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Planning news - 16 September 2021

Published: Thursday, 16th September 2021

Government to make alteration to 2021 Housing Delivery Test, Funding for Milton Keynes and Sheffield to unlock homes, Warrington sets out updates to local plan. 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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Housing minister Christopher Pincher has announced that the 2021 Housing Delivery Test will be calculated using a four-month adjustment to the housing requirement figures for 2020/21 to account for fluctuations in construction output owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a written ministerial statement, he explained that there had been “considerable variations” in the levels of housing delivery but that the 2021 Housing Delivery Test would be published as intended later this year.

To calculate the Housing Delivery Test, the total net homes delivered over a three-year period is divided by the total number of homes required over a three-year period.

The 2020 Housing Delivery Test measurement used data relating to financial years 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20. In response to the disruption to local authority services and the construction sector caused by the first national lockdown in March 2020, the government applied a one-month adjustment to the 2019/20 housing requirement.

Likewise, an adjustment will be made to the 2021 housing requirement. The measurement will use data relating to financial years 2017-18, 2018/19 and 2019/20, with a four-month adjustment applied to the housing requirement figures.

This will see a deduction of 122 days to account for the most disrupted period, April through to July this year.

The thresholds for consequences for under-delivery will be maintained, as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. Councils must deliver at least 95 per cent of their housing target to pass the test. Councils that deliver between 85 per cent and 95 per cent of their assessed need will need to develop an action plan to assess why they under-delivered and to remedy it. Councils that deliver between 75 per cent and 85 per cent of their assessed need will be required to identify a buffer of 20 per cent more land (on top of their five-year housing land supply), as well as developing an action plan.

Pincher also outlined an update to how the Housing Delivery Test will apply to new unitary authorities. Previously, recently reorganised authorities would have had their Housing Delivery Test calculated at their former authority boundaries in only the first year following reorganisation.

“However, from the 2021 measurement, in order to support new unitary authorities, they will be able to choose to use their former authority boundaries or their new unitary boundaries for the purpose of the measurement until the fifth anniversary of the new authority’s existence,” explained Pincher.

Unitary authorities will “still be expected to deliver housing in line with their identified need,” he added. Planning guidance will be updated to reflect this.

The written ministerial statement can be found on the UK Parliament website.

9 September 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The government has awarded Milton Keynes and Sheffield a share of £1.4 million to develop proposals that seek to unlock a 'significant' number of homes and jobs through the New Development Corporation Competition (NDCC).

The NDCC is part of the government's plans to level up areas across England. It intends to enable local authorities to develop locally-led proposals that accelerate economic growth opportunities and "kickstart the delivery of thousands of new homes".

Local authorities submitted their proposals to win a share of the funding.

Milton Keynes has been awarded £665,000 so the council can explore how a locally-led development corporation could support the delivery of up to 60,000 homes by 2050 as well as create economic opportunities to support 50,000 to 90,000 jobs over the next 30 years.

Sheffield will receive £763,000. This will enable the area to explore an "innovative delivery mechanism" that would enhance economic opportunities while delivering 8,000 homes and creating up to 4,000 jobs by 2040.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: "We’re levelling up the country and supporting local councils to put in place innovative and exciting proposals which will help regenerate our much-loved towns and cities.

"Both proposals will help deliver the new homes this country needs and create new jobs for people in the local area."

This latest funding follows on from £2.8 million awarded to Carlisle, Exeter, Tewkesbury and the Wirral, which have already received a share of £2.8 million from the NDCC to develop proposals that regenerate their area or deliver housing through delivery vehicles such as development corporations.

13 September 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Warrington Borough Council has outlined how it plans to update its proposed local plan ahead of consideration by the full council.

The council's initial proposed submission version of the local plan was published in March 2019 and then consulted on. It has been revised to cover an 18-year period - 2021-2038 - rather than 20 years.

It received more than 3,000 responses, the majority of which stated that brownfield land should continue to be prioritised over green belt land, the council explained.

These views, alongside the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the government's changing method for calculating housing targets, have seen a number of changes proposed for the local plan. These include:

  • A reduction in new housing from 945 a year over 20 years, to 816 a year over a reduced plan period of 18 years (2021-2038 inclusive).
  • Under the updated plan, the amount of land proposed to be removed from the green belt is 580 hectares, equating to 5 per cent of the total amount of green belt land in the borough. This has been reduced from 1,210 hectares.
  • Removing the South West Urban Extension (1,600 homes), the housing allocation for Phipps Lane in Burtonwood Village (160 homes) and the Massey Brook Lane site in Lymm (66 homes).
  • Moving away from the garden suburb concept in South Warrington (4,200 new homes) to proposals for a South East Warrington Urban Extension, with a reduced allocation of 2,400 new homes during the plan period.
  • Removing Port Warrington (75 hectares of employment land) and the Business Hub (25 hectares of employment land) from the plan.
  • Warrington Borough Council leader Russ Bowden, said: “Our proposed local plan will shape Warrington’s future and it’s vital we get it right. We remain absolutely committed to driving forward Warrington’s ambition and need for development, while protecting green belt wherever possible.

“In developing our local plan, Warrington, like all local authorities, must meet the minimum housing figures set by the Government. However, a lot has changed since we initially consulted in 2019, not least the Covid-19 pandemic, along with confirmation of the government’s housing methodology and local decisions such as our declarations of climate and ecological emergencies.

“Our updated plan takes all of this into account while, vitally, addressing many of the issues raised during our public consultation in 2019. We have listened to the views of local people, and acted upon them, and I believe this is reflected in the new plan.

“We are proposing a number of major changes, including a reduction in the number of new houses and a reduced plan period, from 20 years to 18 years. This, in turn, will mean a reduced need for green belt allocation."

Bowden believes the updated plan is the "right fit" for Warrington's future.

The cabinet will consider the plan at its meeting on 13 September. If approved, the plan will be put before the full council on 20 September for approval. The plan would then go out for a six-week public consultation.

More information about the local plan can be found on the Warrington Local Plan.

13 September 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The Welsh Government has accepted the recommendations of two major reports on town centre regeneration, which conclude that ‘imagination and ambitious leadership’ backed up by ‘coordinated, cross-government decision-making’ are urgently needed.

The two publications were by Professor Karel Williams: Small Towns, Big Issues and Regenerating Town Centres in Wales, compiled by Audit Wales.

These reports recommend action by ministers and local authorities on measures like access to public transport and effective promotion of town centres as well as the simplification of funding streams.

Deputy minister for climate change Lee Waters said: “Both reports make clear that we have all failed to control out-of-town development and we need to mobilise alliances for change in our town centres to turn things round.”

He explained that the Ministerial Town Centre Action Group would oversee the implementation of the recommendations made in both reports.

Waters added: “In addition to this, I am establishing three sub-groups, one of which will lead on finding ways to incentivise town centre development but also disincentivise out-of-town development.

“A second group will look at how we can further streamline the funding offer under the Transforming Towns programme and simplify its processes.

“The final group will look at planning and engaging with communities so that they have a say in what happens in their town.”

The deputy minister also confirmed that the government would make an additional £5 million of loan funding available as part of Transforming Towns this financial year – £60 million in loan funding has already been provided to support town centre regeneration.

“We need joined-up intervention to lift town centres, and an effort to tackle out-of-town development if we are to succeed in turning things around,” he stressed.

9 September 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner


Housing and communities secretary Robert Jenrick has unveiled the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's (MHCLG) second headquarters in Wolverhampton.

The headquarters will have a regular ministerial presence. The government says that as this is the first headquarters outside of London, it demonstrates its commitment to levelling up all areas of the country.

The new office is based in the i9 building in the centre of Wolverhampton. The MHCLG is fitting out the ground and fourth floors, which will have hundreds of staff using the space, including ministers and senior civil servants.

The City of Wolverhampton Council is currently supporting MHCLG with recruitment for new vacancies, including apprenticeships, with more than 100 staff recruited so far, 95 into new positions.

Jenrick said: "I am thrilled that our second headquarters in the i9 building in Wolverhampton has now been officially unveiled and we look forward to welcoming staff to the office, and working here myself along with our other ministers.

"We are levelling up all across the country, and our headquarters in the heart of Wolverhampton will bring hundreds of exciting jobs to the city and drive growth across the region."

Council leader Ian Brookfield, said the council has "worked hard" to enable the headquarters move, which is "a huge vote of confidence in Wolverhampton".

“The kudos of being the first place outside of Whitehall to host a government department is creating a real buzz and interest in our city, attracting further investment which is exactly what we want to be able to ‘relight’ Wolverhampton, which has been hit hard by the pandemic."

13 September 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Institute showcases planners' work to patron Prince Charles

The RTPI has sent an overview of the award-winning work of UK planners from over the last year to its patron HRH Prince Charles.

The specially-created brochure highlights some of the winners from the RTPI’s Awards for Planning Excellence 2021.

It also celebrates the contribution that planning and planners have made to society, particularly to creating healthy and sustainable places.

In an accompanying letter, RTPI president Wei Yang FRTPI writes that the award-winning projects show how the planning profession is enabling places around the world to be more sustainable and inclusive, as well as contributing to a reduction in carbon emissions.

Yang writes: "I am delighted to showcase the work of our profession to your Royal Highness as our Patron and trust that you agree that we share many priorities for the future.

"It is our sincere hope that we can work more closely together to encourage the positive role that the planning profession plays in delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as global communities now urgently need a world where there is greater harmony with nature and the planet."

Prince Charles has been patron of the RTPI since 1989.

 

Council to invest in planning service

Lichfield District Council’s cabinet has agreed plans to restructure its development management service.

A total of £1.13 million will be invested in improving the planning service between 2021 and 2026.

The council said this will allow the service to be reorganised and extra capacity to be built, including additional training and creating new roles to meet a "significant" increase in demand.

Angela Lax, cabinet member responsible for development management, said: “Our development management team has been dealing with a 26 per cent increase in its workload over the past year, which has resulted in some delays and complaints from residents and developers.

“Bringing in a new structure and posts should relieve much of the pressure on the team. It will also make sure we have the experience in-house to deal with upcoming major planning applications.

“We are confident the changes will lead to faster processing times and better customer service, which should boost overall satisfaction with the service.”

 

Planners recommend solar farm be approved

Planners at the City of Wolverhampton Council have recommended for approval plans for the city's first solar farm.

The city council and The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust have joined together to deliver green electricity at New Cross Hospital.

The plans will be considered 14 September. If approved, the solar farm will be installed on the former Bowman’s Harbour site.

Bowman’s Harbour is an unused landfill site adjacent to an industrial estate located on Planetary Road.

The solar farm will assist The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust in meeting their carbon reduction commitments and supply 6.9MWp (Mega Watt peak) of energy directly to New Cross Hospital.

 

Consultancy appointed to create Highgate Cemetery masterplan

Planning and development consultancy Montagu Evans has been appointed to help shape Highgate Cemetery in London.

The firm joins competition winners Gustafson Porter + Bowman (landscape competition) and Hopkins Architects (architectural projects competition) on the project team.

The team will prepare a new 25-year masterplan for the site, which will aim to secure the cemetery's future and ensure it remains a historic and sustainable twenty-first century cemetery. It must provide modern facilities for those looking after the site as well as improvements for grave owners and visitors.

Highgate Cemetery is a grade I Registered Park, designated as Metropolitan Open Land, and contains over 80 listed buildings and monuments, including the grade I listed Egyptian Avenue and Lebanon Circle and grade II* Terrace Catacombs.

Montagu Evans will advise on the planning strategy and lead consultation with the London Borough of Camden, Historic England and other relevant heritage stakeholders.

 

Developer acquires Watford site for mixed-use scheme

Developer Regal London has acquired a site at 37-39 Clarendon Road, Watford.

The site already had planning permission, but Regal London has successfully amended it to increase the number of homes to 168, as well as making changes to the grade A office space so that it includes a café and gym.

The development will also secure an overall planning obligation package totalling more than £4.6 million. This includes an affordable housing financial contribution of around £2 million.

Regal London’s plans for the £150 million scheme comprise studios, one, two and three bedroom homes, as well as 150,000 square feet of office space. The residential building will be 25 storeys in height and all homes will be private for sale.

 

Views sought on Oxford North’s Canalside plans

Thomas White Oxford (TWO) and its residential partner Hill Group have launched a public consultation on their plans for around 318 homes, a public park and streets at Oxford North’s Canalside.

TWO is the development company of St John’s College.

Outline consent was granted earlier in the year for the overall 64-acre masterplan, as well as detailed consent for the first phase of commercial development, link road and new park in the Central area.

TWO and Hill Group have since worked on the detailed plans for 318 new homes on Canalside, of which 111 (35 per cent) will be available as affordable homes (80 per cent as social-rental homes and 20 per cent as shared ownership).

The partnership is looking for views on the plans through an online public consultation before it submits a Reserved Matters Applications later in the year.

Canalside sits along the south-western boundary, to the south of the A40.

The public consultation for Canalside closes on Monday 27 September 2021 at 9am. The emerging plans can be viewed here.

14 September 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner