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Planning news - 19 August 2021

Published: Thursday, 19th August 2021

Consultation opens on NSIP process, 55,000 households used help-to-buy scheme last year, First Homes scheme open for bids. 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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The government has published a consultation on the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Planning (NSIP) regime that seeks views on its processes from those who engage with the regime.

It asks respondents to identify the main issues affecting each principal stage of the process – and calls for potential solutions.

The consultation covers a number of areas, including:

  • What the government, its arm’s-length bodies and other statutory bodies could do to accelerate NSIP applications.
  • Aspects of the examination and decision process that might be enhanced.
  • Impediments to physically implementing NSIP projects.
  • Digital improvements to the regime.
  • Cross-government coordination including government departments and arm’s-length bodies.
  • Interaction with other consenting and regulatory processes and the wider context within which infrastructure projects operate.
  • Potential limits in the capacity or capability of NSIP applicants, interested parties and other participants.

The consultation comes after housing minister Christopher Pincher launched a review of the regime in July at the National Infrastructure Planning Association conference. In a letter, he invited NIPA’s members to help to shape that reform.

The government believes that to guarantee the UK's global competitiveness some projects need to be able to go through the NSIP process in half the current time by September 2023.

The consultation can be found on the UK Government website.

16 August 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


According to government statistics, more than 55,000 households bought their home using the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme in the 2020/21 financial year.

The scheme is intended to help first-time buyers to get on to the housing ladder.

The government said the total value of equity loans has reached more than £20 billion, with the value of the properties sold under the scheme going past the £90 billion mark.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Over 55,000 households bought their home with the support of Help to Buy: Equity Loan last year – a record year for the scheme, which is helping young people and first-time buyers feel the sense of pride and achievement that comes with owning your own home.

“Whether it be help-to-buy, the 95 per cent mortgage guarantee scheme or First Homes – we’re doing everything we can to make home buying an affordable and realistic ambition.”

16 August 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The government is inviting housebuilders to bid for a share of a £150 million package by offering plots for sale as First Homes, which are aimed at first-time buyers and key workers.

The government is aiming to deliver 1,500 homes by March 2023 through the First Homes scheme.

Local first-time buyers and key workers will be able to buy a home at a discount of at least 30 per cent compared with the market price. This same percentage will be passed on with the sale of the property to future first-time buyers.

If awarded a contract, housebuilders will be given the opportunity to engage with local councils and mortgage providers as well as understand the expected level of customer demand. They will also be able to learn about the delivery process.

First Homes were initially introduced earlier in the summer; local sites were opened in Bolsover, East Midlands, developed by Keepmoat Homes, and Cannock, West Midlands, developed by Vistry Partnerships, while Leeds Building Society recently received the first mortgage application for a First Homes property.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “It is great to see the First Homes scheme gaining momentum and I am happy to invite housebuilders to deliver this flagship housebuilding programme across the country.

“It will support local communities and give local people a greater chance of getting on the housing ladder and having a place which they can call their own. Just as importantly, homebuilders of all shapes and sizes will now be able to benefit from this scheme while helping first-time buyers and key workers onto the property ladder.”

12 August 2021

Laura Edgar, The Planner


Housing minister Christopher Pincher has launched a call for evidence on plans that seek to ‘modernise regulation and improve accessibility and innovation’ in the sector.

Views are sought from architects and other professions working in the built environment.

The call for evidence will focus on the Architects Registration Board (ARB). The government said this would form the first part of a wider review of architectural regulation that will include thematic workshops and interviews with representatives from the sector.

Initial findings from the review are expected to be passed to the housing secretary by spring 2022. The review’s outcome is scheduled for summer 2023.

Pincher said: “Our architectural sector is one of the best in the world – with first-class educational institutions, world-leading practices, and a healthy export market.

“The review we are launching today builds on this outstanding legacy, looking to the future and exploring the changes we need for an innovative, accessible and broad profession that delivers better, greener and safer design and construction.”

The government is also canvassing views on:

  • How the profession can become more diverse and accessible.
  • Whether the current regulatory regime is fit for purpose.
  • The role of the regulation of architects in ensuring a more sustainable built environment.
  • How the government can promote innovation in the sector.
  • The call of evidence builds on changes to the way architects were regulated while the ARB is conducting public engagement exercises.

Alan Kershaw, chair of the ARB, said: “ARB has set an ambitious agenda that will modernise and transform the way we regulate. It’s essential that we have a renewed and modern policy framework to match.

“The government’s review asks important questions about policy and regulation and we look forward to playing a full part in shaping and supporting an architectural profession that is fit for the future.”

Responding to the call for evidence, RIBA president, Alan Jones, said the call for evidence is "very timely" and urged the profession to contribute.

"The climate emergency and building safety crisis continue to prompt and prove the urgent need for regulated architects’ expertise throughout the entire timeline of each project.

"This call provides an opportunity to demonstrate the value architects bring to society and expand upon issues the profession faces, including those that have stemmed from impending changes to legislation, such as ensuring professional competence and brokering MRPQ agreements."

The call for evidence can be found here. It closed on 8 November 2021.

16 August 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Cornish developer Verto has submitted a reserved matters planning application for a ‘world-first’ Zero Carbon Student Village at Penvose in Falmouth.

Plans for the student village were approved by Cornwall Council in September 2018, but these latest plans are now a zero-carbon proposal.

Plans for Penvose Zero Carbon Student Village, which the developers say is the “first of its kind”, comprises accommodation for up to 1,858 students. They also include retail and leisure facilities for students and the local community, such as shops, a GP surgery, day nursery, gym and all-weather pitch.

Andy West, head of land and planning at Verto, commented on the benefits he believes the new development could bring to its residents.

“During the pandemic we have seen reports of an increasing number of students feeling isolated, away from home and friends, often living in below-par accommodation. We believe that by creating a village environment with first-class accommodation and facilities, we can help foster a new student community and alleviate some of these issues.”

He explained that the development would host a dedicated student hub for living, studying and socialising on the edge of the town and near the campus.

“It will provide purpose-built accommodation to meet the needs of the growing student population, many currently living in HMOs across the town. We believe it will also free up much-needed housing for local residents."

West added that the buildings would have a “multitude of sustainable materials and features”, including super-insulation, PV (solar) panels, air-source or ground-source heat pumps, and heat recovery ventilation. It could also create about 400 jobs in the local area.

12 August 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Community parkland approved

Medway Council has granted planning permission for the creation of Cockham Community Parkland on the Hoo Peninsula.

The park will be 127.75 acres (51.7 hectares) in size. It will be located to the south of Hoo St Werburgh and the east of Chattenden. The northern boundary of the park will link up with the upper route of the 163-mile-long Saxon Shore Way public footpath.

The land is currently private, but it will provide open space for the public.

A community orchard will be created as well as low-level visitor facilities, such as toilets, bike racks and parking and offer space for informal picnics, natural play and historic and wildlife interpretation. It will also significantly enhance the area’s biodiversity by creating new wildflower meadows, hedges and wooded areas where wildlife can flourish.

Medway Council said that having worked closely with environmental bodies, it has been decided that public access will be restricted to 26 acres (10.5 hectares) of the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) to help it regrow, age safely and support the widest possible range of species.

Alan Jarrett, leader of Medway Council, said: “Before putting in place our plans for potential new road, rail infrastructure and homes in the area, which are essential to ensuring we can create sustainable communities, we wanted to bring forward plans for Cockham Community Parkland, which will be part of a much broader package of environmental and public amenity benefits.”

Work is expected to start in autumn 2022.

 

Southwark appoints consultancies on design code work

Southwark Council has appointed Farrells, Gbolade Design Studio and Exterior Architecture as the team of multidisciplinary consultants that will prepare a design code for the area around Hatcham and Ilderton Road on Old Kent Road, Southwark.

The project forms part of the government’s National Model Design Code (NMDC) pilot. It will also contribute further design guidance for the Old Kent Road Area Action Plan.

By engaging with the community, the team, alongside Momentum Transport Consultancy and Savills, which will provide specialist advice, will produce a guide for the future development of a number of mixed-use, residential and industrial schemes that will be locally led and fit in with local character.

It will also explore how the NMDC can be applied within an urban context.

 

A55 resilience scheme progressing ‘well’

Minister for North Wales Lesley Griffiths has said the £30 million scheme on the A55 to improve safety, further protect against flooding and provide a new active travel route is progressing well.

The Aber to Tai’r Meibion scheme is intended to improve safety and resilience along a 2.2km stretch of the carriageway by removing direct accesses off the carriageway.

It will also see the removal of eight gaps in the central reservation which currently allow slow-moving agricultural vehicles to cross the A55. Four kilometres of active travel routes are also part of the scheme to help encourage more walking and cycling in the area. 

The scheme is expected to be completed by summer 2022.

 

Law firm issues warning about material shortages

Law firm Womble Bond Dickinson has warned that the shortage of key construction materials is proving so damaging that “it could change the way contracts are negotiated in the UK”.

Jessica Tresham, construction partner, said a return to the “dark days of the ’80s” could be on the cards if materials shortages aren’t resolved soon.

“Contractors and developers alike are being left in completely untenable positions because the cost of developments is varying so greatly. Steel alone is subject to price fluctuations of up to 30 per cent – and the cost of steel is a major proportion of many modern projects,” she added.

“Delivering a project for the agreed cost is becoming difficult – and in some cases, where materials can’t be sourced, completely impossible. We’ve come a long way since the 1980s, when it felt as if everyone was sparring all the time, but this feels like the closest we’ve ever come to returning to that kind of environment.”

Tresham said the situation is “bittersweet” because the government is working to rebuild the economy.

“There is real, pent-up ambition to invest in major developments, in housing, in eye-catching capital projects, but that determination is being undermined by the supply crisis.”

She suggested that a US-style model in which contracts are agreed with built-in cost flexibility could be a viable option.

17 August 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner