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Planning News - 24 February 2022

The government should set legal duties in levelling-up legislation so that developers and public bodies provide equal access to nature-rich green and blue spaces for everyone.

This is just one call set out in a letter to levelling-up Secretary Michael Gove, signed by more than 60 organisations, including from the nature, planning, health and equality sectors.

The letter comes in response to the government’s recently published levelling-up white paper, which includes “12 bold, national missions” to be given legal status through a levelling-up and regeneration bill. The 12 missions will be “cross-government, cross-society efforts” that are “quantifiable” and are to be achieved by 2030.

The coalition behind the campaign calls on the government to:

  • Make equal access to thriving natural spaces a key measure of success for levelling up.
  • Set legal duties in levelling-up legislation for developers and public bodies to provide equal access to nature-rich green and blue spaces for everyone.
  • Provide funding for locally accessible nature-rich spaces including extending the levelling-up fund to green and blue infrastructure projects.

Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, commented: “The government says levelling up means pride of place and equal opportunity. But for many people, this ends the moment they step out of their door. So many lives are worsened or shortened by disconnection from nature. So many could be improved by the chance to get active, get together and get in touch with nature. Unless levelling up includes a legal right to healthy local natural spaces, it will surely fail. This is the government’s chance to show that the benefits of nature are truly everyone’s to enjoy.”

A January poll of 2008 adults on access to nature conducted by YouGov on behalf on Wildlife and Countryside Link found:

  • 80 per cent of the British public say everyone should have a legal right to be able to access nature-rich spaces in their local area. 88 per cent of those in nature-deprived areas say they think there should be a legal right to local nature.
  • 83 per cent say it is more important to have access to natural space since the pandemic lockdowns and working from home began.
  • 66 per cent say more or better natural spaces would increase their quality of life.
  • 44 per cent of British people say they would be likely to exercise more with more and better accessible nature sites nearby.

Mark Rowland, CEO at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Our research and that of others has demonstrated that connection to nature is fundamental to good mental health. We are facing a double threat from significant biodiversity loss in the UK and enduring inequality in access, which is leaving millions of people with little opportunity to benefit from nature. It is not just the frequency of contact with nature that matters. The quality and abundance of nature is also vital in terms of the mental health benefits and that is why levelling up must mean delivering on nature’s renewal and a clear pathway to equitable access to nature across the UK."

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, added: “Having access to wild places and wildlife shouldn’t be a privilege, but a part of everyday life. We know how much people treasure time spent in nature near where they live but for many communities this simply isn’t possible. The most deprived areas have nine times less green space than the wealthiest – and poorer areas are where people’s health is the worst.

“Our towns and cities have a huge role to play in nature’s recovery. We need to create and join up habitats, enabling species to recover and benefiting people too. It is critical that nature is at the heart of all planning and development, for wildlife, communities, and climate.”

The letter can be found on the Wildlife and Countryside Link website (pdf).1

21 February 2022
The Planner, Laura Edgar

Developer ordered to pay £31,000 for ignoring enforcement notices

Wimbledon Magistrates Court has ordered a developer behind a series of unauthorised extensions in Mitcham to pay £30,961 for not complying with two enforcement notices issued by Merton Council.

This breaks down to more than £15,000 for non-compliance with two enforcement notices and an order to pay £14,580 of the council’s costs, plus a surcharge of £181.

Council officers served the notices on Nizar Mitha, owner of the property in Mitcham, in June 2019. They required Mitha to demolish an outbuilding that had been built on the property and three dormer extensions that had been built without planning permission.

He appealed to the Planning Inspectorate to allow both the dormer extensions and the outbuilding to remain; these were dismissed. Legal proceedings were launched when the extensions and outbuilding were not removed. South London Legal Partnership launched the proceedings on behalf of the council.

In December, the deputy district judge found Mitha guilty of non-compliance with the two enforcement notices.

Martin Whelton, cabinet member for housing, regeneration and the climate emergency, said: “This successful prosecution shows that Merton will continue to aggressively pursue such cases through the courts and take tough action against developers who flout the law.  

“I would like to thank our planning enforcement and legal teams for all their hard work in bringing this case to court.”

21 February 2022
The Planner, Laura Edgar

A legal challenge against Surrey County Council's decision to grant planning permission to retain and expand the Horse Hill Well Site at Horse Hill near Gatwick Airport (including two existing wells and the drilling of four new ones) for the production of hydrocarbons over a 25-year period has been dismissed.

The case against the council was brought by Sarah Finch, supported by Weald Action Group. Friends of the Earth had permission to intervene in support of Finch's case.

The council and developer Horse Hill Developments Ltd, together with the levelling up Secretary Michael Gove, defended the case.

Three judges considered the case, ruling 2:1 that the decision to grant permission was lawful.

The challenge centred on concern that it was “unlawful for a county council, as mineral planning authority, not to require the environmental impact assessment for a project of crude oil extraction for commercial purposes to include an assessment of the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the eventual use of the refined products of that oil as fuel”.

The High Court ruled that the council should consider both direct and indirect environmental effects of the development but that the emissions generated by end users of the oil extracted, such as motorists and industry – were “not environmental effects of the development or project”.

The Senior President of Tribunals, Sir Keith Lindblom, thought the real question at issue is not the meaning of the concepts of “the project” and “the proposed development” as such, but the meaning of the concept of “effects”, and in particular “indirect” effects, of that development.

He did not think “there was any unlawful inconsistency, or divergence of approach, in the decision-making process as a whole”.  

Lord Justice Lewison agreed with Lindblom that the appeal should be dismissed.

However, Lord Justice Moylan disagreed with Lindblom and Lewison that the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the use of the oil extracted from the Horse Hill Well Site were not relevant effects of the development and did not have to be addressed in the environmental impact assessment. He found the decision to be “legally flawed”.

Friends of the Earth said that although it was not the outcome it sought, the judgment “does improve the law from the previous ruling by the High Court”.

“Crucially, it makes clear that planning authorities have a discretion over whether to consider the ‘end use’ emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels in the environmental impact assessment. By contrast, the High Court had ruled that Surrey County Council could not have considered these emissions, as a matter of law.”

Finch said: “I’m dismayed by this judgment – but reassured it was not unanimous. The judges agreed it’s inevitable that oil produced at Horse Hill will eventually be burned, and that will produce greenhouse gas emissions. The fact that even senior judges can’t agree on whether these ‘downstream’ emissions should be assessed in the planning process shows that we need legal certainty on the issue. How can planning authorities be expected to know what to do when even judges don’t agree? Every tonne of carbon dioxide emitted will make the future situation worse – and more than 10 million tonnes could be produced as a result of this development.”

Katie de Kauwe, Friends of the Earth’s lawyer, explained that the split judgment highlights that even senior judges cannot agree over questions of law relating to climate change.

“We are pleased to see that the Court of Appeal has expressly recognised that end-use emissions from fossil fuel developments are capable of scientific assessment in environmental impact assessment, and that the legislation allows planning authorities to consider them.

“However, we do not believe that the majority decision by the Court of Appeal goes far enough. We wholeheartedly agree with the conclusion of Lord Justice Moylan, who gave the dissenting judgment in this appeal, that Surrey County Council could and should have considered the inevitable end-use emissions arising from this fossil fuel development.

“Planning authorities must play their part in confronting the climate crisis, or the planet will continue to hurtle towards catastrophe.”

Rowan Smith, Leigh Day environmental law solicitor, added that the firm is advising Finch on an application to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal.

The judgment can be found here.2

21 February 2022
The Planner, Laura Edgar

North Wales transport commission is launched

A new transport commission that will develop a pipeline of transport schemes for North Wales has been launched by the Welsh Government.

It will make recommendations for road, rail, bus, and active travel across the whole of North Wales.

It will follow the model of the commission set up after the cancellation of the M4 relief road in south-east Wales and will be led by Lord Terry Burns, former permanent secretary of the UK Treasury.

The commission is scheduled to complete its work within 12 months.

This initiative follows recommendations from the government’s Roads Review Panel and the recently published Union Connectivity Review by Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy, which advocates a “multi-modal” review of the A55 corridor.

Lee Waters, deputy minister for climate change, said: “If we are serious about facing up to the climate emergency, we have to be willing to do things differently, and critically to give people across North Wales genuine alternatives to using their cars for most journeys.

“As well as looking at the A55 corridor, the commission will also look at how we can improve sustainable transport options in rural areas. This will need a shift of investment towards public transport and I’m very pleased Lord Burns has agreed to lead a panel of local experts to set out a detailed list of projects that will be needed to make this a reality.

“This does not mean the end of road building, but it does mean a greater emphasis on looking after the roads we already have as well as investing in alternatives to give people a real choice.”

18 February 2022
The Planner, Roger Milne

Energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has granted a development consent order (DCO) for the Thurrock Flexible Generation Plant, a gas-fired electricity generating station and battery storage facility located in the green belt.

The consent is in line with a recommendation from the examining authority, the Planning Inspectorate (PINS).

Considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), the scheme as applied for is a plant comprising 48 engines fuelled by natural gas to generate 600 megawatts of electricity. It also involves batteries that can store energy to allow the facility to export another 150 megawatts of electricity for four hours (600MWh) to the National Grid.

The development includes construction of a gas pipeline, underground electricity cables and access roads.

It will be built on a site to the north of the National Grid Tilbury Substation in Thurrock, off Station Road.

In his decision letter, Kwarteng notes that National Policy Statements EN-1 and National Policy Statement for Fossil Fuel Electricity Generating Infrastructure – NPS EN-2 – set out the national need for such developments as proposed by the applicant, Thurrock Power Ltd.

Thurrock Council concluded on balance that the development would be acceptable in planning policy terms, with PINS noting that no interested parties were concerned about compliance with local planning policies.

PINS notes that the development would result in the loss of agricultural land, which is contrary to NPS-EN1 and would be “inappropriate development in the green belt which would, by definition, be harmful”.

“It would negatively impact on the openness of the green belt and would be in conflict with one of the purposes of the green belt and so would be in conflict with the NPS EN-1. The examining authority gives substantial weight to the adverse impacts of the proposed development on agricultural land and the green belt.”

PINS concluded that after the examination there weren’t any outstanding matters regarding air quality that needed to be addressed and the secretary of state saw no reason to disagree. It was agreed that an appropriate flood-risk assessment had been undertaken by the applicant and that suitable requirements had been included to guard against the risk of flooding.

It was concluded that noise effects from the development would be below the significance thresholds set out in the Noise Policy Statement for England and the National Planning Policy Framework.

On “carefully” considering the examining authority’s views on the green belt, the the secretary of state’s “overall conclusion is that, while he accepts there are harms that arise from the construction and operation of the proposed development, these do not outweigh the need – set out in National Policy Statement EN-1 – for developments of the sort that is the subject of the application. The proposed development’s ability to provide electricity generation rapidly in the event of a fall in supply or an increase in demand reinforces that conclusion”. He therefore granted the DCO.

The decision letter and other related documents can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website.3

17 February 2022
The Planner, Laura Edgar

News round-up

A legal challenge launched by the London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust over plans for a national Holocaust memorial next to the Houses of Parliament in London is due to be heard at the High Court today (22 February).

Then housing minister Christopher Pincher backed an inspector’s recommendation and granted planning permission for the United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in July 2021.

It would be located in Victoria Tower Gardens, a small grade II-listed park next to Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster.

The charity believes the decision-making process to be flawed. The case will focus on the impact the development may have on the heritage setting and the evaluation of alternative sites.


Forest of Dean searching for sites

Forest of Dean District Council has issued a call for sites to interested people, organisations, agents and/or landowners.

These sites could potentially be used for housing or employment, or for a combination of both.

The yearly study allows the council to keep its list of potential sites as up to date as possible, and will this year support the development of a new local plan to cover the period to 2041.

Forms are required to be returned by 31st March 2022 for 2022 assessment.


Doncaster begins transport study

Doncaster Council has announced that the Mexborough Greens Way flyover will be demolished and a transport study will consider how access routes into the town centre can best be improved.

Constructed in 1968, the bridge goes over the A6023. Engineers have advised that it should be demolished because of the structure’s continued deteriorating condition.

The transport study aims are to assess and cost transport proposals for the town centre that respond to specific challenges and opportunities. The council said it will inform the Mexborough Masterplan, which will be out for further consultation following completion of the transport study.

The transport study will consider highways options, parking options, active travel and Mexborough Gateway/bus interchange. It runs until late March.


MasterChef studios come to Warwick

Homes England has agreed a memorandum of understanding with development firm Digbeth Loc Limited and their partners to help bring the MasterChef studios to its Warwick Bar site in central Birmingham.

It is one of the agency’s first actions in the government’s levelling-up white paper to deliver.

The move is part of the regeneration of Warwick Bar and will bring major TV production out of London.

Homes England said it has assembled Warwick Bar, which comprises derelict and brownfield sites around Digbeth, over recent years to help catalyse the wider regeneration of Digbeth.

One of the first steps will see the government's housing agency lease part of their land, at Fazeley Street, Warwick Bar to Digbeth Loc Limited. They will develop proposals for a mixed-used scheme, starting with a film studio to house the production of the BBC’s MasterChef.


Lambeth picks London Square for Brixton project

Lambeth Council has approved London Square as its development partner for the Growing Brixton Rec Quarter project.

London Square will transform 49 Brixton Station Road and 6 Canterbury Crescent into affordable homes and workspace, and provide jobs. Public realm improvements also feature.

About 240 homes will be larger family homes and half of these will be classed as affordable, comprising 70 per cent at council rents and 30 per cent as either shared ownership or London Living Rent.

International House will be retained and refurbished to provide 7,800 square metres of workspace for local businesses, and at least 20 per cent of the building will be affordable workspace. There will also be upgrades to the public realm.

London Square says it will provide skills and training opportunities for Brixton residents, with 25 per cent of jobs and apprenticeships being offered to local residents.

The development project will begin later this year.


Energy-saving homes to launch in Essex

ilke Homes, in partnership with Gresham House and SO Resi, will install factory-built homes on a site in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, as part of a wider 153-home scheme.

The two-storey family homes will be engineered at ilke Homes’ factory in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.

They will use artificial intelligence, robotics, and digital design to create homes that are “incredibly” well insulated, meaning less heat escapes and a reduction in energy bills.

The homes will be installed with battery and low-carbon technologies to cut energy consumption. Solar panels installed on the roof will be used for electricity and heat pumps will provide heating and hot water.

Giles Carter, CEO at ilke Homes, said: “Thanks to advances in manufacturing, materials, and renewable energy, we have created homes that not only drastically reduce household bills but also give consumers greater control over their own energy usage.

“There’s a huge opportunity here to tackle fuel poverty while helping investors meet their green targets, which is why we’ve spent years investing into our manufacturing capabilities. The launch of the ZERO bills home is a great example of how the private sector can respond to politicians’ net-zero pledges and address some of society’s most prominent problems.”


Housing plans submitted to Sunderland City Council

Housing plans submitted in a national Homes of 2030 Design Competition have been submitted to Sunderland City Council.

If approved, 16 “showcase” properties would be developed on a former Vaux Brewery site and unveiled as part of a planned Future Living Expo, showcasing the city as a great place to live, work and play.

+Home designed by igloo Regeneration with Useful Projects, Expedition Engineers and Mawson Kerr and Connector Housing designed by Openstudio with Hoare Lea, LDA Design and Gardiner & Theobald were the joint winners of the competition.

Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We want the housing on this site to be the best it can be, and this planning application will pave the way for us to build a micro-community of homes of the future that will spearhead the wider residential development of the site, which will – in time – welcome 1,000 new homes, and in them 2,500 additional residents who will bring with them spending power that will fuel the revival of the city centre by day and evening.”


Winchester seeks regeneration development partner

Winchester City Council has launched a procurement process for a development partner to regenerate an area in the centre of Winchester.

The plans aim to deliver flexible workspace, retail and leisure facilities, housing and a public realm.

The council has proceeded with its plans of Central Winchester Regeneration (CWR), which include redevelopment of the bus station, Kings Walk, the old Friarsgate Medical Centre and Coitbury House.  

Laura Taylor, chief executive of Winchester City Council, said: “Like many cities in the UK, we are having to address the challenges of reshaping our built environment to meet the needs of the 21st century. Our plans for CWR focus on sustainable development, encouraging reductions in our carbon footprint and helping to make Winchester an exemplar of carbon and environmental management. The proposals also serve to integrate city centre living with new workspace and a greatly enhanced retail offer, while seeking to encourage young people to stay in Winchester by offering employment opportunities and creating a more vibrant night-time economy. This will result in a significantly improved commercial and cultural offer in the city and we would ask any interested development partner to get in touch and find out how they can be a part of our continuing success story.”


Planning sought for B2 uses

Trebor Developments has submitted planning for a new unit at Point 36, Goole to East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

The unit comprises 94,841 square feet and is located on Tom Pudding Way, in an industrial area and opposite Siemens’ £200 million new manufacturing facilities.

The planning application provides for a single unit on the site suitable for B2 or B8 uses. The unit will be delivered on a speculative basis and available for early occupation for fit out in late 2022, subject to planning.

22 February 2022
The Planner, Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya


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    Planning News - 24 February 2022

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