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Planning news - 7 October 2021

Published: Thursday, 7th October 2021

PPG update published on para 22, Greenfield surcharge would spur on brownfield development, Tough new flooding advice announced for Wales. 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 written to the Planning Inspectorate to confirm that guidance has been published on the way local authorities should reflect the recent National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) paragraph 22 changes in their local plans.

The change is intended to guarantee that local authority plan preparation can continue “at pace while also ensuring that the government's objectives are delivered”.

In August, The Planner reported that then-housing secretary Robert Jenrick had urged planning inspectors to be “alive” to changes to the NPPF announced in July. He said then that the change did not affect plans that have already been published or ones that were submitted for examination before 21 July. Planning inspectors would, however, need to take it into account for plans published after this date.

Paragraph 22 of the NPPF:

“Strategic policies should look ahead over a minimum 15-year period from adoption, to anticipate and respond to long-term requirements and opportunities, such as those arising from major improvements in infrastructure. Where larger-scale developments such as new settlements or significant extensions to existing villages and towns form part of the strategy for the area, policies should be set within a vision that looks further ahead (at least 30 years), to take into account the likely timescale for delivery.”

The updated Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) states that where the new policy applies, “the authority will need to ensure that their vision reflects the long-term nature of their strategy for the plan or those larger scale developments. It is not anticipated that such visions would require evidence in addition to that already produced to support the plan”.

Under the policy, local authorities will need to consider whether they have an existing vision that is adequate enough to meet the paragraph 22 policy requirement. “Where the vision only applies to the existing plan period, authorities may also consider whether further explanation or clarification is needed through the use of a short supplementary statement.”

Repeating Jenrick’s call, Pincher concludes his letter to PINS chief executive Sarah Richard by writing: “I am grateful for the positive way the inspectorate has engaged with my officials to ensure Inspectors reflect this new policy in a pragmatic and proportionate way. Please ensure that your Inspectors are alive to this new guidance.”

The letter can be found on the UK Government website.

4 October 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) has recommended that a ‘greenfield surcharge’ would encourage development of brownfield land.

This is one of a number of proposals set out in the commission’s recent report Brownfield First.

The authors suggest the addition of a surcharge to the infrastructure levy proposed in the planning reforms, which were published in August 2020. Local authorities would be able to use the money on infrastructure to mitigate the higher development costs often associated with brownfield.

The EIC believes that brownfield development can help to meet levelling-up ambitions, but if this is to be achieved, it argues that more planning reforms – alongside new tax reliefs and development incentives – are required.

According to the report, in 2014 40 per cent of new residential projects in England were on brownfield land but by 2018, this had declined to 20 per cent. Economies of scale, technical complexities and additional costs and uncertainties are cited as contributing factors.

Matthew Farrow, director of policy at EIC, said: “Our analysis shows that developers are making significantly less use of brownfield, yet there is huge potential for it to deliver ambitions around levelling up. Not only can it help find the space for 300,000 homes a year, but it can also funnel new investment to those traditionally underfunded post-industrial towns, cities and communities."

Among Brownfield First’s other recommendations is funding allocated to levelling up, either through the new National Infrastructure Bank or the Levelling-Up Fund, should specifically favour brownfield proposals over greenfield ones.

Peter Atchison, chair of the EIC contaminated land working group, and director at PAGeoTechnical, added: “Despite inspiring high-profile examples of brownfield development, such as the former Olympic Park in the East End of London, developers are making less use of brownfield than before. Our recommendations aim to revitalise this sector and place it as the realistic alternative to building on greenfield sites, as well as a key driver for levelling up.”

The EIC represents the companies working in the environmental technologies and services sector.

Brownfield First can be found on the EIC website (pdf).

4 October 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


The Welsh Government this week unveiled what it claims is the UK’s toughest guidance on development in areas prone to flooding and coastal erosion.

It has published a revised technical advice note (TAN 15) as well as a new flood map drawn up by Natural Resources Wales that shows not only which areas are already prone to flooding, but also in the future because of climate change. In addition, the map shows the presence of major flood defences.

Climate change minister Julie James stressed that the new advice would be used by the government, local planning authorities and developers to direct development away from areas at risk of tidal, fluvial, and surface water flooding.

TAN 15 makes it clear that new developments of homes, the emergency services, schools, and hospitals, must not be located in areas of high flood risk without strong flood defences.

If a local planning authority is minded to approve any scheme against this advice, ministers will be notified and able to decide the application directly.

The new flood map identifies four types of flood zone, with each zone having particular advice in TAN 15 for proposed developments. The zones are based on current risk levels with the addition of allowances for climate change. The map will be updated in May and November each year to reflect the latest modelling and data on flood risks.

For all development in areas of low risk and areas protected by strong flood defences, and for less vulnerable developments in areas at high risk, securing planning permission will be dependent on passing acceptability tests set out in TAN15.

Any local development plan under review and yet to reach the formal examination stage must also use the new TAN 15 and the flood map after 1 December.

James said: “Flood risk and coastal erosion in Wales are increasing as a result of climate change.

“Serious flooding events are becoming more frequent and some areas currently at little risk will become vulnerable to flooding as our climate continues to change.

“Improved knowledge of the places which will be at risk in the future can help keep people safe, by preventing the damage and disruption to homes, workplaces and infrastructure that flooding can cause.”

1 October 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner


Statistics published by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) show that it has more than 12,526 open cases – its highest number in the past 12 months.

According to the report, the number of receipts averages at more than 1,700 each month over the past 12 months and the average number it closed works out at just below 1,700 a month during the same period. 

Over the last year, PINS made 18,075 appeal decisions – more than 1,500 a month. Fewer decisions were issued in the months of August 2020, April 2021, July 2021 and August 2021. "This is thought to be due to the impact of national lockdowns, in respect of August 20, and the impact of staff taking more annual leave in 2021 than in 2020," the report explains.

Of the decisions made, 17,067 were made on written representations, which is about 95 per cent of all appeal decisions made. The report finds that written representation decisions had recovered to pre-pandemic levels between October and December 20, when the number of decisions made stood between approximately 1,600 and 2,000 decisions per month.

In the last 12 month, 623 decisions were made on hearings and 385 decisions made on inquiries.

The statistical release can be found here on the UK Government website (pdf).

29 September 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Doncaster Council has adopted its local plan after it was approved by a meeting of the full council.

The plan sets out that from 1 April 2018 a minimum of 15,640 net new homes should be delivered over the plan period, which runs from 2015 until 2035.

Growth is set to be distributed according to a ‘6 level settlement hierarchy’: Doncaster main urban area, seven main towns, 10 service towns and larger villages, 40 defined villages, countryside and green belt.

At least 45 per cent of new homes will be in the Doncaster main urban area, 40 per cent are allocated to the main towns and around 15 per cent to the service towns and villages, according to the plan, while a total of 470 hectares of new employment sites will support Doncaster’s main urban area and seven main towns.

The local plan states that “the openness and permanence” of Doncaster’s green belt will be preserved and the “general extent of the green belt will be retained”. 

Nigel Ball, cabinet member for public health, leisure, culture and planning, said: “The local plan enables us to grow our economy in a sustainable way and provide everything residents need to enjoy living in our borough. It positively plans for new roads and other infrastructure to secure new development and enhance how we move around and access our communities.

“An important role of the local plan is helping us to address the climate emergency so our future generations have a future to look forward to. Having up-to-date planning policy protects the borough’s green spaces and supports Doncaster as a place where nature flourishes and wildlife can move easily through a network of well-connected green infrastructure. The local plan shapes the future of Doncaster.”

29 September 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Councils must be at heart of levelling up

The Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) has urged the government to put councils at the heart of the government's forthcoming levelling up white paper.

The LGIU’s report sets out the key principles it believes should underpin the government’s plans, as well as considering the risks and opportunities.

The key principles include:

  • Clarity – The white paper has to clarify what the government means by levelling up while allowing for flexibility for locally targeted action and scope for local leaders to make it their own.
  • Partnership – Local leaders have to be given the tools to be able to fully contribute as partners to the levelling-up project.
  • Transparency – There has to be complete transparency – both in relation to the data and information used for making those decisions and the reasons why policy and funding decisions are made.
  • Scope – New levelling-up funding should extend beyond investing in hard infrastructure projects to social infrastructure and to measures that address inequalities in areas such as health and skills, with support for preventative measures such as Early Years programmes and childcare services.

 

Offshore wind pipeline exceeds 400GW worldwide

Research by RenewableUK’s Project Intelligence team has suggested that the total pipeline of offshore wind projects around the world now stands at 413GW.

The pipeline includes projects that are fully operational, under construction, have been given consent or are being planned.

The UK has 10.4GW in operational capacity, the most in the world, with China in second with 9.4GW and Germany has at 7.7GW. Globally, 35.3GW are fully operational.

The UK has a total pipeline of 63.2GW of offshore wind capacity, while China has 64.4GW. The USA has 40.5GW.

 

Gove on levelling up

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, levelling-up secretary Michael Gove said the government acknowledges that there is “talent” spread evenly across the country but “opportunity is not”.

It has to “change” that businesses in the South have more opportunities than those in the North.

Gove also said that levelling up is not “a left-wing idea”. The Conservatives want “everyone to have the chance to choose their own future”.

Levelling up, he said, “will be at the heart of everything this government will do”.

 

North East construction firms meet over material shortage

Around 100 North East construction firms met at an “emergency” summit over concerns regarding the “deepening” materials shortage crisis.

Construction Alliance North East (CAN) and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) organised the virtual event in partnership with the North East Procurement Organisation (NEPO).

At the event, John Newcomb, chief executive at the Builders Merchants Federation and co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability Group (PAG) updated attendees on the industry and urged businesses to track Construction Product Availability Statements when they are released to keep on top of the crisis.

Timber prices appear to have peaked, he said, but some products, such as cement and bricks, are yet to hit this peak.

 

Tool launched to aid PDR site search

SearchLand, a proptech start-up, has launched a new tool to allow developers and others to search for permitted development sites.

The firm explained that it layers disparate sources of data, from land ownership and boundaries to planning permissions and prices paid, on top of satellite image maps, with intuitive search functionality.

This upgrade to add the search function intends to make it quicker and easier for users to find sites that have permitted development rights.

 

Developer chosen for Wolverhampton development

The City of Wolverhampton Council announced commercial property company Goold Estates as its preferred developer for its Bilston Urban Village employment site. 

Goold Estates will develop units ranging from 5,000 to 25,000 square foot on almost 15 acres of vacant brownfield land.

The site is situated to the rear of Morrisons supermarket and borders the Midland Metro to the east and Bankfield Road to the west.

5 October 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner