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Planning news - 14 March 2024

Budget 2024: Devolution deal for the North East, extension of Long Term Plans for Towns and investment in East London homes

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced a level 4 ‘trailblazer’ devolution deal with the North East Mayoral Combined Authority, and devolution powers through new level 2 devolution agreements with Buckinghamshire Council, Surrey County Council, and Warwickshire County Council have been granted.

The package for the North East comprises new funding “potentially worth over £100 million”, and includes a new Growth Zone to support the region’s growth ambitions, according to the Budget document.

Speaking in the House of Commons today (6 March), Hunt committed a £400 million extension to the 10-year Long-Term Plan for Towns to 20 more places: Royal Sutton Coldfield, Darlington, Runcorn, Canvey Island, Thetford, King’s Lynn, Ramsgate, Eastbourne, Harlow, Newton-leWillows, Rawtenstall, Wisbech, Carlton (Gedling), Bedworth, Arbroath, Peterhead, Kirkwall, Rhyl, Derry/Londonderry, and Coleraine.

In addition, the document states that £23.7 million will be invested into two shovel-ready capital projects in Bradford and Ashfield.

The Budget provides £6 million for work with the King’s Foundation to pilot how regeneration projects anchored around heritage assets and sustainability considerations, led by communities, can complement the government’s wider place-based initiatives for levelling up. This is subject to business case approval.

In addition, £100 million of funding will go to culture projects, subject to business cases. This is intended to support a combination of nationally significant cultural investments such as the British Library North in Leeds, the National Railway Museum in York, and National Museums Liverpool, as well as the development of cultural projects in places previously prioritised for levelling-up investment but which have not to date received levelling-up funding, including in High Peak, Redditch and Erewash. DLUHC is set to publish a full list and explanation on the UK Government’s website.

On cultural regeneration, the Budget document adds that the government will work with the cities yet to receive an allocation in Scotland – Perth and Dunfermline – to invest a shared £10 million for cultural investment.

An extension to Investment Zones in Scotland and Wales features, from five to 10 years. England received an extension in the Autumn Statement last year. The Budget document states that full details of the four Investment Zones in Scotland and Wales will be announced later this year. And details on the Northern Ireland Enhanced Investment Zone will be published “soon”.


The Budget allocated more than £240 million to housing projects in London, to unlock up to 7,200 homes in Barking and deliver a new life sciences hub and up to 750 homes in Canary Wharf. Additionally, the document states that “a new £20 million investment in social finance will build up to 3,000 new homes and improve capacity of local community groups to deliver housing”.

This comes after levelling up secretary Michael Gove announced a £90 million investment into the creation of new homes and neighbourhoods in Blackpool , a £67 million funding package towards the creation of two residential neighbourhoods in the centre of Sheffield , and £31 million to support regeneration projects in Liverpool at the Convention of the North last week (1 March).

Alongside this Spring Budget, and as part of its Long-Term Plan for Housing announced last summer, the government is to set out its vision for unlocking 20,000 homes in Leeds. A Euston Housing Delivery Group will also be established, with £4 million to support plans to deliver up to 10,000 homes.

The future development corporation in Cambridge will receive a long-term funding settlement at the next Spending Review, according to the Budget document. It confirms the next Spending Review will be after the General Election.

Nutrient mitigation and planning

The second round of the Local Nutrient Mitigation Fund has been launched, “which will support delivery of 30,000 homes by 2030 that would otherwise be stalled due to high levels of nutrient pollution”.

In a letter1 to local authorities, housing and planning minister Lee Rowley said the Expression of Interest process is open to all nutrient neutrality catchments. It “seeks high-quality proposals as part of strategies and programmes for delivering mitigation”. Costed proposals of up to £1 million are welcome. The Expression of Interest will close on 26 April 2024.

Also in the document is a commitment of £3 million to match industry-led funding for a skills and education programme to attract more people to take up roles as local planners in planning authorities.

The Spring Budget document can be found on the UK Government website2

6 March 2024
Laura Edgar, The Planner

DLUHC consults on accelerated planning service

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) is consulting on proposals to move to an accelerated planning service for major commercial applications.

This would mean a decision would be required within 10 weeks, with fees refunded if not.

The consultation was published shortly after chancellor Jeremy Hunt gave his Spring Budget on 6 March3.

The department hopes that proposals in the consultation would provide “greater certainty” to applicants and enable delivery partners to bring forward much-needed housing, commercial and infrastructure development at a greater pace.

The idea for an accelerated planning service was announced in the Autumn Statement in November 2023.4

The consultation notes that the statutory time limit to decide major planning applications is 13 weeks, or 16 weeks where an application is subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment, but that these time periods are not met in most cases.

Instead, the average (median) time to determine a major planning application is estimated to be approximately 28 weeks.

“All local planning authorities will be required to offer an accelerated planning service for major commercial applications. The applicant would pay a higher planning fee to the local planning authority which, in exchange, will be required to determine these applications within 10 weeks (rather than the 13-week statutory time limit), with a guarantee that the fee would be refunded if the application is not determined within this timescale,” proposes the consultation document.

It goes on to explain that the department is exploring two options for the detailed design of this service.

Option 1. Applicants could choose to use the accelerated planning service where their application meets the qualifying criteria or use the standard application route for a major development (with a lower fee and longer timescales).

Option 2. The accelerated planning service is the only available application route for all applications in a given development category. This would have the benefit of clarity and certainty for applicants and local planning authorities but remove the element of choice for the applicant.

The department proposes that the service would apply in the first instance to applications for major commercial development that comprise 1,000 square metres or more of new or additional employment floor space, including offices, storage and warehousing, retail, general industry, research and development, light industry, and advanced manufacturing.

Mixed-use developments that meet the employment floor space criteria would also be eligible to use the service.

The consultation also proposes:

Change the use of extensions of time, including ending their use for householder applications and only allowing one extension of time for other developments, which links to a proposed new performance measure for local planning authority speed of decision-making against statutory time limits.

Expand the current simplified written representations appeals process for householder and minor commercial appeals to more appeals.

Implement section 73B for applications to vary planning permissions and the treatment of overlapping permissions to ensure there are effective, proportionate and transparent routes to manage post-permission changes to development.

The consultation closes on 1 May. It can be found here on the UK Government website5.

11 March 2024
Laura Edgar, The Planner

DCO to improve A66 granted

Transport minister Huw Merriman has granted a development consent order (DCO) for plans to improve the A66 between the M6 motorway at junction 40 at Penrith and the A1(M) junction 53 at Scotch Corner.

The A66 Northern Trans-Pennine plans were submitted by National Highways.

Consent was sought for the construction and alteration of the A66, including upgrading single-carriageway sections of the road to dual-carriageway and improving junctions along the route. Parts of the project are offline, meaning new sections of the road will follow a different route and connect to the main A66 alignment.

The examining authority – the Planning Inspectorate – recommended granting the DCO.

This decision was delegated by the secretary of state to the Minister of State, Huw Merriman. Where the decision letter refers to the secretary of state, Merriman undertook the judgment. 

The A66 dualling project is identified in both the Road Investment Strategy 2015-2020 (‘RIS1’) and the Road Investment Strategy 2020-2025 (‘RIS2”), as well as being identified as a key national and regional strategic transport corridor.

The transport minister and the examining authority agreed that the current part-dualled, part-single carriageway nature of the A66 is “unsatisfactory and the cause of substantial delays”, and that the scheme would “relieve current problems, accommodate future traffic demand and reduce congestion to enable economic growth”.

The examining authority agreed with National Highways that if the A66 is not improved, “it will constrain national and regional connectivity and may threaten the transformational growth envisaged by the Northern Powerhouse initiative and the achievement of the government’s levelling up agenda”. Merriman agreed with this summation.

The decision letter states that the minister is “satisfied that there is a presumption in favour of granting development consent for national network Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects that fall within the need for infrastructure established in the NPSNN and that the proposed development represents such a project”.

The minister and the examining authority are in agreement that the applicant has identified, assessed, and addressed the air quality impacts of the development while neutral weight was ascribed to the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) advice that “the rate of emissions reductions in the UK will need to significantly increase to meet its 2030 NDC (nationally determined contributions) and the 6CB (Sixth Carbon Budget)”. The minister noted that the CCC’s advice “is not planning policy but simply advice to government, which government is free to accept or reject”.

The decision letter goes on to state that the minister is aware that all emissions contribute to climate change.

Although the development will increase carbon emissions, he considers development “needs to be considered in the context of existing and emerging policy and legal requirements to achieve the UK’s trajectory towards net zero”.

“The secretary of state therefore agreed with the examining authority that the proposed development’s effect on climate change would be minor adverse and therefore negative. However, the secretary of state considers that the proposed development will not significantly impact government’s ability to meet carbon targets and therefore net zero and the Paris Agreement 2015 and the likelihood of the government’s legally binding targets decreasing carbon emissions over the lifetime of the proposed development, limited negative weight is attached to this.”

The minister and the examining authority concurred that the landscape mitigation proposed by the applicant would reduce the impact of the development on the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to an acceptable degree.

The DCO was granted.

Martin Tugwell, Transport for the North’s chief executive, said: “This is very welcome news that the people and businesses across Cumbria, Durham, North Yorkshire and the Tees Valley have been calling for over many years. TfN set out the strategic importance of this scheme at its Inquiry and it is good news to see the secretary of state confirm the order. 

“Dualling the A66 will deliver vital improvements to east-west connectivity in the North. It will remove bottlenecks along this key corridor, make the road safer and more reliable for everyone who uses it, including the high percentage of freight using the route, and connect our towns and cities to Scotland.

“It will be one of the biggest investments in the North’s road network for a generation and we look forward to continuing to work with National Highways as they deliver this very important piece of national infrastructure.”

The decision letter and all documents relating to the development can be found here on the Planning Inspectorate website. 

11 March 2024
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Planning minister designates St Albans and Bristol councils

Housing and planning minister Lee Rowley has written to St Albans City and District Council and Bristol City Council to criticise the speed of decision-making concerning applications for planning permission for non-major development.

The designation notices are made under section 62A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

In the notifications sent to the councils, Rowley explains that the secretary of state has considered data for the two years ending on 30 September 2023 on the speed of decision-making on applications for planning permission for non-major development.

The secretary of state considers that there are respects in which the local planning authorities are not “adequately performing their function of determining applications for planning permission for non-major development under Part 3 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990”. Therefore, it is appropriate to designate them.

The designation criteria for a local planning authority's performance in determining applications for non-major development means applicants for householder applications and retrospective applications cannot be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. These applications should continue to be submitted to the council. Other non-major applications can be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate.

The designations will “remain in force until revoked”.

In a statement sent to The Planner, a Bristol City Council spokesperson said: “Notice has been received that the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, has decided to designate Bristol City Council’s planning service in relation to the speed of decision making for non-major planning applications.

“We apologise to any residents, businesses and community groups that have received an unsatisfactory service from us.

“Bristol City Council’s planning service has a clear vision and a credible plan to recover the situation and offer a consistently high-quality service, despite the financial position faced by local government across the country.

“Supported by the Planning Advisory Service, the service has already seen a steady improvement in performance, and we expect to eliminate the backlog of cases by the early summer.”

In a statement on the council website, Chris White, leader at St Albans City and District Council, said: “Naturally, we are disappointed, given that the council is confident that we have a robust plan in place to deal with the current backlog in planning applications.

“Our hard-working staff are dedicated to delivering an effective planning service and the council is already making steady and welcome progress in the right direction. The team has worked hard to reduce the backlog which has resulted in a reduction from 480 cases to 300 cases since October last year.

“Action has also been taken to implement recommendations made by the Planning Advisory Service which visited the council in November to undertake a review of the service. They are aware of our improvement plan. Indeed, the government has recently provided additional funding through the Planning Skills Development Fund which means we have been able to plan for a greater number of staff to tackle the planning backlog. This funding was conditional on our improvement plan. It is therefore baffling why the government has chosen this moment to initiate the designation process.

“St Albans City and District Council has one of the busiest planning teams of any district in the country yet planning fees in no way cover the cost of operating the service. The additional funding has been an extremely important factor in being able to deliver the improvements made so far.

“As with any improvement measure, things may look statistically worse before they get better. The council is committed to addressing the backlog and as a result, we will be pushing to determine more applications, both to tackle those in our backlog and to keep on top of new applications. 

“We will, of course, work with DLUHC and the Planning Advisory Service to ensure the service improves further and works as efficiently as possible given the funding position.”

Chorley and Fareham

In December, housing secretary Michael Gove designated6 Chorley Council and Fareham Borough Council for the quality of decision-making in respect of applications for planning permission for major development under section 62A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Eligible planning applications can go to the secretary of state and be handled by the Planning Inspectorate, bypassing the councils. 

The designation notices can be found on the UK Government website.

St Albans City and District Council7  

Bristol City Council8

6 March 2024
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Restricting second homes and short-term lets in Wales could constrain tourism sector

There is a ‘risk’ that restricting second homes and short-term lets in Wales could constrain the growth of the tourism sector and limit job growth in areas that rely upon the sector as a key source of employment.

This is a warning made in a report by planning consultant Lichfields' Cardiff office.

It calls for a more unified approach to planning policy in Wales to improve the long-term future for the country’s housing and holiday accommodation sectors.

Sun, Sea, Sand and Article 4 Directions acknowledges that tourism is a critical part of the country’s economy, creating jobs for local people, particularly in rural areas. It attracts billions of pounds of expenditure annually from visitors and holidaymakers.

But there are challenges around the impact of second homes and short-term holiday lets, which accounted for 2.5 per cent of all dwellings in Wales in 2023. Gwynedd, Pembrokeshire, and Anglesey are noted as particularly attractive places for holidays and therefore second homes and short-term lets.

Lichfields also noted that increased remote and hybrid working may also be affecting local property markets.

In July 2021,  climate change minister Julie James announced that part of Wales would become a pilot area for new measures such as changes to tax and planning regulations in a bid to tackle Wales’s second homes crisis. Then in November  of that year, a cap on second and holiday homes was one of 46 policy areas through which radical action was promised following a deal struck between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.

Concerns about second homes include the hit to local house prices, declining rural populations and loss of regional identity, the cause of which is a shortage of housing – the Welsh Government says at least 110,000 homes are required between 2019 and 2039.

Lichfields argues, however, that these results should not always be attributed solely to incomers purchasing second homes or holiday lets, adding that it believes the government’s figure of 110,000 homes is an underestimation.

Cyngor Gwynedd  is bringing in an Article 4 Direction in September this year to control the number of second homes and holiday lets across its area. Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park  is considering doing the same.

But Sun, Sea, Sand and Article 4 Directions questions whether this would be effective in improving affordability of housing for local people or retaining Welsh speakers.

Stephanie Irvine, a senior planner at Lichfields’ Cardiff office and co-author of the report, explained that there is a risk that restricting second homes and short-term lets could constrain the growth of the tourism sector and limit job growth in areas that rely upon the sector as a key source of employment.

She highlighted that in Conwy, tourism jobs account for more than 16 per cent of the overall jobs market.

“It is important that Article 4 Directions do not stifle the tourism industry and its socio-economic benefits for local communities by restricting the supply of new holiday accommodation.

“Our report calls for any local planning authorities seeking to implement Article 4 Directions to develop a robust evidence base that recognises the value of the tourism industry to local communities and its reliance upon the provision of holiday accommodation, whilst retaining needed permanent homes for local residents. The urgent need to provide more general housing across Wales cannot be met solely by restricting the number of holiday homes.

“While there are localised pressures in some areas, a focus on tourists and second homes is somewhat of a deflection of the wider need to deliver more housing across Wales.”

Joe Thompson, Senior planner and the report’s co-author, added: “Tourism is an important component of the Welsh economy. Local authorities should therefore strengthen policy support for visitor accommodation so that the tourism industry can continue to grow and attract investment. Clear policy would create opportunities for sustainable tourism initiatives to come forward, with local operators better able to engage in the planning process.”

Sun, Sea, Sand and Article 4 Directions can be found here on the Lichfields website.9

12 March 2024
Laura Edgar, The Planner

News round-up

Plans for Waterloo station revealed

Lambeth Council and Network Rail have partnered with numerous stakeholders to formulate a long-term strategy for the ongoing development of London Waterloo station and the surrounding Waterloo and South Bank area.

The vision presents several proposed enhancements and upgrades, encompassing:

  • More than 40 upgraded walking and cycling paths, along with over 15 enhanced entry points to both the station and the city;
  • A redesigned northern concourse;
  • A new southern station concourse;
  • Enhanced public spaces;
  • Increased green infrastructure, with approximately 1,900 square metres of new green space surrounding the station, and planting hundreds of new trees;
  • Enhanced bus and taxi interchange; and
  • Creation of new workspace, a retail and leisure offer and employment opportunities.

More information can be found on the Lambeth Council website10.

Richborough sells land in Bedworth to housebuilder

Richborough, a land promoter, has sold a 75-acre residential development site in Bedworth to housebuilder Persimmon Homes.

Situated on Hospital Lane, the development will provide up to 455 homes ranging from one to five bedrooms, a 55-unit senior living facility, of which 25 per cent will be affordable, alongside a 3.5-acre district centre.

It also includes 22 acres of open spaces including a children’s play area, outdoor and green gym, community orchard and allotment, and wildlife park.

A bus route will run through the development with new cycling and bus routes and two vehicular access points from Hospital Lane.

Panattoni acquires site in Swindon

Global law firm Ashurst has advised industrial developer Panattoni on the acquisition and £900 million regeneration of the former Honda car manufacturing site in Swindon.

Panattoni is investing £900 million into the site, which will see 11 net-zero carbon buildings used for manufacturing, logistic warehouses and data centres. The investment includes improvements to wildlife habitats and biodiversity across the area.

Following the final agreements and redevelopment plans being formally approved by Swindon Borough Council, regeneration work is now set to begin.

Public park plans in Shrewsbury green-lit

Shropshire Council’s Planning Committee has approved the first stage of the Smithfield Riverside regeneration project in Shrewsbury to deliver a new public park.

The regeneration project is set to transform the area between the River Severn, the Darwin Centre, Roushill and Raven Meadows in Shrewsbury town centre.

Derived from £19 million from the government's Levelling Up Fund, initial actions will entail demolishing the Riverside shopping centre and former Riverside medical practice, allowing for on-site preparations in support of future project phases.

The green park will feature play equipment, facilities for visitors of all ages, and an events and performance area.

Wind turbine plans approved in East Yorkshire

Local planning officers have approved plans for a new wind turbine in an East Yorkshire village.

Sellmor Farming Ltd, the wind turbine operator, is set to implement a repowering project in Thorpe-Le-Street, following National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) guidelines.

The initiative involves the installation of a 90-metre, 1MW wind turbine on North Farm land. The purpose is to replace the current older turbine with a more efficient model, aligning with efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of North Farm and enhance onsite energy security.

Khan supports green ambitions

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced a £34 million boost to London’s net-zero goals with three new beneficiaries of his Green Finance Fund (GFF).

The London Fire Brigade, Crystal Palace National Sports Centre and the London Borough of Barnet will all receive finance to support their decarbonisation plans.

Khan has approved £10 million of investment into an energy network and energy-efficiency measures at the renovated Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. These measures are expected to reduce the centre's total carbon emissions by over 90 per cent through enhanced insulation, upgrades to window glazing, installation of new LED lighting and an integrated building management system.

The fund will also contribute over £13 million towards the installation of an air-source heat pump network to serve both the centre, adjacent stadium, and associated sporting facilities which would allow it to go all-electric.

The sports centre is undergoing redevelopment and Khan hopes a planning application will be brought forward this year with a contractor starting work in 2025. 

The London Fire Brigade will receive a £22.4 million financing facility to upgrade the electrical infrastructure of 55 London fire stations to support the transition to an electric vehicle fleet.

The mayor has also said that Barnet Council will receive a £2 million loan from the fund to support the borough’s £12 million corporate estate retrofit programme across 1,000 buildings, including 150 schools.

12 March 2024
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

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  9. “It%20is%20important%20that%20Article%204%20Directions%20do%20not%20stifle%20the%20tourism%20industry%20and%20its%20socio-economic%20benefits%20for%20local%20communities%20by%20restricting%20the%20supply%20of%20new%20holiday%20accommodation.

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    Planning news - 14 March 2024

      The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). All content © 2024 Planning Portal.

      The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). All content © 2024 Planning Portal.