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Planning news - 19 May 2022

Averley calls for help with environmental assessment reforms

England’s chief planner is asking for professionals with experience of environmental assessments and the planning system to come forward and share knowledge ahead of consultation on potential reforms.

Last week’s Levelling up and Regeneration Bill introduced a requirement to prepare “environmental outcomes reports”. These are intended to replace Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) post-Brexit and will see relevant plans and projects measured against environmental outcomes to be set by ministers. 

However, the government has not revealed any details of how the assessments will be changed but has promised to launch a consultation on proposals for the new system.

Chief planner Joanna Averley said the government is conducting “user research” for addressing challenges in using SEAs and EIAs.

“This information will inform proposals to target the areas of EIA and SEA most in need of improvement, which officials will progress this year,” she said in the government’s latest planning update newsletter.

“We are keen to hear from individuals within the planning sector, particularly planning professionals located within local planning authorities, developers of any size, and infrastructure promoters, who have managed the Sustainability Appraisal or SEA process of their local plan or other plan – or who have recent experience of submitting or processing one or more EIA applications. 

“We are looking for people to share their knowledge and experience with us to help us develop and test opportunities for reform.”

In a speech in June 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson alluded to radical reforms to environmental protections, saying that “newt-counting delays” ahead of projects represented “a massive drag on the prosperity” of the UK, while environment secretary George Eustice also promised that month that a policy paper setting out the government’s approach would be published “shortly”.

The government has yet to reveal a timescale for the consultation on its latest proposals.

17 May 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has backed a second upgrade of the M25 within a week.

Shapps has granted a development consent order (DCO) following an application by National Highways to upgrade the M25’s Junction 28. Last week, he granted planning permission for the M25/A3 junction upgrade at Wisley in Surrey.

The latest upgrade will see a new two-lane loop road with hard shoulder for traffic travelling from the M25 northbound carriageway on to the A12 towards Essex, with four bridges built at the junction, which is between Brentwood and Romford. Additional capacity will also be added to slip roads and the junction reconfigured to prevent queues forming and causing congestion on the M25. 

National Highways said the junction is used by about 7,500 vehicles every hour during peak times. Shapps noted modelling which indicated that by 2037 without further intervention there would be a further deterioration in traffic conditions at junction 28 with delays at more than three times those currently experienced and average speeds reduced by 25 per cent.

He also found that the proposal “would have no likely significant effects on air quality and would accord with all legislation and policy requirements” and accepted the examining authority’s ruling that it would be unlikely to have a material impact on the UK Government meeting reduction targets for the 4th Carbon Budget. 

However, the transport secretary modified the DCO to require the applicant to carry out an independent review of the proposed bridges and structures’ design and to consult local planning and highway authorities.
 A ruling on the DCO was expected last December, but Shapps delayed a decision for “further consideration of environmental matters”, a factor also present in the M25/A3 upgrade.

17 May 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner

Affordable homes starts see big jump in London

The number of affordable homes started in the capital jumped significantly by 40 per cent in the year to March, according to latest statistics.

Figures released by the Greater London Authority show that work started on 18,722 affordable homes in the capital between April 2021 and March 2022, compared with 13,318 the year before. 

The number of affordable homes completed across London also rose last year, with 10,252 recorded in 2021/22, up from 9,051 homes the year before. This is the highest level of completions since Sadiq Khan was elected mayor and more than double the record low of 4,881 homes completed in the last year of the previous mayoralty held by Boris Johnson in 2015/16. 

The mayor’s affordable housebuilding programme is under way across the capital with every borough reporting new starts in the last financial year. More affordable homes were started by providers in Southwark than in any other borough, with work beginning on 2,090 homes. Newham was the top borough for affordable housing completions, with 1,156 finished last year.

The performance comes despite severe challenges to housebuilding in the capital, with the cost of construction materials rising by 24.5 per cent in the past year and the double impact of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic causing workforce shortages, with 20 per cent of building firms reporting recruitment problems. Moreover, 36 per cent of construction companies that responded to an Office of National Statistics business insights survey reported inflation of goods and services as their main concern over the next month. 

“Fixing the housing crisis is an enormous challenge, but these latest figures show that even in the face of the pandemic, Brexit and soaring construction costs, we are continuing to turn the tide,” said Khan.

17 May 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner

Government delays Sizewell C decision

The government has delayed a final decision on Sizewell C on the Suffolk coast until July and has asked for more information on the project.

EDF is planning to build a £20 billion two-reactor station to the north of the Sizewell B plant, which could power the equivalent of about six million homes as well as support up to 10,000 jobs in Suffolk and across the UK.

A decision on the development consent application had been expected next week but, in a Commons written statement, business, energy and industrial strategy minister Paul Scully said this will be taken no later than 8 July.

The government said the new deadline was to ensure that there was “sufficient time to fully consider further information provided by the applicant and interested parties in response to the secretary of state's post-examination consultation”.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “Sizewell C is certainly on the agenda” and pledged to “bring forward plans as fast as possible”. The government's energy security review in April also promised to build eight more nuclear reactors to help meet the country’s future electricity requirements.

Alison Downes, a campaigner with Stop Sizewell C, said: “EDF has clearly not taken this community with them, and the government has totally betrayed the faith of local people in due process by repeated commitments to Sizewell C when it doesn’t have planning consent, let alone a final investment decision.

However, the GMB union urged the government to approve the project as soon as possible. “Sizewell C is essential for meeting our energy challenges,” said national officer Charlotte Childs. “We need spades in the ground to keep the lights on and the production lines moving in the medium to long term.”

A Sizewell C spokesperson said: “This extension is understandable given the breadth of information provided on the project following almost a decade of local consultation to deliver Suffolk’s new nuclear power station.”

16 May 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner

Self-build and custom housebuilding statistics show sharp rise

The number of individuals and groups seeking to acquire serviced plots of land for self-build and custom housebuilding has soared in the past year, according to latest government statistics.

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities data for self-build and custom registers, which map progress on the right to build, show 12,263 individuals joined the registers between October 2020 and October 2021. This is an increase of 31 per cent over the same period a year earlier.

A total of 157 new groups signed up to the registers, up 12 per cent on the previous year.

The data also shows 58,813 individuals were on registers in total, an increase of 25 per cent from a year earlier, and 759 groups had signed up the register in total, an increase of 14 per cent from 2019-20. Local authorities granted 8,309 planning permissions for serviced plots suitable for self and custom-build, an increase of 7 per cent.

The National Custom and Self Build Association said regular reporting is helping to drive up registrations.

“While we welcome the progress made, these numbers remain far short of the numbers that reflect underlying demand in England, and the delivery rate in every other developed country,” said chief executive Andrew Baddeley-Chappell. “There are many reasons for this. Awareness of the registers remains low, and barriers to joining in many cases too high.

The statistics follow last year’s Bacon Review, commissioned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which estimated that between 30,000 to 40,000 self-build and custom homes could be delivered annually.

The government is expected to respond to the review shortly and is considering revamping the right-to-build legislation as well as introducing a ‘help-to-build’ scheme. This would offer equity loans to people who want to build their own homes.

15 May 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner

News round-up

Plans unveiled for historic Leicester city centre site

Plans for the major regeneration of the Corah site in Leicester’s city centre through a mixed-use scheme have been unveiled.

A hybrid planning application, by Cityregen Leicester and Galliford Try Investments, outlines up to 1,187 homes on the site of the 19th-century former knitwear factory, which is one of the last large regeneration sites in single ownership in the city.

The plans include developing a retail and leisure scheme as well as a significant public realm in the city centre. Full planning permission is sought to demolish nearly all buildings and construction of a first phase six-storey building of 44 one and two-bed flats.

The applicants say the Corah site’s industrial heritage will be enhanced, with the principal façade of the Old Textile Building – the oldest building on the site – and two historic chimneys to the rear of the site retained.
The plans will open up the Corah site to the public for the first time and create a linear park link between Abbey Park and the city centre via a new pedestrian bridge.


Urban warehouse network planned across the UK

Global real estate investment manager Invesco Real Estate and logistics specialist Barwood Capital have formed a partnership to build a portfolio of up to eight urban and ‘last mile’ industrial and logistics warehouses across the UK. 

The strategic partnership will focus on creating sustainable industrial warehouses through speculative development, asset management or “re-positional opportunities”, concentrating on locations with strong rental growth prospects and occupier demand. The total market value of the network is expected to be around £300 million.

“With further pressure on global supply chains, we recognise the need for ‘edge of town’ distribution assets as many firms reshape their operations to address the challenges of the ‘just in time’ delivery model,” said Invesco Real Estate Europe managing director Andy Rofe.

The partnership has acquired its first two assets, which include a 1.61-hectare site next to Manchester’s Trafford Retail Park to develop a multi-unit scheme as well as a consented 2.1ha site in Coventry, close to Junction 3 of the M6, where construction is set to start in July.

Barwood Capital director Edward Henson said, “demand for industrial space remains strong across the UK regions” and the partnership would “unlock development and asset management opportunities and capture the supply/demand imbalance that exists in key locations”.


Former RTPI president Brian Raggett passes

Brian Raggett, RTPI president in 1999-2000, has passed away. A memorial service will take place at the Park Crematorium in Aldershot tomorrow (18 May) at 3pm.

Born in 1955, Brian was very active in the RTPI in the 1990s and elected president for the year 1999-2000. He spent a good part of his career with Hillier Parker advising local authorities on retail schemes and later on became a partner with Strutt and Parker. A specialist in retail and high street planning, Brian contributed to reports and gave evidence to Parliamentary committees on a number of occasions.

Details of the service and donations to The Encephalitis Society and the Brain Tumour charity are available here1.


Liverpool city region consults on Local Transport Plan

A public consultation has been launched across the Liverpool city region into the latest Local Transport Plan (LTP). The new plan, which will replace plans published in 2011, will be the city region’s fourth LTP, and help to shape future improvements to the transport network until 2040.

The plan will be designed to align with wider ambitions, particularly the goal of making the city region achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 at the latest as well as metro mayor Steve Rotheram’s aims for a London-style transport system. It also aims to support economic recovery, sustainable growth and development in line with Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s Plan for Prosperity, Climate Action Plan and Spatial Development Strategy. The city region’s £710 million sustainable transport settlement will be used to help draw down future funds to deliver the transport vision.

“The upcoming LTP will play a huge part in shaping how we take our city region transport network forward in the coming years,” said Liam Robinson, the combined authority’s transport portfolio holder. “This will affect all city region residents, so we’re keen to make sure we get as many views on the draft plan as possible.”

In March, the combined authority signed off on proposals for a franchising system as the preferred method of running bus services in the six boroughs, the biggest shake-up in Merseyside’s transport since the 1980s.
The consultation2 runs until July 31.


Commission launched to shape London’s built environment future

Business campaign group London First has launched a Place Commission to produce a framework and make recommendations to evolve the capital’s built environment as it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Underpinned by research and analysis by Deloitte, the London First Place Commission will be chaired by Francis Salway, Landsec’s former chief executive. It will bring together leading businesses such as SEGRO, Grosvenor, the Crown Estate, Arup, Imperial College London and other prominent firms in the hospitality, legal and housing sectors, to consider how the capital’s built environment should evolve to help people thrive and business to succeed.

London First said the Covid-19 pandemic has prompted some of the highest levels of change in the use of buildings since the UK’s de-industrialisation in the 1980s, with many offices no longer at total capacity and the decrease in footfall having knock-on effects on retail and hospitality. London’s Central Activities Zone saw a higher drop in footfall than other UK and global cities, leading to a 60 per cent decline in retail transactions between January and July 2020. 

The campaign group warns that without intervention and the creation of a new plan for London’s built environment, there is a risk of the capital falling behind its international counterparts.

“London’s evolution as a place is vital to the city’s future economic success and its global competitiveness,” said London First chief executive John Dickie. “Decisions made now will affect how we live, work and socialise in the capital for decades to come, so it is critical that we get them right.

“The business leaders on our commission will look at new trends and old challenges to set a fresh vision and programme of action for London to make it a better place.”


Pilot scheme to test net-zero homes ahead of standard 

The Building Research Establishment (BRE) has announced a pilot scheme with residential developer Croudace Homes, to evaluate the impact of net-zero homes ahead of the introduction of the Future Homes Standard.

The scheme will see Croudace design and construct 10 ‘net-zero ready’ properties on its strategic site at Willowbrook Park in Didcot.

These properties will be developed and fitted with modern technologies including air source heat pumps and underfloor heating, to meet the Future Homes Standard. This will require all new-build homes built from 2025 onwards to be future-proofed with high levels of energy efficiency and low-carbon heating. The new homes will form part of a community to be developed by Croudace.

Once the homes are sold, with the consent of their new owners, BRE will evaluate the buildings’ performance against the Future Homes Standard.

BRE will monitor their internal environment, energy consumption and effect on occupiers’ lifestyles.


Modular homes firm goes into administration

A modular homes business that is part of a £55 million joint venture to install factory-built homes at Wirral Waters has gone into administration.

House by Urban Splash, which de-merged from the wider Urban Splash group in 2019, has already installed 30 modular homes at East Float in Wirral Waters in partnership with Peel L&P. A planning application had been submitted last week for another 50 homes on the site as part of a phased project that will eventually see 351 modular homes installed.

House by Urban Splash is a joint venture between Urban Splash shareholders, Japanese modular firm Sekisui and Homes England. It has collapsed because of what is described as “operational issues” at its factory in Alfreton in Derbyshire.

Teneo has been appointed as administrator for the business. Joint administrator Adrian Berry said it would look at “providing a platform to complete certain developments and explore sale options for the factory and the other development sites”. House by Urban Splash has also created modular homes for sites in Port Loop in Birmingham, New Islington in Manchester and Grappenhall Woods in Warrington. 

Urban Splash said the appointment of the administrator had “no impact” on the wider group or its operations, “which continue to run successfully”.

17 May 2022
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 - 19 May 2022

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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.