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Planning round-up 17 September

Published: Thursday, 17th September 2015

New Local plan panel starts work. Land Securities quits Kent major housing scheme. D-day soon on offices to homes conversions. Green belt homes halved. And more stories...

New Local plan panel starts work

Planning minister Brandon Lewis this week launched a new group of experts to help streamline the local plan-making process.

The eight-strong panel will consider how the current regime can be simplified. More than a third of local planning authorities have yet to adopt an up to date local plan.

The chair of this new group is John Rhodes of planning consultants Quod. Other members are:

  • Adrian Penfold from developers British Land
  • Richard Harwood QC from legal firm 39 Essex Chambers
  • Councillor Toby Elliott from Swindon Borough Council
  • Keith Holland a retired senior planning inspector
  • Liz Peace formerly of the British Property Federation
  • John Howell MP
  • Derek Stebbing plans manager for Chelmsford City Council.

Lewis said: “it’s fair to say the process of getting local plans in place can sometimes be lengthy and complicated.

“That’s why we’ve brought together this panel of experts to help look at ways to streamline the process. Their first-class advice will help councils push on and deliver the homes and infrastructure that their communities need.”

View the press release

Land Securities quits Kent major housing scheme

A developer has pulled out of a scheme to build more than 5,000 homes on a former military site in Kent.

Land Securities said it was not going ahead with the scheme at Lodge Hill, Chattenden, for commercial reasons. It has spent over £11m on developing the scheme which was approved last year by Medway District Council. The scheme was called in by the then Communities Secretary Eric Pickles in February.

The developer’s latest annual report said it was quitting “due to increased uncertainty over the recoverability of our costs to date following the disappointing decision by the Secretary of State to call in the proposed scheme for public inquiry”.

The development proposals were opposed by many residents, Natural England, the RSPB and the Wildlife Trust.

A Medway Council spokesperson said: “The council and other parties are preparing for a public Inquiry which will consider development proposals for Lodge Hill.

“The council continues to support the development which, if given the go ahead, would create a new community comprising of 5,000 homes, three primary schools, a secondary school, medical facilities and leisure and retail space on the Hoo Peninsula, providing up to 5,000 jobs.”

View more information on the BBC news website

D-day soon on offices to homes conversions

Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis has confirmed that an announcement on whether it will extend a temporary permitted development right for the conversion of offices to homes is expected “in the not too distant future”.

Confirmation came during questions to the minister by the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee last week.

Lewis said the administration was “looking to make an announcement around the future for permitted development rights relatively soon”. He added: “We want to make sure that we get the decision right and make sure we learn from what’s happened in the last three years”.

The policy has been particularly controversial in London where local planning authorities are concerned that it may be extended after May next year and could mean existing exemptions are removed.

According to a briefing note by London Councils, which represents local authorities in the capital, prior approval was granted for at least 322 fully occupied office spaces across London since May 2013 when the new regime was introduced. Some 834,000 square metres of office space has been lost to residential conversions, the councils noted.

View more information on the website

Green belt homes halved

New research from Countrywide has revealed that the homes built at green belt locations in England over the last 20 years has halved. Since 1995 the estate agency has estimated that 96,000 new homes have been built on the green belt slightly fewer than the total number of homes in Trafford, south Manchester. This equates to around 3.5 per cent of the 2.7 million homes built in England between 1995 and 2014.

The number of new homes built on the green belt each year has halved since the early 2000s, falling from a peak of 6,700 homes in 2001 to 3,248 in 2014, according to the agency’s researchers.

Despite a 36 per cent increase in the number of homes built in England between 2001 and 2007, the numbers built on the green belt fell by 46 per cent.

Demand for new homes and a shift in development southwards saw 48 per cent of all green belt development occurring around London in 2014.

In the case of four green belts, around Blackpool, Gloucester, Burton and Morecambe, no new house-building has been recorded since 2011.

View the press release

PM says public land sales will quicken

The Prime Minister has committed to an acceleration of the sale of publicly-owned land for development.

In a keynote speech calling for a “smarter state”, the PM insisted that for the first time public sector land will be sold with planning permission already secured.

The PM said: “At the moment, we sell off unused government land to developers. But the whole process takes a lot of time. Is it not time to cut out the middleman?

“Should government not just contract out development on this land and get building on it straight away?”

View the press release

Corbyn sets out housing commitments and names first shadow cabinet

New Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is on record as being committed to large scale council house building and a National Investment Bank to support new housing development.

The MP for Islington North would also like to see limits on rent rises and measures to make home ownership more affordable for a larger number of people.

Key members of Corbyn’s newly announced top team include John Trickett MP as Shadow Communities Secretary; John Healey MP as Shadow Minister for Housing and Planning; Lilian Greenwood MP as Shadow Transport Secretary; Lisa Nandy MP as Shadow Energy Secretary and Kerry McCarthy as Shadow Environment Secretary.

View more information on the Labour party website

Over 40 more inspectors recruited

The Planning Inspectorate’s most recent recruitment campaign has resulted in 15 new inspectors who joined the organisation in June to undertake a variety of appeals casework. A further two groups of around 15 inspectors each are set to join in October and November.

The intake is the latest in a drive to boost Inspector numbers that will strengthen the Inspectorate’s workforce and help address a high volume of work. The recruitment campaign run during November 2014 resulted in over 260 applicants.

Recruitment for another intake of Inspectors began last week with the Planning Inspectorate seeking to fill 20 positions. Applicants should apply before 30 September.

View the news story

Victorian and Edwardian buildings at risk

The Victorian Society has announced the latest top ten most endangered Victorian and Edwardian buildings in England and Wales.

The 2015 list includes:

  • Brighton’s seafront walk,Madeira Terrace, said to be the longest continuous cast iron structure in the world.
  • Kinmel Hall, often dubbed the ‘Welsh Versailles’ or ‘discount Downton’, subject to thefts while lying neglected by its British Virgin Islands registered owner since 2011.
  • London’s gothicLadywell Baths which remains derelict despite a London property boom.

View more information

South Worcestershire and Warwick local plans

A final set of proposed changes to the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) have been published by the three councils, Malvern Hills, Worcester City and Wychavon, preparing the blueprint to guide economic and housing development in the area to 2030.

The SWDP is currently the subject of an examination by a government-appointed planning inspector. The councils are due to vote on a further round of public consultation over these latest changes.

The number of dwellings required to be built under the SWDP was increased to 28,370 last year in the first phase of the examination. The latest proposed modifications leave that number unchanged.

However, it is now proposed that some housing sites are removed from the plan. These involve the playing fields site in Green Lane, Malvern, and, a number of small sites in Worcester, including Claines Recreation Ground in Worcester. Some other sites have had changes proposed to their housing numbers.

Meanwhile in a separate development the inspector examining the Warwick District Local Plan has agreed to the suspension of the examination, rather than requiring it to be withdrawn, while the planning authority looks at further work on housing need and unmet needs from neighbouring authorities.

View more information on the South Worcestershire Development Plan

View more information on the Warwick Local Plan

London round-up

  • Business organisation CBI and commercial property and real estate services adviser CBRE have launched the latest London Business Survey highlighting the key issues for businesses in the capital. Priorities included include investment in transport networks, improvements in housing supply and the need for effective strategic planning decisions. The survey also showed two thirds of businesses cited housing costs and availability as having a negative impact on the recruitment of entry-level staff.
  • Lambeth Council has granted conditional planning permission for the 194-home mixed-use redevelopment of several sites around Lambeth town hall in the south London area of Brixton.
  • Brent Council in north west London has announced that the Sudbury Town Neighbourhood Plan has passed its referendum, with 94 per cent voting yes on a turn-out of just under 17 per cent
  • An affordable housing contribution of 24 units in a scheme of 71 units overall has been waived in favour of a commuted sum following scrutiny of the viability of the development proposed by developer Loromah Estates for a site in Lewisham, south east London, by a planning inspector.
  • Developer Ballymore Group has submitted plans for its flagship ten-storey 215, 000 square feet commercial building, One Embassy Gardens, in Nine Elms, south west London, with spectacular views over the River Thames and the centre of the capital
  • The iconic Royal Vauxhall Tavern in South London has been listed Grade II by Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch on the advice of Historic England. This is the first listing of its kind for a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGB&T) venue.

Lake District fence plan ditched

Water company United Utilities has withdrawn heavily-criticised plans to erect a fence across open fells in the Lake District.

The company wanted to install the 13 kilometre structure to stop contamination of Thirlmere by erosion caused by heavy grazing.

Because common land was involved UU had applied for consent, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006 and was due to argue its case at a public hearing.

Conservation groups had objected to the proposals, claiming fencing would “degrade the wilderness of the national park”.

View the news story on the BBC news website

TCPA plea on right to buy in Garden Cities

Housing and planning charity the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has called on the government to ensure that homes in existing and proposed Garden Cities are exempt from the proposed extension of the Right to Buy in a bid to ensure that Garden Cities remain socially mixed and affordable places to live.

That call came as the pressure group published a new report which argued that a blend of traditional garden city environmental standards and the efficient delivery mechanism of post-war new towns were required for new garden cities to grow and flourish.

View more information on the TCPA website

Transport developments

  • Six designs for the first new bridge across the River Avon in Bath in over a century have been unveiled. The proposals for the bridge were shortlisted from 50 entries in a competition launched by Bath and North East Somerset Council in February. The bridge will link Bath Quays with the city centre. The council said it was essential for the regeneration of the “neglected” quayside district.
  • Network Rail has announced its plans for the second phase of its so-called East-West Rail scheme which involves proposals to upgrade the railway between Bicester and Bedford, and Milton Keynes and Princes Risborough.
  • Work has started on Grantham’s Southern bypass “40 years” after plans for the Lincolnshire project were first mooted. The scheme was approved in 2013 but was delayed by a failed legal challenge from a developer planning to build 3,700 homes nearby. The road, which will link the A1 and A52, should be completed in 2019.

Core Cities report urges housing policy reforms

A new report from the Core Cities organisation has criticised current housing policy. Extending Right to Buy was limiting cities’ ability to invest and deliver.

The organisation also said that the New Homes Bonus was not supporting housing growth across most of the Core Cities.

“The 50 most deprived councils have lost out on £111m while the 50 least deprived have gained £96m” it complained in its latest prospectus published in advance of the next Spending Review.

View the report on the Core Cities website

Lincolnshire solar power and wind farms blocked

Appeals by solar farm developers over two separate schemes near Lincoln refused by West Lindsey District Council have been unsuccessful.

The projects were RGE Energy Ltd’s proposed 20 megawatt solar farm and Green Hedge Group’s similarly sized scheme, both earmarked for farmland at Burton by Lincoln.

The inspector who heard the appeals said the schemes were unacceptable because of the loss of agricultural land and their visual impact.

Meanwhile Communities Secretary Greg Clark has dismissed a recovered appeal by green power company RWE Innogy over a ten-turbine wind farm proposed for farmland north of Hemswell Cliff, Lincolnshire.

The wind farm had been refused by the same planning authority. Clark agreed with the inspector who held the planning inquiry that the scheme was detrimental in terms of visual and landscape impacts and would harm nearby heritage assets.

View the correspondence

Legal round-up

  • A Willesden kebab shop in west London has lost a High Court battle over a planning condition which limits its opening hours to 11pm.
  • Squatters on land near the Magna Carta memorial in Surrey are preparing to face the bailiffs after they lost a legal battle to stay on the site which owners Orchid Runnymede have permission to develop for student accommodation, a care home for elderly people, affordable housing and an estate of private homes.

Roger Milne