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Planning news - 25 November 2021

Published: Thursday, 25th November 2021

Legislation will require new homes to have electric vehicle chargers, All neighbourhoods should have a parish council to aid levelling up, says report. 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 committed to legislation that will make it mandatory for new homes to have electric vehicle charging points installed from 2022. 

Other new buildings such as supermarkets and workplaces, and those undergoing large-scale renovation, will also be required to have electric vehicle charging points put in place. 

Under the regulations, the government said that up to 145,000 extra charge points would be installed across England each year in the run-up to 2030, when the sale of new petrol and diesel cars is due to end in the UK. 

The legislation is intended to make it as easy to charge an electric vehicle as refilling a petrol or diesel car. 

The government plans to consult with the industry before it introduces “simpler” ways to pay while travelling, such as contactless, at new fast and rapid charge points. 

The plans for new legislation were set out at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference. Johnson said: “We have to use our massive investment in science and technology and we have to raise our productivity and then we have to get out your way.” 

“We will require new homes and buildings to have EV charging points – with another 145,000 charging points to be installed, thanks to these regulations.” 

Also today, the government confirmed £9.4 million in funding for a “first-of-a-kind” new hydrogen project in the UK’s largest onshore wind farm near Glasgow. It will go to the Whitelee green hydrogen project to develop the UK’s largest electrolyser, a system that converts water into hydrogen gas as a way to store energy and supply local transport providers with zero-carbon fuel. 

Maria Connolly, head of clean energy and real estate at UK law firm TLT, commented this legislation is a "game-changer for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and by consequence electric vehicle adoption and the decarbonisation of the transport system as a whole". 

“The electrification agenda is a crucial one and with electric vehicle sales increasing as more affordable models become available, this is spurring the growth of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. We’re already seeing retailers, leisure operators and hotels looking to EVCI as a way of increasing dwell times, enhancing customer experience, retaining customer loyalty and supporting sustainability agendas. This new measure will only accelerate the investment going into charging infrastructure as businesses won’t want to fall behind competitors who have installed charging points and are reaping the benefits. 

“This is an area where we expect to see increased activity in the coming months, particularly where an electric vehicle charging infrastructure operator partnership model is deployed to reduce risk and capital cost. We also expect to see an increase in EVCI deployed in municipal areas, again driven by a private-public sector partnership model." 

22 November 2021 
Laura Edgar, The Planner 


 

A centre-right think tank has recommended strengthening the quality of governance in town and parish councils to help communities and places to level up. 

Onward says this will also help to revive local democracy. 

Its report, Double Devo, found that places with town and parish councils statistically have more community-owned buildings, show higher rates of volunteering, and stronger networks of civic assets such as pubs and libraries. 

However, 63 per cent of England is without hyperlocal governance. This means that residents’ nearest council is at district or unitary level. Onward believes that this creates wide divides in levels of democratic representation. 

According to the report, people living in ‘red wall’ areas are less than half as likely to be covered by a local council as the rest of England – 21 per cent compared with 47 per cent. Industrial towns such as Blackpool, Stoke-on-Trent and Rochdale have no hyperlocal governance. 

Measures in the forthcoming levelling-up white paper should be limited to combined authorities and county deals, but set out a “radical” expansion of neighbourhood control through town and parish councils. 

Stratford and New Town ward, in the London Borough of Newham, doesn’t have a parish or town council. This means that one councillor represents more than 12,500 residents, says the report. By comparison, the village of Weeford in Staffordshire has one councillor for every 25 residents. 

Using its Social Fabric Index, Onward found that areas with high levels of town and parish councils are more likely to have stronger communities than those without any hyperlocal councils for key measures of community strength. 

Establishing town and parish councils in every area of England could help the government to deliver two levelling-up commitments: to empower local leaders and communities and to restore local pride. Onward says this could be achieved through three reforms: 

  • Introduce an automatic ballot alongside council elections to ask people in every local area currently without a town or parish council whether they want to establish one, remove the ability of local authorities to overturn a decision in favour, and make the establishment of town and parish councils a condition of unitarisation. 

  • Strengthen the quality of governance in town and parish councils by requiring that every town or parish council is two-thirds elected and ensuring that 25 per cent of revenue from the planned infrastructure levy goes to town and parish councils. 

  • Deepen the role of neighbourhood councils by giving town and parish councils the ability to “pull down” responsibility for neighbourhood functions from the local authority if they believe that they could do a better job than the district or unitary council. 

Jenevieve Treadwell, researcher at Onward and report author, said: “If we want to turn around the fortunes of Britain’s most left behind communities, we need to give them the institutions and tools to level themselves up. 

“At the moment, nearly two-thirds of England has no town or parish council and therefore has one hand behind its back. 

“This paper sets out how places can take back control – and how ministers can empower them to govern their own futures.” 

Jackie Weaver, chair of the Cheshire Association of Local Councils and former clerk of Handforth Parish Council, has welcomed the report for “its acknowledgement of the strengths (and sometimes weaknesses) of the first tier of local government”. 

“Those of us that know and understand our parish and town councils can see first-hand the positive difference they can make in a community. 

“The challenge is sharing that knowledge so that we have wider spread, enhanced local democracy across the country.” 

17 November 2021 
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Welsh climate change minister Julie James has agreed with an inspector and rejected a proposal for a solar park close to the Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park (PCNP) after accepting that its benefits did not outweigh the harm to best-quality agricultural land. 

West Solar Energy (WSE Pembrokeshire Ltd) had applied to develop a solar park and associated infrastructure across a 34.25-hectare site, capable of exporting up to 22MW of electricity into the regional grid. Key elements of the proposal include around 70,000 photovoltaic panels, up to 12 inverters and associated cabins, up to 12 transformers and associated cabins, a single control building, an access road and a 2.5-metre-high perimeter security fence. 

The appeal site is agricultural land set over eight fields and enclosed by a combination of hedgerows, trees and woodland. The site forms part of the much larger agricultural holding of Lower Nash Farm, some 0.7 kilometres to the south east of Cosheston, 2.5 kilometres north of Pembroke and 120 metres south of the boundary with the PCNP. 

Around 20.75 hectares of the site are grade 2 and grade 3a BMV agricultural land. The proposal exceeds the 20-hectare threshold over which the development of Best and Most Versatile (BMV) agricultural land for alternative uses is considered to be nationally significant. 

Planning Policy Wales (PPW) says BMV agricultural land should be conserved as a finite resource for the future with considerable weight given to protecting it from development. Such land should only be developed if there is an overriding need for the scheme and either previously developed land or land in lower agricultural grades are unavailable.  

Technical Advice Note 6 (TAN) suggests that once agricultural land is developed, even for “soft” uses such as golf courses, its return to agriculture as BMV land is “seldom practicable”. Local guidance contained in the Renewable Energy Supplementary Planning Guidance also prefers to avoid placing solar farms on BMV agricultural land. 

Inspector Nicola Gulley noted that 83 per cent of the site was BMV agricultural land and the applicant had provided a strategy to ensure the effective management of land quality during the construction, operational and decommissioning phases of the development. 

She said only 10-15 per cent of agricultural land in Wales is classified as being BMV and, as such, is a finite and nationally significant resource which needs to be protected to secure future food supplies. The inspector considered the structure of agricultural soil is fragile and easily damaged and the construction of a development of the scale proposed is likely to lead to a substantial amount of ground disturbance across the site. 

The inspector noted the disturbance from the engineering operations and the potential for widespread soil compaction caused by heavy vehicles and machinery required for installing the supporting posts and excavating trenches, access paths and foundations across the site. The impact of these operations was not comparable to agricultural practices and are likely to significantly damage the structure of the soil and result in the loss of the BMV, she said. 

Although the land could continue to be used for sheep grazing and silage production over the lifetime of the scheme, Gulley said the development of a solar park site would mean that the land would be unavailable for cultivating food crops for 40 years. Using the site for complementary agricultural uses, such as livestock grazing, did not compensate for the loss of BMV agricultural land even for a temporary period. 

Benefits of the proposal include a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the generation of energy from a renewable source which would serve up to 7,825 households a year basis over the scheme’s lifetime, an increase in the diversity and reliability of the UK energy supply, and a total investment of £14 million in the development, a proportion of which would be spent in the local economy. 

However, the proposal would be contrary to policy 18 of Future Wales, which in this case would not be acceptable owing to its impact on BMV agricultural land. The proposal would also be contrary to PPW and TAN 6. 

Overall, the inspector said the benefits of the proposal would not outweigh the harm caused to BMV agricultural land and her recommendation for refusal was accepted by the minister. 

Read the inspector’s decision (Case reference 3245065).

16 November 2021 
Huw Morris, The Planner 


A comprehensive brownfield-first policy should be set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and brownfield-targeted housing funds established to enable levelling up across England. 

These are recommendations set out in countryside charity CPRE's report Recycling our Land: State of Brownfield 2021, launched at an online event on 18 November. 

The CPRE says there is an increase in brownfield land available for redevelopment, but that a smaller proportion of it has been granted planning permission over the past 12 months. 

The report suggests the proportion of brownfield housing with planning permission is 44 per cent in 2021, down from 53 per cent in 2020. The actual number – 506,000 – is the lowest with permission for four years. 

Speaking at the launch, Paul Miner, CPRE head of land use and planning, said planning policies insisting that brownfield sites should be developed before greenfields are needed. 

To prevent the countryside being developed, CPRE is calling for new national planning policies that prioritise brownfield land development in local plans. These should be part of a package of “fresh” levelling-up investments, particularly for the North and the Midlands. 

The charity explains that its analysis of 330 local authority brownfield registers shows a “glut of disused and derelict land available in areas that need the most support”. For example, the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the West Midlands have space for more than 375,000 homes on previously used land. 

Emma Bridgewater, president of CPRE, said: “A brownfield-first policy is sound, good sense. We need to direct councils and developers to use these sites – often in town and city centres where housing need is most acute – before any greenfield land can be released. It is wasteful and immoral to abandon our former industrial heartlands where factories and outdated housing have fallen into disrepair. Developing brownfield is a win-win solution that holds back the tide of new buildings on pristine countryside and aids urban regeneration at a stroke.” 

Recycling our Land: State of Brownfield 2021 recommends: 

  • Introducing a comprehensive brownfield-first policy in the NPPF that prioritises and harnesses the full potential of brownfield land development before any greenfield or green belt land is considered. 

  • Incentivising through focusing New Homes Bonus payments on developments that deliver on brownfield land and provide affordable homes to allow for brownfield land to serve the needs and regeneration of the North and Midlands. 

  • Providing local communities with stronger mechanisms to bring brownfield land forward as a source of land supply, such as increased compulsory purchase powers. Local authorities should also have increased control of the order in which development land is built so that suitable brownfield sites are developed first. 

  • Retaining local communities’ ability to comment on planning applications and local authorities’ ability to refuse developments on brownfield land, and provide legal guarantees that require developers to deliver agreed design standards. 

  • Amending the NPPF to ensure national planning policy requires that all new developments have a diversity of housing tenures and types as outlined by the 2018 Independent Review of Build Out. 

CPRE says that focusing development primarily on suitable urban brownfield means that housing is near places of work with transport infrastructure, such as public transport, schools and shops already established. This would in turn reduce car dependence. 

The report also states that brownfield land that is “important for biodiversity or is a local playground, for example, should not be recorded on the register unless that value is not affected by redevelopment”. 

Live from the event 

Christopher Pincher MP, housing minister

Pincher maintained that making the best use of brownfield is at the heart of what the government is trying to achieve in delivering new homes. 

“The new secretary of state has already met with a number of key stakeholders to express the point that we need to make full use of brownfield sites because often they’re in the most sustainable locations – they are near to infrastructure, transport hubs to the places where people need to be. 

“Often, councils require additional support to maximise their use. We recognise that and we want to support councils and mayoral combined authorities in doing that. That is why we last year allocated £400 million in the Brownfield Regeneration Fund, which went largely to places in the North and the Midlands.” 

Pincher thinks that more can be done in the area of brownfield registers. “I hear anecdotally that the brownfield registers can sometimes be inconsistent, that some authorities are more, shall we say, muscular than others in approaching the market and trying to identify the maximum number of brownfield sites that can come forward for allocation. I think we can do more with local authorities and MCAs to advance brownfield land registers.” 

He also emphasised design standards. “I think that’s very important because experience tells us good design – beautiful design if you will, is one which is very sensitive to local concerns.” 

On the benefits of neighbourhood plans, of which he is “very much in favour”, the housing minister said: “One is that they are particularly engaging. We all know that there are challenges with community engagement in local plan-making but when it comes to neighbourhood plans more people tend to become involved and that’s a very good thing and I think we need to harness that. I think neighbourhood plans can be very good for identifying additional places for homes in the right places. They can also contribute toward design coding. But we don't have enough of them. They tend to be in more rural places and they tend to be – this is a little bit of a crude yardstick – they tend to be in the South rather than the Midlands and the North. So what we need to do is to find ways of getting them into more urban, more Midlands and Northern places as well. 

“There is a more complicated set of steps that we need to take in order to make brownfield-first a reality. For brownfield-first you’ve got to have a planning system that encourages the opportunity for brownfield sites to be identified and brought forward. We know that the planning system, which has many great attributes, also has some demerits as it’s become more complicated and slow over the 73 years that it’s existed. And if we’re going to focus on getting brownfield sites, which often require more remediation, further up the queue in terms of preference then we’ve got to have a speedier system. We’ve also got to have more SMEs available with an appetite to develop because it tends to be SME developers that take the smaller parcels of land in the less desirable places from a developers point of view to develop into good-quality homes. We’ve got to make sure that we‘ve got the mechanisms that encourage SMEs as well. We’ve also got to make sure that we’ve got good, sensible targeted remediation strategies. So we will be amplifying the focus on brownfield.” 

Rose Grayston, senior programme manager – housing, at the New Economics Foundation

“Homes England must be empowered to focus on retrofitting, regeneration and long-term placemaking with new funding streams,” said Grayston. “Many brownfield sites in left behind towns require costly remediation works as a result of contamination, which is often a legacy of these places’ industrial histories. Cleaning these sites up so they are safe and ready to make a contribution to the economic, social and environmental life of these places is a crucial foundation stone of levelling up. 

“Thinking about transport in particular, I think it’s important to understand what we need to do here to actually make use of brownfield sites in Northern regions, particularly in neighbourhoods where there is pretty low housing demand. What we’re talking about requires a pretty major shift in the role and funding of Homes England, thinking beyond additionality in determining how to allocate and evaluate funding, and instead the state via Homes England and devolved government becoming a market maker in many left-behind places because you simply don’t have the value in land and housing in a lot of left-behind neighbourhoods that would support government to invest in high-quality public transport in these places – let alone in brownfield land remediation. I'd also add that we need to move beyond thinking about the big-ticket transport infrastructure, as important as it is to think about train connectivity between major cities. What’s really going to turn things around in a lot of left-behind neighbourhoods where I would describe house and land values as being falsely depressed. These result from low public transport, low-quality public amenity, poor placemaking in the surrounding area, and investing in a place rather than just individual homes and individual streets can overcome those falsely depressed values.” 

Ruth Cadbury MP, shadow planning minister

Cadbury highlighted the skills challenges facing local authorities and planning departments generally, and the expertise and the unique skills required for brownfield regeneration. “The RTPI told me this morning that one council has a total of five staff for all planning functions, including local plan, applications and enforcement. So that is a real challenge.” 

On the statistics in the report, Cadbury noted that between 2006 and 2017 it shows that “brownfield land released for housing development decreased by 38 per cent but the use of greenfield land increased by 148 per cent in the same period. We cannot lose what is a precious resource in the habitable parts of the UK when there is brownfield land waiting to be developed and available to be developed”. 

“Call me old-fashioned but planning is not just about delivering housing numbers. It’s about the all-encompassing, how different parts of land use interrelate with each other. It’s national, it’s regional, it’s local.” 

Paul Miner, head of land use and planning, CPRE

“We need stronger planning policies insisting that brownfield sites should be developed before greenfield as a matter of policy. And also to support that we need local councils to work together so that particular areas of large towns and cities where there is a particular concentration of brownfield land are prioritised for development so that more rural areas aren’t expected to come for large increases in housing developments on competing greenfield sites instead. So we need a more strategic county or citywide approach to planning to make sure this brownfield potential comes forward and we’re not releasing greenfield unnecessarily.” 

Miner agreed with Pincher that more support is needed for neighbourhood planning. “In particular, I think neighbourhood plans need more policy backing through the NPPF, so that they can’t be undermined by plan speculators and big developers in the way that they can be at the moment. If we've got stronger policy support, I think that’ll be a great incentive for communities to get involved more. 

“Brownfield sites are particularly valuable in terms of tackling the climate emergency because they are in areas where people have got more choices of how they get around; they can walk and cycle to the shops and other facilities, whereas a lot of greenfield developments we’ve seen in recent years have often been very car-dependent. And as a result of that trigger increasing levels of pollution in the surrounding area. So a brownfield-first policy has a number of benefits.” 

Download ‘Recycling our Land: State of Brownfield 2021’ from the CPRE website (pdf)

Laura Edgar, The Planner  
18 November 2021 


 

Durham County Council has granted planning permission for Elddis Transport’s proposals to expand onto a site it has recently acquired. 

The Consett-based company will redevelop the former GT Engineering site in Delves Lane into a storage and distribution space. This is part of the firm’s plans to secure additional on-site capacity for its warehouse operations. 

Work will include the installation of a new roof, access doors and improved car parking, as well as refurbished office accommodation and the addition of dedicated training and meeting rooms. 

The granting of permission follows approval earlier in the summer for Elddis to proceed with plans for a permanent new commercial HGV and trailer park in Newton Aycliffe. Elddis has made a long-term commitment to improve its facilities. 

Work on both sites is being funded by the sale of its site at Old Pit Lane near the Arnison Centre in Durham to Premcor Estates. 

Jonathan Wallace, senior director of Newcastle planning and development consultancy, Lichfields, who secured the planning approval, said: “This is great news for Elddis and contributes significantly to their ambitious plans for expansion. We have worked closely with Durham County Council on these various projects that will not only secure skilled jobs but will also see funds re-invested in the area, with positive spin-off benefits for the local economy.” 

22 November 2021 
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Measures to protect Hemel town centre confirmed 

Dacorum Borough Council has confirmed an article 4 direction that seeks to protect Hemel Hempstead town centre from permitted development.  

The council is concerned about the effect this could have on the main shopping area in the town centre, as it could lead to the loss of shops, cafés, gyms and other business premises which provide services to residents, workers and visitors. 

In August The Planner reported that the council was seeking representations on the article 4 direction, which came into force on 29 July. Subject to the representations, the council would announce within six months if the direction was to be confirmed. 

The article 4 direction means that planning permission will continue to be required if there are proposals to convert shops and other street-level premises to residential use. 

 

Council assembles team to deliver Huddersfield regeneration 

Kirklees Council has appointed a team to deliver the regeneration plans for Huddersfield. 

Turner & Townsend have been appointed as the strategic delivery partner, Feilden Clegg Bradley as architects, and Arup will lead the engineering aspects of the project. 

The team will work with the council to transform Huddersfield’s Queensgate area into an “inclusive, vibrant hub and ‘Cultural Heart’ of the town”. 

At a cabinet meeting on 16 November, it was agreed to progress with the £210 million project.  

The plans include a new entertainment venue with a capacity of 1,200 to 2,500, an art gallery, a library, a food hall, a museum and a multistorey car park. There would also be potential future additional commercial uses including hotel, restaurants, bars and offices and residential. 

The Huddersfield Blueprint is a 10-year plan to modernise the town and make sure it is safe and inclusive. 

 

Leeds approves Streets for People scheme  

Leeds City Council’s executive board has approved plans for a £900,000 Streets for People scheme that aims to deliver “transformational” changes to the built environment in the Recreations area of Holbeck. 

The plans include widened footpaths, enhanced green space, tree planting and segregated cycle facilities. It also includes traffic-calming measures and junction closures to reduce car usage and pollution.  

The scheme is intended to give people in the Recreations easier access to employment and education opportunities in the city centre by linking in with two major infrastructure projects – the recently completed Elland Road cycle superhighway and the Ingram Distributor cycling and walking route, which is currently under construction. 

Work is due to start in January 2022 and is expected to be complete in spring.  

Helen Hayden, Leeds City Council’s councillor and executive member for infrastructure and climate, said: “The residents in the Recreations will hopefully love the changes that are coming their way, with more greenery on their doorsteps and attractive new spaces where they can meet and interact with their neighbours. We want to give people of all ages an environment where they feel relaxed and happy about doing things – like walking and cycling – that will help their health and wellbeing.” 

 

Ebbsfleet housing scheme approved  

Ebbsfleet Development Corporation has approved plans submitted by Bellway Homes for 121 homes in Ebbsfleet Garden City. 

The Northfleet Embankment West mixed-use development will be known as Harbour Village and will deliver 30 per cent “affordable” housing. It will include a formal public open space and Chimney View Park, which was influenced by a schoolchildren’s art competition.   

The area forms part of Ebbsfleet Development Corporation’s site at Northfleet Riverside and it is hoped that the development will reconnect the existing communities with the River Thames and provide a range of high-quality housing, jobs, and recreational places. 

Mark Pullin, chief planning officer at the development corporation, said: “Bellway Homes has created a sustainable neighbourhood, reflecting, and celebrating the site’s industrial heritage, creating a cohesive network of streets and open spaces, providing a range of new homes, and creating a waterfront destination with connections to the River Thames.” 

 

Public consultation launched for Ebbsfleet Central development 

A public consultation has been launched by Ebbsfleet Development Corporation for its plans to create a new centre for the garden city on land around Ebbsfleet International Station.  

The development, to be known as Ebbsfleet Central East, would include flexible workspaces, restaurants, shops, arts, film and music venues. 

The face-to-face and virtual consultations will run until January 14 2022. 

Ian Piper, chief executive of Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, said: “These are the most important plans the corporation has come forward with so far, and we want to hear from as many people as possible. We are providing an online platform for everyone to look at the plans and provide their feedback, and we are holding events in a number of venues around the local area so that the public can talk to the team, see the plans and have their say on this exciting opportunity to create a vibrant heart to Ebbsfleet Garden City.” 

View the consultation material

 

Views sought on Hertfordshire transport network 

Hertfordshire County Council has launched a public engagement exercise on its vision to create a new east-west rapid transit link. 

Called the Hertfordshire-Essex Rapid Transit (HERT), the link is intended to improve the passenger transport network by establishing an “accessible, reliable and affordable east-west system”. It would connect Watford and Hemel Hempstead in the west to Harlow (west Essex) in the east. 

Residents and interested parties are invited to explore a virtual exhibition, attend online events and complete an online survey about the proposed link. 

Hertfordshire County Council and Essex County Council said they will work closely together to ensure that “rapid and seamless” journeys can be made across the entire network. 

This is the first phase of public engagement on the scheme. A virtual exhibition and survey are available online until Friday 28 January 2022. 

  

Consultancy appointed to assess three town centres 

Planning consultancy Nexus Planning has been appointed by three areas to assess their retail and leisure offering. 

It will support Sheffield City Council in reaffirming the city centre’s regional role as a key shopping and leisure destination through a number of regeneration initiatives currently in the works. Nexus will analyse the catchment area of the city centre, looking at how it performs compared with other large-scale destinations like Meadowhall.  

High Peak Borough Council wants to diversify to meet the needs of both the local rural community and the region’s tourist trade. In Buxton and Glossop, the two key retail and service centres, Nexus has been tasked with analysing opportunities to develop their leisure economies. They will also consider the vitality and viability of these centres. 

For Mid Sussex District Council, Nexus has been commissioned to prepare a retail study to support the 2023 local plan review. 

23 November 2021 
Laura Edgar, The Planner