at the mercy of cowboy builders seeking to undercut quality tradespeople. To address the skills crisis so starkly presented by this new data, industry efforts to encourage more people into construction must be supported at the Spending Review with further investment in colleges.”

Gordon Nelson, director of FMB Scotland, said: “Given that the lockdown restrictions on non-essential building works inside people’s homes were only eased at the end of April in Scotland, it isn’t surprising to see a smaller rise in workloads and enquiries for Scottish builders, compared to the rest of the UK. Nonetheless, the bounce back compared to last quarter is very welcome and bodes well for future business for builders for the remainder of 2021 and beyond.”

Gavin McGuire, director of FMB Northern Ireland, commented: “It is really encouraging to see indications of soaring workloads and enquiries for FMB NI members during the second quarter of 2021, with a fantastic 93 per cent of all respondents reporting higher levels of enquiries. The resilience of local construction companies, through what have been unprecedented times, is truly inspiring. However, huge material price increases and serious challenges around recruiting skilled labour loom large as worrying issues.

“This survey’s findings highlight that the Department for the Economy’s new skills strategy will play a vital role in determining the industry’s future. The FMB believes the construction sector should be at the very heart of this strategy’s development.”

Ifan Glyn, director of FMB Cymru, added: “It is fantastic to see such high levels of activity for local building firms in Wales, with 76 per cent of those surveyed reporting higher workloads during the second quarter of 2021, compared to the first.

“To maintain this momentum, both industry and the Welsh Government must continue to work together to alleviate the intense pressures caused by material and skills shortages. As part of the Wales Construction Federation Alliance, the FMB has written an open letter to the first minister detailing these acute shortages and the detrimental impact they are having on firms’ ability to deliver construction projects throughout Wales.”

The survey can be found on the FMB website.

2 August 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The government has committed £40 million through its Green Recovery Challenge Fund to support 90 projects across England.

The fund is intended to support 2,500 jobs, plant nearly one million trees and boost the recovery of nature. The fund is delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission.

The projects to receive funding include:

  • £1,229,600 for Trees for Cities to increase tree cover in deprived urban areas. About 55,000 trees will be planted across 83 coastal locations in seven coastal towns, while the project will also increase skills and training opportunities for young people aged 16-24 years.
  • £697,800 for Urban Green Newcastle and Northumberland Wildlife Trust to create a network of 45 nectar-rich public sites, aiming to plant 2,500 trees, 25,000 bulbs and creating 18 hectares of grassland. The work will target young people, with traineeships available including some for young offenders, alongside volunteering, and schools work opportunities.
  • £906,700 for Somerset Wildlife Trust in partnership with RSPB, to support the Avalon Marshes Wetland Wonderland project to improve wetland habitats, water quality and hydrological connectivity on our nature reserves, which will benefit a whole range of wildlife including waders, wildfowl, eels, rare insects alongside wetland specialist plants. The project will also begin to restore a 10.6-acre site previously used for peat extraction. With a new hide, on-site and digital interpretation, trails and citizen science events, the partners will remove barriers and seek to engage a wider, more diverse audience with nature.
  • £990,500 for Chester Zoo Nature Recovery Corridor – Chester Zoo is being awarded £990,500 to create a 6.5-mile nature recovery corridor, covering restoration of wetlands, traditional orchards, hedgerows, grasslands and wildflower meadows in local wildlife sites. The project will be delivered to address demographic inequalities in peoples access to nature by targeting 12,000 people from deprived areas, and providing opportunities for youth trainees and community volunteer schemes.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “The diverse and ambitious projects being awarded funding will help environmental organisations to employ more people to work on tree-planting, nature restoration and crucially, help more of the public to access and enjoy the outdoors.

“Through our £80 million fund, we are on track to support over 2,500 jobs, plant almost a million trees and increase nature recovery at a huge scale across the country, which will help us deliver against our 25 Year Environment Plan.”

Ros Kerslake, chief executive, National Lottery Heritage Fund, added: “From wetland restoration, to creating wildlife-rich habitat for bees, it is vital that we value, protect and rebuild our natural heritage. This new funding will not only allow projects to carry out direct conservation which is essential in protecting our biodiversity, but it will increase awareness of how and why we need to change our behaviours in order to protect our future.”

David Elliott, chief executive at Trees for Cities, described the grant as a “fantastic step towards rebalancing the UK’s canopy cover towards our forgotten coastal towns and cities – tackling green inequality and deprivation for those more likely to face barriers to environmental justice”.

“We know that planting trees in cities has a hugely positive impact on people and our environment and that there is a strong correlation between low canopy cover and social deprivation. This funding will help us and our partners work together with local communities to provide green jobs and cultivate lasting change in neighbourhoods and coastal communities for generations to come.”

2 August 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The government has announced an investment of £5 billion into Project Gigabit to level up internet access across England.

The government says this project will upgrade digital infrastructure in hard-to-reach areas and “accelerate the country’s recovery from Covid, fire up high-growth sectors such as tech and the creative industries, put an end to families battling for bandwidth and bring the speed and reliability people need to start and run businesses”.

Up to 1,850,000 additional premises across 26 English counties will get access to 1,000 megabits per second, bringing the current total number of premises in scope for government-funded coverage to 2.2 million.

Digital secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Project Gigabit is our national mission to level up rural areas by giving them the fastest internet speeds on the market.

“Millions more rural homes and businesses will now be lifted out of the digital slow lane thanks to our mammoth £5 billion investment and one the quickest roll-outs in Europe.

“This broadband revolution will create jobs, power up businesses and allow everyone to access vital services at lightning-fast speed, helping us build back better from the pandemic.”

The first projects are due to start from May 2022, covering 349,000 premises in Essex, Dorset, Cumbria, Cambridgeshire, Northumberland, Durham, Tyneside, Teesside and Cornwall. More areas will be announced later this year.

As part of Project Gigabit, £24 million has been allocated to 10 local authority areas in Northern Ireland to roll out gigabit broadband; 234,000 homes and businesses in Wales are set to receive upgrades through the programme; and £4.5 million will help thousands in central Scotland get next-generation connections, according to the UK Government.

2 August 2021
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner


The regeneration of Cardiff’s Channel View Estate with the building of more than 300 new houses made progress this week.

Acting on behalf of the city council, the design team – led by architects Powell Dobson – has lodged a hybrid application seeking outline planning permission for residential and mixed-use development and full planning permission for phase one.

The estate sits in Grangetown, to the south of the city centre.

The outline proposals are for the redevelopment and extension of part of the estate to provide up to 319 new houses alongside retail outlets, communal gardens incorporating allotments and picnic areas, children’s play space, landscaping, and cycle/foot paths.

The regeneration of the Marl public open space is also involved which will see new and improved sports pitches, children’s play space, a new ‘beach’ and water features.

Full planning permission has been submitted for the initial phase of development incorporating two new tower blocks, eight and 13 storeys in height, providing accommodation for 81 older people, a community cafe, and communal gardens with allotments and picnic areas.

30 July 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner


Finalists for RTPI Research Awards 2021 announced

The RTPI has announced the finalists for its 2021 Awards for Research Excellence.

A number of the finalists in the four award categories consider the relationship between sustainability, climate change and town planning.

Forty-nine submissions were submitted across the four categories: the Sir Peter Hall Award for Excellence in Research and Engagement, Early Career Researcher Award, Student Award and the Planning Practitioner Award. Twenty have been shortlisted as finalists.

The Student Award category contains several sustainability focused projects, reflecting the priorities for the next generation of town planners.

Wei Yang FRTPI, president of the RTPI, said: “Entries for the RTPI Awards for Research Excellence 2021 were incredibly strong, with entrants putting forward fresh and innovative research topics which grabbed the attention of our judges. We would like to thank everyone who submitted an entry

“This year the judges were impressed by the standard of entries which came from a variety of organisations covering a multitude of vital topics.

“A number of the research projects which were shortlisted offered unique insights into the relationship between planning and sustainability. We believe this is an area of planning that will grow in future as planners become an integral part of the fight against climate change.”

The winners will be announced at the online Planning Research Conference on 8 September. Information about the finalists can be found on the RTPI website.

The awards have been sponsored by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group) and Idox Knowledge Exchange.

 

Council submits application for leisure centre

Calderdale Council has submitted a planning application for a multimillion-pound swimming pool and leisure centre in Halifax.

The complex would be built on the site of the existing North Bridge Leisure Centre. It is expected to offer a wide range of facilities for the whole community, including a gym, a six-lane pool and a sports hall/dance studio.

Jane Scullion, Calderdale Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and strategy, said the leisure centre “is one of the key projects within the Calderdale Next Chapter transformation programme which is investing in major improvements right across the borough”.

The plans include feedback from public consultations held in the summer of 2018 and March 2020.

 

Wolverhampton joins circular economies agreement

Wolverhampton has become the first English city to sign the European Circular Cities Declaration, an environmental agreement designed to accelerate the adoption of circular economies across the continent.

Helsinki, Oslo, Prague and Florence are also part of the agreement committed to creating resource-efficient, low-carbon and socially responsible societies

The Springfield Campus at the University of Wolverhampton will be Europe’s largest specialist academic centre for Architecture and Built Environment, offering teaching, research and training in modern methods of construction (MMC) and “revolutionary” remediation techniques to unlock brownfield development. The city will also be home to the £17.5 million National Brownfield Institute.

Alongside construction, manufacturing and food production have been selected as priority areas under a new West Midlands Circular Economy Routemap, which is due to be published later this year.

It is being developed by the West Midland Combined Authority’s dedicated Circular Economy Taskforce. The route map is expected to demonstrate opportunities for innovation, investment and growth across the West Midlands economy.

Ian Brookfield, leader of City of Wolverhampton Council and portfolio holder for economy and innovation at the combined authority, said: “Our city is at the helm of the sustainable revolution in construction, with the National Brownfield Institute and best-in-class research from the University of Wolverhampton putting us on the map as a unique centre of excellence for environmental development and regeneration.

“These strengths form a critical lever for enhancing our economy post-pandemic, opening up opportunities to unlock new investments, create jobs and boost skills training for local people in a sector that is becoming increasingly vital to achieving a Green Industrial Revolution. We are proud that Wolverhampton is a city where building back better isn’t just a promise, but a strategy in action.”

3 August 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner