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Planning news - 11 May 2023

Decline in workload for SME housebuilding sector

A survey has shown that workloads declined during the first quarter of 2023 for the SME housebuilding sector. 

This is according to the Federation of Master Builders' (FMB) latest State of Trade Survey report. 

However, there has been a rebound in repair, maintenance, and improvement (RMI) building work, with the survey showing this work is up by 12 per cent compared with Q4 of 2022. 

The survey of the FMB's members for Q1 found: 

  • 14 per cent of members report an increase in RMI workloads. 
  • 87 per cent report an increase in material costs. 
  • -4 per cent: the housebuilding sector is continuing to struggle, with more reporting a decline in workload than those seeing more work. However, this has improved since Q4 of 2022 when it was -18 per cent. 
  • Members set out struggles to recruit carpenters/joiners (41 per cent), bricklayers (36 per cent) and general labourers (31 per cent). 
  • 3 per cent: the overall net decrease in employment levels in Q1 2023. 
  • 75 per cent reported an increase in the prices they charge for work. 
  • 45 per cent reported that business profits were lower than expected this quarter. 

Brian Berry, chief executive at the FMB, said: “The rebound in domestic building work at the start of this year compared with the pessimistic forecasts towards the end of last year is an encouraging sign that parts of the building industry are bouncing back. It’s a positive sign for the overall economy that homeowners are continuing to invest in their homes.” 

“Despite the good news for domestic building work, it is very concerning that housebuilding is still in negative figures, despite a slight increase in reported workloads. Given there is a growing housing crisis the fact we are building fewer and not more homes is a worrying sign for consumers, builders, and the government alike. 

“The FMB’s survey also shows the effect inflation is having on SME building companies resulting in them having to raise their prices in order to stay afloat and with 10 per cent of FMB member companies potentially at risk of closure. We are far from having certainty in the building industry but at least there are some signs that we are starting to move in the right direction.” 

9 May 2023 
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

Plans submitted for upgrade to Liverpool Street station

A planning application has been lodged with the City of London Corporation to turn Liverpool Street station into a ‘world-class transport hub and landmark seven-days-a-week destination’. 

New retail and leisure facilities for visitors, passengers and the local community also feature in it. 

The application has been submitted by Sellar, which developed the London Bridge Quarter and Paddington Square, the operator of rail transport services including the Elizabeth line MTR and Network Rail. 

Costing £1.5 billion, the plans have been developed in collaboration with architecture practice Herzog & de Meuron. 

The plans should improve access to the station for people with disabilities and for those travelling with small children and luggage, with one accessible lift serving the mainline station. There is no step-free access to most London Underground platforms. The station was last upgraded in the early 1990s. At that time there was no expectation that passenger numbers would grow, but there are now up to 135 million people using the station and concourse area annually. 

The applicants say that passengers are at the centre of the proposals, with the development being designed to allow the station to remain open and operational throughout all phases of the project construction. 

The plans, designed to be net zero, comprise more than 800,000 square feet of offices and around 160,000 square feet of hotel space using the airspace above the 1990s elements of the station and 40 Liverpool Street. 

The plans retain local and street-level views by setting back the commercial building from the historic façades of grade II* listed 40 Liverpool Street. 

The proposals also feature the creation of more than 1.5 acres of public realm in and around the main station building and Hope Square, as well as the pedestrianisation of Liverpool Street. A public rooftop garden with natural planting is also included in the strategy, alongside a four-lane, 25-metre City Lido heated by surplus heat from the offices. 

James Sellar, chief executive at Sellar, said: “The upgrades to Liverpool Street station are essential in helping London maintain its status as a world-class city and encourage people back to the capital by significantly improving the experience for the station’s millions of users and commuters. The plans will create one of the most sustainable destinations in the Square Mile, including a rooftop garden and City Lido, both accessible to the public. The office, hotel and leisure components above the station will be designed with the highest environmental and wellness credentials and will enable the £450 million of vital station upgrades at no cost to passengers or the taxpayer. 

“Our entire approach prioritises protecting and enhancing the historic elements of both the Great Eastern Hotel and of the station itself. The original Victorian railway sheds at Liverpool Street station will not be touched, but will be celebrated by opening up new views to and through them.” 

Robin Dobson, group property director at Network Rail, explained that the plans “will create a new transportation hub and a seven-days-a-week retail and cultural destination in its own right”. 

"The current experience designed in the 1980s falls very short and needs to change. Our vision will guarantee that sustainable travel and an exceptional experience becomes a reality for future generations. We will move from an inaccessible and overcrowded station to one centred on people, ensuring an open, accessible destination for everyone.” 

The designs were put forward following work with the City of London Corporation as well as continuing consultation with heritage organisations and other key stakeholders. 

The campaign to Save Liverpool Street Station (LISSCA), chaired by the Victorian Society, said there were “no significant changes” at the latest round of consultation and therefore asked housing secretary Michael Gove to call in the plans. The group contends that the proposed tower would set “a terrible precedent for the treatment of listed buildings, conservation areas, Network Rail’s care for London’s great termini and views of St Paul’s Cathedral”. 

Griff Rhys Jones, president of LISSCA and president of the Victorian Society, said: “The final version of this scheme is as bad as we expected. It is insensitive and unnecessary and traduces a famous gateway to London, a listed working part of our history. I know all the heritage bodies combined are appalled by the precedent it would set. It must be rejected, and we will fight to ensure that it is.” 

The Victorian Society is chairing the reformed Liverpool Street Station Campaign (LISSCA) which stopped the station’s total demolition in the 1970s. LISSCA’s committee comprises of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, The Twentieth Century Society, Historic Buildings & Places, The Georgian Group, The Spitalfields Trust, Civic Voice, London Historians, The Betjeman Society, The Council for British Archaeology, London and Middlesex Archaeological Society and The Victorian Society. 

A decision by the City of London Corporation is expected in 2024. 

9 May 2023 
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

Record flood defence spending pledged in Wales 

The Welsh Government has announced a record annual investment of £75 million for flood defences. 

Around £14 million of the funding package has been secured for schemes across South Wales Central, including over £3.4 million for projects in Rhondda Cynon Taf, £5 million for projects in Cardiff and £5.7 million for projects in the Vale of Glamorgan. 

News of the expenditure came as ministers confirmed that an independent review of recent flooding events across Wales is being undertaken by top criminal barrister, Professor Elwen Evans KC. 

The review, which is part of the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru, is considering evidence from investigations carried out by local authorities and Natural Resources Wales (NRW), as well as other relevant reports. 

Meanwhile, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) is looking at how the nationwide likelihood of flooding can be minimised by 2050. 

The Welsh administration’s Programme for Government includes an ambitious target to provide increased flood protection to more than 45,000 homes and a commitment to expand natural flood management approaches that will help to tackle the climate and nature emergencies. 

Of that £75 million, £34 million of capital funding has been allocated to develop and construct flood-risk management schemes across Wales. 

For example, this year construction will begin in earnest on large-scale NRW schemes in Ammanford and Lliswerry in Newport. The scheme at Ammanford will provide enhanced flood protection for 200 properties. Meanwhile, the scheme at Lliswerry will reduce the risk to at least 800 properties, making it one of the largest schemes ever constructed by NRW. 

Clare Pillman, NRW chief executive, said: “The evidence of the climate crisis is stark. We all need to plan now for a future with increased flood risk, and we welcome this commitment from the Welsh Government to support flood-risk projects. 

“We will continue to build flood defences and maintain our existing ones. But we will also need to take a broader approach to improve Wales’s resilience to extreme weather. 

“This includes investment in vital warning and informing services, which empower people to know and understand their flood risk and the actions they can take to prepare. 

“It also means placing greater emphasis on the whole river catchment approaches that are needed to tackle complex flooding problems. 

“Natural flood management is part of this, helping to slow the flow of water across the landscape and higher up in catchments. It also means working with landowners and decision-makers to make space for and control the huge quantities of water we are seeing during floods.” 

Across the whole of Wales, 73,000 properties at risk of flooding already benefit from flood defences established by NRW. 

The funding settlement will also enable NRW to progress important mapping and modelling work to inform future potential flood schemes and coastal adaptation planning. 

5 May 2023 
Roger Milne, The Planner 

Muller submits Middleton care home planning application

A detailed planning application for the redevelopment of a three-acre brownfield site in Middleton, Greater Manchester, has been submitted to Rochdale Borough Council. 

Muller Property Group’s plans would see demolition of the derelict Parkfield House (formerly Chubb Locks HQ), located off Manchester Old Road. 

Muller said it worked alongside UK health and social care experts to find a “significant” statistical undersupply of appropriate care home beds across Rochdale borough. The planning application comprises a care home providing 80 en suite bedrooms.  

Communal facilities would include a café bistro, hair and nail salon, communal lounges and a communal garden.  The application also proposes the creation of 20 townhouses ranging from two to four bedrooms. 

The architectural features of the new properties have been selected to make a subtle reference to Parkfield House while existing trees and landscaping would be retained and enhanced. 

New recreational routes with links to the surrounding community are also incorporated into the layout to promote active, sustainable and healthy lifestyles.  

Colin Muller, chief executive of Muller Property Group, said: “Our planning application for Parkfield House has been carefully considered to ensure that it meets the needs of residents of all ages within Rochdale borough, 

“At Muller, we are very socially aware and a care home on this site will not only support our ageing population but also create around 70 long-term employment opportunities within health and social care, plus other auxiliary sectors. 

“We hope to transform this derelict site into a thriving new community which reflects its heritage whilst delivering properties that are ultra-modern, sustainable and, most importantly, somewhere residents are proud to call home.” 

3 May 2023 
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

Hospital car park plans approved in Norfolk

King's Lynn and West Norfolk Council has approved plans for a £42 million multi-storey car park at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King’s Lynn, Norfolk. 

The scheme will deliver a total of 1,383 parking spaces, which includes both short and long-term parking objectives. It will replace the existing car park at the hospital.  

It will feature:  

  • 18 electric vehicle (EV) charging points; 
  • 98 blue badge spaces; and  
  • relocation of the current bus stop.  

The trust is hoping to secure further funding for a wider long-term estate strategy for a new hospital for completion in 2030, as it has been operational for 10 years past its intended lifespan.  

Work is expected to start in two phases starting in late 2023, with completion expected in late 2025.  

Matt Price, director of transport planning at Hexa, said: “One of the main challenges of this plan was ensuring the accurate calculation of not only the current car parking demands of the hospital, but also what it may require further down the line. It was key to consider the displacement of parking during construction too, as the existing car park would be out of use for some time. We’re pleased our combined experience in the sector has supported QEH in getting this submission through and to develop a long-term strategy that will enable to provision of new facilities at the site.”  

Ben Flounders, director at exi Group, said: “Not only will this scheme act as an enabling project for the release of a key development zone for a future hospital, this multi-storey car park building will allow the hospital’s estates team to better manage and control its onsite parking demand in the short term, while benefitting from the latest technology such as parking eye Automatic Number Plate Recognition and app-based payment methods.” 

4 May 2023 
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

News round-up

Countryside set to build care home in Stockport 

Mixed-tenure developer Countryside Partnerships has secured a £25 million contract from Anchor to build a new extra care development in Stockport, Greater Manchester. 

Designed by Brewster Bye Architects, the works include the construction of 87 independent living apartments and 17 two-bedroom extra-care bungalows. 

Communal spaces include a lounge, bistro, health and wellness suites, guest accommodation and landscaped gardens. 

Marine Lake plans approved 

Sefton Council’s Planning Committee has approved £73 million plans for Southport’s new Marine Lake Events Centre. 

Based on the site of the former Southport Theatre, the Marine Lake Events Centre will be a flexible events space. 

It is expected to bring more than half a million new visitors to Southport each year and create new job opportunities, 

Construction work is set to start on-site this summer. 

Retirement village plans submitted to council 

Untold Living has submitted a planning application to Crawley Borough Council for a new retirement village on the site of a former care home in West Sussex. 

The later-living developer-operator plans to construct 105 one and two-bedroom extra-care apartments spread across two three and four-storey buildings, at the site of Oakhurst Grange Care Home, Crawley, which closed in 2013. 

Subject to planning permission, the development will also feature 10 bungalows of 915 square feet and 73,300 square feet of green and recreational space across the 163,800-square-foot site.    

On-site amenities will include lounge and bar space, dining area, orangery, hairdresser, cinema, activities room and a treatment room. 

Life science plans approved in Cambridge 

Cambridge City Council has approved plans by Mission Street and BentallGreenOak to deliver 64,400 square feet of life science facilities at The Press development in Cambridge. 

The new-build facilities will create lab and office space either as a headquarters building or up to six smaller suites. It will form part of a wider 100,000-square-foot development that is transforming a 7.8-acre site into a science and innovation campus through sensitive repositioning of a former printing press combined with state-of-the-art new-build. 

Situated in the Cambridge Southern Cluster, the site benefits from direct rail links to Cambridge Central, Cambridge Biomedical Campus (from 2025), and London King’s Cross. 

Construction of the new-build is set to commence this summer with completion in mid-2024. 

This will follow phase one, which is under construction and will provide two fitted lab and office suites totalling 16,000 square feet later this year. 

Dorset equestrian buildings plans approved 

Dorset Council has approved plans to transform equestrian buildings into five family homes. 

It will include the extension and development of new equestrian facilities near Motcombebin Dorset. 

An underused one-storey stable will be redeveloped into a trio of three-bedroomed houses, a redundant function building will be converted into a three-bedroom property, and a two-storey stallion block will be adapted into a four-bedroom home. To make space for the properties, the facilities at Half Moon Stud will be modernised with a new stable block. 

As part of the approved plans, Half Moon Stud will be located exclusively to the north of the site, separated from the new dwellings through a considered site layout and landscape strategy. An existing hay barn will be demolished and a replacement building will be constructed closer to the indoor riding school. 

Solar panels will be installed on the roof of the existing indoor riding school to provide renewable energy for the business, while an existing agricultural storage building will also be upgraded. 

Doncaster completes first affordable housing phase 

Doncaster Council has been awarded £100 million for the Council House Build Programme as part of its housing strategy 2020-25 and the housing delivery plan.   

The first phase of this round of the CHBP began in early 2022 across three sites and was completed in April 2023 by contractors Willmott Dixon. 

In total, 33 new affordable rented homes have been constructed including 21 two to four-bedroom properties (Adwick Lane, Toll Bar), seven two to three-bedroom properties (Appleby Road, Intake), and five two to three-bedroom properties (Athlestane Crescent, Edenthorpe). 

9 May 2023 
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 - 11 May 2023

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