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Planning news - 23 September 2021

Published: Thursday, 23rd September 2021

MHCLG to change name as Johnson reaffirms commitment to levelling-up agenda, Planning Inspectorate Wales to transfer to new service next week. 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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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will be changed to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities as part of his commitment to level up across the UK.

As part of the change, the government has appointed former Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane to head the Levelling up Taskforce, which has been jointly established by Johnson and new levelling-up secretary Michael Gove.

Haldane joins as a permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office on secondment from the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) for six months.

Johnson said: “This government is committed to uniting and levelling up every part of the UK and I am determined that as we build back better from the pandemic we are geared up with the teams and expertise to deliver on that promise.

“Andy is uniquely qualified to lead our efforts to raise living standards, spread opportunity, improve our public services and restore people’s sense of pride in their communities. I look forward to working with him, and with my new ministerial team, to deliver the opportunities this country needs.”

Appointed last week in Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle, replacing Robert Jenrick, Gove’s role will involve driving “cross-Whitehall efforts to deliver a programme of tangible improvements in every part of the UK” as it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gove will also have responsibility for UK governance and elections, taking on the additional titles of minister for intergovernmental relations. He will work closely with the Territorial Offices and lead coordination with the devolved administrations on the prime minister’s behalf, the government explained.

Kemi Badenoch MP and Neil O’Brien MP have been appointed as a minister of state and parliamentary under-secretary of state. Christopher Pincher and Lord Greenhalgh have been reappointed as ministers, while Eddie Hughes has been reappointed as parliamentary under-secretary of state.

Gove commented: “I’m thrilled that the prime minister has asked me to lead the levelling-up agenda, the defining mission of this government.

“With a superb team of ministers and officials in a new department, our relentless focus will be on delivering for those overlooked families and undervalued communities across the United Kingdom.

“We have a unique opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives.”

Laura Edgar, The Planner
20 September 2021


The Planning Inspectorate has announced that casework handled by Planning Inspectorate Wales will transfer to the new service on 1 October.

The staff will also transfer across to the new division, which will be called Planning and Environment Decisions Wales – Penderfyniadau Cynllunio ac Amgylchedd Cymru.

Existing cases will be transferred to a new casework processing system. This involves a pausing of accepting new Wales-based cases (appeals and other cases), which began on 16 September. Wales-based appeals and statements/evidence will not be able to be submitted via the Appeals Casework Portal (ACP), however, they can be submitted by email and post.

The team in Wales will work on existing cases until 29 September. After training on the new systems as part of the Welsh Government, the team will resume casework from 11 October, when Planning and Environment Decisions Wales will be fully operational.

The change of casework systems means that there will be a change to case reference numbers. Customers will be informed of a new number and where to see all the documentation at the earliest opportunity once the transfer has happened.

Developments of National Significance (DNS) cases will also transfer to the new service.

Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) that include locations in Wales under the Planning Act 2008 will not be affected by the transfer. They will continue under the Planning Inspectorate (England).

Laura Edgar, The Planner
20 September 2021


Commuting by train has reached just a third of pre-Covid pandemic levels, threatening the future of towns and city centres and propelling increased congestion.

Research for industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) found that train commuting is just 33 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. It warns a permanent 20 per cent shift from rail to road would lead to 300 million extra hours of traffic congestion.

This shift would see the West Midlands with five million hours, Greater Manchester with four million hours and West Yorkshire with four million as the worst affected regions outside of London, where the figure is estimated at 169 million.

The shift would also create around one million extra tonnes of CO2 emissions a year - equivalent to all activity in Swansea in 2019.

The RDG said pre-pandemic train commuters spent £133 billion a year in city centres and high streets. Without including rail fares, the average passenger spends up to £94 on other activities, including food and drink, shopping, accommodation, entertainment, culture and other travel.

“For many former Monday to Friday commuters the future is undoubtedly going to be a mix of home and office working but the extent to which people return to the workplace and whether or not they take the train to get there is going to be crucial,” said RDG director general Andy Bagnall. “When people take the train it’s more than a journey - it will impact the future of thousands of small businesses, local air quality and the government’s net-zero ambitions.”

Centre for Cities chief executive Andrew Carter warned that around one in 19 deaths in UK cities and large towns were related to air pollution before the pandemic. He called on municipal leaders to introduce congestion charging and clean air zones to encourage people out of their cars and onto public transport. 

“As we emerge from the pandemic, they should push ahead with this policy,” Carter added.

16 September 2021,
Huw Morris, The Planner


The board of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has approved bids to the government’s City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) fund and Bus Service Improvement Plan fund worth – with local top-up – £2 billion for the next five years.

The West Midlands Metro network would receive £280 million to improve the network and extend it towards Walsall, Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton. 

Rail projects with further investment could see:

  • Aldridge Station built;
  • Detailed plans to reopen Sutton Park line;
  • Planning for a new station at Tettenhall;
  • Snow Hill Platform 4 development – to support Midlands Rail Hub scheme;
  • Redevelopment of Solihull railway station;
  • Sutton Coldfield Gateway – complete development of new rail and bus interchange in the town centre;
  • Light Rail scheme in Coventry; and
  • Cycling.

The Bus Service Improvement Plan bid includes the development of 110km of new bus priority routes, a simplified lower-cost fare system across operators, and the expansion of the new ‘West Midlands On Demand’ bus service. 

A bid of £55 million to introduce a fleet of 200 zero-emissions hydrogen buses has been backed by the WMCA board. 

Region-wide schemes will include:

  • Installation of electric vehicle-charging facilities;
  • Rapid charging points; and 
  • Expansion of contactless ticketing and best value fare-capping. 

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We are already putting unprecedented investment in our transport network with projects such as the new Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension, the opening of five new railway stations and the roll-out of West Midlands Cycle Hire earlier this year. 

“This new funding will build on that by not only helping us get some projects, such as Aldridge Railway Station, over the finishing line, but set us well on the road to a real revolution in transport for the West Midlands delivering the next round of Metro extensions, bus routes and train lines that will help our region grow and prosper. 

“This investment will transform the fortunes of communities by better linking people to key locations like New Cross Hospital and by making the switch to public transport and active travel easier and better value for everyone.” 

Full details of the CRSTS bid can be found here.

20 September 2021
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner


Housebuilder Fitzpatrick Group has been fined £2,500 after ignoring a legal notice instructing the firm to complete landscaping work at new homes in Rugby.

Rugby Borough Council said it sought prosecution of Mark Fitzpatrick, managing director of the Solihull-based Fitzpatrick Group because repeated requests for the work at Grace Close to be completed were ignored.

A condition attached to the planning permission required tree and hedge-planting to take place after construction of the homes was complete. In February 2019, however, a complaint was filed with the council alleging that the work had not been carried out.

Planning enforcement officers held a site meeting with Fitzpatrick and issued a deadline of the end of June for the landscaping to be finished.

A further inspection by a planning enforcement officer in August found that work had not been done. A letter was sent to Fitzpatrick warning that he faced being issued with a breach of condition notice if the work was not completed within 28 days.

A February 2021 inspection found the landscaping work had still not been completed. Instead, a skip, building materials and equipment were being stored on the land earmarked for tree and hedge-planting. A breach of condition notice on Fitzpatrick was served the following month. He had 28 days to complete the work.

After this notice was ignored, Rugby Borough Council initiated legal action. However, Fitzpatrick did not respond to the court, which found him guilty of breaching the condition notice – an offence under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

The magistrate at Warwickshire Justice Centre issued Fitzpatrick with a £2,500 fine and ordered him to pay the council's costs of £487, as well as a victim surcharge of £190.

Jill Simpson-Vince, portfolio holder for growth and investment at Rugby Borough Council, said: “Conditions attached to planning permissions give the council the flexibility to approve applications while ensuring applicants comply with certain obligations and restrictions.

“Applicants cannot pick and choose which conditions to comply with, and our planning enforcement team investigates all suspected breaches and, when necessary, uses the legal powers at our disposal.”

20 September 2021,
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Permission sought for homes in Shepshed

Godwin Developments has submitted an application for permission to build up to 50 new family homes on land south of Ashby Road Central in Shepshed, Leicestershire.

The site is currently vacant and is allocated in the emerging Charnwood Borough Council Local Plan for housing.

As well as a mixture of housing types, the application includes parking for residents and cycle storage for every home.

 

Housebuilder partners with UKGBC to improve sustainability

Developer Countryside has announced it has partnered with UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) to help it achieve its approach to sustainability.

Through the UKGBC platform, Countryside said it would collaborate with colleagues in the construction and housebuilding industries to find “innovative solutions to the myriad of sustainability challenges the world faces”.

The UKGBC is aiming to transform the building and construction sector across three key strategic areas: climate action, health and wellbeing, and resources and circularity.

Countryside has identified 25 key targets that formulate its sustainability approach and it has committed to setting science-based carbon targets.

Iain McPherson, group chief executive at Countryside, said: “By partnering with the UKGBC, we intend to tackle the challenges of sustainability within the housebuilding and construction industries as well as deepening our knowledge about sustainable development. Having already joined the HBF Future Homes Taskforce, we want to build on our sustainability approach by closely working with our partners, supply chain stakeholders, communities and industry colleagues to resolve these far-reaching and complex issues together, ensuring we create the positive outcomes we are aiming for.”

 

Retirement development to be zero carbon

Retirement Villages Group has announced that its 196-home mixed-use development at West Byfleet, Surrey, will be the “UK’s first net-zero carbon” scheme over its whole development and operational lifespan in the later living sector.

The firm is the first developer to use UKGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Framework definition in this sector.

The net-zero status accounts for carbon generated by the materials used to build the project (embodied carbon) and the ‘operational carbon’ used to run the development over an average 60-year lifespan.

Retirement Villages Group said the embodied carbon will be offset at practical completion and the operational carbon annually.

 

Plans for Nottingham development altered owing to pandemic

Leonard Design Architects (LDA) and placemaking specialist Studio Egret West have made a series of changes to the masterplan for the Island Quarter in Nottingham in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The two companies said the green space offer has been enhanced on the 36-acre site, as have the multifunctional public areas for outdoor events.

David Leonard of LDA said: “The plans for the Island Quarter have been adapted to create inclusive, healthy, sustainable and viable communities, which also meet the changing attitudes towards flexible working and health and wellbeing in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“These latest changes include an expansion of the linear park, which will now extend around the site to create active, liveable and safe spaces linking the new community at The Island Quarter with the area’s existing vibrant communities.”

The new masterplan features 10,000 square metres of more urban river and green space than the original, as well as more than 20 restaurants, bars and cafés. It will also include 1,600 new homes and allow for more than 6,000 office jobs.

The Conygar Investment Company plc is the developer behind the scheme.

 

Partnership seeks to encourage under-represented groups to become barristers

A partnership between the Planning and Environmental Bar Association (PEBA), Cornerstone Barristers, Field Court, Francis Taylor Building, Kings Chambers and Landmark Chambers intends to encourage undergraduates and postgraduates from groups that are not well represented at the Bar to consider becoming barristers.

The scheme will run from October 2021 to June 2022. It aims to provide advice and guidance to suitable candidates on the process of becoming a barrister specialising in planning, property and public law.

PEBA and each chambers hope that the mentoring scheme “can lay the foundations to creating a profession that is representative of all and for all by introducing those from a non-traditional background into the profession”.

Successful applicants will be offered one-to-one meetings with a mentor and a workshop on application for pupillage.

21 September 2021,
Laura Edgar, The Planner