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Planning news - 4 November

Published: Friday, 29th October 2021

COP26: Time is running out, says Johnson, Sunak outlines £24bn housing settlement, Sunak allocates first round of bids to Levelling Up Fund. 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 told global leaders at the start of the COP26 conference that it is ‘one minute to midnight’ on the ‘Doomsday clock’ of climate change and that ‘we need to act now’.

Speaking in Glasgow, he alluded to Scotland’s famous fictional son James Bond, “who generally comes to the climax of his highly lucrative films strapped to a doomsday device”.

“We are in roughly the same position, my fellow global leaders, as James Bond today, except that the tragedy is that this is not a movie, and the doomsday device is real.”

He noted that the temperature of the plane is rising “with a speed and an abruptness that is entirely man-made”.

If it rises by “2 degrees more and we jeopardise the food supply for hundreds of millions of people as crops wither, locusts swarm”.

“Three degrees and you can add more wildfires and cyclones – twice as many of them, five times as many droughts and 36 times as many heatwaves.

“Four degrees and we say goodbye to whole cities – Miami, Alexandria, Shanghai – all lost beneath the waves.

“And the longer we fail to act the worse it gets and the higher the price when we are eventually forced by catastrophe to act because humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change.”

Developed countries must, said Johnson, recognise its response to help others reduce emissions.

“We have the technology, we can find the finance and we must, and the question for all of us today is whether we have the will.”

Those that will judge leaders are not yet born, he continued, urging leaders to not “fluff" their lines or miss their cue. COP26 must mark the beginning of the end.

A failure to see the bigger picture

Sir David Attenborough, broadcaster and natural historian, also spoke on 1 November. He said: “Perhaps the fact that the people most affected by climate change are no longer some imagined future generation but young people alive today – perhaps that will give us the impetus we need to rewrite our story.”

He called on global leaders to be “motivated by hope rather than fear”.

The crisis is a story of inequality and instability. Those who have done the least to bring about this crisis are among those to be “hardest hit”, he added.

“Ultimately, all of us will feel the impact, some of which is unavoidable. Is this how our story is due to end? A tale of the smartest species doomed by that all too human characteristic of failing to see the bigger picture in pursuit of short-term goals?

“To turn this tragedy into a triumph – we are after all the greatest problem-solvers to have ever existed on Earth.

“We now understand this problem, we know how to stop the number rising and put it in reverse.

“We must recapture billions of tonnes of carbon from the air, we must fix our sights on keeping 1.5 degrees within reach.”

Attenborough concluded by saying the generation to come would look at COP26 and consider one thing – “did the number stop rising and start to drop as a result of commitments made here?”

He believes there is ‘every reason” for this answer to be ‘yes’.

“If working apart we are forces powerful enough to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it.”

01 November 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Chancellor Rishi Sunak has committed to a multi-year investment worth £24 billion for housing, as well as confirming a £65 million investment to digitise the planning process.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said this Budget doesn’t “draw a line under Covid”, warning that there are “challenging months ahead”.

The Budget “does begin the work of preparing for a new economy” after the pandemic.

Speaking in the House of Commons today on 27 October, the chancellor set out £24 billion for "a multi-year housing settlement". He allocated £11.5 billion of this to build up to 180,000 new affordable homes, which Sunak said is the largest cash investment in a decade.

Brownfield land will be the target for delivering new homes.

On cladding, Sunak confirmed £5 billion to “remove unsafe cladding from the highest risk buildings, partly funded by the Residential Property Developers Tax, which I can confirm will be levied on developers with profits over £25 million at a rate of 4 per cent”.

The Budget and Spending Review (SR) document sets out the “government’s plans to build back better over the rest of the Parliament. It does so by investing in strong public services, driving economic growth, leading the transition to net zero, and supporting people and businesses”.

It also sets out that total departmental spending is set to grow in real terms at 3.8 per cent a year on average over this Parliament. This is a cash increase of £150 billion a year by 2024-25 – £90 billion in real terms.

According to the document, The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) settlement provides a £2.6 billion cash increase over the Parliament to £8.9 billion in 2024-25, representing an annual average increase of 4.7 per cent in spending above inflation. The government said the settlement “supports hundreds of places across the UK to level up and helps unlock hundreds of thousands of new homes”.

Sunak said: “We’re investing more in housing and home ownership, too. With a multi-year housing settlement totalling nearly £24 billion. £11.5 billion to build up to 180,000 new affordable homes – the largest cash investment in a decade, 20 per cent larger than the previous programme.

“And we’re investing an extra £1.8 billion: enough to bring 1,500 hectares of brownfield land into use to meet our commitment to invest £10bn in new housing and unlock one million new homes.”

According to the document, the £24 billion for housing includes:

  • An additional £1.8 billion for housing supply, to deliver £10 billion investment since the start of this Parliament and unlock more than one million new homes over the SR21 period and beyond. This features £300 million locally-led grant funding that will be distributed to mayoral combined authorities and local authorities to unlock smaller brownfield sites for housing and improve communities in line with their priorities, and £1.5 billion to regenerate underused land and deliver transport links and community facilities, unlocking 160,000 homes in total.
  • It reconfirms £11.5 billion investment through the Affordable Homes Programme (2021-26) of which £7.5 billion is over the SR21 period delivering up to 180,000 affordable homes. Of the funding, 65 per cent will be for homes outside London
  • Provides an additional £65 million investment to improve the planning regime, through a new digital system which will ensure more certainty and better outcomes for the environment, growth and quality of design. This was initially announced on Monday (25 October).
  • £5 billion to remove unsafe cladding from the highest-risk buildings, of which £3 billion is over the SR21 period.

Other commitments set out in the Budget and SR document include funding up to 8,000 community multi-use sports and football pitches, as well as refurbishing more than 4,500 tennis courts to improve access to sport facilities and support places most in need.

It also includes £950 million for the Home Upgrade Grant and £800 million for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund. It allocates £1.4 billion to help decarbonise the public sector estate in England.

Reaction:

Victoria Hills, chief executive of the RTPI: “The chancellor’s announcement of £65 million to drive digital improvement in the planning system is a positive step and aligns with the RTPI’s calls to upgrade this aspect of the system and will free up planners to proactively plan for sustainable communities.

“But there are many other areas of the planning system that need greater resources which is why the RTPI initially called for £500 million over four years. We look forward to working closely with the government on the forthcoming planning reforms and will continue to make the case for the much-needed greater resourcing for the planning profession, which will be instrumental in delivering a planning system that addresses housing supply, climate change and economic well-being for everyone.

“A three-year settlement worth £4.8 billion for local authorities is desperately needed and the RTPI hopes that some of this money can be used to reverse the backslide in expenditure on planning, which has fallen by 29% since 2009-10 in England. The RTPI will continue to champion the implementation of chief planning officers in every local authority who can deliver the future package of planning reforms whilst ensuring adequate expenditure on planning is in place and used wisely.”

Mixed bag

Fergus Charlton, legal director at UK law firm TLT: “Given the recent whispers about housing falling behind on the government’s list of priorities, many in the property industry were fearing the worst going into this Budget. As it was, Rishi Sunak’s Budget announcements will have been a mixed bag for the sector."

On the £1.8 billion to build 160,000 new homes on brownfield sites, he said "such sums aren’t enough to tackle the UK’s national housing shortfall, they do at least indicate that housing hasn’t been entirely forgotten and that the government strategy remains focused on delivering on brownfield sites".

Though he acknowledged the £65 million for planning and digital technologies, Charlton said "it was perhaps the absence of commitments to the planning system or to building back better that was most noticeable".

"The proposals in last year’s planning white paper are still too controversial to touch, and Mr Gove’s appointment is too fresh in the day for his political heft to take effect. Consequently, outside of niche areas such as offshore wind and free ports, the government’s position on planning is unclear."

Melanie Leech, chief executive of British Property Federation (BPF): “The BPF has for some time been advocating for the introduction of targeted funding to support local authorities’ transition to a more digitalised planning system. The £65 million package to support digital transformation is therefore a welcome start.

“Ensuring our planning system is fit for purpose is critical to delivering on the government’s levelling up agenda and if the government ambitions for planning reform are to be realised then all parts of the planning system including decimated local authority planning departments will need to be better resourced.”

Viability the issue with brownfield land

Fisher German’s head of planning Liberty Stones welcomed the funding, but believes the devil is in the detail.

“The viability of brownfield sites is the key reason they are not delivered. In addition, the sites are generally located within town or city centres, and it can be challenging to deliver a varied mix of housing to include homes which suit families and that they want to move to.

“Politics can also come into play, and we have seen applications for development in urban areas on brownfield sites being rejected by planning committee on grounds such as access, despite there being no objection from highways authorities.

“It will therefore be interesting to see if the government puts measures in place to ensure that new homes on brownfield sites can be delivered successfully.”

Planning funding welcome

Nicola Gooch, planning partner at Irwin Mitchell: "Perhaps the most significant ‘new’ announcement was the £4.8 billion uplift in general local authority funding over the next three years – described as 'the largest increase in core funding for over a decade'. Many of the problems in the planning system at present are a direct result of under-resourced local authorities struggling to cope with the volume of applications they face. As such, this additional funding is likely to be extremely welcome. That said, planning is not the only local authority department struggling for cash. Councils are also responsible for funding social care, education and a wide range of other local services. As such, whether any of this money makes its way to local authority planning departments will have to be seen.

"The £65 million of investment into the digital transformation of the planning system is also a welcome recognition that the current software relied on by council planning departments may no longer be fit for purpose. Given that this announcement follows hot on the heels of DLUHC’s  announcement that 13 councils have been awarded a share of the £1 million PropTech Engagement Fund to pilot ‘innovative’ new digital consultation tools; it seems clear that the pledge to digitise and modernise the planning system may be one of the few proposals from last year’s planning white paper left standing.”

Rural areas forgotten

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity: "The Chancellor’s ‘new age of optimism’ offers a glimmer of hope in terms of brownfield development but overall, it’s disappointing that the decades of disadvantage faced by rural communities look set to continue. Millions of people living in rural areas have been treated as an afterthought and for them, this new era looks remarkably like the old one.

"It's no wonder young people in the countryside feel outpriced and overlooked – our research has shown that only two in five young people living in rural areas anticipate staying there over the next five years, with genuinely affordable housing being their biggest concern. The woolly messages of optimism could not be further from the reality faced by rural communities, especially young people living in the countryside, right now.

"To really bridge the gap between words and action, we must see these commitments backed up by a firm urban ‘brownfield first’ policy when the government revises the National Planning Policy Framework next year. Otherwise, we’ll continue to see poorly designed greenfield developments with no public transport links that siphon off a lot of public money."

Victoria Vyvyan, vice president of the Country Land & Business Association (CLA): “The announcement to build more homes on brownfield sites might make sense, but given less than 10% of available sites are in rural areas it will do nothing to ease the rural housing crisis.  Nobody wants to concrete over the countryside, least of all us, but instead of treating rural communities as museums [the] government should support small scale developments – adding small numbers of homes to a large number of villages, helping to provide good housing for local people while also boosting the local economy.”

27 October 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


In his Budget on 27 October Chancellor Rishi Sunak allocated the first round of bids from the Levelling Up Fund, which totals £1.7 billion for investment in more than 100 local areas. 

This includes, said Sunak, "£170 million in Scotland, £120 million in Wales, and £50 million in Northern Ireland" which is "more than their Barnett shares".

"This will benefit the whole United Kingdom," the Chancellor continued. "We’re backing projects in Aberdeen, Bury, Burnley, Lewes, Clwyd South... and not one, not two, but three successful projects for the great city of Stoke-on-Trent.

"But that’s not all. We’re also going to fund projects in Ashton under Lyne, South Leicester, Sunderland, Doncaster, and West Leeds."

According to the Budget and Spending Review (SR) document, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) settlement "provides a £2.6 billion cash increase over the Parliament to £8.9 billion in 2024-25, representing an annual average increase of 4.7 per cent in spending above inflation. The government said the settlement “supports hundreds of places across the UK to level up and helps unlock hundreds of thousands of new homes”.

Levelling up commitments in the Budget and SR document include:

  • The first 105 places to receive funding for local transport, cultural assets and regeneration from the £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund (see box).
  • The first 21 projects to receive funding from the £150 million Community Ownership Fund, which seeks to help communities protect and manage their assets across at least eight bidding rounds.
  • More than £2.6 billion for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) to help people access new opportunities across the UK.
  • The continued regeneration of some 170 high streets, town centres and local communities across England through the Towns Fund.

Reaction:

James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), said: "We are pleased that the Spending Review has provided new government grant funding for councils over the next three years to support vital local services. This will help meet some – but not all - of the extra cost and demand pressures they face just to provide services at today’s levels.

"Investing in local places is one of the most powerful tools of the government’s levelling up agenda. With adequate long-term resources and freedoms, councils can deliver world-class local services for our communities, tackle the climate emergency, and ensure all parts of the country are able to prosper in the future."

Key Cities chair councillor John Merry CBE, Deputy Mayor of Salford, commented: “Key Cities welcomes the government’s renewed focus on levelling up ingrained inequalities and on green growth, but funding is only part of the story. Much of the funding available asks all our places to compete, which is completely counter-productive, and reduces, not enhances innovation. Instead, funding should be targeted to leave no areas behind, and those local and regional authorities charged with delivery of this agenda are enabled to do so successfully.

“This will incentivise collaboration, capturing and spreading good practice, buddying up cities with towns and other places, sharing cost benefits of joint procurement, contracting or legal costs. Doing so will strengthen our contribution to Levelling Up between and within places, address inequality in all disadvantaged regions, put Global Britain on the map as a leader, and accelerate the transition to net zero and a sustainable green economy.”

Melanie Leech, chief executive at the British Property Federation (BPF) said: “The chancellor confirmed again that levelling up is at the core of the government’s policy agenda and gave some indication of how public spending will be used to support critical building blocks such as infrastructure and housing supply.

“The £1.8 billion allocated to brownfield development is a positive commitment to regeneration and will unlock underutilised sites across the country and create new opportunities for SME property investors and developers.

“We will need to see further details in the promised levelling up white paper however to understand how the millions of pounds of investment our sector represents can partner effectively alongside national and local government to deliver the built environment which is critical to levelling up across the country.”

Successful bids to the Levelling up Fund include:

  • £20 million: Aberdeen City Council for the city centre masterplan
  • £49,597,972 million: Derbyshire County Council for the South Derby Growth Zone & Infinity Garden Village
  • £19,900,000 million: Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council for Twycross Zoo (National Science and Conservation Centre)
  • £16 million: Stoke-on-Trent City Council for The Goods Yard, Station Masterplan
  • £15,992,485 million: Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council for Barrow-in-Furness town centre
  • £10,852,123: Cyngor Sir Ceredigion County Council for Aberystwyth (town regeneration)
  • £3,586,091 million: Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council for Porth Transport Hub
  • £5,841,254 million: Isle of Wight Council for East Cowes Marine Hub
  • £12,200,000 million: Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council for Dundonald International Ice Bowl (DIIB)
  • £4,125,000 million: Ards and North Down Borough Council for Newtownards to Bangor greenway & Comber to Newtownards greenway (Cycling Development Project)

Stuart Bray, leader of Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, said: "This is fantastic news, this bid will enable Twycross Zoo to make a significant contribution to the Midlands economy. The education, cultural, and tourism sectors have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. These innovative plans will be a major boost to tourism and help establish the area as a focus for new jobs, research, and education."

Ann Thomson, leader of Barrow Borough Council commented: "We have great ambitions for Barrow town centre and its future development. The announcement today that our Levelling Up Fund application has been successful is cause for huge celebration.

"An enormous amount of effort went into producing a compelling bid. Our focus now will switch to delivering the very exciting projects that we identified, including: adding a food hall, improved stall spaces, and a soft play area to Barrow Market; creating a new exterior and façade on Duke Street, creating a link between The Forum and Barrow Market and improving connectivity in the town.

"Coupled with the Town Deal funds we have already secured, Barrow now has more than £40 million of inward investment earmarked for a series of very exciting projects. The future looks very bright."

27 October 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Ambitious £1.7 billion proposals for a tidal lagoon and associated development on Swansea’s waterfront have been unveiled by an international consortium.

The scheme is a successor to the city council’s Dragon Energy Island initiative and has the support of the local authority and Associated British Ports. It is planned to be sited along an extensive area of land and water to the south of the Prince of Wales Dock in the SA1 area of Swansea.

As well as a 9.5-kilometre tidal lagoon capable of producing 320-megawatts of power, the project includes:

  • a 60,000 square metre manufacturing plant making high-tech batteries for renewable energy storage;
  • a battery facility that will store the renewable energy produced locally and will power the site;
  • a 72,000 square metres floating solar array anchored in the Queen's dock area;
  • a 94,000 square metres data centre;
  • an oceanic and climate change research centre;
  • floating dome structures that will become cultural and scientific centres;
  • waterfront homes for 5,000 people; and
  • around 150 floating eco-homes anchored in the water.

The consortium behind what is being called Blue Eden is led by Bridgend-based DST Innovations. It expects the scheme to be delivered in three phases over 12 years.

29 October 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner


A planning application has been submitted to Birmingham City Council for the regeneration of the MG site in Longbridge, where the Mini design was first conceived.

St Modwen's plans for the 60-acre brownfield site include various types of workspaces, such as studio and co-working facilities, and 695 homes to be set in a new district for Longbirdge. It is expected that the development will create 1,300 jobs. Heritage buildings would be restored as part of the plans.

The workspaces and homes would be set in 10 acres of green space, which St Modwen intends to be biodiverse. Footpaths and cycle routes would be established to connect the scheme with Longbridge town centre, as well as Cofton Park, the Lickey Hills, the River Rea corridor and Austin Park.

Plans also feature energy efficient engineering, renewable energy sources, eco-friendly community facilities and electric vehicle charging points, in line with St Modwen's plans to be operationally net zero carbon by 2025.

Rob Flavell, senior director for St. Modwen, said: “Our plans represent more than just new buildings, but a thriving new community which will have its own distinctive character while bringing added benefits to the wider redevelopment of Longbridge town centre. Our plans have been put together with an eye on creating a high-quality, sustainable and attractive environment, which will improve the landscape, be kind to the environment and encourage biodiversity within the town."

So far, St Modwen has delivered 1,450 homes as part of its regeneration of the site. Once complete, the community will include up to 2,800 new homes, 2 million square feet of commercial floorspace and up to 10,000 jobs.

28 October 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Lichfield announces leisure project go-ahead

Lichfield District Council has confirmed that it will proceed to build new leisure facilities in Lichfield, despite not securing £5 million from the government’s Levelling Up Fund.

The council says it has already “committed” £5 million towards the cost of new leisure facilities. A member task group will meet tomorrow (3 November) to discuss details of the recent consultation around the potential use of some of Stychbrook Park for new leisure facilities.

Iain Eadie, councillor and cabinet member for leisure, said: “We are obviously extremely disappointed not to be awarded the funding from the Levelling Up Fund. However, we were always aware that as Lichfield was classified as a tier-three priority area our chances of support from this fund were limited. We have requested feedback from our bid that will be helpful with future applications from other funding opportunities.”

“We committed to invest in Friary Grange Leisure Centre and to keep it open, whilst we looked to deliver new leisure facilities. We did that and have a seven-year lease on the current centre meaning people will be able to use Friary Grange Leisure Centre for many years to come. We would like to get new facilities open as quickly as possible and will keep looking at how we can do that, alongside how we deliver regeneration in Lichfield District as a whole."

 

Lovell acquires housing land in Corby

Housing developer Lovell Partnerships will build 75 homes in Corby, Northamptonshire, following its acquisition of a 907-acre site from Urban&Civic.

The homes will be built on the Priors Hall Park site, which is positioned as England’s fastest area of development for business and employment

Work on the site started last month, with Lovell Partnerships moving forward in delivering the affordable housing to The Riverside Group and launching its open market sale under Lovell Homes.

The developer says it has committed to delivering 26 homes under the shared ownership scheme through Riverside Housing.

Priors Hall will provide approximately 3,000 homes around the community and 25.5 acres of formal open spaces, sports pitches, nine acres of employment space and four new educational facilities. Planning has also been granted for another 45 affordable homes.

Nigel Wakefield, development director for Urban&Civic at Priors Hall Park, said: “Delivering high-quality mixed tenure homes is so important in creating sustainable communities and we are excited to welcome Lovell Partnerships to Priors Hall Park. These new affordable homes, in addition to the existing variety of homes already on offer, ensures Priors Hall Park is an attractive prospect for families looking to live in a place that boasts state of the art schools, local amenities, play areas and green spaces.”

 

Revised plans submitted for Southwark office building

A revised planning application has been submitted to the London Borough of Southwark for an office building

Native Land and its partners are behind the application, which will be located in its 1.4 million-square-foot Bankside Yards development. It would be built on the corner of Southwark Street and Hopton Street SE1.

The grade A office will be 110,000 square feet in size. It will be known as Building 9, and Native Land said it would have enhanced sustainability features, both in construction and operation.

Planning consent for Building 9 was first approved in 2014. Changes include raising the height of the building from eight to 13 storeys and increasing affordable workspace by 68 per cent to 10,763 square foot.

Architects Stiff + Trevillion designed the plans as part of PLP Architecture’s Bankside Yards masterplan.

 

More than 200 homes approved in Bolton

Bolton Council has granted planning permission for housebuilder Bellway Homes to build 205 family homes at the former Horwich Loco Works.

The development forms the next phase of the £262 million Rivington Chase regeneration scheme.

The approval will also see the construction of the link road accelerated, with Bellway expected to begin construction of the northern section in early 2022. It will connect the site to Middlebrook Retail Park, Horwich Parkway Railway Station and junction 6 of the M61.

The homes will be a mix of detached, semi-detached and mews housing; 50 will have four bedrooms, 144 three bedrooms, nine will have two bedrooms, and four will be one-bedroom.

2 November 2021
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, The Planner