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Planning news - 13 June 2024

Planning Portal news header image Thursday 13 June

Under the Environment Act 2021 the Government is legally obliged to halt the decline of wildlife by 2030. Major environmental groups, including the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, and Woodland Trust, have come together to implement a judicial review of government’s efforts so far – which they believe are woefully off track. The review, prompted by government’s failing to meet crucial nature and wildlife recovery targets, will aim to prompt the next government to take the necessary steps to redress the issue, whoever wins the election. 

Supported by the law firm Leigh Day, Wildlife and Countryside Link - a coalition of 82 groups - is calling for urgent government action to adhere to environmental commitments.  

The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has highlighted the government's lack of progress, stating it is "largely off track" in meeting its environmental goals. Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, emphasises the need to end the culture of non-compliance with environmental laws and urges immediate action to prevent further decline in wildlife and natural habitats.   

This comes just weeks after the National Audit Office1 claimed that the recent introduction of Biodiversity Net Gain legislation, although bold and necessary, is likely to make little impact in the immediate future as the planning sector were underprepared to take on the new measures.   

As we pivot towards net zero priorities nationally, and in light of the upcoming general election, we can expect to see increasing emphasis on environmental regulation within planning and beyond, to help us meet legal targets. 

In the built environment sector, we know better than most that the stakes are high, with declining wildlife populations and deteriorating habitats. The outcome of this case could set a precedent for the enforcement of environmental laws in the future.  

We’ve collated a wealth of information regarding sustainable planning and building practices for planning professional and homeowners, visit our sustainability hub for more information.2 

Manifestos outline key planning priorities

Over the last week we’ve seen the main political parties release their manifestos, hoping to muster support ahead of the general election – but what have they got to say about planning and building?  

Well, the Conservative Party has pledged to build 1.6 million ‘well-designed’ homes in the right places if they remain in power after the general election. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak launched the manifesto at Silverstone on June 11, committing to planning system reforms that include fast-track permissions for farm infrastructure. 

Visit the Planner’s website for more in-depth coverage on the Tory manifesto3. Alternatively, you can read the full manifesto here4.  

Meanwhile, the Labour Party has committed to overhauling planning rules and funding infrastructure to revive the economy. Their manifesto, released ahead of the general election on July 4, promises the construction of 1.5 million homes over five years, with a focus on a ‘new generation of new towns’ and council homes. 

Labour’s approach to infrastructure has been covered in more depth in this Construction News article5. You can read the full Labour Party manifesto6 here. 

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto promises to support councils with multi-year funding settlements and boost social housing, aiming to build 380,000 homes annually, including 150,000 social homes. They propose granting councils’ new powers to manage housing, such as increasing taxes on second homes and setting their own planning fees.  

Visit the Local Government Chronical7 for a deeper dive into the manifesto. You can read the full manifesto on the Lib Dem’s website.8

RTPI call on politicians to prioritise crucial planning measures

During the run up to the general election, The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) have emphasised how a robust national planning system is integral to delivering safe, sufficient, and sustainable homes. They recently released their ‘Planifesto,’ outlining their key planning priorities for political parties to take onboard. 

The ‘Planifesto’ calls on ‘political parties across the UK to support planners and realise the economic, social and environmental potential of planning’. 

They highlight the need for proper funding at council level to deliver planning services, the strengthening of local plans and collaboration with local leaders to avoid unsystematic, partial developments which negatively impact local communities. The ‘Planifesto’ also calls for clear explanations of how and where any planning promises in party manifestos will be practically delivered, and clear plans for net zero. 

The RTPI stress that leadership should focus on genuinely improving living conditions, not just making areas attractive to residents or investors. This includes enhancing residents' lives, health, and prosperity, and preserving the natural environment. 

The ‘Planifesto’ suggests reforming Section 106 and the Community Infrastructure Levy to make these tools easier for councils to use, and more responsive to the needs of growing communities, such as public services, green spaces, affordable housing, and utilities. It also advocates for removing restrictions on onshore wind and allocating specialists for sustainable energy planning to help meet net zero targets. 

Furthermore, the ‘Planifesto’ urges parties to promote sustainable, safe homes to address the housing crisis, including encouraging build-to-rent developments and using the planning system to make homeownership affordable. It addresses issues with the maintenance and stewardship of current areas and resources, suggesting the integration of retrofit methods and the introduction of ‘Local Environment Improvement Plans’ for better decision-making on environmental issues.  

It also call on parties to commit to requiring a qualified Chief Planner in every council, ‘to help improve the quality of planning services’. 

You can read the RTPI’s full ‘Planifesto’ here.9 

Concerns raised over ‘Clarkson Clause’

Recently, permitted development rights were extended to allow the conversion of disused agricultural buildings into dwellings and shops. The changes have been dubbed the ‘Clarkson Clause’ in response to reports that updates were inspired by TV personality Jeremy Clarkson’s undertakings, and although these changes have been welcomed by some, they have also been the subject of much debate already.  

Kerry Booth, chief executive of the Rural Services Network (RSN)10 has raised concerns on several grounds. Firstly, granting a whole new lot of permitted development could quickly lead to less local community input in planning decisions.

She also stresses that new permitted development regulations do not sufficiently protect the qualities inherent to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) such as remoteness and tranquillity, and that using permitted development as a route to potentially develop housing could lead to sub-quality dwellings that don’t meet local needs.  

She also stresses that new developments require adequate infrastructure, such as schools, healthcare and public transport – which can sometimes be lacking in rural areas.  

You can read the full response from Kerry Both of the RSN here.11  

This week’s biggest refusals

Below we’ve highlighted two controversial application refusals that have caught public attention recently. 

Buckinghamshire Council back refusal of Marlow Film Studio  

A 170,000 square metre film studio has been rejected over impact on green belt was not justified, Planning resource have reported. 12

The application included sound stages, offices, cafes, a cultural hub and a community centre.  

However the plan was rejected, on the grounds that it would cause ‘very substantial harm’ to the green belt, and this substantial harm led to the refusal of the proposal.  

It was considered that the benefits do not ‘clearly outweigh’ the harm.  

Following this decision, the CEO of Marlow Film Studios Robert Laycock said the ‘firm are now considering  “next steps”’. 

You can read more on Planning Resource’s website.13 

Extension to weapons factory refused 

Brighton and Hove’s planning committee have rejected an application to permanently keep a temporary extension to an arms factory open, against the advice of a planning officer, the Planner reported on 6 June14

The application to retain the extension received more than 600 objections, with a demonstration attended by more than 100 people. 

The officer’s report stated that the ethical or moral perception of activities at the site is not a planning issue, as the use of weapons and other items is regulated through other means, and that the impact of allowing the extension to remain permanently would be ‘minimal’ – however the council unanimously voted to reject. 

You can read the full planner article here.15 


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

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    Planning news - 13 June 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.