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Planning news - 2 September 2021

Published: Thursday, 2nd September 2021

England’s homes pose greater climate threat than cars, Khan extends right-to-buy-back to help Afghan refugees, Major Newport housing scheme under way. 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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England’s 25 million homes pose a greater threat to the climate than the country’s cars, according to latest research.

A study by the National Housing Federation (NHF), which represents housing associations, says homes in England produce a total of 58.5 million tonnes of C02 every year, emitting the equivalent of the average annual use of 28 million cars.

It points out there are 27 million cars in England, which emit 56 million tonnes of C02 annually.

The research blames the threat on a combination of gas central heating and poor insulation. This means heat easily leaks out of homes, which then require even more gas to keep them warm, with the average family or household in England currently producing more CO2 every year by living in their home than by driving.

The NHF says the findings highlight why making the country’s homes more energy efficient needs to be prioritised to meet the government’s ambitious net-zero by 2050 target, and “ultimately lead the way in the deep cuts to carbon emissions urgently needed if we are to stabilise the rising temperatures, extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding seen around the world this year”.

However, many people are unaware of the issue or unable to make their homes greener, warns the NHF. A total of 60 per cent of homeowners do not think their home energy use has much of an impact on carbon emissions while 28 per cent have no plans to make ‘eco-grades’ in the next 10 years.

The NHF is calling on the government to invest £3.8 billion into the retrofitting of social housing in the forthcoming Spending Review. It argues that, unlike private landlords and homeowners, social landlords can retrofit whole streets, estates and neighbourhoods simultaneously.

In 2019, more than 100,000 social homes had their energy efficiency improved, but government funding would enable housing associations to achieve Energy Performance Certificate C rating by 2030 in the two million homes they own and manage and setting well on the way to becoming fully carbon-neutral. The NHF says achieving carbon neutrality for these homes would be the equivalent of taking 1.8 million cars off the road indefinitely – the equivalent of all of the cars in Manchester and Birmingham combined.

“For too long the impact of housing on climate change has been overlooked,” said NHF chief executive Kate Henderson. “While we’ve become more conscious of the vehicles we drive, the amount we recycle and what we eat, these shocking new figures must now force us to recognise the enormous role our draughty homes are having.

“If we don’t start making serious progress on decarbonising and retrofitting our homes, we won’t achieve the government’s target of net-zero by 2050.”

Meanwhile ministers have been warned not to repeat the same mistakes of the past on decarbonising homes with crucial upcoming net-zero and heat and buildings strategies, according to a coalition of industry and consumer bodies.

In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, COP26 president Alok Sharma and energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng, the Aldersgate Group, the Federation of Master Builders, Citizens Advice and Which? urge them to avoid the pitfalls of the past and work more closely with consumers and the private sector on policies to decarbonise homes in line with the net-zero target of 2050.

They cite the Green Homes Grant, which closed with only 10 per cent of the promised £2 billion of vouchers issued owing to a lack of trades people qualified to work to the scheme’s requirements.

“The level of support consumers need must not be underestimated, and we are urging the government to ensure its net-zero policy has provisions to help consumers navigate the heating market, through access to the right information, strong consumer protections, and if needed, financial support,” states the letter.

25 August 2021
Huw Morris, The Planner


London mayor Sadiq Khan has unveiled plans to help social landlords support the arrival of Afghan refugees.

The government has pledged to resettle up to 20,000 Afghan refugees after the Taliban’s sudden ascendancy to power this month.

Khan is now expanding his right-to-buy-back fund to help boroughs purchase former council homes that can be used to resettle families arriving from Afghanistan. Housing associations are also being encouraged to apply for funding for suitable homes that can be delivered speedily.

In response to the emergency, the mayor has signalled his intention to provide increased funding for family-sized homes purchased through the programme.

“It has been devastating to watch the crisis unfold in Afghanistan and I’m determined to do everything in my power to support those escaping the country,” Khan said. “London has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need and by working together we can help these refugees find a welcoming home in our city.”

The mayor unveiled the fund last month to help councils and council-owned housing companies to acquire homes that will then be let at social rent levels or used as accommodation for homeless families. All properties bought under the scheme must meet the government’s Decent Homes Standard and its funding is part of the mayor’s affordable homes programme 2016-2023.

26 August 2021
Huw Morris, The Planner


Work has started on a 500-home development at the site of the former Llanwern steelworks in Newport.

The £102 million Lock Gardens scheme is a partnership between housebuilder Lovell and housing association Pobl.

The former will provide 285 new homes while the latter is set to develop 80 affordable homes and 135 shared-ownership dwellings.

The scheme forms part of the wider £1 billion Glyn Lyn project masterminded by regeneration firm St Modwen on a 243-hectare brownfield site that will eventually provide 4,000 new homes, lakes, primary schools and nurseries, a local community centre, as well as the 40.5-hectare Celtic Business Park.

Work on Locke Gardens is expected to be completed in 2028, with the first units available for sale early next year.

27 August 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner


A London borough has joined forces with a leading electric vehicle (EV) charging specialist on a groundbreaking project to offer accessible public infrastructure and tackle inequality.

Although EV ownership has skyrocketed by 117 per cent this year, the transition has exposed disparities between communities across the UK, with people living in urban centres, high-rise flats and council estates significantly less likely to have access to a private driveway and facing difficulties installing home-charging.

Households with access to a driveway make up 80 per cent of EV owners, with the remainder owned by those in houses or flats with no access to off-street parking.

The project, launched by the London Borough of Lambeth working with Connected Kerb, includes 22 on-street EV chargers across 11 council estates to provide easy access to public charging, even for those without off-street parking.

The move is part of the council’s wider strategy to work with multiple charge point operators to install more than 200 charge points by 2022. Lambeth aims to ensure that every household with no access to off-street parking is within a five-minute walk of its nearest charge point.

“For residents who need to use private vehicles, we recognise how important access to EV charging is to provide the confidence to switch to cars with zero emissions at the tailpipe,” said Danny Adilypour, Lambeth’s cabinet member for sustainable transport, environment and clean air.

“Projects like this help us do just that, while also helping us reach our net-zero targets and improve air quality on our streets, protecting the health of our communities.”

About a third of Lambeth residents live on estates managed by the council and most of the borough’s housing does not have off-street parking. This is forcing a large number of drivers to rely on public EV charging infrastructure.

The project is expected to act as a blueprint for other boroughs, councils and cities across the UK to deliver an inclusive and equitable EV transition, serving all members of society, including the 40 per cent of households nationally without off-street parking.

“People often think electric vehicles are the preserve of a fortunate few with detached houses and driveways, but this couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Connected Kerb chief executive Chris Pateman-Jones. “With running costs much lower than petrol and diesel cars, all communities, regardless of where they live, their social background, or whether they have a driveway or not, have lots to gain.”

26 August 2021
Huw Morris, The Planner


Gatwick Airport is pressing ahead with plans to bring its emergency runway into routine use in a bid to secure its long-term growth.

The airport will launch a public consultation next month on plans for its Northern Runway to be used for departing aircraft by repositioning its centre line farther north by 12 metres. This would enable dual operations with the airport’s main runway.

The proposals also include improved airport access, highway improvements, landscape and ecological planting alongside environmental mitigation. As the proposed plans are considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, the airport will apply for a development consent order to build and operate the scheme.

Gatwick said the work could be completed by 2029 and aligns with the government’s policy of “making best use of existing runways”. It claims the plans will be delivered in a “sustainable way which helps to achieve the government’s overall goal of net-zero emissions by 2050”.

As a two-runway airport, the move would enable Gatwick to boost its annual passenger capacity from 62 million to 75 million by 2038. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a collapse in passenger numbers; only one million travelled through the airport in the first seven months of this year – a total reached after just 10 days in 2019.

Gatwick expects pre-pandemic traffic levels to return by 2025 or 2026.

“While we are currently experiencing low passenger and air traffic volumes due to the global pandemic, we are confident that Gatwick will not only fully recover to previous passenger levels, but has the potential to continue to grow back into one of Europe’s premier airports,” said chief executive Stewart Wingate.

The airport said its plan would generate around 18,400 jobs by 2038 and boost its contribution to the region’s economy by £1.5 billion.

Local campaign group Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions said the plan “flies in the face of the climate emergency we are all facing”.

It added: “It is despicable for a company to ignore the emissions that planes in and out of Gatwick produce, that is causing grave danger for future generations that will have to pay the price for today’s greed of this leisure airport.”

The consultation will open on September 9.

26 August 2021
Huw Morris, The Planner


Homes England has announced that it will provide a £40 million loan to ‘accelerate’ the construction of 255 mid-market retirement homes in Audley Group’s Mayfield Villages portfolio in Watford.

The homes will be part of Audley Group’s first village, which will include health, wellbeing, care and leisure facilities.

The loan will come from the £4.5 billion Home Building Fund.

Peter Denton, chief executive at Homes England, said: “First and foremost, this will enable hundreds of later-life customers to enjoy high-quality, independent living accommodation for years to come. The area will benefit from enhanced care provision and family homes will be freed up for the next generation.

“Our loan directly addresses market funding challenges due to the pandemic and highlights our commitment to ensuring diverse communities.”

The loan builds on Audley’s recent joint venture with BlackRock Real Assets.

Nick Sanderson, CEO, Audley Group, said: “The transaction with Homes England is an important milestone for the retirement living sector. A coming of age. Government backing underlines the importance placed on increasing provision in the retirement living sector and developing more innovative housing solutions.

“Our aspiration to transform retirement is shared with both Homes England and BlackRock Real Assets and this will be the focus as we look to the future.”

20 August 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner