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Planning news - 23 June 2022

Year-on-year decline in planning application submissions continues

In May, 57,438 applications from England and Wales were submitted to the Planning Portal.

This is a decline of 10 per cent compared with May 2021. In total for the year to date, submissions have amounted to a 15 per cent total reduction compared with 2021.

However, the figure is up on the 52,075 submissions in April 2022.

As with April, all the regions in England and Wales saw a reduction in submissions when compared with May 2021. According to the Planning Portal's May Planning Market Insight Report, the South West saw a decline of 5 per cent, with London and Wales reporting declines of 6 per cent – these were the lowest reduction rates recorded.

The largest reductions were reported in Yorkshire and The Humber (-13 per cent), and the North East, North West and the South East (12 per cent).

The report also notes that applications for full planning and associated consents have dropped by 7 per cent year on year, and outline applications have seen a 15 per cent reduction, a 2 per cent increase on April.

There was a 7 per cent increase in planning fees in May 2022 compared with May 2021, totalling £27,629,829. This is despite the 10 per cent decline.

In May, Planning Portal, introduced 12 new prior approval forms to its planning application service. The forms went live on 19 May; for the last eight working days of May, 91 applications were submitted using these forms.

Of these, 56 were for ‘Change of use – commercial/business/service to dwelling houses’.

20 June 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Hampshire council to consult on local plan due to ‘brutal housing targets’

East Hampshire District Council has announced that it is going to hold a consultation later this year on its local plan because of the government's ‘brutal’ and ‘flawed’ housing methodology.

The council last consulted with residents in 2019.

This latest consultation, which will be held “towards the end of the year”, will seek views after changes to national policies, rising housing figures and the need for higher environmental standards.

The current local plan was adopted in 2014 and covers the whole of the East Hampshire District, including those parts inside the South Downs National Park. The emerging local plan covers the areas of the district that are not located within the South Downs National Park.

Richard Millard, leader of East Hampshire District Council, said the emerging local plan journey has gone way beyond difficult and challenging.

“It has been divisive, bruising, and at times unpleasant. It has fractured communities and turned councillors against each other. The reason for the acrimony is easy to discern: the government’s brutal housing target which eclipses everything else in the plan-making process. Forget the semantics that it is a ‘housing need’ figure; it is for all practical purposes a rigid target. We are not alone.

“Other authorities, in trying to find acceptable solutions, have made no progress over years of seemingly futile attempts to advance their plans that do not meet the imposed housing need. This approach runs the very real risk of leaving planning decisions to be made in a local policy vacuum with government inspectors making decisions that have huge implications for our district with no accountability to our residents.

“We need to go back and think again about how homes are delivered in East Hampshire. The government methodology is deeply flawed and is focused on a misleading algorithm for what is needed without any real consideration of what is possible. It is based on district-wide data and does not make any concessions for the South Downs National Park, which is a separate local planning authority, heavily constrained by its landscape designation."

Millard explained that in March, the district's housing target was increased by 650 homes over the emerging plan period. The council, he said, won’t hesitate to challenge what it feels is wrong and unfair.

The council is also preparing a supplementary planning document (SPD) to help with the consideration of planning applications, in response to increased development pressure on the countryside around villages.

20 June 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Report: Not enough brownfield land capacity to meet housing demand

If every piece of land on councils’ brownfield land registers were to be built on, this capacity equates to just 31 per cent of the 4.5 million new homes needed over the next 15 years to meet demand, reveals a report.

Banking on Brownfield finds that building on brownfield land is not the solution to the housing emergency even if “significant” government support were forthcoming.

Published by the Land Promoters and Developers Federation (LPDF) and put together by planning consultancy Lichfields, the study considers whether previously developed land can supply enough of the right type of homes in the right places. The conclusion is that it is not possible.

The organisations explain that the analysis comes in response to the levelling up white paper, speeches at the 2021 Conservative Party Conference, and the £1.5 billion brownfield housing fund – all of which suggest that such land will satisfy housing need.

According to the report, the estimated capacity for land on brownfield registers is 1.4 million. This is the figure after 58,000 have been disregarded for double counting.

Of the potential homes on the registers, 48 per cent are estimated to be flats. However, 17 per cent of households are likely to live in flats.

Other statistics in the report include:

23,500 individual site entries on Brownfield Registers (after 1,000 are deducted owing to double counting).

1 to 27 – the ratio of one new brownfield house (as opposed to flats) to every 27 households likely to live in houses.

57 per cent of brownfield capacity outside the greater South East (GSE) is within the two least viable quintiles (20 per cent) of local authority planning areas (compared with less than 3 per cent of those in the GSE).

68 per cent of the Housing Market Areas (HMAs) with more brownfield capacity (relative to their housing need) are already more affordable than average.

There were 132,000 net housing additions built in England in 2001 when ‘brownfield first’ was the dominant national housing supply policy objective (compared with 234,000 per annum on average over the last three years).

Banking on Brownfield states that brownfield registers suggest that 81 per cent of new homes that could be delivered in 19 urban authorities with uplifted housing requirements will be at apartment densities, rather than family houses. It goes on to highlight that there are viability challenges in these areas that could contribute to the limited delivery of affordable homes.

Paul Brocklehurst, chairman of the LPDF, said: “If the government wants to meet its target of building 300,000 homes each year, no source of land can be ‘off the table’. Our analysis in this report shows that there is simply not enough brownfield land in any part of the country to meet housing needs alone.

“The reorientation of housing policy, and Homes England efforts towards brownfield regeneration, may help support the conditions where viable and developable land can come forward, but many of these sites will also require grants to unlock them, at greater expense to the taxpayer. Even with this policy support, greenfield land development will still be needed in every region, to meet current housing need.”

He noted the ever-present competition for urban land, markedly between economic and residential uses. “Our research finds the opportunity cost of prioritising brownfield land for housing rather than employment is significant in pricing out industrial and office development to potentially suboptimal locations.”

Matthew Spry, senior director and head of Lichfield’s London office, said: "Our analysis shows that even if all identified brownfield land could be viably developed, we are a long way from being able to rely on it as the supply-side solution to the housing crisis.

“And, in reality, this theoretical capacity cannot all be delivered: much capacity is tied up in complex estate regeneration projects, or is best suited for continued industrial use, or includes contaminated land, or is in areas where development won’t be viable. Many brownfield sites are also earmarked for apartments, when the overwhelming demand is for houses with gardens.

“While brownfield land will form an important part of the mix, the experience of the late 1990s tells us that banking on brownfield will lead to a sharp fall in new housebuilding and undersupply in every region. Local planning authorities should plan positively for brownfield development but accompany this with a realistic supply of land of all types, capable of delivering the right type of homes, and where and when they are most needed.”

The report also notes that brownfield registers do have shortcomings, in particular in evaluating the quantum of developable land overall, which makes them an unreliable basis for policymakers to decide on the number of homes that can be built in different areas.

Banking on Brownfield can be found on the Land Promoters and Developers Federation website (pdf).1

21 June 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Planning system could be amended to support freight sector

The government intends to publish a call for evidence by autumn as part of its works to better support the freight and logistics sector.

This was outlined in the Future of Freight Plan, a strategy for the government and industry to work closer together to deliver “a world-class, seamless flow of freight across the UK’s roads, railways, seas, skies and canals".

It is also part of the government’s plans to ‘level up’ across England.

The strategy includes a £7 million investment to boost the uptake of innovative new technology that will help to decarbonise and digitalise the sector. Investment aims to support wider economic growth by ensuring that businesses can operate efficiently, getting the goods they need on time and at a reasonable cost while safeguarding their jobs.

The Future of Freight Plan contains a section on planning, which explains that there is a disconnect between “an industry that is not equipped to properly engage with the planning process, and local planning authorities that are unable to understand the needs of a changing and innovative freight and logistics sector”. This means the process for promoters bringing forward schemes in the national interest face increased complexity and costs.

The strategy is clear that the planning system has a role in ensuring that the country has a freight and logistics sector that is economically efficient, reliable, resilient and environmentally sustainable.

The planning section outlines that across 19 key industrial and logistics markets in England, demand for space was higher than the supply of available land and floor space in each area. The planning system, the strategy states, “will be key to enabling the growth and innovation of the freight sector to better meet current and future challenges”.

There needs to be a joined-up approach between the planning system, local authorities and industry to safeguard and prioritise the land needed to meet demand, it says.

When planning policies and decisions fail to adequately consider the needs of the freight and logistics sector, other transport network users and local communities are negatively affected, which makes obtaining approval for schemes more challenging to obtain, leading to delays and reduced certainty.

The planning section identifies a number of key actives for a stronger future for freight, including:

To ensure that the government understands the practical issues of planning for and delivering the right infrastructure to best support the freight and logistics sector, it will publish a call for evidence by autumn 2022. This will help to build a comprehensive picture of where the planning system can appropriately support the freight and logistics sector, including understanding what is working well, what could work better and how the government can promote best practice. There are a range of measures that could be taken, including updates to national planning policy that would be implemented as part of our programme of changes to the planning system, and updates to planning practice guidance.

The government will consult on and publish an updated DfT circular later in 2022 including higher standards for roadside facilities on the strategic road network so that government can provide better facilities for HGV drivers.

The government aims to consult on and update guidance on local transport plans by the end of 2022 to ensure that freight needs are key considerations in local transport plan-making.

Through the current review of the National Networks National Policy Statement (NNNPS) – which the government aims to complete by spring 2023 – the government will consider the growing importance of major freight schemes to the economy, particularly the increasingly important role of strategic rail freight interchanges (SRFIs) and the interdependencies between different transport hubs along the supply chain.

Through potential updates to the National Design Guide, Manual for Streets, and National Model Design Code, the government will explore the role that street design can play in driving up standards for delivery and servicing arrangement in all developments. It will also consider the need to guarantee that the planning system can support innovation and technological advancements to each stage of the supply chain, including ensuring that the right infrastructure is in place to support zero-carbon transport.

Mark Sitch, planning director at Barton Willmore, now Stantec, told The Planner: "The Future of Freight plan is welcome recognition by the government of the role of logistics as a significant contributor to investment and employment in UK PLC. The call for evidence is an opportunity for government, local planning authorities and industry to work collectively, especially through local plans and national policy to address the shortage of logistics space, and to recognise it as key national infrastructure.

"It’s a positive starting point that the plan acknowledges the unavoidable role of the existing strategic road network and the locational requirements of different sectors in driving the identification of suitable logistics sites. To ensure that the ‘need for space’ is delivered in the right accessible locations, there needs to be sufficient focus on identifying suitable sites in local plan-making and decision making. This sometimes means taking a more proactive approach to the assessment of planning applications for logistics sites against the full range of economic, environmental and social benefits that can be delivered.

"Tackling the significant shortage of space may take time, but this plan and its call for evidence is a step in the right direction."

The Future of Freight Plan can be read here on the UK Government website2.

20 June 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

330 homes approved in Cambridge

Huntingdonshire District Council has granted planning permission for 336 homes at Wintringham Park, a sustainable urban extension development east of St Neots in Cambridgeshire.

Permission was granted to property and construction consultants McBains and Barratt & David Wilson Homes. McBains provided masterplanning and urban design services for Wintringham Park.

There is already a new primary school at the Wintringham development.

The homes will be a mix of town houses, larger detached family houses and apartments arranged around a series of green spaces and corridors. There will be 269 market homes and 67 affordable homes.

Wintringham Park forms part of the St Neots Eastern Expansion Area, which covers 227 hectares of greenfield land to the east of the town.

In total, it will comprise 3,500 homes, as well as community facilities, schools, shops, recreation areas and open space.

Peter O’Rourke, director of housing and masterplanning at McBains, said: “In keeping with the wider sustainability agenda for Wintringham, each home features electric car charging points and the overall layout has been designed to encourage safe walking and cycling, with easy access to green spaces including a linear park and pocket park.

“Our urban designers and masterplanners developed the proposals in liaison with Urban & Civic, the wider development’s master developers, to seek a cohesive approach and rigorous interpretation of the design code ensuring that a high-quality design and strong sense of place is achieved.”

16 June 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

News round-up

£7.8m tree-planting fund opens

A £7.8 million Woodland Creation Accelerator Fund has been launched to support local authorities with new staff and expertise needed to kick-start woodland creation and tree planting.

It will be delivered by the Forestry Commission in partnership with Defra as part of the £750 million Nature for Climate Fund. The successful applicants to the fund will be awarded up to £150,000 each.

Financial support will be provided to at least 50 local authorities in England to bring on board the professional expertise they need to drive tree planting and woodland creation commitments.

The staff, which could include project managers, woodland creation officers and specialist advisers, will focus together on developing planting plans and applications for capital funding in 2023/2024 and 2024/2025, speeding up the delivery of new woodlands.

Applications close at 5pm on Friday 8 July 2022 and more information about how to apply can be found on the UK Government website3.

Tower Hamlets wins ‘Tree Cities of the World’ award

Tower Hamlets has won ‘Tree Cities of the World’ status for its dedication to urban and community forestry, tree planting, and biodiversity.

Around 7,800 trees have been planted in the past five years by Tower Hamlets Council in its streets and parks.

Furze Green won the Community Tree Award at the London Tree and Woodland Awards for its community involvement with the project and dedication to tree-planting. Its project was a partnership between Tower Hamlets Council and Trees for Cities, designed to enhance green space for the local community.

More information about tree planting in Tower Hamlets can be found here.4

Plans revealed for 90 affordable homes in East London

Transport for London (TfL), working with regeneration specialist Vistry Partnerships and housing association Peabody, is working on proposals for 98 affordable homes in Barkingside.

The homes would be a range of one, two and three-bedroom homes delivered across three buildings. They would be a mix of shared ownership and London Affordable Rent units.

The site proposed covers the area used as a builders’ yard next to Barkingside Tube station.

The proposals have been designed by Sheppard Robson architects.

Survey suggests people in Scotland want more good-quality, low-cost housing for rent

A survey has found that 66 per cent of people in Scotland do not believe that there is enough good-quality, low-cost housing available for rent in their local area.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) commissioned YouGov to conduct the survey.

SFHA said that as the cost-of-living crisis takes hold it is “critically important” that housing associations and cooperatives can continue to tackle housing need and help the Scottish Government to deliver its target of delivering 110,000 affordable homes by 2032.

It has called on the Scottish Government to continue its commitment to social housing by increasing investment year on year.

Telford agrees on housing deal with Greenstone

Telford Homes has completed a deal with Greenstone to provide 155 new affordable homes in Brent in north-west London.

Greenstone will acquire the affordable element of the Alperton Bus Garage scheme comprising 155 homes. Telford Homes acquired the site in November 2021, having received planning approval from Brent Council to transform the current bus depot into a residential and commercial development.

When complete, it will deliver 461 new homes, including a mix of build-to-rent and affordable units, alongside new retail and community offerings and enhancements to the public realm.

The development will deliver 2,550 square metres of light industrial space, known as Alperton Yard, with the aim of supporting small businesses and those in the creative industries.

It will also create 150 employment opportunities for local people.

DLA completes Waterhouse scheme in Salford

A new residential development named ‘The Waterhouse’ has been completed by DLA Architecture for its client Forshaw Land & Property Group in Salford.

It is located on the banks of the River Irwell and will provide 86 waterside homes in a range of one, two and three-bedroom apartments, with two-bedroom duplexes and two and three-bedroom penthouses.

On-site amenities include a gymnasium, residents’ lounge, a large roof terrace, parking, and cycle storage.

It forms part of the wider regeneration of Ordsall Riverside with a development that responds well to its urban context with good access to the river and surrounding amenity.

WMCA announces historic buildings plans

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has agreed in principle to regenerate the Victorian-built Globe House in Walsall and the derelict former Erdington Baths in Birmingham.

Funding for both historic buildings comes from the brownfield regeneration and housing delivery programme, using funds secured in the 2018. 

The Erdington scheme will see the ‘landmark’ former swimming baths in Mason Road transformed into an enterprise and community hub with community facilities including a restaurant and café.

In Walsall, the ornate Globe House, a grade II listed building in Bradford Place, will be converted from offices into 35 apartments. At least 20 per cent of the apartments will be affordable under the WMCA’s definition.

The authority says it will hold detailed negotiations with developers to finalise the investment and work in partnership with Birmingham City Council to deliver both plans.

TopHat to open Northampton facility in 2023

Modular house developer TopHat has announced that it will open a new 650,000-square-foot facility in Corby, Northamptonshire, in 2023.

The new facility will bring together the latest robotics and TopHat’s proprietary technology to manufacture and distribute up to 4,000 homes a year. TopHat’s existing site in Derby currently produces up to 800 homes a year. 

It will create 1,000 new jobs offering a wide range of roles, and will establish a training academy in partnership with local colleges.

Photography exhibition approved

The Photographers’ Gallery’s installation will open free to the public in the streets and alleyways off London's Oxford Street.

The project comprises a collection of curated photographic exhibitions involving cross-street banners and the projection of films in the public realm. They will be changed twice a year within the scope of a permanent art installation.

Planning consultancy Lichfields devised the strategy to enable the project to go ahead. The initiative is part of wider plans by Westminster City Council to generate an ambitious experiential-led renaissance for Oxford Street and nearby streets. Repurposing the area with art projects is designed to encourage increased visitor numbers, with people spending more time and money in shops and restaurants, to increase the footfall after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lichfields senior director Michael Lowndes said: “This is an important project that punches well above its weight, leading to an enhancement of place and delivering significant benefits for all to enjoy. We are seeing more and more experiential and innovative planning applications in the public realm, as high streets look to repurpose and attract visitors who then dwell in spaces and spend on local services."

21 June 2022
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya


Our planning news is published in association with ThePlanner, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

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    Planning news - 23 June 2022

      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.

      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.