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Planning news - 10 March 2022

Permitted development laws revised for rural roll-out of 4G and 5G

The government has announced a series of changes to planning laws to provide people with better 4G and 5G mobile coverage as part of its plans to ‘level up’ the country.

The reforms are intended to erase mobile coverage ‘not spots’ in rural areas and form part of the government-led £1 billion Shared Rural Network.

Details have been published following a consultation on the measures. Amendments will be made to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015.

The changes to existing permitted development rights include:

  • Existing mobile masts to be strengthened without prior approval. This means they can be upgraded for 5G and shared between mobile operators. It would allow increases to the width of existing masts by up to either 50 per cent or two metres (whichever is greatest) and, in unprotected areas, allow increases in height up to a maximum of 25 metres (previously 20 metres). Greater increases will also be permitted subject to approval by the local authority.
  • New masts to be built up to five metres higher – meaning a maximum of 30 metres in unprotected areas and 25 metres in protected areas, subject to approval by the planning authority.
  • Buildings to host smaller masts (up to six metres in height above building) in unprotected areas without prior approval. This is to accelerate network upgrades and reduce the need to build new masts.
  • Building-based masts to be set up nearer to public roads subject to prior approval to improve mobile coverage for road users.
  • Cabinets containing radio equipment to be deployed alongside masts without prior approval and to allow greater flexibility for installing cabinets in existing compounds (fenced-off sites containing masts and other communications equipment) to support new 5G networks.
  • Conditions to ensure that telecoms equipment does not block pavements and access to properties.

Julia Lopez, digital infrastructure minister, said: “We’ve all felt the frustration of having the ‘no bar blues’ when struggling to get a phone signal, so we’re changing the law to wipe out mobile ‘not spots’ and dial up the roll-out of next-generation 5G.

“Phone users across the country will benefit – whether they are in a city, village or on the road – and tighter rules on the visual impact of new infrastructure will ensure our cherished countryside is protected."

Hamish MacLeod, chief executive of Mobile UK, said: "Building the mobile networks that provide the connectivity on which we all rely is both complex and challenging. The industry welcomes the reforms to planning regulations proposed by the government. They will enable operators to deploy mobile networks more efficiently to meet ambitious targets for rural and urban coverage, including next-generation 5G.”

Mobile operators will still need to obtain an agreement with the landowner before building any new infrastructure.

The government said all new ground-based masts will need to be approved by local authorities. They will continue to have a say on where they are placed and their appearance.

In addition, “robust conditions and limits” will remain in place to make sure that communities and stakeholders are properly consulted and the environment is protected, the government added. To that end, a new Code of Practice for Wireless Network Development in England 1has been published to provide operators and councils with guidance to minimise the impact of mobile infrastructure.

7 March 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Government must change approach to rural housing

The government has been urged to return to a National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that promotes ‘organic, incremental growth’ in settlements with fewer than 3,000 residents.

This is one of five recommendations set out in a paper by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents rural businesses and landowners in England and Wales.

The organisation has called on the government to overhaul its approach to housing in rural communities. Its report, the CLA says, will help tackle the housing crisis in villages, where it notes that homes are becoming increasingly unaffordable for local people.

It also identifies that rural populations are ageing at a faster rate than in urban areas, there are proportionally fewer affordable homes, there is pressure on house prices from second-home ownership and there is a larger gap between house prices and wages.

The report – Sustainable Communities: The Role of Housing in Strengthening the Rural Economy – states: “The lack of available and affordable homes in rural areas has resulted in young people having to move to urban areas, which not only has a knock-on effect for local employers but has led to the reduction of key rural services and amenities, such as public transport, banks, schools, and pubs which continues to hold back the economies in rural areas. This systemic failure of government planning policy is steadily killing rural communities.”

The CLA says the government needs to develop an approach to housing that allows for a small number of homes to be built in a large number of villages in order to support local employment and strengthen the social fabric of these areas by ensuring pubs, shops and schools can stay open.

However, this is only possible if it is supported by a “more accommodating” planning framework. The current system “favours” large-scale developments that “negatively” alter the nature of local communities.

According to the report, in 2020 more than 260,000 people were on a housing waiting list. Changes to the NPPF would see this number reduce, maintains the CLA.

The five changes to the planning system recommended are:

  1. Smaller number of houses in a larger number of villages – return to a National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) promoting organic, incremental growth in settlements with fewer than 3,000 residents.
  2. Reform local authority sustainability assessments – change assessments to ensure they are more reflective of the services that could be supported if development were enabled, and give more weight to digital connectivity.
  3. Mandatory housing needs assessments across all rural settlements. Undertake housing need assessments for settlements that have not previously been allocated housing, in addition to those that already have, to ensure that need is properly identified and met.
  4. Extension of permitted development rights – allow permitted development on rural exception sites to provide much-needed affordable rental housing options for the benefit of local communities.
  5. Inheritance tax exemptions – extend conditional IHT exemptions to affordable rented housing for the period in which homes remain let as such.

Mark Tufnell, president of the CLA, says that “fundamental flaws” in the planning system let rural communities down.

“For too long, its unnecessary red tape has held back the initiation of projects, stifling investment, innovation and entrepreneurship in the countryside.

“We are disappointed to see the government U-turn on previous promises to simplify the planning framework. The housing crisis has not gone away, and this marks yet another missed opportunity to bring prosperity to rural areas. If the government is serious about meeting its housebuilding targets this must change.

“For rural areas to thrive, there needs to be an adequate, available, and diverse supply of homes, which includes different tenure types of varying sizes. Without it, we prevent young families from continuing to live in their community, key workers from being based near their places of work, and the elderly from downsizing.

“Viable solutions are available. We call on the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to listen to the changing needs of rural communities and deliver on his ‘levelling-up’ promises. We must make meaningful changes to our planning system – beginning with making policy changes to allow a greater number of small-scale developments across our villages. Only the government has the necessary policy levers at its fingertips to action this, and reverse decades of settlements being held in aspic.”

The call from the CLA comes after reports last week suggested that Gove had told attendees 2at a private meeting that the government will not now proceed with the planning bill proposed in the Queen's Speech in May 2021.

Sustainable Communities: The Role of Housing in Strengthening the Rural Economy can be found on the CLA website.3

7 March 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Health test should be required for new development, academic suggests

A researcher has indicated that plans by developers seeking planning permission for major projects should undergo a ‘health test’ by local councils to see if they promote healthier living.

Dr Caglar Koksal, University of Manchester, believes that developments must show a “net health gain” by supporting better air quality and healthy lifestyles. If they do, they should be granted accelerated planning permission.

He made the proposal in a briefing for the Social Market Foundation (SMF), a cross-party think tank. It posits that including health in planning policy could help deliver some of the key goals of the levelling-up agenda.

The briefing argues that better housing and other development should be given higher priority when considering health policy because they can improve wellbeing and encourage healthier lifestyles.

In contrast, Koksal and SMF say badly designed development can encourage overcrowding and reliance on cars for transport instead of walking or cycling, as well as the spread of diseases. They also tend to foster higher rates of obesity.

Koksal said: “When the demand for housing remains exceptionally high, developers have very little incentive to promote health with their schemes. The primary concern of most housebuilders is to deliver profits for their investors. However, local authorities can motivate and inspire developers to work together and create healthier places.

“For example, local authorities can ask all major developments to demonstrate a health net gain with their development, provided that local evidence substantiates such a requirement.

“If a development demonstrates health net gain, for example, the local authority can grant an accelerated planning permission, which would lead to huge cost savings and contribute positively to the viability of the proposal.”

He suggested that a “health net gain” could vary by area and include any acute local health issues such as respiratory diseases or obesity. In addition, local authorities can set “robust design standards”, supported by the National Planning Policy Framework, to influence design quality, including making sure there are convenient transport corridors with separated pedestrian and cycle routes.

James Kirkup, SMF director, said: “Giving Britons longer, healthier lives will require making the places we live healthier. The relationship between building, local environment and health is hugely important, and understanding it better is vital to delivering better, healthier lives."

“This research should be studied closely by policymakers at national and local level for evidence and insight into how to deliver healthier places and better development.”

The briefing can be found on the Social Market Foundation website.4

3 March 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Green energy hub in prospect following Aberthaw power plant deal

The 10 local authorities involved in the south-east Wales growth deal – known as the Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) – have agreed to acquire the former Aberthaw power station with ambitious plans to transform it into a green energy hub, which could create thousands of new jobs.

The city region councils have bought the decommissioned power station and nearly 200 hectares of land from energy giant RWE in an £8 million deal.

They have committed another £28.4 million to demolish the power plant and fund remediation and redevelopment work at the site in the Vale of Glamorgan.

A proposed masterplan for the site proposes that it could provide:

  • renewable and green energy projects;
  • a battery storage facility to support energy projects;
  • a zero-carbon manufacturing cluster that would include green hydrogen production facilities;
  • a green energy innovation centre; and
  • an ecology park.

The coal-fired 1,560-megawatt plant, which began generating in 1970, ceased producing electricity for the National Grid in 2019. It was RWE’s last coal-fired station in the UK.

The CCR’s city deal is being jointly funded by the Welsh and UK governments. This project was approved by the CCR’s cabinet, made up of the region’s 10 local authority leaders.

Kellie Beirne, director for the CCR City Deal said: “The acquisition of the Aberthaw site is a significant opportunity for the Cardiff Capital Region to take ownership of a major strategic site, which will support green and clean economic growth, innovation, and job creation within a key industry of the future – demonstrating compatibility of climate and economic aims.”

4 March 2022
Roger Milne, The Planner

Southwark plans for sustainable development

Southwark Council has approved a blueprint that sets outs where and what development can happen in the borough while helping to address the housing crisis and climate emergency.

The Southwark Plan covers the period from 2019 to 2036. It brings together all of the council's planning policies and strategic targets for new homes and jobs, open space and different types of development while seeking to preserve the borough’s history and heritage.

The council said key policies address the urgent need for new homes that local people can afford. They place strong requirements on developers to build social rent homes, in addition to the council’s work to build “thousands more” council homes. It features a requirement for 35 per cent of homes to be affordable within any scheme, including student accommodation schemes.

The plan introduces a new fast-track process for developments delivering 40 per cent or more social rented and intermediate rent homes.

The plan also:

  • Designates 22 new sites of importance for nature conservation and the equivalent of 16 full-sized football fields of newly protected open space.
  • Requires that all new developments have to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than it was beforehand (biodiversity net gain).
  • Supports the creation of 58,000 new jobs, including a green new deal to generate jobs.
  • Ensures that within developments of a certain size or made up of employment workspace, at least 10 per cent or more of the floor space must be affordable.

Helen Dennis, cabinet member for climate emergency and sustainable development, said: “The new policies and area visions are designed to make Southwark a fairer place to live and work. We have over 16,500 households on our waiting list for a council home. So we are particularly proud that our plan sets firm requirements on developers to build truly affordable homes, including new social rent homes. We have extended these requirements so they now cover smaller sites and student accommodation, and we have introduced a new fast-track mechanism to speed up schemes that go above and beyond the 35 per cent minimum affordable housing requirement. We have also laid out clear expectations around more affordable workspace to support small businesses and the local economy within the borough.

“Our plan sets new green standards that are higher than ever before, outstripping national climate targets and going further than the London Plan in requiring new developments to deliver major on-site carbon savings. Southwark Council has already been independently rated as one of the top two councils in London for our work to tackle the climate emergency and our ambition with the Southwark Plan is no different. We will now be undertaking further work this year to make our carbon reduction policies even stronger, in line with our climate emergency declaration."

3 March 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner


News round-up

Edinburgh awards two contracts

The City of Edinburgh Council's finance and resources committee has appointed a development partner for the next stage of its regeneration of Meadowbank and a £15 million contract for a new community hub at Macmillan Square.

The Meadowbank appointment follows a competitive procurement process for the £1.045 million contract. It has been awarded to the Edinburgh Meadowbank Group – to be referred to as EDMB – a consortium comprising John Graham Holdings, Panacea Property Development and Miller Homes.

They will progress design and pre-construction works by early 2023 ahead of the start of construction work on site.

The plan for the Meadowbank development is to create a green neighbourhood that incorporates low-car, low-carbon infrastructure with energy-efficient homes. The regeneration comprises 600 mixed-tenure homes for sale and rent, with 35 per cent designated as affordable and some fully adapted for wheelchairs.

The community hub development at Macmillan Square will be delivered in partnership with North Edinburgh Arts. It is part of the council's continuing regeneration of north Edinburgh.

At the meeting, councillors agreed to the project entering its construction phase. This will be carried out by Robertson Construction Group (Robertson), following its demolition of Muirhouse Library.

Designed by Richard Murphy Architects, The Hub will be a place to learn, work and meet people. It will be home to an early years’ centre for 185 children and a library. It will also provide additional space for North Edinburgh Arts.

 

Application to be submitted for city living scheme

The City of Wolverhampton Council has announced that it will submit an outline planning application at the end of this month (March) to facilitate the first phase of the Brewers Yard city living regeneration masterplan.

If it is approved, the council’s fleet services and meals on wheels operation will relocate from its current Culwell Street depot to a new base on Hickman Avenue, alongside the city’s wholesale market, which will undergo a revamp.

Funding from the Towns Fund, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and the council will help to relocate services and demolish buildings on the Culwell Street site. The brownfield site will then be remediated and made ready for the development of almost 600 apartments in the coming years.

Overall, the council intends for Brewers Yard to extend wider and provide about 1,000 homes.

Before submission, a public consultation will be held on Monday 14 March, between 4pm and 7pm, at the University of Wolverhampton’s Springfield Campus.

 

Khan plans to extend ULEZ to whole of London

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced that he has asked Transport for London (TfL) to consult on expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone to the whole of the city in 2023.

He has ruled out the Clean Air Charge and the Greater London Boundary Charge.

The Mayor's Office notes that toxic air caused by traffic is leading to children growing up with stunted lungs and nearly 4,000 premature deaths a year – with the greatest number of deaths attributable to air pollution in London’s outer boroughs. The ULEZ doesn’t currently cover the outer boroughs.

It also points to analysis that shows that vehicle congestion cost the capital £5.1 billion last year, which has risen close to pre-pandemic levels, leading to gridlocked traffic and filthy air.

If traffic and emissions are to be reduced, the capital will have to see a “significant” shift away from petrol and diesel vehicle use, towards walking and cycling, greater use of public transport and cleaner vehicles.

Speaking in Forest Hill on Friday (4 March), Khan said that the long-term and fairest solution to these challenges will ultimately be smart road user charging. This would enable all existing road-user charges, such as the Congestion Charge and ULEZ, to be scrapped and replaced with a smarter, simpler and fair scheme that charges motorists on a per-mile basis. This could allow for different rates to be charged depending on how polluting vehicles are, the level of congestion in the area and access to public transport.

Khan has asked TfL to start exploring how this idea could be developed.

 

Birmingham approves Paradise phase two plans

Birmingham City Council has approved plans for a new public realm at Paradise Birmingham, as part of the completion of phase two of the £700 million development.

There will be better connectivity in the city with new public spaces and pedestrian routes through Paradise, and improved links between Colmore Row and the city core and Westside and the Jewellery Quarter.

The new spaces and routes in the southern part of the Paradise estate are intended to provide a better environment for the grade I-listed Town Hall and historic buildings along Paradise Street.

The approved links include the new Ratcliff Passage alongside the Town Hall, Ratcliff Square, and Western Terrace leading to Easy Row with a newly renovated subway route through to Alpha Tower and Arena Central.

Details of the development of Paradise can be found here.5

 

Partnership announced for 80 modular homes in Kent

Legal & General Modular Homes has partnered with Town & Country Housing to acquire a site in Littlestone, Kent, to develop 80 modular homes.  

The site is located on Victoria Road and comprises approximately nine acres and includes three acres of open space and wetland, which will be largely dedicated to wildlife.

The 80 homes will be for shared ownership and social rent and will be classed as affordable. They will either have two, three or four bedrooms, and will be offered through Town & Country Housing’s trading brand, Love Living Homes.

Colin Lissenden, development director at Town & Country Housing, said: “After launching our pilot scheme at Westwood Acres in Broadstairs, we’re extremely proud to be delivering further on our commitment to sustainable housing provision by partnering with Legal & General Modular Homes for the second time in a year. Modern construction methods offer a huge range of benefits to the developer, resident and community alike, and we look forward to continuing to deliver more affordable, environmentally friendly homes in Kent.”

 

Housebuilder to deliver 178 homes in Congleton

Stewart Milne Homes has purchased a 35-acre site in Congleton from land promotion firm Ainscough Strategic Land (ASL) to build 178 homes.

The Astbury Park development will be located between the town centre and Radnor Wood. It will border the new Congleton Link Road to provide easy access to the M6 from Astbury Park, allowing commuters to get to Macclesfield, Stoke-on-Trent, Chester and Manchester.

The homes will be two, three, four and five-bedroom family and executive homes, 32 of which will be affordable.

The masterplan proposal would deliver homes that are built around green space with the existing woodland retained. Two pedestrian footpaths and segregated cycleways will link the development to the surrounding community and facilities.

The first phase of works for the Astbury Park development will begin in March.

 

Collaboration seeks to deliver affordable homes

Lovell Partnerships and Legal & General Affordable Homes (Legal & General) are joining together to increase the delivery of affordable homes and mixed-tenure sites.

They have committed to deliver a target of 3,000 multi-tenure properties across a five-year period in England. This will feed into Legal & General’s commitment to deliver homes that are net-zero carbon in operation by 2030.

Legal & General will focus on delivering affordable homes, including shared ownership, social rent and affordable rent, and Lovell is bringing its open market and build expertise across all tenures.

Both organisations are looking to maximise opportunities for suburban build-to-rent, later living and off-site manufacturing, introducing their wider group resources.

8 March 2022
The Planner, Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/code-of-practice-for-wireless-network-development-in-england
  2. https://www.theplanner.co.uk/news/reports-hint-that-gove-will-scrap-planning-bill
  3. https://www.cla.org.uk/news/government-is-letting-rural-communities-down-says-cla/
  4. https://www.smf.co.uk/commentary_podcasts/health-and-wellbeing-in-housing-developments/
  5. http://www.paradisebirmingham.co.uk/

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 March 2022

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