Weekly planning news
Planning news - 20 July 2023
Transport secretary grants DCO for A303 Stonehenge bypass
A development consent order (DCO) for a two-lane dual carriageway for the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down in Wiltshire past Stonehenge World Heritage Site has been granted by transport secretary Mark Harper.
This was the second determination of the application and was against the recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate, the examining authority.
It had warned that the development would cause “permanent irreversible harm” and the benefits to the ‘outstanding universal value’ (OUV) “would not be capable of offsetting this harm”.
If the secretary of state were to decide to grant consent, the examining authority recommended that the DCO should be issued with modifications.
The national significant infrastructure project will be eight miles (13 kilometres) in length.
National Highways’ (Highways England when the application was submitted in October 2018) plans include a northern bypass of Winterbourne Stoke with a viaduct over the River Till Valley and a new junction between A303 and A360 to the west of and outside the World Heritage Site – replacing the existing Longbarrow roundabout. A tunnel of about two miles (3.3km) in length would also be delivered, past Stonehenge with a new junction between the A3030 and A345 at the existing Countess roundabout features.
In November 20201, then-transport secretary Grant Shapps granted a DCO against the recommendation of the examining authority.
The High Court quashed the DCO in July 20212 after campaign group Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS) sought a judicial review at the High Court.
Mr Justice Holgate upheld two challenges, including that the secretary of state had failed to consider mandatory considerations, including the existence of at least one alternative.
Further information was sought from the applicant for redetermination of the proposed development, with consultation on this also carried out.
The transport secretary notes that there have been “recognised acute congestion problems” on this stretch of road, which connects London to the South West, “for over 30 years”.
He acknowledges that there is support from a number of local authorities, including Wiltshire Council and Devon County Council, as well as other interested parties, owing to the economic benefits the scheme would bring to the region.
The transport secretary cites that the National Policy Statement for National Networks (NPSNN) "states there is a compelling need for development of the national networks at a strategic level to support such economic benefits”.
The examining authority is satisfied that the proposed development would meet both the broad principles and the strategic aims set out in the NPSNN by providing an upgraded dual carriageway on this part of the strategic road network.
“The secretary of state agrees that the proposed development would have transport and economic benefits, noting that the transport benefits include the reduction of collisions and casualties, and these are obvious and appreciable transport benefits to which he accords significant weight,” states the decision letter.
With regard to cultural heritage and the need for the development, the secretary of state agrees that the benefits would include visitors being able to see Stonehenge’s stone circle "without the visual and aural distraction of road traffic and unifying the areas currently divided by the existing A303, removing and allowing reconnection of The Avenue in its route from the River Avon to the Stones, and improving access to and within the WHS [World Heritage Site]”.
“The secretary of state gives great weight to those benefits in the planning balance.”
Overall, he is satisfied that there is a “clear need” for the proposed development, finding that the benefits identified weigh significantly in favour of the scheme.
On balance, the decision letter explains that the secretary of state is satisfied that the applicant’s updated assessments “are reasonable and appropriate” to enable him to assess the impacts of the proposed development on the historic environment and that “any harm caused to the WHS when considered as a whole and to any heritage asset would be less than substantial and therefore the adverse impacts of the proposed development should be balanced against its public benefits”.
It also says that the secretary of state had “carefully” considered alternatives to the proposed development, including two alternative tunnel options.
While noting that both alternatives would avoid some of the less than substantial heritage harm to heritage assets, including the OUV of the WHS, the secretary of state considers that "the additional disadvantages of these alternatives, including in particular the significant extra costs and the delay in realising the social, economic and heritage benefits of the proposed development, are not justified to achieve the reduction in harm to heritage assets and other harms identified".
He considers that none of the other alternative options are preferable to the proposed development and places neutral weight on the existence of alternatives in the overall planning balance.
The decision letter and all documents relating to the development can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website.3
17 July 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Council to pay £468,000 over Ryder Cup golf course development
Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council will pay a developer's legal bill of nearly £468,000 after refusing a 1,036-home scheme against officer advice.
The large-scale development, which included a golf course capable of hosting Ryder Cup and a primary school in and around Hulton Park, Bolton, was approved by an inspector who was satisfied that the benefits of the scheme superseded any harm to its green belt location.
In July 20204, Peel L&P Investments (North) Limited gained approval for an earlier version of the development from then-housing secretary Robert Jenrick. He ruled at the time that the development could go ahead only if the venue was awarded the Ryder Cup.
After consultations with Ryder Cup Europe, modified plans were submitted. Changes included alterations to the design of the golf course, a hotel, and new community facilities such as a new health and wellbeing hub, allotments and a village hall.
The planning committee at Bolton Council refused permission for the revised plans, although an officer recommended the plans for approval, subject to planning conditions and a section 106 agreement, in February 20225.
It was approved on appeal in October 2022. The inspector decided that the development would harm openness in this area but accepted that the current appeal scheme would be “significantly less inappropriate” than the consented development, which would have a layout with a greater impact on the green belt. A condition was imposed by Young specifying that work could not begin until the Ryder Cup has been formally awarded to Hulton Park, which is one of two venues in the country shortlisted for the 2031 event.
The council said it would not mount a defence against the appeal following legal advice.
The inspector ordered the council to pay for Peel L&P's legal costs, although the developer did not seek this. The amount was not disclosed at the time but according to a report to cabinet from 10 July6, it stands at £467,746.61. The report states that the cabinet is recommended to authorise payment of the appellant’s costs, with the money to come from corporate reserves.
All documents relating to the application, including the costs letter from the Planning Inspectorate, can be found on the council website.7
12 July 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Hornsea Four granted development consent
Energy secretary Grant Shapps has granted a development consent order (DCO) for Hornsea Project Four Wind Farm, against the advice of the Planning Inspectorate.
If the secretary of state disagreed with the Planning Inspectorate’s (examining authority) findings regarding the Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) and decided to make the order, the examining authority recommended that subject to obtaining Crown Consent, it should be made with modifications.
The application form states that the development will be located in the southern North Sea, 69 kilometres east of Flamborough Head, Yorkshire. Consent was sought for 180 wind turbines.
The examining authority concluded that the overarching need argument for the development “is very strong” in terms of meeting the urgent need for low-carbon energy. It is deliverable within a “reasonable time frame” to meet growing energy demands and it ensures security of supply while costs for offshore wind have fallen “significantly” in the past decade.
All this, “weighs heavily in favour of making the order,” said the examining authority. The energy secretary agreed.
He also concurred with the examining authority that the applicant – Orsted – has “explored reasonable alternatives” in terms of the location and extent of the offshore array area, within the constraints imposed by the Crown Estate’s leasing process. They agreed that Orsted had undertaken an appropriate site selection process.
The decision letter states that while there will be “no significant adverse” effects on marine or coastal birds as a result of the development alone it “considers there to be a likelihood of significant adverse effects for kittiwake, guillemot and great black-backed gull when the impacts of the proposed development are considered alongside those of the consented offshore wind farms used in the ES [environmental statement] cumulative assessment”.
This, the examining authority considers, weighs heavily against the development. Shapps agreed.
Kittiwakes have a conservation status of red, while guillemots and great black-backed gulls are classified as amber.
At the close of the examination, the examining authority concluded that there was “insufficient information” to “demonstrate that the AEoI [Adverse Effects on Integrity] of the breeding kittiwake and guillemot qualifying features of the Flamborough and Filey Coast SPA [Special Protection Area] would be fully compensated, or that the coherence of the UK National Site Network could be secured”.
Therefore, the examining authority said it had “no alternative” other than to recommend to the secretary of state that the DCO should not be made pursuant to Regulations 63 and 64 of the Habitats Regulations.
The secretary of state, however, concluded that “it is possible to secure a package of measures that would provide compensation for the effects of the proposed development and to ensure the overall coherence of the UK NSN [national site network]”.
Regulations 64 and 29 of the Habitats Regulations allow a project to receive consent if it would cause an adverse effect on the integrity of a protected site if it is required for ‘imperative reasons of overriding public interest’ (IROPI).
In the HRA, the examining authority concluded that there is an "immediate need" to increase energy supply from renewables for energy security and as a "fundamental contributor to action on climate change".
It states that the examining authority is "of the opinion that IROPI for the project could be established".
"However, it considered that the argument for IROPI would be considerably less compelling if considered against the greatest adverse effects predicted by IPs [interested parties]. On balance, the [examining authority] was satisfied that the identified imperative reasons of public interest are sufficient to override the degree of impact that the [examining authority] found for the qualifying features of the Flamborough and Filey Coast SPA."
According to the decision letter, the secretary of state is satisfied that no alternative solutions are available that would meet project objectives with an appreciable reduction in predicted impacts to protected sites, and IROPI must be considered".
He is “satisfied that there are clear imperative reasons of overriding public interest for the project to proceed” and that “that the necessary compensatory measures can be secured and delivered to protect the coherence of UK NSN for kittiwake as required by Regulations 29 and 36 of the Offshore Habitats Regulations/ Regulations 64 and 68 of the Habitats Regulations”.
The secretary of state granted the DCO with a series of modifications.
Orsted said: “We are now reviewing the full detail of the Development Consent Order and will continue to work closely with stakeholders and local communities as we look to take Hornsea 4 forward sensitively and sustainably.”
The decision letter, HRA, and other documents relating to the development can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website.8
17 July 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
First UK investment zone to be located in South Yorkshire
The UK's first advanced manufacturing investment zone will be located in South Yorkshire, with the government expecting it to help leverage more than £1.2 billion of private funding.
The zone comprises the cities of Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster, and Barnsley, as well as the communities around them and the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the investment zone could help to support more than 8,000 jobs by 2030. The intention is to reduce any ‘blockers’ to growth, such as challenges to attracting finance and investment, to sustain business growth and clear pathways to higher-skilled jobs.
Hunt welcomed the first investment – more than £80 million – when he met executives from Boeing at the AMRC’s Factory 2050, a manufacturing technologies research and development facility. Considering the future of aerospace, Boeing will work with industry partners, Spirit AeroSystems and Loop Technology at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) Factory 2050 in Sheffield Business Park.
The project is co-funded by industry and government, including through the Aerospace Technology Institute programme, and is supported by the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority and the University of Sheffield.
Hunt said the first investment zone is a “shining example” of how the government will drive growth across the country.
Levelling up secretary Michael Gove commented: “We want to build on South Yorkshire’s proud heritage so that it can make an even greater contribution to the UK economy. This is what levelling up is all about, promoting growth and providing opportunities so that people can thrive in the communities they are from.”
The government said it will work with the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University and other local partners to co-develop the plans for the investment zone, including “agreeing priority development sites and specific interventions to drive cluster growth, over the summer ahead of final confirmation of plans”.
Sheffield City Council leader Tom Hunt said: “The investment zone will unlock new opportunities and drive sustainable economic growth in Sheffield and across South Yorkshire...
"It is fantastic that South Yorkshire is the first investment zone to be announced in the UK. In Sheffield and our region, businesses and researchers are at the cutting edge of new developments in advanced manufacturing, green aerospace, advanced health and wellbeing, clean energy, and the digital sector. The investment zone will provide new opportunities to scale up businesses and create new opportunities for jobs and further investment.
“In Sheffield we have developed strong partnerships between the council, business, and academia to create a melting pot for ideas, innovation, and action. By working together with our colleagues in Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham to develop the investment zone, we will create new opportunities for the people of South Yorkshire.”
Overall, there will be 12 investment zones in the UK. A recent joint announcement by the UK and Scottish governments outlined that there will be two investment zones in Scotland. Glasgow City Region and North East of Scotland offer the most potential to host these, they said. Discussions will be held with both regions to develop detailed proposals.
17 July 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
PEDW scrutinises major Cardiff development project
Hearings held this week in Cardiff will play a decisive role in the fate of a significant development in the capital involving a new railway station and a major business park called in by ministers.
Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) took evidence on whether the project complied with Cardiff’s local development plan and the national plan, Future Wales: The National Plan 2040.
At issue were proposals for the Cardiff Parkway railway station development, which is planned for land to the south of St Mellons Business Park.
The masterplan for the £120 million scheme, which includes the railway station, was approved by Cardiff City Council in April 2022. However, the project was put on hold when ministers intervened last October.
The hearings investigated whether proposed compensation measures would mitigate the impact of the development on the Rumney and Peterstone Site of Special Scientific Interest in the Gwent Levels.
The opening date for the business park and Cardiff Parkway railway station was originally set for 2024.
If it gets the green light, the station is expected to cater for about 800,000 passengers a year, with journeys to Cardiff Central or Newport in just seven minutes and eight trains an hour between Cardiff and Newport.
Four intercity-length platforms could serve local routes and mainline journeys to London, North Wales, Manchester, Bristol, and the West Country.
The project’s business park involves 90,000 square metres of office space.
Roger Milne, The Planner
14 July 2023
News round up
First geothermal borehole finished at new City of London hub
The first of more than 60 240-metre-deep geothermal boreholes has been completed on the Salisbury Square Development – a new civic hub in the heart of the City of London.
The development, funded by the City of London Corporation, will house a flagship facility for His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Services (HMCTS) and a new state-of-the-art base for the City of London Police, plus grade A office accommodation, a remodelled listed building, and an enlarged and improved public realm.
It is the first scheme in the Square Mile to embrace a standalone closed-loop cooling and heating solution without the need for gas. The boreholes, installed for the ground source heat pump system by main contractor Mace and subcontractor G Core, are some of the deepest to be embarked on in the City – at a depth of over three-quarters of the height of The Shard.
The system takes advantage of consistent temperatures deep underground and is the most energy-efficient method of heating and cooling using all-electric solutions with power sourced from renewable sources with no use of fossil fuels.
Rotherham Council commits £9m to improve Wath Town Centre
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council’s cabinet is devoting £9 million from a levelling-up capital grant of almost £20 million to a scheme to improve Wath Town Centre.
These improvements include the demolition of the existing library and the creation of a new one with a community area and commercial space, and improved connectivity between Biscay Way and the High Street to encourage visitors.
Council leader Chris Read said: “The council’s successful bid for levelling-up grant money will enable us to make significant, positive changes to Wath Town Centre. We’re creating modern community facilities and revamping public spaces for people to enjoy and to attract more visitors. These improvements will give the local economy a welcome boost.”
Industrial complex approved in Swindon
Swindon Borough Council has granted planning permission for an industrial development on the outskirts of Swindon town centre.
Plans will see the developers, Robert Cort Properties, demolish the vacant Fraser Centre site on Faraday Road in the Dorcan area of town. The existing sub-station, diesel generator and loading bays will be removed.
The site will be redeveloped to comprise a mix of seven standalone and linked industrial, storage, business and service units (use class B2, B8 and E class) with onsite car and cycle parking.
Also, new loading/unloading bays, reception access roads and landscaping are part of the plans to create 3,300 square metres of industrial floor space.
Planning and development consultancy Lichfields was instructed part way through the planning application to resolve planning objections relating to biodiversity requirements, tree protection, landscaping and the impact on neighbouring residents. The scheme was designed by architects Oxford Architects.
Permission sought for 29 homes in Nuneaton
Sporting goods specialist Phillips-Tuftex Limited has submitted an application for its unused warehouse in Attleborough Road, Nuneaton.
The application, submitted to Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, is for 29 homes to rent or buy; 28 two-bedroomed flats and one three-bedroom house.
Plans would see the empty warehouse to the rear demolished and the unused ‘Albion Buildings’ extended and redeveloped.
Planning consultancy Marrons, Hayward Architects and chartered surveyors Loveitts worked with Phillips-Tuftex Limited on the application.
WMCA orders large-scale study of tree population
Citizen science groups and volunteers will play a significant role in a new analysis of the West Midlands Urban Forest, commissioned by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
The study, starting this month, is the largest of its kind in the UK and will investigate the composition, condition, ecosystem services, replacement value, and many other characteristics of the urban forest.
Managed by Birmingham TreePeople, Treeconomics, Barton Hyett Associates, and Forest Research, it involves an assessment of at least 1,000 sample plots across Birmingham, Solihull, and Coventry – on both public and private land – giving a comprehensive picture of the area’s urban forest. Funded by the Emergency Tree Fund and administered by The Woodland Trust, it supports WMCA’s ambition to expand the region’s woodland cover in the face of climate and ecological emergencies.
Data will be processed using i-Tree Eco, a software application that quantifies the structure and environmental effects of urban trees and calculates their value to society. The final report, to be completed by December, will be used to inform tree-planting and management ambitions identified in Birmingham's Urban Forest Master Plan, produced in 2021. It will also focus efforts associated with the five-year plan for tackling carbon emissions and the Natural Environment Plan.
Canary Wharf life science refurbishment scheme is green-lit
Plans to transform an office building in Canary Wharf into a state-of-the-art facility for life sciences and technology have been approved.
Collaborating with architects Scott Brownrigg and planning adviser Avison Young, Oaktree Capital Management, L.P., supported by LS Estates, has obtained revised planning permission to repurpose 17 Columbus Courtyard, marking a significant milestone in the advancement in the growth of the life sciences.
The building, which is near the Elizabeth Line, will undergo expansion to provide 200,000 square feet of flexible laboratory and office space spanning nine upper floors devoted to the evolving needs of the thriving discipline. The repurposing of the building will align with the UKGBC Net Zero Carbon Framework and BREEAM Excellent certification, minimising both embodied and operational carbon. This will be accomplished by embracing circular economy principles, upgrading as much of the existing building as possible to minimise raw material use.
The proposals include an entrance connecting to a community science lounge with adaptable meeting spaces and a café. It is expected that the ground and first floors will cater for ‘late-stage’ start-up companies, featuring a range of office and laboratory fitted spaces. The upper floors will be for larger occupiers seeking to tailor them to their requirements.
The project is expected to be finished by late 2025.
Countryside Partnerships to build 70 homes in North Wingfield
Mixed-tenure developer Countryside Partnerships has reached an agreement with property management firm Rykneld Homes to deliver 70 new homes off Whiteleas Avenue in North Wingfield, Derbyshire.
Countryside Partnerships will deliver a mix of two- and three-bedroom homes, as well as four-bedroom homes to address the need for larger homes in the area. The new development will include units for affordable rent along with homes for sale.
The development will also deliver several improvements to the area, including upgraded play facilities at Alice’s View and Blacks Lane play areas, £165,000 to fund improved education facilities at North Wingfield Primary and Nursery School and Tupton Hall School, and over £28,000 for the NHS Chesterfield Royal Hospital.
The land, owned by North East Derbyshire District Council, formerly consisted of post-war non-traditional housing. All 70 new homes will be built for the council and managed by Rykneld Homes. The agreement with Countryside Partnerships was facilitated by Efficiency North’s EN:Procure Framework, a not-for-profit consortium serving the construction procurement needs of the social housing landlord community.
RICS consults on retrofit
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is consulting on the new RICS Residential Retrofit Standard for 2023.
To be developed following an eight week consultation, the new standard is a response to a demand for high quality, residential retrofit advice.
The Retrofit Standard will create a framework within which RICS members can advise customers on retrofit options in homes across the UK. It would also support the nationwide effort to decarbonise the residential property sector.
Views are sought from members and wider industry professionals.
RIBA publishes accessibility and inclusion guidelines
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published guidance that aims to ensure that inclusion and accessibility are considered at every stage of the design and construction process.
The guidance includes input from people with lived experience and experts from 25 built environment professions.
It is intended to be widely understood and used by anyone involved in the built environment sector. RIBA explained that it assigns clear responsibilities and tasks to the different roles involved in a building project – including client, project management, design, construction, and asset management teams.
Inclusive Design Overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work can be found on the RIBA website.
HS2 CEO steps down
HS2 Ltd has announced that its chief executive officer Mark Thurston will step down after 6 and a half years as chief executive officer.
He is the firm’s longest serving chief executive
Thurston will leave HS2 Ltd at the end of September this year when Sir Jon Thompson will become executive chair for an interim period while a new chief executive is recruited.
18 July 2023
Deborah Shrewsbury and Laura Edgar, The Planner