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Planning news - 10 February 2022

Government agency invests in Public Practice

Homes England and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) have announced an investment of more than £200,000 in social enterprise Public Practice.

Public Practice supports public sector authorities in London, the South East and the East of England to identify gaps in the capacity of planning and place shaping teams.

It matches skilled candidates to year-long placements with local authorities.

The money will support the not-for-profit’s expansion across the country. The partnership is part of Homes England’s Local Government Capacity Centre work, which is designed to increase local government capacity and skills to make better places and homes.

To expand Public Practice, consultation would be carried out and research conducted with local authorities to shape the direction and approach.

Peter Freeman, chair of Homes England, said: “Authorities throughout England have told us that skills and expertise shortages are some of the biggest barriers they face to make homes and communities happen. Public Practice has a proven model for bringing these vital skills from the private sector to local government.

“We set up the Local Government Capacity Centre to support just this kind of solutions-focused work, and I am confident that expanding Public Practice’s unique programme to areas outside of London and the South will make a real difference.”

Local government officers are invited to respond to Public Practice’s Local Authority Resourcing and Skills survey, which seeks to establish an understanding of the skills gaps and the impact that a lack of resources has on officers and their teams across England.

Pooja Agrawal, chief executive at Public Practice, explained that since October 2017 the organisation has placed more than 200 practitioners into place-shaping roles in 50 authorities in London, the South-East and the East of England, with the objective of improving the quality, equality and sustainability of places.

“Over the last few years, public authorities have demonstrated a huge amount of resilience, but we know that they need support to access the skills, capacity and capabilities to meet their ambitions. The expansion of Public Practice’s unique programme will enable us to meet demand from authorities across the country that are keen to bring diverse skills, backgrounds and experience in-house.

“We believe that we need a diverse and cross-disciplinary public sector to lead the way to create high-quality and sustainable places for all people. Over 90 per cent of people we have placed to date have come from outside the public sector, and over 90 per cent of our alumni have continued to work in the public sector.”

The Local Authority Resourcing and Skills survey can be found on the Public Practice website1.

7 February 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

‘Little known’ rule should be used to protect local green spaces

Protection designations of local parks and green spaces are an important mechanism to levelling up access to nature for people living in towns and cities, says countryside charity CPRE.

Local parks, according to the charity, should have the same protection as national parks.

It points to a “little-known yet hugely powerful” rule that allows local authorities to ring-fence various green spaces, such as recreation grounds, community gardens and fields popular with dog walkers, from development.

The provision to protect valued pockets of nature is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) but CPRE says it remains “curiously unknown”. It was introduced by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government and can be used to protect small patches of green space in a neighbourhood plan.

The charity urges the government to encourage all local authorities to promote the use of the local green space designation as widely as possible. “It is a unique clause in planning rules that empowers local people to apply national park-style protection from development to their most valued local green spaces. And yet, in the most nature-deprived neighbourhoods, where it could have huge value for poorer communities, it is a tool that is barely ever used,” explains the charity.

According to CPRE research, more than 6,500 designations have been created since 2012, most of which are for valued land on the edge of a village. The mapping research suggests that inner cities and densely populated urban areas that are more likely to be populated by poorer communities and people of colour are the least likely to have benefited from the rule.

The research found that most local green space designations are located in wealthier areas of the South and Midlands. In contrast, CPRE says the poorest regions in the North had the fewest.

Crispin Truman, chief executive at CPRE, said: “This is a solution to levelling up that has been hiding in plain sight; a planning superpower in the hands of ordinary people. All that people have to prove is that they use and value the land for it to be eligible to be protected like it’s a national park. Unfortunately, there is a sliding scale of injustice when it comes to who is benefiting. Put simply, the poorer you are and the more nature-deprived your neighbourhood already is, the less likely you are to have any protected local green space. It’s time to address this imbalance and level up everyone’s access to nature.

“That is why we’re calling on the government to promise the equivalent of a national park for every neighbourhood. local green space designation is a powerful way to protect vulnerable slices of nature, particularly in deprived areas. It has the added benefit of nurturing neighbourhood planning groups so that local residents get more of a say in what gets built locally.

“Our iconic national parks are rightly celebrated and protected. But research repeatedly shows that they are not accessible to all – and that the poorest in society benefit the least. That’s why it should be a national priority to protect our local parks and green spaces so that everybody, no matter where they live, has access to the benefits of nature.”

To make sure that local green spaces designations level up urban areas, the CPRE recommends:

  • Making climate change adaptation and mitigation an explicit reason for land to be locally valued.
  • Embedding compulsory standards for access to nature within planning law.
  • Strengthening of protections against development on sites with Local Green Space designation.
  • Furthering support for neighbourhood planning across England, particularly in areas with low take-up, and encouraging public participation throughout the planning process.

7 February 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Student accommodation approved for central London

The City of London Corporation’s planning and transportation committee has granted planning permission for a 644-bed purpose-built student accommodation scheme in the Square Mile.

Real estate developer Dominvs Group will deliver the purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) scheme in Holborn, supported by the London School of Economics (LSE).

It will be located on the 61-65 Holborn Viaduct site.

The LSE wants to increase its number of student beds from 4,500 to 6,000 over the next five years, a decision that follows the government’s commitment to the enrolment of 600,000 international students by 2030.

The 644 rooms will be a mix of studios, “two-dios’ and en suites including cluster apartments, with 64 proposed to be wheelchair accessible.

The ground floor will house a mix of cultural and performance space in partnership with the Creative Land Trust for the local community to exhibit artworks and collaborate.

As part of the scheme, the public realm will be improved, including with a new viaduct connecting Holborn Viaduct and Snow Hill and a gateway to the new Museum of London at Smithfield’s will be delivered. Students will have access to an on-site café/bar, cinema room, music rooms, games area and a gym, as well as 494 long-term and 32 short-stay cycle parking spaces, 5 per cent of which will be accessible for adapted cycles.

The development will target BREEAM Excellent and will feature urban greening and water-saving measures.

Jay Ahluwalia, director at Dominvs Group, said: “From extensive consultation with the City Corporation and key local stakeholders we sought fresh thinking, submitting a scheme that enriches the existing neighbourhood while meeting the need for purpose-built student accommodation in the area.

“Our scheme introduces a new, highly sustainable building of exemplary design quality, including cultural and community use across ground-floor level, a publicly accessible roof terrace with views towards St Paul’s Cathedral, and significant public realm improvements, including active frontages and a new pedestrian route connecting Holborn Viaduct with the Museum of London.

“The application was brought forward with support from the London School of Economics and we are working with the Creative Land Trust to help deliver an exciting cultural and community use offer.”

7 February 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

New-look Caerphilly town centre takes shape

Ambitious proposals to transform Caerphilly town centre over the next 15 years have been unveiled in a blueprint involving a series of investments totalling over £50 million.

A boutique hotel, a transport hub and a new leisure centre are in prospect as part of the Caerphilly 2035 initiative.

The main elements include:

  • a new £30 million transport interchange in the heart of the town;
  • a major £15 million mixed retail and residential development;
  • a hotel development at Park Lane;
  • £5 million investment in new visitor facilities at the historic Caerphilly Castle; and
  • proposals to create an ambitious new ‘leisure quarter’ offering leisure, retail, commercial and business opportunities in the town centre.

The strategy is supported by the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns programme.

Found out more here on the Caerphilly 2035 website2.

4 February 2022
Roger Milne, The Planner

Penultimate phase of Northstowe approved

South Cambridgeshire District Council has approved plans for the penultimate phase of Northstowe, which comprises 4,000 homes.

Northstowe will be the largest new town since Milton Keynes.

Homes England has secured £123.9 million of funding to deliver the infrastructure and the plans for this phase. The money will see Homes England continuing to act as master developer.

Approval covers phase 3A which, as well as the homes, includes a mixed-use centre, two primary schools and a range of open spaces for play and recreation. It will be built on 210 hectares (519 acres).

A section 106 agreement will now be agreed to deliver community benefits, said Homes England.

The £123.9 million will mean that Homes England has the resources it needs to build more of Northstowe’s essential infrastructure, such as roads, public transport routes, cycleways, green space and schools. This infrastructure is a “vital prerequisite” to Homes England opening up land for 5,100 homes, comprising 3,500 homes of phase 2 of the Northstowe masterplan and the first 1,600 homes of phase 3a.

Northstowe will comprise 10,000 homes in total. The remaining phase – 3B – will provide another 1,000 homes, a primary school and mixed-use commercial zone. It will also involve a communal area, across 47 hectares (116 acres) – to be considered at a later date.

Housing minister Christopher Pincher said: “It is crucial to our levelling-up mission that we build the high-quality homes this country needs, where we need them. So I am very pleased that thousands of families will have the opportunity to rent or buy a new home in Cambridgeshire and enjoy the cycleways, green space and schools that will be provided for them in Northstowe.”

Ken Glendinning, regional development director south (interim) at Homes England, commented: “Homes England is committed to using its expertise as a master developer to create a well-designed, sustainable new town that promotes a sense of community and pride in place.

“Securing the go-ahead for Northstowe phase 3A from the planning committee marks a significant step forward for the town. These proposals, combined with the additional funding, will establish a pipeline of new homes at Northstowe for the next 15 years, providing a variety of neighbourhoods and homes of a wide range of tenures.”

Arcadis and Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design are advising Homes England on the proposals.

Delivery of phase 3A is expected to start in 2023.

3 February 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

News round-up

Those in housing not counted, says HfS

MSPs have been told that “too many” people in housing need in Scotland are not being counted.

This is what Homes for Scotland's (HfS) chief executive Nicola Barclay told the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing & Planning Committee while giving evidence on the draft National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4).

She explained: “The national dataset on housing need takes a very limited view of what constitutes housing need, with only two very acute forms actually counted: homeless households in temporary accommodation and overcrowded households that include at least one concealed family.

“But there are many groups that are not included. For example, overcrowded households – say, a family with two children, a boy and a girl, but only two bedrooms; they are not counted. Neither are single-person households such as adults living together in a shared flat or a single adult returning to live with their parents.

“So there is a huge sector of the population that is being overlooked, they are not in the houses they want to be and are unable to live their lives to the full, starting relationships, having families etc, because we are not counting them in the first place.”

Barclay also noted that the draft “completely disregarded” the housing crisis.

Consultation begins on expansion of Luton Airport

A consultation has begun on proposals to increase London Luton Airport’s maximum passenger capacity to 32 million, building a second terminal and making best use of its single runway.

The airport is owned by sole shareholder Luton Council.

The proposals have been changed since a previous consultation held in 2019. Views are being sought before the application is submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for a development consent order.

It will be considered under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) regime.

The consultation is being held from today (8 February) until 4 April 2022. More information and the consultation can be found here3.

Funding secured for tree planting in Yorkshire

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has secured funding through the White Rose Forest, the community forest for North and West Yorkshire.

The money will support woodland creation in the national park.

Trees will be planted within the Swale, Ure, Nidd and Ouse (SUNO) catchment that is designed to help prevent flooding within communities farther downstream.

Over the next three months the trees and woodlands team at the national park authority will identify an initial 25 hectares of land within the SUNO catchment. They then plan to work with farmers and landowners to identify at least another 300 hectares of potential planting schemes over the next four years.

Vistry acquires land in Alphington

Housebuilder Vistry Group has acquired land to build more than 650 homes in Exeter.

Work is set to begin by Vistry South West on the north side of Alphington in the spring, with homebuyers set to move in next year.

The south side development of Haldon Reach features 680 homes, including a show home and sales centre. It will have a mixture of open market, shared ownership and affordable rent homes and a new school with playing fields.

Matthew Charnock, Vistry strategic development director, said the “location will be a flagship development for Vistry South West and bring much-needed affordable homes to Exeter”.

“This Alphington acquisition adds to our strong Vistry presence in the area and we look forward to a vibrant community with properties from our latest Bovis Homes and Linden Homes collections. The location is also a tribute to our hard-working colleagues in both the housebuilding and partnerships arms of the business.”

Planning consent secured for homes in Cambridge

Planning consent has been secured by property consultancy Carter Jonas on behalf of Barratt and David Wilson Homes (Eastern Counties) to deliver 410 homes in north-west Cambridge.

The scheme, known as Darwin Green 1, will deliver 40 per cent affordable homes for a wider mixed-use development of up to 1,593 homes on the nine hectares site.

It will include a primary school, community facilities, shops and associated infrastructure including pedestrian and routes and attractive open spaces.

James Stone, associate partner at Carter Jonas in Cambridge, commented: “Carter Jonas was pleased to help achieve planning success for this high-quality new development which is sensitively designed to incorporate sustainable technologies. It will provide much-needed housing for Cambridge, with almost half of all units being affordable housing.”

Work will start in the coming months and is expected to be complete by 2030. 

Modular homes to be delivered in Milton Keynes

ilke Homes has been selected by housebuilder Bellway to deliver 40 modular homes in Milton Keynes.

The modular housing company will deliver a mix of two, three and four-bedroom homes for Bellway, for both affordable and open-market tenures at Tattenhoe Park.

The wider scheme will comprise 160 homes built from steel and timber-framed homes as part of a pilot project being led by Homes England.

Work on the site is due to start in March by Bellway, with the first homes expected to be complete in August.

Paul Smits, managing director at Bellway Northern Home Counties, said: “Bellway is pleased to confirm this partnership with ilke Homes to deliver our first modular homes at Tattenhoe Park. We have developed our plans with ilke’s input throughout, and their expertise has accelerated our learning around their products and processes. Now contracts are signed, we look forward to seeing these new homes being manufactured by ilke Homes and preparing to install the units at Tattenhoe Park.”

Rural mobility competition launched in the Midlands

A rural mobility competition has been launched by transport body Midlands Connect for businesses to submit ideas that could help solve the social, environmental and economic issues caused by poor connectivity in rural areas.

The four best proposals will be awarded £10,000 to further develop their ideas alongside local authorities, academic institutions and third-sector organisations.

One of the organisations will then be awarded £100,000 to fully develop their submission, which could then potentially be used across the region to improve rural mobility.   

The competition winner will be announced in summer 2022.

Maria Machancoses, chief executive of Midlands Connect, said: “Rural communities contribute a huge amount to the Midlands economy, it’s really important that we address the unique challenges these areas have and give local people the tools they need to succeed. With radical changes in transport expected over the next decade, we must act now to harness the benefits of emerging new technologies. Owning a car should not be a prerequisite to a full and enjoyable life, this competition will look at how we can improve mobility in isolated areas, and if successful this model could be rolled out region-wide.”

8 February 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 - 10 February 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.