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Planning news - 1 December 2022

Planning key to public health improvement, says Chris Whitty

Sir Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England and chief medical adviser to the UK Government, told an audience of planners last week that there are many parts of the country where unhealthy living conditions remain extremely common – but that planners have done more for public health than most other professions.

Speaking at the Town & Country Planning Association’s annual conference in London, Whitty discussed what he saw as the principal public health challenges. For many, he said, access to space in which to exercise has become worse over the last half-century “and we need to reverse that”.

Air pollution is being tackled well, albeit certain public spaces – schools, supermarkets, hospitals, libraries – can vary. But there are two particular public health issues that are likely to be exacerbated in the coming years.

First, said Whitty, is particular concentrations of people in parts of the country. Demographic models show that cities continue to sustain the cycle of younger people moving into cities and then out of them when they have families, thus retaining their demography; however, the ageing of the populations would see greater numbers of older people concentrated in certain areas of the country – constituting “a serious problem for the future”.

“That's quite a concern. It implies a failure in parts of the country to work out what are the big drivers of ill health and a failure of will in terms of tackling them.”

Despite these challenges, Whitty was complimentary about the planning profession’s contribution to public health.

“If you look back over the last 50 years, probably more has been done for public health by proper planning... than almost any other intervention other than vaccination rates. Your professional skills are driving a lot of the change.”

In October, Whitty became one of four senior figures invited on to a new advisory panel for Active Travel England. He joined Isabel Dedring, global transport leader for Arup, Declan Collier, chair of the Office of Rail and Road, and Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands.

29 November 2022
Martin Read, The Planner

Low-traffic neighbourhoods reduce pollution in surrounding streets

Low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) reduce traffic and air pollution without displacing the problem to nearby streets, according to research.

LTNs aim to reduce through traffic in residential areas, usually by using barriers to prevent cars entering certain streets while leaving them open to pedestrians and cyclists.

Many LTNs were introduced during 2020 to prevent an increase in vehicle traffic as people avoided public transport through fear of infection during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, they also provoked opposition, with critics claiming that LTNs increased traffic and pollution in surrounding areas.

A study by Imperial College London researchers looked at three LTNs in Islington, one of the capital’s most densely populated boroughs, to identify their impact on air pollution and traffic within the neighbourhoods and the surrounding area. The team compared pollution and traffic levels at monitoring stations inside the zones, on streets surrounding the zones, and at control sites farther away, using data gathered by the London Borough of Islington.

The LTNs – in St Peter’s, Canonbury and Clerkenwell – were put in place between July and September 2020, and the team analysed data gathered from July 2019 to February 2021 including factors that might affect traffic volumes and air pollution at particular times such as Covid restrictions, school holidays or weather.

The researchers found that concentrations of nitrogen dioxide fell by 5.7 per cent within the LTNs and by just under 9 per cent on their boundaries, compared with the control sites. They also found that traffic dropped by more than half inside the LTNs and by 13 per cent at the boundaries, compared with the controls.

“This research effectively disproves the argument that low-traffic zones will necessarily cause an increase in traffic and air pollution in neighbouring streets,” said Audrey de Nazelle, a senior lecturer at Imperial’s Centre for Environmental Policy. “In the three areas we looked at, they reduced both traffic volumes and, significantly, air pollution both inside and on the edges of the zone.

“Alongside the other benefits of LTNs that have been shown in previous research – such as improvements in safety and an increase in walking and cycling – this makes a very strong argument in their favour.”

28 November 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner

Plans unveiled to transform Derbyshire’s National Stone Centre

A planning application has been submitted for a £6.5 million plan to transform the National Stone Centre (NSC) near Wirksworth, Derbyshire that draws on influences from local rocks for the building’s form.

The plan by the NSC and the Institute of Quarrying includes a cantilevered structure that will allow the building to emerge from the hillside and spring out of the ground, reflecting the rock formations.

Phase one of the project includes a 100-seater café and restaurant, four naturally lit classrooms with a combined capacity of 120 learners, 700 square metres of museum and exhibition space, a souvenir shop, a children’s playground, and a 1,200-square-metre open-air circular piazza for community events.

The NSC opened in 1990 to inspire people to engage with the origin, industry and history of stone. It is set within six former limestone quarries on a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

In 2021, the value of tourism to the Peak District and Derbyshire’s economy was estimated at £1.96 billion, according to the Institute of Quarrying.

“A reimagined and reinvigorated NSC will bring new visitors, as well as providing a focal point for engaging the public, schools and colleges in the science, history, present and future of the quarrying and mineral products industry,” said chief executive James Thorne.

“This planning application is the result of over a year’s consultation and engagement with all of our stakeholders. We have listened and learned, taking on board feedback that has helped shape our application.”

28 November 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner

Government figures show jump in housing supply

Annual net housing supply in England jumped by nearly 9.9 per cent in the year to March, latest government statistics reveal.

Department for Levelling Up, Housing Communities figures reveal net supply rose to 232,820 up from 211,870 in March 2021. New build homes made up 210,070 of the total, up from 191,820, a 9.5 per cent increase.

The South East topped the regions for new build completions with 37,060 followed by London with 31,620. But the North East with 8,840 and Yorkshire and the Humber with 16,860 were the regions with the lowest new builds.

Permitted development rights led to the development of 10,303 homes, of which 8,359 were office to residential conversions.

28 November 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner

Academics put Exeter city centre at top of the tree for ‘greenness’

Exeter’s city centre is the 'greenest' in Britain, according to an analysis of 68 urban environments with a population of at least 100,000.

A study by researchers from Flinders University, University of Sheffield, University of Melbourne and Environmental Protection Authority Victoria ranked urban centres on indicators of green space, matching maps of tree cover and publicly accessible gardens and parks with satellite images measuring the green pigment in plants.

Second place in the study went to Islington in London, followed by Bristol, Bournemouth and Cambridge.

But the researchers found a “clear divide“ between the south of England and the former industrial heartlands in the North.

Glasgow was ranked the least “green” city centre by the study, with Middlesbrough, Sheffield, Liverpool, and Leeds making up the bottom five.

The researchers said tree coverage is “probably the most relatable way” to account for the differences between the top and bottom city centres. Trees cover 12 per cent of the total land area of Exeter’s city centre, but just 2 per cent in Glasgow.

The study added that further analysis uncovered a statistical link between a lower greenness score and higher levels of deprivation, as measured according to crime risk, health, economics, education, and other related metrics. Areas with larger populations also had lower tree coverage and vegetation index scores.

24 November 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner

News round up

​​HES opens 12-week heritage consultation

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is holding a 12-week consultation on behalf of the Scottish Government so the public can share their views on heritage, which will be used to shape the new strategy for Scotland’s historic environment.

The consultation follows “extensive” engagement work that has already been carried out in partnership with the Scottish Government and Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS), and with individuals, organisations and communities to develop the new strategy.

The strategy will set out the ambitions for the sector for the next five years and will build upon the key successes of OPiT, as well as recognising and reflecting on the impact of Covid-19 alongside other external factors such as the cost-of-living crisis.

This will include a focus on prioritising activity that supports recovery and renewal, as well as enhancing the contribution the sector makes to national priority areas, and to Scotland and its people.

TfL land transferred to Earls Court Partnership

Earls Court Partnership Limited has acquired Lillie Bridge Depot and associated land from Transport for London (TfL).

The Earls Court Partnership Limited is a joint venture between Delancey (on behalf of its client funds) and TfL.

As part of the agreement, Lillie Bridge Depot has been leased back on a peppercorn rent and will continue to be operated by TfL.

Lillie Bridge Depot forms part of a later phase of the development, which is being brought forward by The Earls Court Development Company (ECDC), which started consultation in 2021.

The acquisition of this 15-acre site means the masterplan area totals 40 acres.

The emerging concepts for the area around Lillie Bridge Depot include supporting local housing needs and creating food and maker spaces on the site, reusing and building on the remaining parts of one of the original Lillie Bridge Depot buildings.

The site is close to West Kensington Station in the northern part of the Earl’s Court development site.

Guildford's Debenhams to become mixed-use site

Guildford Borough Council has approved plans for the redevelopment of the 1.7-acre Debenhams department store in Guildford.

The 300,000-square-foot scheme will create a sustainable destination called St Mary's Wharf.

It will comprise 185 private and affordable homes, 21,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and almost an acre of new riverside public realm. The buildings will be all-electric and net-zero carbon in operation, said investment and development company Native Land.

The development will feature two new buildings that have been designed by architects Squire & Partners to respond to the surrounding heritage of the area.

Increase in no-fault evictions

Government figures have shown there that 5,940 households were threatened with homelessness in England because of a Section 21 no-fault eviction between April and June 2022.

This is an increase of 76 per cent in a year and follows the end of the eviction ban in May 2021.

To be classified as ‘threatened with homelessness’ by their council, a household must be at risk of losing its home within eight weeks.

To address this, charity Shelter has urged the government to bring forward its renters’ reform bill to ban no-fault evictions. It also wants the government to unfreeze housing benefits to help struggling renters access safe accommodation this winter

According to the government's homelessness data, 25 per cent of households were found to be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless because of the loss of a private tenancy, which equates to 17,530 households. This has increased by 61 per cent in the last year.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “This winter is going to be brutal as the cost-of-living crisis goes from bad to worse, and the threat of rising rents and evictions looms large.

“The government promised to ban no-fault evictions, it must get on with the job and make the renters’ reform bill law. And to protect people from the threat of homelessness this winter, it must unfreeze housing benefits so families can pay their rent. In the meantime, Shelter’s frontline advisers will do all they can to help as many people find or keep hold of a safe home.”

Hotels plans submitted in Gateshead

Revised plans for a £48 million dual-branded hotel will be submitted to Gateshead Council this week.

They involve an updated proposal by developers Ask:PATRIZIA to relocate the projected hotel to a new 0.5-acre site on land at the corner of Quarryfield Road and Hawks Road.

A hotel gym features in the package of guest services and facilities, as well as restaurants, bars and business meeting rooms. A network of pedestrian footpaths and crossings is also proposed to link the site to Gateshead Quays and the local town centre.

Planning consultancy Lichfields is overseeing the application.

Placefirst submits Cow Green application

Build-to-rent provider Placefirst has submitted a full planning application for 122 apartments in Halifax town centre.

The £16 million project at Cow Green will see the former multi-storey car park site transformed into homes for rent.

If approved, the scheme will deliver a mix of one and two-bedroom apartments with bike storage and electric car charging points.

A fabric-first approach has been taken to maximise the thermal performance of the building in addition to renewable and efficient technologies including photovoltaic panels, air source heat pumps, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, and wastewater heat recovery. 

If approved, work is expected to start in mid-2023 for completion by 2025.

Avant Homes acquires Cullingworth housing site

Avant Homes Yorkshire has acquired a 4.8-acre site in Cullingworth, Bradford, to deliver 53 new-build homes.

Located on New School Lane three miles from Keighley town centre, the development will comprise a mix of two, three and four-bedroom homes and feature nine of Avant Homes’ design-led house types.

The development is called Croftside Quarter and it received planning permission at the end of October with the overall build programme estimated to take approximately two years.

The housebuilder has committed to a community contribution of £330,000 which will go towards local education, highway improvements and biodiversity. Open green space will also be provided to residents of the development with a cycleway connecting to the Great Northern Trail.

Work is set to start at the end of the year.

Barnet wins £1.6m for two housing schemes

Barnet Council has been awarded £1.6 million of government funding to support two affordable housing schemes which are being delivered by Barnet Homes.

The Grange will deliver 16 homes and Broadfields will provide 28 affordable homes. Both schemes will contribute to the council’s plans to build 1,000 affordable homes.

Barnet is one of 41 local authorities to receive part of a £35 million fund from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and has received the second-highest allocated funding in London.

Wolverhampton appoints McLaughlin for City Learning Quarter scheme 

McLaughlin & Harvey has been awarded a pre-construction contract from the City of Wolverhampton Council for its City Learning Quarter campus.

The construction firm will develop the detailed designs and carry out minor preparatory works ahead of construction starting in spring.

The City Learning Quarter scheme has been developed by the council in partnership with City of Wolverhampton College and will deliver a purpose-built learning facility for young people and adults at the heart of the city centre to drive up skills levels.

The education facility will be set over 10,000 square metres and will also see investment in the building and public realm.

In addition to the new facilities providing educational benefits for the city, the City Learning Quarter will generate and safeguard 750 jobs in the local economy.

29 Nov 2022
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

    Our planning news is published in association with ThePlanner, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

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      Planning news - 1 December 2022

        The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). All content © 2023 Planning Portal.

        The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). All content © 2023 Planning Portal.