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Planning news - 16 November 2023

Policy for build to rent across London boroughs is 'mixed'

Planning policy for build to rent (BtR) across all boroughs in London has been described as 'mixed' in a recent report.  

Planning consultancy Lichfields, behind the report, said far more could be done to provide a "comprehensive or consistent basis" for the delivery of new build-to-rent schemes in London. 

Planning for Rent: The Application of Build to Rent Policy in London highlights that despite demand for such properties rising, there is a "stark inconsistency" in how BtR is addressed in local plans across the capital. 

According to the report, of the 35 local planning authorities in London, fewer than half (46 per cent) make no reference to BtR in emerging or adopted local plans. 

Further, there are strong policy foundations contained in the London Plan for BtR, but it is not always present at the borough level. The report states that 45 per cent of bespoke BtR sites are within inner London, while 41 per cent of bespoke BtR developments, which have been secured via specific planning applications, are in just four boroughs – Brent, Newham, Ealing and Enfield. 

Adam Donovan, planning director at Lichfields and co-author of the report alongside Ben Kelway, said: “Our study into the build to rent sector in London offers a clear insight into the growth of this market and how planning policies are adapting. 

“It's evident that while the London Plan provides a robust and positive framework for build to rent, there is a need for individual boroughs to echo this support. 

“Boroughs must adopt a more proactive approach and align their planning policies to genuinely harness the benefits of build to rent. 

“In failing to do so, the build to rent sector in London is being detrimentally affected despite the high demand for secure, well managed rental properties. 

“If local authorities developed a bespoke policy for BtR developments, the sector would become a lot stronger and more stable, helping to meet the chronic housing need in the capital.” 

The report also notes that the London Plan advocates for greater flexibility in design policies for BtR schemes in comparison to traditional for sale schemes, but, this is not happening in practice.  

Of London’s BtR projects, half were granted planning permission as build for sale residential developments and were later managed by BtR operators. Borough policies "consistently fail to differentiate between for sale housing and BtR schemes". This means that planning applications for BtR are assessed against policy designed for private sale developments. 

Lichfields argues that this creates a requirement for each planning application for BtR to provide individual justification, therefore making the planning process for BtR more complex than it needs to be. 

Ben Kelway, senior director at Lichfields, added: “What is needed is a greater differentiation in development management policies and more flexibility in their application to assist in the delivery of BtR schemes. 

“In particular, policies covering design standards, amenity space requirements and dwelling mix should reflect the specificities of BtR. 

“BtR policy has come a long way in the last 10 years as the sector has matured and continues to grow. However, the planning system at a local authority level could do far more to promote and facilitate BtR developments in London. 

“The opportunities presented by good quality BtR developments in the right locations are significant in terms of housing delivery, affordable housing and London’s communities." 

Planning for Rent: The Application of Build to Rent Policy in London can be found on the Lichfields website.1  

13 November 2023 
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

Decision on DCO for A66 improvement delayed

The decision deadline on whether or not to grant a development consent order (DCO) for the A66 Northern Trans-Pennine project has been extended by four months to 7 March 2024. 

The decision was due on 7 November. 

Under section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008, the Secretary of State for Transport must make issue a decision within three months of receipt of the examining authority’s report. In this case the Planning Inspectorate sent its to the transport secretary on 7 August. 

In a written statement to Parliament, transport minister Huw Merriman said the reason for the extension was to allow further consideration of matters not resolved at the time the Planning Inspectorate's report was received by the secretary of state. 

Merriman said these include information submitted by applicant National Highways "regarding impacts on the North Pennine Moors Special Area of Conservation, to ensure compliance with the conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017". 

The A66 links Penrith in Cumbria with Scotch Corner in North Yorkshire. It is an important route for freight traffic and is the main link to the Lake District and North Pennines to the east of England. 

According to National Highways's application form, works would involve upgrading single carriageway sections of road to dual carriageway, as well as making improvements to the junctions along the route. 

A spokesperson for Transport for the North said: “We are disappointed to hear of a delay to the decision on upgrading the A66. But the important thing is to get the right answer, which we strongly believe is upgrading this key route to improve connections and experience for the people that use it. 

“Removing the bottlenecks along this key east-west corridor will make the road safer and more reliable for travellers and help freight get across the Pennines by linking ports on both coasts and providing onward connectivity to Scotland. It’s not only a hugely important route between the Lake District, North Yorkshire and the Tees Valley – and the dozens of communities in between – it also helps connect Scotland to our towns and cities. 

“We look forward to what we hope will be the go-ahead for this very important piece of national infrastructure.” 

The written statement can be found on the UK Parliament website2.  

More information about the application can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website3

13 November 2023 
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

Weymouth man must pay £4,000 after failing to comply with enforcement notice

A Weymouth resident has been ordered to pay more than £4,000 in fines and costs after failing to comply with an enforcement notice for using agricultural land for leisure purposes without planning permission.  

Aytach Hasan has been fined £300, and must also pay prosecution costs of £3,477 and a victim surcharge of £32 for a total of £4,109 after pleading guilty at Weymouth Magistrates Court. 

A councillor described the prosecution as a “warning” to others who would ignore enforcement notices. 

Hasan was prosecuted for using the plot, part of a subdivision of land with an agricultural designation, for leisure and recreation and for storage on non-agricultural items. He was required by the notice to remove all unauthorised assets – which included caravans, sheds and building materials – from the land by February 2020. When officers returned to inspect the land on several occasions between September 2020 and May 2023, no action had been taken. 

David Walsh, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for planning, commented: “This successful prosecution should come as a warning to anyone who thinks they can ignore planning enforcement notices without consequence. We gave Mr. Hasan more than enough time and support to comply with our instructions and, while we’re pleased with the result, it shouldn’t have come to this. 

“Many other plot owners in this area have also failed to take heed of our enforcement notices, and we will be taking legal action in due course. In the meantime, I want to thank our planning enforcement officers and legal team for their hard work in bringing this case to court.” 

13 November 2023 
Ben Gosling, The Planner 

2,500-home redevelopment scheme green-lit for Cardiff’s Butetown

A major mixed-use scheme including 2,500 new homes in the Butetown area of the capital has been given outline approval by Cardiff City Council. 

The proposals, by developer Vastint UK, are earmarked for a 19.1-hectare site comprising existing and former industrial land located to the east of the River Taff, west of Dumballs Road and between the city centre and Cardiff Bay. 

The site formed part of the Curran Engineering Works, which opened on the site in 1942. It produced munitions, armaments and aircraft components during the Second World War. 

Proposed is the demolition of existing buildings and structures and the creation of a comprehensive mixed-use redevelopment which, as well as the major residential element, would provide business space and a mix of leisure, food and drink, hospitality, retail and health and wellbeing uses. 

Also on the cards is new open space, including a riverside park and a water taxi stop, several pocket parks, tree-lined avenues and courtyard gardens. There are also proposals for two multistorey car parks, new pedestrian cycle and vehicular access points, a pedestrian footbridge, vehicular and cycle parking facilities, landscaping and public realm, and other associated ancillary and highway works. 

A report considered by the city council’s planning committee this week concluded that “the development will strengthen Cardiff’s role as a regional focus and deliver major mixed-use development and the more efficient use of land”. 

“It will deliver significant levels of residential development (up to 2,500 units), including a range and choice of market (rented) and affordable housing, including  5 per cent affordable housing on-site and an affordable housing financial contribution of £9 million (equivalent to 7.5 per cent)," the report explained. 

“The proposed mix of office, commercial and leisure uses, combined with the proposed residential units, will create a diversity of activities that will help sustain and enhance the day and nighttime economy, and create viable new communities.” 

The report added: “The scheme would promote the efficient use of land, make a positive contribution to housing supply including affordable housing, and deliver a resource-efficient and climate-responsive design that responds positively to and will significantly enhance the character, appearance, amenity and green infrastructure of the area.” 

All matters were reserved other than vehicular access. The application came with a design code and a total of seven so-called parameter plans which indicated that the development would be built-out in four phases and that the new buildings would be between five and 29 storeys in height. Most of the new housing would be one or two-bedroom flats but there would also be some townhouses. 

The scheme also features strategies on energy and, separately, public art. Officials noted that the project was policy-compliant with the local development plan. 

10 November 2023 
Roger Milne, The Planner

Life sciences hub approved in Cambridge

South Cambridge District Council has granted planning permission for a new 125,000-square-foot, next-generation life sciences hub in Cambridge. 

Gen Two's plans for ‘Alchemy’ will be delivered on a 5.2-acre brownfield site in Fowlmere. 

Two of the five existing two-storey structures will be retained and reused to minimise the embodied carbon impact. Gen Two said it is aiming to create flexible and adaptable ‘BREEAM Excellent’ laboratories and offices to support the increasing demand for world-class R&D space from the Cambridge southern science cluster. 

Eight self-contained laboratory suites ranging in size from 10,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet feature in the plans. These suites will be able to be combined to provide larger headquarters facilities. 

The accommodation has been designed primarily to target biotech occupiers and scale-up companies focused on the full spectrum of R&D – from biology to chemistry, and good manufacturing practices. 

A café-deli will also be delivered as part of the development, which Gen Two said will source local produce, as well as a new gym, co-working facilities and conference space, all of which the local community will be able to use. 

In addition, Gen Two is targeting 30 per cent biodiversity net gain at the site by planting more than a hundred trees, removing hard ground surfaces where possible to create a “haven” for wildlife, and local off-site contributions. 

Ariel Levy, co-founder of Gen Two, said: “As a team we’ve seen strong support from the local community for our new science and innovation campus. We’ve been through a detailed planning process, engaging early on with key local stakeholders, who have helped shape the project’s design through parish meetings, public consultation and an interactive youth engagement programme run in partnership with Greater Cambridge Shared Planning.” 

9 November 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

News round-up

Version 12 of Planning Policy Wales promised 'soon' 

The Welsh Government has confirmed to The Planner that version 12 of Planning Policy Wales (PPW) will be published “soon”. 

This comes after climate change minister Julie James highlighted that environmental and biodiversity measures in chapter six of the revised PPW have already taken effect. 

This (chapter six) involves a stronger emphasis on taking a proactive approach to green infrastructure that crosses authority boundaries; identifying key outputs of green infrastructure assessments; the submission of proportionate green infrastructure statements with planning applications; and signposting Building with Nature standards. 

Further clarity is also provided on securing net benefit for biodiversity through the application of the 'stepwise' approach (a project management system that breaks projects into structured steps from conception to review), including the acknowledgement of off-site compensation measures as a last resort, and the need to consider enhancement and long-term management at each step. 

The use of the green infrastructure statement as a means of demonstrating the stepwise approach is made explicit and the importance of strategic collaboration to identify and capture larger scale opportunities for securing a net benefit for biodiversity is recognised. 

Protection for Sites of Special Scientific Interest is strengthened with increased clarity on the position for site management and exemptions for minor development necessary to maintain a ‘living landscape’. Other development is considered unacceptable as a matter of principle. 

In exceptional circumstances, a planned approach may be appropriate where necessary safeguards can be secured through a development plan. 

In the case of trees and woodland, the policy message is that new planting should be part of development based on securing the right tree in the right place. 

Research commissioned on strategic planning 

The research team at the RTPI has commissioned a consortium of researchers to study the status and potential of strategic planning in England. 

The institute hopes to find out where common cause and unarticulated demand for more effective strategic planning may exist. Also, it wants to identify specific barriers that are preventing the emergence of more collaborative approaches to delivering on issues that transcend local authority boundaries. 

The consortium of researchers comprises the University of the West of England: Hannah Hickman MRTPI as principal investigator, Dr Stephen Hall, Dr Owain Hamner and Emeritus Professor Martin Boddy, together with Catriona Riddell FRTPI and Richard Wood MRTPI. 

The consortium was chosen following an open tender competition. 

The work is funded by contributions from the three northern English regions of the RTPI. Interim findings will be presented in the spring, and the full report will be published by summer 2024.

Council approves climate change plan 

Cherwell District Council’s councillors have approved a 12-month climate change action plan. 

The plan sets in motion seven key goals for the council itself and another 11 goals for the wider district. 

The measures include reducing emissions from the council’s buildings, vehicles and procurement to net zero by 2030. 

Windsor housing plans green-lit 

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council has approved plans by housebuilder Crest Nicholson for homes at its Windsor Gate development, in Windsor, Berkshire. 

The development will comprise 135 energy efficient homes, 54 of which have been designated as affordable, across the 13-acre site. Each of the 117 homes will incorporate air source heat pumps, while the 18 apartments will utilise hot water heat pumps and electric panel heaters. 

Residents will benefit from landscaped open spaces that also provide habitat for wildlife, including a wildflower meadow, community allotments, three play areas and further informal play spaces. 

Avant Homes completes housing deal with Sigma   

Avant Homes has sold 306 new homes across eight developments to a single family housing provider in the UK, Sigma Capital Group, for more than £59.5 million. The homes are set to be taken to market under Sigma’s private rental brand, Simple Life. 

Four of the developments are in north-east England, two in Yorkshire, and two in the East Midlands. Under the terms of the deal, Avant Homes will hand over completed homes to Sigma on each of the developments. 

Avant Homes was advised on the sale by a team at real estate consultancy Colliers, led by head of residential capital markets Mike Gorman. 

Crest Nicholson acquires housing land in Suffolk   

Housebuilder Crest Nicholson has acquired land as part of its Kings Warren development in Red Lodge, within the Suffolk countryside. 

The 14-acre site will deliver 141 two to four-bedroom new homes to the area, 30 per cent of which will be affordable. 

Work is anticipated to start in November 2023, with residents expected to be welcomed from May 2024. 

London borough consults on local plan 

Tower Hamlets Council is consulting on its new local plan for six weeks. 

One of the new housing policies in the plan proposes that development sites must offer a minimum of 40 per cent of new homes as affordable. Of these, 85 per cent should be for social rent and 15 per cent for intermediate housing.   

To address overcrowding, the council wants 65 per cent of social rented homes to have at least three bedrooms. 

The consultation closes on Monday 18 December 2023. More information can be found here4.  

Survey on what Banbury should look like 

Cherwell District Council has asked the residents, businesses and visitors of Banbury to contribute to a new vision to help Banbury town centre flourish through to 2050. 

Hemingway Design, a design studio, has been enlisted  to help with the engagement and development of Banbury Vision 2050. 

The council said it has already invited young people from Banbury’s local schools and colleges to take part in a workshop run by Hemingway Design to go through what they liked and what could be improved in the town centre and what things Banbury needed to make it a better place in the future.   

The survey for everyone to respond to can be found here5. The survey closes on Monday 15 January. 

Council approves plan to protect nature 

Neath Port Talbot Council's cabinet has approved an updated Biodiversity Duty Plan (2023-2026), a blueprint for conserving and enriching the nature in the county borough. 

The plan will now be considered by the full council. 

Wyndham Fryer Griffiths, Neath Port Talbot Council’s cabinet member for strategic planning, transport and connectivity, said in a foreword to the plan: “Engagement with nature has profound benefits for wellbeing and the council takes great pride in offering such accessibility to nature for its residents. 

“In 2021, the Welsh Government declared a nature emergency and the NPT Local Nature Partnership confirmed that UK and worldwide declines in biodiversity are mirrored in [Neath Port Talbot Council]. Special habitats and species in the region are under various threats, from habitat fragmentation to deteriorating conditions. 

“That made it even more important for the council to pledge its unwavering commitment to protecting and enhancing biodiversity while carrying out its responsibilities, contributing to nature recovery." 

The plans can be found on the council website6 (pdf).  

Architects appointed to paper mill design 

Architecture and interior design practice CPMG Architects has been appointed to design Metsä’s planned new tissue paper mill in Goole, East Riding of Yorkshire. 

If approved, the advanced manufacturing facility would be the largest tissue production capacity in the UK, and feature the latest in sustainable production technology. 

Anil Parmar, director and industrial lead at CPMG, said: “Designing the facility to meet Metsä UK’s ambitions to be fossil fuel free by 2030 and using cutting-edge sustainable production technologies is a challenge we are delighted to accept. 

“The site itself is more than 200 acres and, once complete, will have the capacity to produce 240,000 tonnes of tissue paper, so the scale of the project is self-evident. CPMG’s role is to make Metsa’s vision a reality, something which will bring us great pride when the wider positive impacts of job creation, manufacturing capability and economic growth are realised.” 

It is expected that the Finnish tissue paper manufacturer’s first venture into the UK could create more than 400 direct local jobs over the next decade. 

Consultation on plans for Leeds EV charging hub begins 

Views are being sought on plans for a new electric vehicle (EV) charging hub in New Wortley, Leeds, in an online public consultation. 

Planning and development consultancy Lichfields are hosting the consultation on behalf of bp pulse. 

The proposed development involves 28 covered ultra-fast charging bays constructed on a former gas holder site off Wellington Road in New Wortley. The facility would enable users to charge their vehicles in under 30 minutes, and would also comprise a retail/food and drink unit built to provide refreshments while customers wait for their vehicles to charge. 

It is expected that dozens of construction jobs would be created during the initial build phase with a further 29 full time and indirect jobs associated with the scheme, should it be approved. 

The public consultation can be found here7. It closes on 10 December. 

14 November 2023 
The Planner


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    Planning news - 16 November 2023

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      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.