Weekly planning news
Planning news - 19 October 2023
Government urged to adopt ‘greater transparency’ on impact of net zero policy updates
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has called on the government to take on ‘greater transparency’ in updating its assessment of policy impacts at the time of major announcements on net zero.
This comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave a press conference in September1 announcing a relaxation on measures designed to meet the UK's climate targets.
Sunak said he is “proud that our country leads the world on net zero, with the most ambitious 2030 target of any major economy” but argued that meeting climate targets, such as achieving net zero by 2050, can be done “in a fairer, better way”.
Changes included moving back the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035 and the ban on new fossil fuel boilers for certain households will be delayed. Cash grants for boiler upgrade schemes will increase by 50 per cent to £7,500 for those who want to transition now.
The chancellor and energy security secretary will also bring forward comprehensive new reforms to energy infrastructure.
The CCC highlights these changes as well as others, such as a deal being reached to electrify steelmaking at Port Talbot and the fifth auction round (AR5) for Contracts for Difference (CfDs) failing to attract bids for offshore wind projects.
The recent announcements “were not accompanied by corresponding estimates of their effect on emissions, nor with evidence to back the government’s assurance that the UK’s targets will still be met", the CCC pointed out, describing it as "unhelpful".
In June2, the committee said it was concerned that the government had been "too slow" to support and adopt cleaner, cheaper alternatives to fossil fuels, rather, then committee chair Lord Deben said the government has been “too keen” to support new production of coal, oil and gas.
The committee’s confidence in the UK meeting its goals from 2030 onwards is “now markedly less than it was in our previous assessment a year ago”, according to its report Progress in Reducing Emission: 2023 Report to Parliament.
Professor Piers Forster, chair of the Climate Change Committee, welcomed the "tangible positive policy progress" in some key areas, but the relaxation of “important” policies to decarbonise buildings and transport has countered the positive progress of other announcements.
“We remain concerned about the likelihood of achieving the UK’s future targets, especially the substantial policy gap to the UK’s 2030 goal. Around a fifth of the required emissions reductions to 2030 are covered by plans that we assess as insufficient. Recent policy announcements were not accompanied by estimates of their effect on future emissions, nor evidence to back the government’s assurance that the UK’s targets will still be met. We urge the government to adopt greater transparency in updating its analysis at the time of major announcements.
“Our position as a global leader on climate has come under renewed scrutiny following the prime minister’s speech. We urge the government to restate strong British leadership on climate change in the crucial period before the next climate summit, COP28 in Dubai.”
16 October 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Plymouth establishes green bank so BNG requirements benefit the city
Plymouth City Council’s cabinet has approved a £500,000 loan for a habitat bank that aims to make sure the city's natural habitats are enhanced and maintained.
Ocean City Nature was established in March 2023. It is also designed to ensure that the biodiversity net gain required by the Environment Act 2021 for large developments benefits the city and its residents.
The mandatory 10 per cent requirement was due to come into force in November but has been delayed until January 2024. This was confirmed at the end of September3.
The government has said that by the end of November, it will have published all guidance and regulations related to BNG.
Ocean City Nature will be an arm's length, council-owned company initially funded by a
£500,000 loan from the local authority. The project was conceived and developed through the Future Parks Accelerator (FPA) – a joint initiative between the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the National Trust. Support was provided by the impact investment adviser Finance Earth, and additional funding support came from the Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs' (Defra) Natural Environment Impact Readiness Fund.
Plymouth City Council, the first council in the UK to roll out this model, explained that it believes this model could pave the way for how local government can protect and improve the natural environment, as well as how “fresh thinking and enterprise” can encourage economic development in urban areas.
The council also wants to guarantee that investment in biodiversity is realised in Plymouth, rather than elsewhere.
Approved by the council's cabinet today (16 October), the loan will be used to enhance biodiversity in Cann Woods, Ham Woods and Chelson Meadow. Work will include tree planting, coppicing and thinning, improved grassland management and seed sowing. This work will be carried out over the first year of operation.
During the cabinet meeting, Councillor Tom Briars-Delve highlighted the recent State of Nature 20234 report, published in September, which found that across the UK species studied have declined on average by 19 per cent since 1970, while nearly one in six species is threatened with extinction from Great Britain.
He set out the benefits of the habitat bank, including that the model will be an effective means to channel millions of pounds of funding into local green spaces. "We want Plymouth's fields, woods and wetland habitats to benefit directly for the sake of our nature and our communities. Done right, the habitat banking vehicle could be our best opportunity to give nature recovery in Plymouth the helping hand it desperately needs."
As part of the BNG requirements, developers who build in the city will be able to purchase 'units' of already established biodiversity from Ocean City Nature in order to fulfil their legal obligations, contributing to the city's goal to create an environmental legacy in publicly owned natural environments.
Income from selling BNG units will be used to repay the £500,000 loan and fund the maintenance of the sites.
The income from the sale of the units will then be used to repay the initial loan with interest and fund the ongoing maintenance of the sites.
Harry Bowell, director for land and nature at National Trust and FPA board member, said it is hoped the model is useful to other local authorities wanting to restore nature in ways that benefit their local communities.
"It’s vital government seizes the opportunity to build the capacity of cities and towns across the country to follow Plymouth’s lead in creating new ways to invest long term in urban nature recovery.”
Richard Speak, founder director at Finance Earth added: “Ocean City Nature is a significant moment - it represents a new way of thinking about how to revitalise green spaces in our towns and cities and reverse the decline in biodiversity. Unlocking new funding from nature markets in this way should be a key priority for all local authorities looking to deliver for their communities and nature. It is exactly the type of project the UK Nature Impact Fund will facilitate across the country.”
16 October 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Masterplan promotes potential of Tamworth town centre
A Town Centre Investment Strategy for Tamworth in Staffordshire aims to bring forward new opportunities for development to regenerate the town centre.
Produced by Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design for Tamworth Borough Council, the strategy follows a number of improvement projects brought forward with the £21.65 million awarded to the council from the government's Future High Streets Fund in 2020.
It is intended to build on this with a further round of initiatives and a comprehensive plan for the town’s evolution.
This centres on an outline of key strategic moves, a town centre masterplan framework, layouts and a plan for how future development could evolve. Tibbalds said its report illustrates the potential for future development and investment to regenerate the town while respecting its history and heritage.
The strategy features short, medium and long-term opportunity areas and identifies areas for regeneration, including the Gungate South town centre site.
Overall, these sites present an opportunity to provide around 700 new homes and flexible space for a wider range of town centre uses that are connected by sustainable and active forms of transport.
Lizzie Le Mare, director at Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design, commented: “Tamworth has a compact and attractive town centre and has great potential to attract visitors with its pedestrianised historic centre, open spaces and riverside. However, despite its attractive setting, there are currently limited opportunities for residents and visitors to dwell and a lack of sustainable transport connections to other residential areas close to the town centre.
“Tamworth Borough Council has been proactive in prioritising the future of its town, and our report identifies a range of new investment and development opportunities that could be brought forward to revitalise the town centre and help it become a successful, thriving and people-friendly place.”
Alongside Tibbalds' masterplanning input, the report features contributions from Aspinall Verdi, which has provided viability and deliverability advice and Urban Flow, which advised on transport.
12 October 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Public Practice’s autumn cohort get to work
Social enterprise Public Practice has announced that the 2023 autumn cohort totals 29 associates who will join 27 authorities in England, including borough, district, and unitary councils.
Nine local authorities will be working with Public Practice for the first time, including Somerset, Rugby borough, Rochdale borough and Middlesborough councils.
There was a high level of interest in placemaking roles with urban design skills; Rugby Borough Council sought a senior planning officer (urban design), while Rochdale Borough Council secured an urban design principal.
For this cohort, almost 80 per cent of the associates, who have a diverse range of skills, are coming to work in the public sector for the first time. They include Peter Inglis, an architect with more than 25 years of experience and former director and practice leader of Cullinan Studio, and Sahar-Fatema Mohamedali, a creative and practical architect who has worked in the field of transport infrastructure, including bridges, railways, airports, and the public realm.
Pooja Agrawal, CEO of Public Practice, said: “This is our first national cohort and I am delighted to be welcoming nine new English local authorities to Public Practice, and bringing multidisciplinary experts to areas of the country where they can have maximum impact. We know that local authorities are facing many recruitment challenges and their biggest issue is difficulty attracting qualified and skilled candidates.
“We are committed to attracting highly skilled placemaking professionals into the public sector and I continue to be inspired by the motivated associates joining our programme, who are driven to have more purpose in their work and shape places across England for the better. Each associate is taking a big leap in their career by joining a local authority. Our aim is to support these individuals to develop their placemaking skills for long-term careers in the public sector.”
Public Practice's recently published 2023 Recruitment & Skills5 report highlights a number of challenges in resourcing and recruitment in the built environment sector. It found that local authorities need to find skilled professionals in sustainability, urban design and masterplanning among others. Current vacancies reported show that planning roles are most recruited for.
According to the survey, 66 per cent of local authority planning and placemaking professionals say their teams do not have the capacity to meet their authority’s strategic objectives.
Since 2017, Public Practice has placed 320 Associates into 87 authorities in England, with 77 per cent remaining working in the public sector for two or more years after the 12-month programme ends.
Details of the full autumn 2023 cohort can be found on the Public Practice website6.
16 October 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Appeals backlog leads PEDW to launch priority regime
Faced with a continuing backlog of new appeals waiting to be validated and started, Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) has instigated a priority regime.
This will target its householder, advert and minor commercial appeal services.
PEDW revealed the move this week, citing “a number of customer service, operational and resource reasons”.
It added: “With the exception of a limited number of specialist cases that require bespoke procedural administration, all other casework will be dealt with in order of date of receipt.”
In a statement, PEDW insisted that it would endeavour to programme hearings and inquiry events as swiftly as possible after starting appeals. “However, there will inevitably be delays due to workload and resource pressures.
“We continue to work with stakeholders to choose and facilitate the most appropriate type of event, with virtual events being the preferred option unless there are clear reasons for in-person events to be arranged.
“We would ask you to please wait to contact us until the expiration of 19 weeks after receiving an initial acknowledgment if enquiring about an appeal.”
The agency stressed that it was “working hard to ensure our customers can remain assured of the quality of our work and doing all we can to address the casework backlog to allow us to return to normal timeframes.
‘We thank you for your patience while we strive to improve our service delivery.”
12 October 2023
Roger Milne, The Planner
Leicestershire village plans approved by councillors
Councillors at Harborough District Council’s planning committee have approved plans for eight semi-detached homes, a public car park with electric vehicle (EV) charging and a community square in a Leicestershire village.
Planning consultancy Marrons supported developer Besh Limited on the application. The developer will build the properties on land just off Fleckney High Street, which was originally earmarked for new shops and flats.
The village community square will act as a gateway into the housing development and provide local residents with access to communal outdoor green space.
The two and three-bedroomed homes will be served by two off-road parking spaces and back gardens.
Alongside 18 spaces, the car park will provide EV charging facilities and cycle parking provision.
Walsall housing plans green-lit
Walsall Council has approved plans by Avant Homes West Midlands for 150 homes in Rushall, Walsall.
Called Pavilion Acres and located off Harden Road, the 12.7-acre, £33.8 million development will include a mixture of one, two, three and four-bedroom homes.
Of the 150 homes, 25 per cent have been designated as affordable housing. Avant Homes has also committed to a community contribution of £300,000 to support open spaces and special areas of conservation.
Work at Pavilion Acres is anticipated to start this month, with the first residents expected to move into their new homes in April next year.
Cabinet set to approve Rotherham housing plans
Rotherham Council’s cabinet is set to approve plans that will provide 74 new council homes across the borough.
Proposals for four sites across Maltby and Eastwood have been submitted for approval and include plans for a range of homes, including two-bed, three-bed, and four-bed houses, and two-bed apartments.
In Maltby, plans outline 24 homes on Addison Road, including 17 houses, six apartments, and four specialised wheelchair-user dwellings while on Larch Road plans for six new homes and 10 apartments are being proposed.
In Eastwood, 19 new homes are being proposed for Netherfield Court, with eight new houses and four apartments being planned on York Road.
Once approved by the cabinet, these plans will be subject to planning permission approval.
Southwark logistics hub plans approved
British Land has received a resolution to grant planning permission from Southwark Council for a 140,000-square-foot multi-level, last-mile logistics scheme on Mandela Way, Southwark.
The site sits close to the junction of New Kent Road, Old Kent Road and Tower Bridge Road and will deliver a last-mile logistics hub for Southwark and central London.
The former Southwark Council car pound will be redeveloped to feature four floors of flexible, sustainable logistics space with access to local consumers and central London. The asset’s ground-floor logistics space provides access to a variety of distribution vehicles including HGVs and cargo bikes, while upper floors will be served by lifts.
Council unveils planning breach form
Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council has launched a new web form for reporting breaches of planning regulations.
The form will allow the reporting of planning breaches and means the planning team can triage and deal with complaints more efficiently.
It will allow customers to select what type of planning breach has occurred, as well as be able to send over evidence such as site photographs.
The council said the new tool would help to speed up the planning enforcement process by alleviating the high number of complaints that come into planning that do not fall within the planning remit, allowing the planning enforcement team to investigate genuine cases more succinctly.
Application lodged for refurbishment of Sackville House
Art-Invest Real Estate has submitted a planning application to Westminster City Council for the refurbishment of Sackville House, Piccadilly.
Plans feature the delivery of 30,000 square feet of “significantly enhanced”, grade A sustainably-led offices with retail space across the ground floor.
Permission is also sought to extend the roof and the rear of the grade-II listed Sackville House.
17 October 2023
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner