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Planning news - 21 April 2022

Developers agree funding for building safety repairs

The government has announced an agreement that means the industry will contribute £5 billion to address building safety following the fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017.

Developers that have committed to the pledge1 have signed up to legally binding contracts. The government said it would release its plans on how to enforce the agreement in law “in due course”.

Levelling-up Secretary Michael Gove has agreed that developers will commit a minimum of £2 billion to fix buildings they own, and the industry will pay an additional £3 billion through an expanded Building Safety Levy.

The measures were initially set out in January.

Under the agreement, more than 35 of the biggest homebuilders in the UK have pledged to fix all of the buildings that are 11 metres in height or more that they have played a role in developing in the past 30 years.

This new agreement between the government and the development industry will be enforced legally.

The detailed agreement confirms that developers will:

  • Act as quickly as possible to fix buildings
  • Implement new proportionate guidance on building safety
  • Regularly report to leaseholders and government on their progress
  • Respect an independent dispute resolution process established by government; and
  • Refund money already received from the taxpayer to fix their buildings

Some companies have not yet signed the pledge. Gove says there is little time left for them to do so – if they don’t sign up to the pledge, they “will face consequences".

New enforcement powers will be introduced by the government to use on companies that fail to sign the pledge. The powers will also be able to be used on those that breach the agreement. The secretary of state will be able to block those who refuse to make and deliver on their commitments from building and selling new homes.

In addition, a government scheme, funded through an extension to the Building Safety Levy, will be introduced to make sure the industry pays to fix schemes where those responsible cannot be identified or forced by law to do so. It is expected it will raise around £3 billion over 10 years from developers to make sure leaseholders in medium-rise buildings don’t have to foot the bill, even if the developer cannot be found.

Gove said: “Today marks a significant step towards protecting innocent leaseholders and ensuring those responsible pay to solve the crisis they helped to cause.

“I welcome the move by many of the largest developers to do the right thing.  

“But this is just the beginning. We will do whatever it takes to hold industry to account, and under our new measures there will be nowhere to hide.”

Also today, Gove had written to the Construction Products Association outlining that he "will do whatever it takes" to hold cladding and insulation manufacturers to account.

David Renard, housing spokesperson at the Local Government Association (LGA), commented: “We are pleased that the government has listened to calls the LGA has been making for several years to protect leaseholders from the costs of two decades of industry failure.

“However, we call on the government to provide the same protection to council tenants and council taxpayers as it has afforded homeowners, by exempting councils from the developer levy and funding the remediation of social housing on the same basis as private housing.”

13 April 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Government announces £7.6m rail innovation competition

Rail minister Wendy Morton has announced a first-of-a-kind competition in partnership with Innovate UK for firms specialising in innovation to modernise the railways. The winners would receive up to £7.6 million.

The competition is garnering ideas that will transform rail travel for passengers, decarbonise the network, and find technologies to improve the industry’s cost efficiency and network performance to support a more reliable railway for passengers and rail freight.

The competition opens on 20 April and closes on 8 June . Bids from organisations of all sizes are invited.

Morton said: “We’ve seen cutting-edge technologies such as HydroFLEX developed, the first-ever trial of a hydrogen-powered train on the UK mainline and software improving accessibility such as the Hearing Enhanced Audio Relay app.

“As part of our Plan for Rail, it’s key that we continue breathing life into new ideas and supporting innovation and design to deliver greener rail journeys and transform rail travel for all passengers.”

More than 100 projects have been trialled and launched from the competition funds, with 33 receiving grants up to £400,000 last year. 

A briefing event will be hosted by Innovate UK on 5 May in Birmingham for potential applicants to find out more2.

14 April 2022
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner


Guarded welcome for Welsh nuclear proposals in energy strategy

Politicians have given a guarded welcome to the UK Government’s energy policy announcements, which have given fresh hope for a nuclear power station at Wylfa on Anglesey as well as the prospect of mini-nuclear reactors at Trawsfynydd in Gwynedd.

Set out in the British Energy Security Strategy last week (7 April), the government's ambition is that up to 24GW by 2050 will come from nuclear power, which it describes as “safe, clean and reliable”. This would represent up to around 25 per cent of Britain’s projected electricity demand. Small modular reactors form part of the nuclear project pipeline, if the technology allows.

Welsh climate change minister Julie James said the announcement “provides some clarity on the future direction for nuclear energy policy and the new funding is welcome to help bring investment proposals forward. We hope that this will provide much-needed impetus for potential projects at Wylfa and Trawsfynydd”.

“However, after failed attempts in the past to bring investment to North Wales, the UK Government must rebuild trust with our communities and industry.”

The Isle of Anglesey County Council’s chief executive, Dylan J Williams, welcomed the announcement with cautious optimism. “There now appears to be real impetus within the UK Government to bring new nuclear to Wylfa, as part of a secure future energy mix, which would reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and meet net-zero targets. It is vital, of course, that we take lessons learnt from our experiences of past nuclear development on Anglesey and ensure that they positively influence future plans.”

“We remain committed to hosting a nuclear power station on Anglesey on the condition that it delivers long-term transformational benefits – in terms of local jobs, supply chain opportunities, and prosperity for our communities and residents.

“Respecting the Island’s communities, safeguarding the Welsh language and culture and protecting the environment as well as a commitment to meaningful public engagement remain important red lines.”

Proposals for a multibillion-pound nuclear power plant on the island hit the buffers when Japanese industrial giant Hitachi withdrew its support for the project last year.

The scheme was the subject of a development consent order (DCO) but was recommended for refusal by planning inspectors who voiced concern over wildlife issues and the project’s effect on the local economy, housing stock and the Welsh language.

14 April 2022
Roger Milne, The Planner


Funding confirmed for improvement to Greater Manchester’s transport network

Capital and network funding has been agreed to help deliver the Bee Network, a London-style transport network for Greater Manchester.

The City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements (CRSTS) allocates £1.07 billion, which was initially announced just before the Budget and Spending Review in October 2021.3

This will be backed by £170 million in local contributions.

The money will be invested in new bus corridors, cycling and walking routes and improved transport infrastructure and connectivity for towns and high streets in the region over the next five years.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority will also use the funding to support a move to a fully electrified bus fleet, with 50 new zero-emission buses expected to serve Bolton and Wigan when the first phase of bus franchising is introduced in September 2023.

Cheaper fares will also be rolled out alongside the bus franchising; single journeys for an adult will be capped at £2 and £1 for children.

The announcement also confirmed that Greater Manchester would receive £94.8 million from the government’s Bus Back Better strategy and £20.5 million for the Metrolink for recovery funding to support the operation of services for the next six months. A funding allocation for the city-region’s bus operators is yet to be confirmed.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “The announcements are a major vote of confidence in Greater Manchester’s plans for a London-style public transport system.

“This funding will allow us to bring forward an improved bus service, starting next autumn in Wigan and Bolton – with new buses, lower fares and more frequent services.

“However, as welcome as the announcement is, the revenue funding is about half of what we bid for, and we still don’t know how much recovery funding bus operators will get to keep services running.

“We have been working closely with government on a funding model that will enable us to stabilise, rebuild and ultimately transform public transport, and can only deliver the Bee Network if we have a sound foundation to build upon.

“Without a longer-term recovery settlement, the threat of cuts to services still looms large. This is the final piece of the puzzle that will really enable us to get on and deliver the Bee Network and this is the case I will make to government as we continue to work together to unlock Greater Manchester’s full potential.”

13 April 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Public sector capacity bolstered by Public Practice

Public Practice has announced that 25 associates have been placed in 18 local authorities as part of its eighth cohort.

Placements have been made at borough councils, county councils, development corporations, shared planning services and unitary councils.

Public Practice supports public sector authorities in London, the South East and the East of England to identify gaps in the capacity of planning and place shaping teams.

It matches skilled candidates to year-long placements with local authorities.

This cohort comprises a number of placements to respond to the climate crisis. For example, Westminster City Council sought a place-shaping and sustainability officer; Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council was looking for a sustainability project manager; Watford Council wanted a transport planning manager to address sustainability; and Greater Cambridge Shared Planning has gained a principal landscape architect to address sustainability.

Public Practice said it continues to see a high demand for architecture, urban design and masterplanning roles including Buckinghamshire Council and Basildon Borough Council. The London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Southwark sought people for digital roles.

Associates include Jane Briginshaw, who has a wealth of experience across the public and private sectors and will join Buckinghamshire Council; Lucy Bullivant, a place strategist, author and curatorial director known for advocating for social value and participatory placemaking; and Ketan Lad, an experienced architect who has worked at Stirling Prize-winning Maccreanor Lavington Architects and holds a teaching positions at Central Saint Martins and RIBA North West. Bullivant will work with Westminster City Council and Lad will join Old Oak & Park Royal Development Corporation.

Pooja Agrawal, CEO of Public Practice, said: “Despite the challenges we see the public sector facing post-Covid-19, I continue to be inspired by the people who apply to our programme who are driven by social justice. I am inspired by the breadth of skills, their passion for public service and for making a positive impact on places.

“We will work harder to ensure that the diversity of our associates reflects the communities they serve. As we expand our services nationally, we look forward to being able to support more authorities struggling to attract the right people with the right skills to meet their ambitions. It is an exciting year ahead for Public Practice.”

Public Practice said that on 25 April, the organisation would announce which national locations they will expand to. In February, Homes England and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) announced an investment of more than £200,000 into the organisation to aid its expansion. The partnership is part of Homes England’s Local Government Capacity Centre work, which is designed to increase local government capacity and skills to make better places and homes.

12 April 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner


News round-up

Kinloch Glen peatland project completes

NatureScot has announced the completion of a project to restore peatland on Rum National Nature Reserve, which is intended to help address the climate crisis and improve biodiversity.

The project in Kinloch Glen was carried out with £30,000 of funding from the Peatland ACTION Fund.

It involved putting more than 17 hectares of peatland habitat on the road to restoration by blocking more than 10km of man-made ditches to reduce their draining effect and restoring natural processes.

Peatland covers around 20 per cent of Scotland, with much of its drinking water flowing through the catchments, so restoring such a landscape is crucial for drinking water quality at source.

Work included blocking old drains to raise the water table and encouraging the growth of peatland vegetation, in particular the principle bog builder sphagnum moss. Drains were blocked with peat dams every 10 metres, using specialist machinery to minimise the damage to the bog surface. Highland Conservation Ltd carried out work.

 

Plans for Nuneaton town centre project submitted

A planning application has been submitted for the redevelopment of a Nuneaton town centre site with homes and workspaces. The plans also feature public green spaces and improve riverside connections.

Multidisciplinary design practice rg+p Ltd developed the proposals on behalf of Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council.

The brownfield site is bordered by Bridge Street, Mill Street, the River Anker and the George Eliot Memorial Gardens.

The residential element of the project includes 19 family homes and apartments. Permission is also sought for 800 square metres of office space.

 

Bucks LEP secures £7.7m government funding

Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership (Bucks LEP) has been awarded £7.7 million from the government’s Getting Building Fund for 10 of its projects to support economic growth in the county.

Projects include The Westcott Disruptive Innovation Space Centre, the Rural Broadband Programme and European Astrotech Ltd - Centre of Excellence for Rocket Engine and Flow Tests Facility.

The funding is intended to drive growth within Bucks LEPs four key sectors in upstream space, creative and digital, advanced engineering and manufacturing and medical technology and health.

Expected output from the investment will include:

  • 481 new jobs created;
  • 31 jobs safeguarded
  • 6,472 square metres of new commercial space;
  • 15,386 square metres of research and development space;
  • 2,614 square metres of learning space;
  • 3,442 learners assisted;
  • 106 businesses supported; and
  • 22,190 broadband connections.

 

‘The Forum’ plans approved in Stevenage

Stevenage Borough Council has approved plans for ‘The Forum’, a residential-led development that will deliver 226 build-to-rent homes and new public realm in Stevenage.

The site, which was previously occupied by Office Outlet, has been vacant since 2019 and will connect the old and new town.

The scheme, designed by PRP, comprises a single residential block of varying heights split into two cores with ground and first-floor communal area, podium level external amenity and communal rooftop terraces with commercial activity on the ground floor.

The development will revitalise the streetscape on Fairlands Way with an increased residential presence. Its design team will improve the public realm in the area, including enhancing the existing Fairlands Way underpass for members of the public.

 

Lovell housing plans approved in Snaith

Snaith and Cowick Town Council has approved plans submitted by housebuilder Lovell Partnerships for a new site in the East Riding market town of Snaith.

The scheme, named King’s Reach, will consist of plots for the open market and affordable properties through Yorkshire Housing.

The development will offer 43 properties to the west of Butt Lane with associated infrastructure. Natural landscaping has been included in the plans to ensure that the development remains sensitive to the current surroundings.

Robert Adams, regional managing director at Lovell Partnerships, said: “The site covers an area of 1.7 hectares, or 4.3 acres, and the proposed scheme has been designed to be sensitive to its surroundings and respectful to the overall location. Increasing our footprint in Yorkshire is a big focus as our reputation and achievements across the East of England continue to go from strength to strength through the delivery of high-quality mixed-tenure developments, land-led contracting and design-and-build contracting.”

The firm has also had plans approved in Ormesby, Teesside by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council.

Plans involve 46 three and four-bedroom homes, which will be available on the open market.

 

Coventry appoints firm to review ground lease portfolio

Coventry City Council has appointed real estate adviser Avison Young to undertake a large-scale strategic review of the council’s ground lease property portfolio, the land it owns and generates income from through long-term leases for business, development and regeneration projects.

The three-year contract was commissioned through the Crown Commercial Service Framework.

Avison Young’s works will aim to identify opportunities to drive greater income from the portfolio that can be reinvested into core services to better meet the needs of the city and its communities.

20 April 2022
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/developer-pledge-letter
  2. https://web-eur.cvent.com/event/11606e62-c610-4ed9-aeea-63295f58c3b6/summary%C2%A0
  3. https://www.theplanner.co.uk/news/budget-to-feature-nearly-%C2%A37bn-for-local-transport

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    Planning news - 21 April 2022

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