Published: Thursday, 27th August 2015
Quartermain to head PINS as Ridley moves back to DCLG. English housing starts up but completions down. Green light for Sussex port expansion. Special measures memorandum published. And more stories...
Quartermain to head PINS as Ridley moves back to DCLG
The Department for Communities and Local Government has announced that its Chief Planner Steve Quartermain is to take over as Interim Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate.
Simon Ridley, the present incumbent, is set to return to DCLG in September as Director General for Decentralisation and Local Growth.
Quartermain will take over as acting chief executive of PINS in the interim, supported by Mark Southgate, currently Director for Major Applications and Plans at the Planning Inspectorate, as Chief Operating Officer.
Ridley was appointed PINS Chief Executive 12 months ago having previously been Director of Local Government Finance at DCLG. DCLG will recruit a new PINs chief executive.
Quartermain is expected to resume his duties as the department’s chief planner once that exercise is completed. Senior DCLG colleagues of Quartermain will carry out his duties while he is working at PINs.
English housing starts up but completions down
Latest official housing statistics show an increase in the number of homes built but a slowdown in the number of starts.
Seasonally adjusted house building starts in England are estimated at 33,280 in the June quarter 2015, a 14 per cent decrease compared to the previous quarter. The seasonally adjusted level of starts in the June quarter 2015 decreased by 6 per cent on the same quarter a year earlier.
Seasonally adjusted completions are estimated at 35,640 in the June quarter 2015, four per cent higher than the previous quarter. The seasonally adjusted level of completions in the June quarter 2015 increased by 22 per cent on the same quarter a year earlier.
The figures showed there were over 131,000 completions in the last 12 months, 15 per cent higher than in the previous 12 months and at their highest annual total since June 2009.
Green light for Sussex port expansion
Expansion plans put forward by the French owners of Newhaven Port have been approved by Lewes District Council subject to agreement on conditions.
The owners want to build a new berth and slipway, and deepen a channel to upgrade facilities at the East Sussex facility. The plans involve redeveloping the East Quay by demolishing part of the East Pier structure and refurbishing the existing multi-purpose berth while also building a new multi-purpose berth and slipway at the southern end of the East Quay.
The proposals also involve dredging the existing channel leading into the harbour so bigger boats can be handled at the port. The scheme is in line with a master plan for the town which envisages a key role for an upgraded port in helping regenerate the town.
Conservationists remain concerned at the impact on shingle habitat and residents have complained the development will mean the loss of a sandy beach.
Special measures memorandum published
The Department for Communities and Local Government has formally published a memorandum setting out its criteria and justification for changing the threshold for so-called under-performing planning authorities. The criteria involve speed of decision-making and quality, measured by decisions which go to appeal and how they fare.
Originally English LPAs faced special measures when 30 per cent or more major development applications failed to be determined in the statutory time. Subsequently this was raised to 40 per cent and will now be 50 per cent.
DCLG has pointed out that so far only three planning authorities have been subject to special measures. In the case of two of them the designation has been lifted. None was designated on the basis of quality of decisions.
The department has also insisted that since the new regime came into force in 2013 there has been a significant improvement in LPA performance. District matter authorities determined 75 per cent if major applications on time during the first quarter of 2015 compared to 60 per cent in the second quarter of 2013 when the new arrangements came into force.
Referendum success for Cornish NPs
Two Cornish neighbourhood plans (NPs) reached a key milestone last week when residents were polled on the document. In the case of the Roseland Peninsula NP nearly 75 per cent of the residents who voted backed the plan. The turn-out was 40 per cent.
Meanwhile in respect of the Quethiock NP just over 88 per cent of those who responded to the ballot favoured the NP. The turnout was just over 33 percent.
Nottingham and Cambridge transport schemes
Full services on Nottingham’s new tram lines started this week. The £570m project to extend the Chilwell and Clifton lines began in March 2012 and took eight months longer than originally scheduled.
Plans for a £44m second railway station for Cambridge have been approved by the city council. The proposals include a 450 square metre station building, three platforms and bicycle and car parking.
Plans for the north city station previously submitted by Cambridgeshire County Council were given the go-ahead 18 months ago. However the project was taken over by Network Rail. It submitted its own “substantially unchanged” plans.
Energy project developments
- Ribble Valley Borough Council has approved proposals for an 11 hectare solar farm at Gisburn, Lancashire which will involve the installation of nearly 20,000 solar panels.
- North York Moors National Park Authority has approved an application for a conventional onshore gas scheme at Ebberston Moor which will involve building a 13.9 kilometre pipeline to an existing gas-fired power station at Knapton.
- A Carmarthenshire councillor who failed to declare a £25,000 payment from an energy firm before a vote on its wind farm plan has been suspended for three months.
- Scotland’s last coal-fired power station, Longannet in Fife, is to close on 31 March next year owner Scottish Power has announced. The company has also said it is abandoning plans to build a new gas-fired power station at Cockenzie in East Lothian.
- A plan to expand England’s second biggest onshore wind farm, located in the Lancashire Pennines, has been recommended for approval by officers from Rosendale Borough Council. The proposal involving an extra 16 turbines at the existing 26 turbine Scout Moor facility also requires permission from Rochdale Borough Council.
Dorset and Devon local plan moves
The planning inspector examining the draft Joint Local Plan for West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland has concluded the strategy is sound provided the planning authorities include a number of modifications consulted on earlier this year.
These include increasing the housing requirement from up to 13,220 dwellings over the plan period to a bigger total of 15,500 dwellings by 2031.
The plan highlights development on sites at Weymouth, Littlemoor, Chickerell, Bridport and Crossways. The inspector has said the councils should review the plan by 2021, looking again at the development potential of Dorchester and Sherborne.
The inspector has removed the reference to a Trunk Road Service Area as part of the park-and-ride site proposed south of Dorchester. The councils are expected to formally adopt the plan in October.
Meanwhile the final draft of the North Devon and Torridge Local Plan is being amended to reflect the revised policy on thresholds for affordable housing which has just come into force following a High Court case won by two Berkshire planning authorities against the government.
Lancashire homes approved
South Ribble Borough Council has approved two planning applications totalling around 650 homes on brownfield land in Lancashire.
Bovis Homes’ proposals for around 385 dwellings at Penwortham Mills got the go-ahead as well as plans by Morris Homes and National Grid Twenty Seven for 281 homes on a former gasworks site at Lostock Hall.
Bovis secured full permission for a first phase of 181 homes and outline permission for a second phase of up to 204 dwellings. Planning officers had recommended both schemes for approval.
Affordable housing provision appeal succeeds
Broxtowe Borough Council’s refusal of a developer’s request to remove the entire affordable housing requirement from a 116-dwelling scheme at Nuthall, Nottinghamshire has been overturned by a planning inspector.
The planning authority had required 25 per cent of the housing to be affordable. The inspector used a mixture of the appellant’s and the council’s viability evidence and concluded that there was no realistic prospect of any affordable housing being viable.
Canterbury barracks makeover
Howe Barracks in Canterbury is set to become a new neighbourhood of 500 homes. As well as the green light for new housing the 30 hectare scheme includes community space and three sports pitches.
The main concern raised by councillors during the debate on the proposals was the fact that only 26 per cent of the homes will be affordable housing. The city’s local plan recommends that all new developments should include at least 35 per cent affordable housing. Officers argued the smaller figure was justified because of the development costs.
The barracks was built during the 1930s to house the Royal East Kent Regiment – known as The Buffs – and continued to be used by different army regiments until 2013, when the Ministry of Defence relinquished control of the site.
- New proposals for the last remaining central London section of the Mayor’s flagship East-West Cycle Superhighway have been published. The plans provide a trial two-way segregated cycle track on Spur Road, in front of the Queen Victoria Memorial at Buckingham Palace, closing the last gap in the route and providing continuous fully-segregated and protected cycling across central London from Tower Hill, through Parliament Square to Hyde Park Corner and Lancaster Gate. However Transport for London is facing a judicial review challenge from black cab drivers over the construction of a section of cycling ‘superhighway’ along the Embankment on the north bank of the Thames.
- Developer Eco World Ballymore has revealed designs for a 35 metre high suspended swimming pool at Embassy Gardens part of one London’s newest neighbourhood, Nine Elms on the South Bank. The outdoor pool will link two residential buildings at the 10th storey – a world first – and allow residents to swim from one building to the next.
- The property developer who illegally modernised the Grade II-listed Llanwenarth House near Abergavenny where the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful was written has been told by a judge to fork out £300,000 – or go to jail. He could also face a bill for up to £750,000 to restore it to its original state.
- A High Court judge has quashed a decision by the former Communities Secretary Sir Eric Pickles to refuse planning permission for a site where a gypsy and his family have lived since 2008. Pickles’ decision went against the recommendation of the planning inspector who considered the appeal triggered by the original refusal of Bedford Borough Council. The inspector concluded that permission should be granted for a limited period of two years. The current Communities Secretary will have to consider the case.
Plymouth enterprise zone confirmed
Ministers have confirmed that south west England will benefit from its second government-backed enterprise zone.
Plymouth’s South Yard naval dockyard has been approved as the site for a new enterprise zone that will be focused on growing the marine industry.
The site could deliver 55,000 square metres of new floor space, providing space for hundreds of new jobs and offering a unique opportunity to develop the deep water access and facilities that Plymouth is renowned for.
Milestone for coastal initiative
The government has insisted that the number of jobs, apprenticeships and training places established as a result of its Coastal Communities Fund has passed the 10,000 mark.
Over the past 3 years, the government has invested some £120m in projects across the UK to help seaside communities tap their economic potential, create business opportunities and ensure their long-term future.
Clooney CCTV consent
Hollywood A-lister George Clooney has been given permission to install 18 CCTV cameras at his £10m listed country home.
The film star and his lawyer wife Amal want to erect the cameras on poles up to 5 metres high in the grounds of their manor house in Sonning Eye, on the Oxfordshire-Berkshire border. The local parish council initially raised concerns over privacy and the CCTV system’s visual impact.
South Oxfordshire District Council said planning permission was granted as the CCTV system will not be detrimental to the special architectural and historical interest of the property
Furore over Housing minister’s expenses
Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis has been forced to defend the fact he has claimed Parliamentary expenses of over £30,000 for London hotel stays during the past two years. He is a Norfolk MP but has a second home in Essex. That revelation was highlighted by the Sunday Times.
Planning permission is not needed after all to install two potentially life-saving defibrillators, Harrogate Borough Council has confirmed. A couple who raised more than £4,000 to install one device in Knaresborough and another in the spa town were originally told planning permission was required which would cost £195 for each installation.