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Planning news - 16 February 2023

Khan orders second staircases for tall residential applications

All planning applications for residential buildings above 30 metres must now include a second staircase under a move by London mayor Sadiq Khan.

The decision follows a government consultation launched at the end of last year on a national plan to force developers to design second staircases in all new housing blocks of about 10 storeys. The extra fire safety measure could cost developers nationally around £1.6 billion over a decade.

“The mayor has consistently expressed concerns that the fire safety requirements in the national Building Regulations are not fit for purpose, so the proposed strengthened requirements and clear direction at the national level are strongly supported,” said the Greater London Authority (GLA) planning department.

“This consultation envisages a very short transition period with new developments being encouraged to prepare for this change now.

“In light of this we are clear that, with immediate effect, all planning applications which involve residential buildings over 30 metres in height will need to be designed to provide two staircases before they are referred to us at stage two for the mayor’s decision.”

The GLA is now working with the capital’s boroughs on schemes in the pipeline so that they include two staircases where necessary before any stage two referral.

13 February 2023
Huw Morris, The Planner

Planning applications achieve 84 per cent success rate

Almost 24,500 planning applications were made across the UK on average each month in 2022 with 84 per cent of them securing permission, according to an analysis.

Research by debt advisory specialist Sirius Property Finance reveals 20,500 applications were successful each month.

Northern Ireland had the highest average monthly approval rate, with 95 per cent of all applications given the green light, followed by North East England at 92 per cent and Wales at 87 per cent.

In the South East, which saw 4,491 planning applications made on average each month, the approval rate was 84 per cent. This equated to 3,772 successful applications each month and 18.4 per cent of the UK total.

A total of 75 per cent of applications in London secure permission each month. Although this was the lowest percentage of successful planning applications across the UK, at 3,444 consents a month this accounted for 16.8 per cent of the national total.

“Despite the economic uncertainty that came during the closing stages of 2022, we’ve continued to see a high level of market activity when it comes to the financing of both commercial and residential developments across the UK,” said Sirius Property Finance managing director Nicholas Christofi. “What’s perhaps more telling is the higher propensity of these developments in higher-value regions such as the South East and London, which suggest that a robust level of confidence remains in the market and that any fears of a property price downturn are largely behind us.”

13 February 2023
Huw Morris, The Planner

London council seeks to create design panel

Westminster City Council has announced plans to launch a design review panel for major developments.

The independent group would be the first for the local authority and would offer expert advice.

The council wants to recruit about 20 interdisciplinary members to the panel, including those with expertise in:

  • sustainability and low-carbon design; 
  • retrofitting;
  • architecture – particularly housing and mixed-use development;
  • estate regeneration;
  • greening, biodiversity and ecology;
  • urban design/public realm;
  • landscape architecture;
  • townscape and heritage;
  • inclusive access and design;
  • placemaking and community engagement; and
  • transport planning and engineering.

Geoff Barraclough, Westminster City Council’s cabinet member for planning and economic development, said: “Our city is constantly evolving – we are amongst the busiest, if not the busiest urban planning authority in the country.

“We expect the membership of this panel to be highly prestigious and challenging. Westminster must be unique in not only having a World Heritage Site, 11,000 listed buildings and 80 per cent conservation area coverage but one of the globe’s most famous night districts, the nation’s high street, a vitally important business and employment hub, and high-quality, much-loved residential neighbourhoods.

“Development in this context must rapidly evolve to be innovative and effective at meeting sustainability goals.

“Our planning team is among the best in the country, this panel will complement and help to ensure high quality is maintained. The advantage of this panel is that it will help us to innovate and embed best practice across the expertise needed to make great places will help us deliver a fairer Westminster.”

Applications will open later in February.

9 February 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has asked the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) to carry out an urgent review of national policy statements (NPS) in delivering major projects.

The probe is to identify how the planning system could create greater certainty for infrastructure investors, developers and communities as ministers prepare to publish an action plan on Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs).

The investigation will consider whether the current process of reviewing NPSs every five years is effective, and how strategic statements could provide more confidence in likely planning outcomes.

The current planning framework for NSIPs was introduced in the Planning Act 2008, with the Planning Inspectorate responsible for administrating applications on behalf of the secretary of state, who makes the final decision on whether to grant or refuse them.

The government says the regime initially helped speed up consenting, but “the system has slowed in recent years, with the timespan for granting development consent orders (DCO) increasing by 65 per cent between 2012 and 2021”. Offshore wind projects can take up to four years to get through the DCO process, it added.

The NIC will set out recommendations to speed up consents for major infrastructure projects, alongside the imminent action plan, drawing on insights from infrastructure operators, investors and representative bodies.

The study will not consider housing or business and commercial projects, which sit outside the NIC’s remit, and its recommendations will only cover England. A  final report is due to be published this spring.

13 February 2023
Huw Morris, The Planner

Study to consider more rail stations in Wales to counter M4 congestion

Five new rail stations are in prospect for south-east Wales as part of measures under consideration to ease congestion on the M4.

The Welsh and UK governments have announced that they are working on a £2.7 million study to develop options for new stations and services on the South Wales main line.

This follows Lord Peter Hendy’s 2021 review of UK transport connectivity. It highlighted the need to reduce congestion on the M4 to ease cross-border journeys.

A series of options will be considered as part of the joint study, including the creation of five new stations between Cardiff and the Severn Tunnel.

Welsh secretary David TC Davies, said: “I’m pleased to work with the Welsh Government on plans that could have a huge impact on the many thousands of people who use the transport network in South Wales every day.”

Lee Waters, the Welsh Government’s deputy minister for climate change with responsibility for transport, insisted: “This is a key step to tackle congestion around Newport and was one of the main recommendations of the Burns Commission1, which was endorsed by the connectivity review.

“The business case is compelling and we are keen to make progress so that we can get more people onto South Wales Main Line trains, complementing our investments in improving access to rail.”

Lord Hendy’s review also proposed improving transport links between North Wales and north-west England, better connectivity between Wales and HS2 services, and a package of measures to cut train journey times between Cardiff and Birmingham.

The news came as the Welsh administration outlined how its £1.6 billion transport funding is being implemented now that Transport for Wales has been tasked with developing regional transport plans for all four parts of the country.

Key projects include integrated public transport schemes in the north, south and west Wales. The latter initiative includes the Swansea Bay area.

9 February 2023
Roger Milne, The Planner

News round-up

Averley launches survey into local plan reviews

England’s chief planner Joanna Averley is urging local authorities to take part in a survey on local plan reviews.

The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) is looking to “gain a clearer picture” of local plan reviews across England as the introduction of a new system approaches. In a letter to planning authorities, Averley said the survey will “help us better understand the number of reviews taking place” in line with the Town and Country Planning Regulations 2012 and the National Planning Policy Framework as well as their outcomes.

The DLUHC said information from the poll is “for research purposes only”, and planning authorities “will not have their performance monitored against their responses”.

The survey, which closes on 10th March, is available here.

Thompson steps up to drive HS2

Sir Julian Thompson has been appointed as chair of HS2 nearly a year after becoming deputy chair at the company.

The appointment comes as a pivotal time for the HS2 programme as the Crewe-Manchester Bill moves through Parliament and work at Euston continues to progress and regenerate the surrounding area.

The Department for Transport said he “will be providing strategic leadership, oversight and accountability for the HS2 programme, ensuring it is delivered on time and in budget while continuing to create jobs, boost local economies and provide much needed capacity on our railways”.

Sir Jonathan was previously permanent secretary at both the Ministry of Defence and HM Revenue and Customs. As HS2’s deputy chair, he oversaw the creation of 1,000 apprenticeships and the completion of the first mile of tunnels at Long Itchington Wood in Warwickshire.

Elaine Holt takes over as deputy chair.

Lights to go out in City of London buildings

Buildings in the City of London will be required to switch off or dim their lights at night under proposals to cut light pollution and save energy.

The City of London Corporation is consulting on a draft lighting supplementary planning document that would “lay down requirements for future planning applications in the Square Mile and provide guidance on lighting existing buildings".

Under the plans, new developments would have ‘curfew times’, when all external lighting, other than required for safety, should be turned off or dimmed earlier if the building is in a sensitive place such as a residential or special heritage area.

Existing businesses and building owners will be encouraged to adopt the policy by signing up to a new "voluntary considerate lighting charter, to show their commitment to improving light in the City”.

The corporation aims to achieve net zero for the Square Mile as a whole by 2040.

Court of Appeal rejects parish council challenge to planning officer advice

The Court of Appeal has dismissed a bid by a parish council to overturn a country council’s decision to grant permission to extract pulverised fuel ash from a previously worked site.

Whitley Parish Council had claimed that North Yorkshire County Council made an error in granting permission to EP UK Investments after following a planning officer's advice on the weight to be given to a policy in its waste plan on the “best practicable environmental option”. The green belt site was used to dispose of ash from the Eggborough and Ferrybridge C power stations until 2018.

Senior president of tribunals Sir Keith Lindblom said the weight to be given to any material consideration “is always for the decision-maker alone to determine as a question of planning judgment, subject only to the court's intervention on public law grounds”. The county council had “rational planning advice based on the officer's lawful exercise of planning judgment, nothing more and nothing less”.

Solar panels set for King’s College Chapel roof

Almost 500 solar panels will be installed on the roof of the grade I-listed King’s College Chapel in Cambridge under plans to decarbonise the institution’s operations by 2038.

Cambridge City Council’s planning committee unanimously approved the proposals despite a recommendation for refusal by a planning officer and objections from Historic England. The panels are expected to supply 100 per cent of the chapel’s energy needs and reduce the college’s carbon emissions by more than 27 tonnes each year.

The chapel, which was built between 1446 and 1515, is considered one of the finest examples of late English Gothic architecture.

“As the planning committee noted, the panels will have only a very minimal impact on the visual appearance of the chapel, but will make a considerable, quantifiable difference in the process of decarbonisation,” said King’s College provost Michael Proctor.

“Having been careful stewards for nearly 600 years, as a college we are inherently aware of the duty we have to protect the chapel as a building of exceptional significance, for the benefit of everyone, forever.”

Transport companies launch partnership to build homes in London

Network Rail and Transport for London (TfL) have formed a partnership to deliver 20,000 homes across the Greater London area.

The two companies, which together own nearly 5,700 hectares of land across the capital, have pledged to work closely with the Greater London Authority, the capital’s boroughs, investors and developers to “leverage their joint landholdings”. Both companies aim to offer a masterplanning framework to dozens of sites across London and the south-east to develop homes in the next decade.

TTL Properties, TfL’s property arm, is building more than 1,750 homes and plans to start on eight more sites this financial year to deliver another 2,650.

“We are looking to combine our efforts to deliver more homes, with a focus on affordable housing, and with great social impact that benefits local communities as well,” said TTL Properties chief executive Graeme Craig.

14 February 2023
Huw Morris, 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 - 16 February 2023

      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 © 2023 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 © 2023 Planning Portal.