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Planning news - 12 April 2023

Inquiry reopened into controversial prison

The Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has decided to reopen a planning inquiry for a new prison in Leyland, Lancashire.  

The move comes after housing minister Lee Rowley, writing on behalf of the secretary of state, issued a ‘minded to approve’ decision for the prison – indicating that he would approve it if the appellant, the Ministry of Justice, could offer more evidence that highway safety issues could be resolved. This was met with anger from campaigners1

However, after representations from Chorley Council and the Ulnes Walton Action Group (UWAG), the inquiry will now be reopened. The appellant did not object to the move.  

A letter informing Chorley Council and UWAG of the decision reads: “He [the secretary of state] has decided to reopen the planning inquiry under Rule 17(7) of the Inquiry Rules as highway capacity and highway safety are inherently a technical and specialist areas and reopening the inquiry would allow highway evidence to be submitted and properly tested”. 

The remit of the inquiry will be solely the issue of highway safety, with no other issues being discussed.  

UWAG released a statement saying: "Whilst the Ulnes Walton Action Group (UWAG) would have preferred the secretary of state to have accepted the independent planning inspector’s recommendation to dismiss the appeal, we are pleased that he has agreed to the request made by them and Chorley Borough Council to re-open the planning inquiry into the proposal to build a mega prison in the small rural community of Ulnes Walton. This is the only fair way to enable both parties to submit further evidence in relation to the highway safety issues which are a major concern for the local community and which formed a major part of UWAG’s objection to the proposed development, particularly as it was able to demonstrate there are two alternative sites available in the north west of England which are as good as if not better than Ulnes Walton in terms of accessibility and highway safety.   

"The highway safety concern was shared by the independent planning inspector who cited it as one of the reasons for recommending to the secretary of state that the appeal be dismissed. The re-opening of the Inquiry will also provide the opportunity for a thorough examination and testing of the mitigation measures now being put forward by the Ministry of Justice. 

"UWAG also expressed concern - again shared by the planning inspector - that the urgent need for these additional prison places had not been adequately demonstrated by the Ministry of Justice." 

The full letter can be found here2

6 April 2023 
Lee Rowley, The Planner

Council in the South East submits local plan

Dover District Council has submitted its local plan to the Planning Inspectorate for examination. 

Responses received from the latest consultation have been submitted alongside the plan, which covers the period to 2040. Provision is made for at least 10,998 net additional homes. 

A total of 69 sites have been allocated for housing in the plan – 45 are greenfield and 24 are brownfield sites. Of the homes, 76.7 per cent are proposed for greenfield sites and 23.3 per cent are for brownfield sites. 

The plan also includes policies intended to ensure that infrastructure is provided to support any new development and to protect and enhance the natural environment. 

More information and submission documents can be found on the Dover District Local Plan website3

5 April 2023 
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

Land bought for Porthcawl waterfront regeneration

Regeneration proposals for Porthcawl’s waterfront that include hundreds of new homes have moved a step closer with the Welsh Government’s confirmation that it has purchased parcels of land on the seafront. 

The lands in question form part of a 20-hectare site earmarked by Bridgend County Borough Council for its ambitious plans to breathe new life into the resort’s Sandy Bay area, which is earmarked for up to 900 homes, a primary school, shops, and several recreational and leisure opportunities. 

The plans also involve an increase in the area of Griffin Park, with a road system running through the lower section of the park where the tennis courts are currently based. 

The land deals include the Coney Beach Amusement Park site and the adjoining section of land known locally as the monster park. It is expected that the amusement park – a popular feature in the town for more than 100 years – will continue to run for up to three years before any work starts. 

A spokesperson for the local authority said: “With the two sites now unlocked for significant new development, the Welsh government and the council will work in partnership to regenerate the area in line with the local development plan and the placemaking strategy for Porthcawl. 

“As part of the ambitious new plans for the area, Griffin Park will double in size. Access to the beach will be improved, and new retail, business and visitor facilities will be introduced along with a new primary school and around 900 much-needed new homes.” 

5 April 2023 
Roger Milne, The Planner

Garden town in Kent gets the go-ahead

Folkestone & Hythe District Council’s planning and licensing committee has granted outline planning permission for a garden town comprising 8,500 homes near Folkestone, Kent. 

Homes at Otterpool Park will include a range of types and tenures, including more than 1,870 affordable homes and more than 400 self-build homes. The development will be delivered on the former Folkestone Racecourse site at Westenhanger Station. 

The outline consent is for the principle of development at Otterpool Park, including the development specification, parameter plans and the strategic design principles that will guide detailed designs for each phase. 

The development is being led by master developer Otterpool Park LLP on behalf of Folkestone & Hythe District Council, supported by planning and development companies Quod, Arcadis, Tibbalds, and Farrells. 

The scheme aims to deliver not only homes but also jobs and community facilities in a “vibrant, sustainable new community characterised by large amounts of green space and its landscape-led setting”. 

This approval forms the first stage of a three-tiered approach to delivering the garden town. Frameworks for each development phase will follow, incorporating a phased masterplan, design code, and delivery plan for tier two, and reserved matters applications providing development detail for tier 3. 

Work will now see Otterpool Park LLP progress the detailed planning for the first phase, which includes the town centre and Castle Park, a park centred on Westenhanger Castle. 

Andy Jarrett, managing director at Otterpool Park LLP, said: “This landmark decision is a pivotal point in the delivery of Otterpool Park and follows seven years of planning, masterplanning and community engagement. 

“We are committed to creating an exemplar and sustainable garden town that will do so much more than meet local housing needs. This is about creating a new community that includes everything it needs to thrive now, and in the future, with a fundamental focus on enabling healthy, active, and sustainable lifestyles and early delivery of the infrastructure needed to support a community of this scale. 

“Having secured outline planning, our immediate focus now is to submit the details for the first phase and then start work on site by the end of the year.” 

The plans feature: 

  • Approximately 50 per cent of the application site will be open space with new cycling and walking routes and significant historic features retained including Bronze Age barrows, Roman villa remains, Westenhanger Castle and its medieval barns, world war airfield remains and Folkestone Racecourse’s parade circle. 
  • Creation of an integrated transport network to connect the new garden town and reduce car use centred on Westenhanger train station. 
  • Electric vehicle charging points and other measures aimed at limiting environmental impact and boosting nature biodiversity by 20 per cent. 
  • Up to 29,000 square metres of retail and related uses. 
  • Up to 87,500 square metres of employment floor space including commercial business hubs, a commercial business park and a light industrial park. 
  • Up to 67,000 square metres of education and community facilities floor space including up to seven primaries and up to two secondary schools, as well as nurseries and crèches, health centres, places of worship and community centres. 
  • Up to 8,000 square metres of hotel floor space and 8,500 square metres of leisure floor space, including a sports pavilion and indoor sports hall provision. 
  • Infrastructure and utilities including a new electrical substation and potable water network reinforcement and provision of a fibre-to-home broadband network. 

A council spokesperson said: “The creation of a well-designed new garden town at Otterpool Park, with all the necessary infrastructure, will fulfil the housebuilding requirements for the district for the next decade. 

“Residents across the district will benefit as smaller villages will be protected from inappropriate incremental development. 

“The revenue generated by Otterpool Park will also benefit residents and businesses across the whole district by providing the council with investment funds to support local services over many years to come.” 

The outline consent is subject to the completion of section 106 agreements. Enabling works, including advanced planting on site, are expected to start later this year. 

5 April 2023 
Laura Edgar, The Planner

£1.6bn for water infrastructure

The government and Ofwat have committed a £1.6 billion investment into infrastructure that aims to improve the quality of rivers, lakes, and coastal waters to secure future water supplies, subject to consultation. 

This follows a request made by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) of English water companies to “accelerate” investments between now and 2025 to tackle storm overflow discharges, reduce nutrient pollution from treatment works and address water resilience challenges. 

Part of the investment, announced in draft form by Ofwat, will see companies commit £1.1 billion to help eliminate the harm caused by storm overflows. Another £400 million will be spent on water resilience schemes and £160 million to aid nutrient pollution reduction. 

In addition, £400 million will be spent on water resilience schemes and £160 million to ameliorate nutrient pollution. 

The draft is subject to consultation, which closes on Monday 24 April. 

Water minister Rebecca Pow said: “These new schemes will help accelerate the delivery of the urgent improvements we need to protect our environment. It includes £1.1 billion of new investment to stop sewage discharges at sites across the country and will deliver a reduction of 10,000 discharges per year in places like Lake Windermere, the River Wharfe, Falmouth, and Sidmouth. 

“The investment set out here will also provide an important boost for regional jobs, businesses and local communities. 

“It builds on the key commitments in our five-year strategy – our Environmental Improvement Plan – as well as our upcoming Plan for Water to tackle pollution, reduce water consumption and protect our waters.” 

The government said it would publish its integrated Plan for Water tomorrow (5 April). 

Ofwat chief executive David Black added: “Substantial investment is needed to address the challenges to our water system of storm overflows, river and bathing water quality and drought resilience.” 

The draft includes: 

  • £800 million – United Utilities reducing around 8,400 spills a year, including reducing discharges into Lake Windermere. 
  • £67 million – Yorkshire Water improving wastewater treatment infrastructure in Ilkley to improve the bathing water quality of the River Wharfe (£67 million). 
  • £70 million – South West Water upgrading assets and storage to reduce discharges in Falmouth and Sidmouth (£70 million). 
  • £27 million – Anglian Water accelerating its regional storm overflow reduction plan in the East of England (£27 million). 
  • £18 million – Essex and Suffolk Water increasing water resilience in their area to better meet the needs of local customers including businesses (£18 million). 
  • £70 million – Severn Trent rolling out smart meters and modifying its Draycote Water reservoir in Warwickshire to increase water capacity (£70 million). 
  • £160 million – Improvements at 14 wastewater treatment works, with an aim to significantly reduce phosphorus pollution in protected site catchments. This includes proposals from Anglian Water to both reduce pollution and support sustainable housing development. 

"We are pleased that we’ve been able to work with companies and identify significant investments which companies can start well before the next price control period. This will bring substantial benefits for customers and the environment and bring them faster. We want to see companies making more rapid progress in delivering improvements, and will hold them to account if they fall short." 

The consultation can be found on the Ofwat website.4 

4 April 2023 
Laura Edgar, The Planner


High Court quashes inclusion of department store in conservation area

High court judge Justice Lane has overturned Spelthorne Borough Council’s extension of a conservation area in Staines-on-Thames, which allowed it to reject the demolition of a former Debenhams department store. 

Future High Street Living (Staines) Ltd’s plan to demolish the building and replace it with 226 build-to-rent flats received 268 letters of objection – many focusing on the loss of an ‘iconic’ building.  

The council refused the initial application in June 2022, citing its impact on heritage assets, including the Staines Conservation Area (SCA), overdevelopment, and lack of affordable housing. At the time of the decision notice, the building did not fall within the SCA. 

The appeal site was then included within the revised, extended SCA on 29th June 2022. The building had been ‘locally listed’ in March 2022. 

The claimant, Future High Street Living, claimed that the conservation area review had been carried out without considering their representations. Gail Stoten, of the Pegasus Group, prepared the representations, which highlighted Historic England’s opinion that the building lacked special architectural merit.  

The conservation area review was reconsidered in a ‘supplementary report’ (SR) in light of these representations, but the same conclusion was reached – that it should be extended to include the Debenhams building.  

The claimant challenged the decision, saying that the extension to the SCA was illegal, that the claimant’s representations hadn’t been properly considered, the officers' reports about the building were seriously misleading, and that the reconsideration exercise had been unlawful.  

Justice Lane concluded that the SR was not a “legally satisfactory response” to the omission of the claimant’s representations. Lane also held that the officer’s reports were “seriously misleading” in failing to mention that an application to place the building on the statutory list had been rejected by Historic England. 

Justice Lane did, however, reject the suggestion that the desire to preserve the building had been the sole “impetus” behind expanding the conservation area.  

Lane concluded that the judicial review should succeed. The ruling can be found in full here5

29 March 2023 
Ben Gosling, 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 - 12 April 2023

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