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Planning news - 26 August 2021

Published: Thursday, 26th August 2021

RTPI commissions consultancy to probe design codes, Bacon review calls for reforms to boost custom and self-build, Record 20 bid for UK City of Culture honour. 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 RTPI has appointed consultants LDA Design to produce research on how design codes in England can help the government achieve its net-zero targets and tackle the ongoing ecological emergency.

The project, being conducted in partnership with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, will look at how design codes can secure “transformative change” in the built environment’s contribution to hitting net-zero targets and promoting nature recovery.

LDA Design will consider how to produce design codes that specifically tackle climate, energy and biodiversity and offer a far stronger framework for users, including council officers, applicants and the communities.

LDA Design will work with ecology consultants BSG Ecology and technology firm City Science to produce two design codes based on fictional towns. The codes will cover net-zero and nature recovery and will be in line with government guidance on design for site specific and district-wide development.

“At a time when the world finds itself in the midst of a climate and ecological emergency, and with the UK hosting COP26 this year, planning can be a force for good,” RTPI head of policy Richard Blyth said. “With the UK government setting ambitious targets to bring net emissions to zero by 2050 the way we design our towns and cities must align with these goals,”

“With this research we want to contribute new ideas about how design codes can be used specifically to address the issues around climate change, energy efficiency and ecology.”

The project will build upon the National Design Guide and National Model Design Code in England, assimilate best practice and signpost how codes can be cost effectively and clearly used.

The research comes amid government proposals to overhaul of England’s planning system, including shifting to a zonal planning system with areas designated as growth, renewal or protected.

“In a zonal planning system, design codes would have to do heavy lifting,” Blyth added. “The RTPI has commissioned this work to explore how the wider issues around planning could be delivered by codes.”

LDA Design’s findings will be published in the autumn.

25 August 2021
Huw Morris, The Planner


The government should introduce a specific designation of land for custom and self-build (CSB) housing among its reforms to the planning system, according to an independent review.

The review into scaling up CSB, commissioned by Prime Minister Boris Johnston, says the government must guarantee that its forthcoming planning reforms maximise access to land for such development.

This should be complemented by design codes for CSB housing across appropriate designations.

The review led by Richard Bacon, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Self-Build, Custom and Community Housebuilding and Place-Making, calls on the government to set a target for planning authorities to allow for CSB plots unless market demand is regularly met. New local plans should include “deliverable allocations” to meet this demand.

Bacon urges the government to give substantial weight to CSB as a material consideration in the revised National Planning Policy Framework. Authorities should be more “interventionist” in bringing forward land for CSB by running pilot programmes in land assembly as part of new local plans, which should also feature special “partnership zones” or areas with such sites.

“At no other time in our history would new housing be thought of as a form of pollution, creating a monoculture to be resisted from villages to towns,” Bacon said.

“The central problem is that most customers have almost no clout when it comes to buying a home. There is a ‘missing market’. Instead of customers who are able to choose for themselves what they actually want, which of course will vary hugely – just as people vary hugely in their tastes, preferences and lifestyle choices – in practice most customers have very little say.”

The review says failure to deliver CSB homes should be linked to the presumption in favour of sustainable development, with authorities obliged to monitor the number delivered each year. The government should also introduce a “targeted exception and windfall site” policy which enables CSB homes on unplanned housing sites in rural areas and on sites adjacent to settlements.

“There is clearly something wrong with any market where customer choice is so notably absent, in particularly where such choice so demonstrably leads to better and greener homes,” said National Custom and Self Build Association chief executive Andrew Baddeley-Chappell.

“At the heart of the challenge is a planning system that appears hard wired to produce a product that most of us do not want, and which fails to reflect the diversity of our communities.”

In other recommendations, the review calls for a massively enhanced role for Homes England, which should launch a special CSB delivery unit should be established with a mandate to deliver the required changes, staffed by skilled professionals “with deep experience of delivering custom and self-build projects for customers of all tenures”.

The Federation of Master Builders, which represents small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms, welcomed the review’s focus on land supply and said most of its house builder members work to designs and specifications of a consumer.

“The biggest constraint they face is access to viable small sites on which to build,” chief executive Brian Berry added.

23 August 2021
Huw Morris, The Planner


A record number of applications has been made to become the UK’s City of Culture 2025, with representatives from all four home nations vying for the honour.

A total of 20 places have submitted an expression of interest in the competition, run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) with the devolved administrations, which aims to put parts of the UK on the cultural map.

The 20 bidders will be whittled down to an initial longlist in the coming weeks and cut down further to a final shortlist early next year. The winner to succeed current holder Coventry (pictured) will be announced next May.

Places on the longlist will be awarded grants of £40,000 to support the next stage of their applications. The latest competition asks bidders to show how they can put culture at the heart of their plans to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 20 bidders are:

  • Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon;
  • The City of Bangor and north-west Wales
  • The Borderlands region, comprising Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Borders, Northumberland, Cumbria and Carlisle City;
  • Bradford;
  • Conwy County;
  • Cornwall;
  • Derby;
  • County Durham;
  • Lancashire;
  • Medway;
  • City of Newport;
  • Powys;
  • Southampton;
  • Stirling;
  • The Tay Cities region;
  • Torbay and Exeter;
  • Wakefield District;
  • City of Wolverhampton;
  • Wrexham County Borough;
  • Great Yarmouth and East Suffolk.

23 August 2021
Huw Morris, The Planner


The UK’s poorest areas have the highest number of gambling premises, according to a report from the University of Bristol.

The study reveals that 21 per cent of gambling premises are in the country’s 10 poorest areas, with just 2 per cent in the most affluent.

The researchers compared this with supermarket chain stores with 10 per cent in the poorest areas, while 7 per cent were in the most well-off locations.

The study, backed by the Standard Life Foundation, indicates that Glasgow, Liverpool, parts of London and Middlesbrough have the highest number of betting shops per capita – on average one betting shop per 3,000 to 4,000 residents. It also shows there are more than 10,000 gambling venues in the UK, with 34 per cent of amusement arcades, 30 per cent of bingo venues and 29 per cent of adult gaming centres located in the most deprived communities.

Coastal areas are home to nearly three-quarters – 72 per cent – of amusement arcades, with all of the top 10 places with the most arcades being well-known seaside resorts. Questions also remain about the proximity of premises to a range of populations who could potentially be vulnerable to gambling harm.

Half of gambling treatment centres are within a five-minute walk or 250 metres of the nearest gambling premises, and nearly 10 per cent of schools have a gambling venue within a five-minute walk – affecting 742,000 pupils.

The research calls for local authorities to have greater powers to prevent gambling venues from opening up, says the report, citing a YouGov survey from 2018 showing that 73 per cent of people would not want a gambling venue on their “ideal high street”.

Bristol university senior research associate Jamie Evans said the findings highlight “the clear mismatch between the amenities available in ‘left behind’ areas”, compared with those in the more affluent.

“Rather than having greater access to the facilities, services and opportunities that help people to improve their lives, those in more deprived communities are disproportionately faced with choices that can often prove harmful.”

23 August 2021
Huw Morris, The Planner


Welsh ministers have announced new quality standards for social housing in Wales focusing on flexibility, space and sustainability.

The standards promote low-carbon designs, as well as moving away from fossil fuels for domestic heating and hot water systems.

The standards are set out in a document called Creating Beautiful Homes and Places.

As well as low-carbon targets, the requirements stipulate that new properties should be gigabit-ready, meaning fibre optic broadband or gigabit wireless technology is available, alongside a choice of internet service providers.

The standards favour good design and generous space to ensure that “people live well within their homes”.

Modern methods of construction, such as the use of timber and factory-built homes are also championed in the guidelines.

The standards will be applied in full to all publicly funded affordable schemes submitted to the government at concept stage for technical scrutiny from 1 October 2021.

New affordable homes delivered through planning agreements and planning conditions will only be required to meet appendix A and B space requirements set out in the document. This will be kept under review.

Julie James, minister for climate change, stressed that although social housing would lead the way in reducing carbon emissions “private developers would be expected to build to the same low-carbon requirements by 2025”.

20 August 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner


Call for task group applications to review nature-based solutions

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) is calling for applications for a new task group to shape content for a cost-benefit review of nature-based solutions.

The project aims to offer guidance on choosing nature-based solutions, quantifying their costs and benefits, while identifying specific financing models.

The findings are expected to be published in a report which will be targeted at developers, owners, local authorities, building and estate managers alongside the investment and finance sector.

Applications for the task group are being sought from within the UKGBC membership, and should be from a broad range of built environment organisations to ensure breadth of knowledge and perspectives. Further details are available here.

 

Government launches fund for community-led affordable housing

A £4 million fund has been launched by the government to give communities more opportunities to build affordable homes in their neighbourhoods.

The Community Housing Fund Revenue Programme is funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and will help community-led housing groups during the latter stages of pre-development.

The grant programme aims to help community groups meet a range of costs incurred in trying to develop affordable housing, including paying for searches, administration costs or legal advice, design work and planning applications.

The Community Led Homes Partnership, which includes four leading community-led housing organisations, will manage the grant programme, assessing all applications and administering the grants.

Applications opened for the programme this week and will remain open until all funds are allocated or until 31 December 2021, whichever occurs first. To apply for the fund, groups will need to complete an eligibility checker available here.

 

Plans submitted for veterinary hospital at West Longbridge

Plans have been unveiled to build a major veterinary hospital at the former MG Rover West Works site in Longbridge.

Developer St Modwen intends to build the veterinary hospital on a brownfield site at the southern gateway to West Longbridge Business Park.

The hospital will feature research, treatment, diagnostic, laboratory and administrative space and will have the latest medical equipment including computer tomography and magnetic resonance imaging scanners. Subject to planning approval, construction will start on the building next year with the first animals treated in 2023. The proposal will also see regeneration of a 1.2-hectare site that acts as a gateway to the West Longbridge Business Park, part of a wider regeneration of the former MG Rover West Works following a £6 million investment by the West Midlands Combined Authority to unlock the land for development.

In addition to the business park, the investment will see the development of a residential neighbourhood of 350 homes.

 

Sheffield backs first phase of major regeneration project

Sheffield City Council has granted planning permission for the first phase of the West Bar regeneration project.

Urbo, the developer for the project, along with Urbo Regeneration and Peveril Securities, had already secured £150 million funding to deliver the first phase, thought to be the largest single private sector investment deal in Sheffield. The partnership plans to deliver a £300 million mixed-use scheme expected to create between 6,000 and 8,000 jobs.

The first phase of the plan includes a 9,300-square-metre office building with ground-floor retail and leisure space, 368 build-to-rent apartments, public realm and green space as well as electric charging points, 300 cycle storage spaces and connectivity to surrounding walking and cycling routes.

Designs have been developed by architecture practice 5plus with advice from Asteer Planning. A separate planning application for a 450-space multistorey car park will be submitted shortly.

 

Tibbalds appointed for Hemel Hempstead design code

Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design has been appointed by Dacorum Borough Council to produce a design code for Hemel Hempstead town centre.

The project is one of the 14 projects under the National Model Design Code (NMDC) phase 1 testing pilot scheme, a programme supported by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

This aims to test key aspects of the NMDC and provide a methodology and a toolkit of resources to inform design guidance and local codes.

The Hemel Hempstead code will focus on the Paradise and Wood Lane area and is intended to encourage positive placemaking and identity, looking at its legacy as a new town and its relationship with the historic old town.

Key features of the design code will include delivering a mixed-use environment, high-quality buildings, options for people who live and work locally to make sustainable and healthy choices, such as choosing to walk and cycle, as well as integrating open space, landscape and biodiversity.

“Design codes can play a pivotal role in addressing heritage and environmental sensitivities while delivering good design quality,” said Tibbalds director Jane Dann. “This new code will specifically address sustainable urban intensification and focus on delivering strong, prosperous communities centred around economic growth. Good placemaking and public realm principles will also be observed as well as integrating with the natural beauty of the adjoining nature reserve and the character of the existing urban fabric.”

 

DLA appointed for Burnt Oak housing development

Linkcity has appointed DLA Architecture to design a housing scheme and supporting community spaces in Burnt Oak, north-west London.

The appointment follows the selection of Linkcity as preferred bidder by the London Borough of Barnet to deliver the development, which should provide about 300 homes, 50 per cent of which will be affordable.

The scheme will be on the former Watling Avenue car park site and will include community uses, a public car park, as well as significant public realm enhancements including a landscaped area.

Linkcity is the UK property development arm for global firm Bouygues Construction, with a development portfolio of 20 projects across all sectors including residential and community, commercial, retail and leisure and student housing. The scheme is expected to start on site next year.

 

Plans submitted to redevelop Milton Keynes car park into homes

Hybrid Planning and Development has submitted a planning application for the redevelopment of a former office car park in the Linford Wood suburb of Milton Keynes into a residential-led scheme.

The proposed design at Centric House, by Scapolan Burnley Architects, includes constructing a part four/part seven-storey building comprising 83 residential apartments. The apartments will be a mix of one, two and three bedrooms with private balconies and open-plan internal layouts.

The scheme also includes a 218-square-metre commercial convenience store together with undercroft parking, cycle and bin stores, plant and equipment, landscaped podium courtyard and associated works. A decision is expected on the application in October.

24 August 2021
Huw Morris,