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Planning news - 11 April 2024

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England’s un-tapped solar energy generation potential

On Monday, The Planner covered a report published by countryside charity Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which suggests that England is currently falling short on considerable opportunities to generate low carbon energy from rooftop solar panels.   

The report, entitled ‘Lighting the way: international policies for making the rooftop solar revolution a reality' was commissioned by the charity to analyse international approaches to solar panel delivery, with the aim of highlighting potential tactics the UK could adopt to meet solar targets. 

Drawing on analysis carried out by members of the UCL Energy Institute in 2023, it references the huge potential for rooftop solar energy generation in this country - ‘up to 117 gigawatts (GW) of low carbon electricity to be generated from rooftops and other developed spaces across England’ – which is considerably higher than the government’s current target of 70 GW of solar energy by 2035. 

This tremendous opportunity is not being fully utilised. The report goes on to explain that despite buildings such as warehouses presenting a great opportunity for solar panel mounting, only ‘5% of warehouses across the country have solar installations.’ 

The report does clarify that rural constituencies in England see a much higher average number of solar panel installations when compared with their urban counterparts. 

Drawing on government incentives in Germany, Japan and China to encourage solar panel uptake, the report concludes that the UK should set ambitious targets for mandating solar panels on new buildings where suitable, summarising that the market is currently ‘failing’ to deliver on solar targets and that ‘further work is needed to develop clear strategies for overcoming remaining barriers to the delivery of rooftop solar in the UK.’ 

The UK government has made important steps in this direction by reducing planning controls on installations of up to 50kW, but should consider opportunities to go further, such as giving rooftop solar projects priority access to grid connections.’ 

You can read the full Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) report here1

You can find out more about the UK’s current grants and schemes by visiting our new Sustainability Content Hub. 2

Government release February’s appeals performance stats

The median decision time for all cases in February 2024 was 28 weeks, which is less than the 12-month median of 31 weeks, the Planner reports.  

For planning cases specifically, the median time was 27 weeks in February 2024, with a 12-month median of 29 weeks. The majority of cases over the past 12 months were planning cases (15,406 or 84% of all decisions), with 2,296 enforcement decisions and 670 specialist decisions. The number of planning inspectors employed by PINS increased slightly from 424 in January 2024 to 426 in February 2024. 

You can read the full report here.3


Updated pre-application service for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs)

The Planning Inspectorate will introduce a new pre-application service for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects following a consultation response published by government in March. This new approach to pre-application for NSIPs furthers the government’s ambition of speeding up the consenting process for major infrastructure.  

The new pre-application service offers three tiers – basic, standard, and enhanced. All Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) must subscribe to one of these at the pre-application stage. 

As part of the government’s cost-recovery process, fees for the pre-application service will be incurred on a sliding scale, depending on which tier the project subscribes to.  

Projects using the enhanced version of the pre-application service may access a fast-track route to a decision, provided they meet the quality standard.  

Beginning in April 2024, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities (DLUHC) will introduce revised guidance reflecting changes in the NSIP process. 

You can find out more about the new pre-application service for NSIPs by visiting the government website. 4


Housing delivery challenges highlighted in Lichfields' report

A recent study conducted by planning consultancy Lichfields reveals a slight decrease in annual build-out rates across various site sizes in England and Wales, The Planner has reported. 

This finding, outlined in the third edition of Lichfields' "Start to Finish," reflects a shift from research published in 2020 and is in line with predictions by the Office for Budget Responsibility for 2024. 

According to the report, smaller sites with 99 dwellings or fewer tend to deliver within a five-year timeframe, from planning application validation, with the first dwelling taking an average of 3.8 years to complete. Conversely, larger sites exceeding 1,000 dwellings typically require five years to obtain planning permission, followed by an additional 1.3 to 1.6 years for initial delivery. 

The study sheds light on the nuanced realities of strategic housing delivery. 

The report highlights several additional key observations, including: 

  • Large-scale apartment schemes can achieve good build-out rates, albeit with inconsistencies in delivery and susceptibility to market fluctuations. 
  • Housing schemes incorporating 30% or more affordable units demonstrate faster build-out rates compared to those with a lower percentage. However, schemes with no affordable housing tend to progress more rapidly than those with 10% to 29% affordable units. 
  • Demand plays a significant role in build-out rates, with areas experiencing higher demand exhibiting faster average annual rates. 

The complete "Start to Finish" report is available on Lichfields' website. 

If you would like to stay informed on the latest planning application trends nationally, subscribe to our Market Insight Report. 5

Regional development initiatives this week

This week The Planner reported on several regional development initiatives which have been announced across the UK, including: 

Funding for Hastings and Rother 

Hastings and Rother have secured a £40 million investment from the government as part of the Levelling Up Partnerships programme.  

The initiative is aimed at upgrading towns and community centres and boosting affordable housing. This investment underscores commitment to fostering regional development and addressing unique challenges in the South East. 

With projects including affordable housing, leisure centres, and connectivity enhancements, local leaders anticipate a transformative impact. 

Film complex approved for Sunderland 

The Planning and Highways Committee at Sunderland City Council has greenlit the Crown Works Studios development.  

Spearheaded by Cain International and Fulwell73, in partnership with Sunderland City Council, the 154,215-square-meter project features 19 premium sound stages, offices, workshops, and more. The project is scheduled to commence this year and is set for completion by 2027. 

Adoption of Greater Norwich Local Plan 

The Greater Norwich Local Plan has been adopted by the councils it covers.  

Envisioning 45,000 new homes and 33,000 jobs by 2038, this plan sets a strategic roadmap for sustainable urban and rural development. Championed by the Greater Norwich Development Partnership, it emphasizes the preservation of green spaces, infrastructure expansion, and balanced growth. The plan reflects a commitment to maintaining the region's character while fostering economic opportunities. 

You can find out more on all of the stories above, by visiting The Planner6


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

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    Planning news - 11 April 2024

      The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG). All content © 2024 Planning Portal.

      The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG). All content © 2024 Planning Portal.