Weekly planning news
Planning news - 25 January 2024
BNG for major developments to come into force on 12 February
The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) has confirmed that biodiversity net gain (BNG) for major developments will go live on 12 February.
These requirements were due to come into force in January, after being pushed back from November 2023.
BNG was introduced in the Environment Act 2021. It forms part of the government's plans to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030 while helping to create more beautiful communities and deliver new homes.
In a blog, the department explained: "From 12 February 2024, BNG will be mandatory for new planning applications for major development made under the Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA) 1990, subject to the confirmed exemptions. Major development includes residential developments with 10 or more dwellings, or where the site area is greater than 0.5 hectares."
The delivery of 10 per cent BNG will apply on small sites from 2 April, a date that has not changed. Small site development includes "residential development where the number of dwellings is between one and nine, or if unknown the site area is less than 0.5 hectares" and "commercial development where floor space created is less than 1,000 square metres or the total site area is less than one hectare".
According to the blog, the introduction of BNG for planning applications has been prioritised. It will apply to applications for permission "except for application for retrospective permission, the exemptions and transitional arrangements".
The blog can be found on the Defra land use website1.
19 January 2024
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Bioenergy with carbon capture facility granted DCO by energy secretary
Energy secretary Claire Coutinho has granted a development consent order (DCO) for the Drax Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage Project.
The consent is in line with a recommendation by the Planning Inspectorate, which is the examining authority.
Draw Power Ltd sought consent for the installation of post-combustion carbon capture technology on up to two of the existing 660-megawatt electrical (MWe) biomass power generating units (unit 1 and unit 2) at the Drax Power Station in Selby, North Yorkshire.
It is referred to as post-combustion carbon capture because the carbon dioxide is captured from the flue gas produced during the combustion of biomass in units 1 and 2.
The scheme, according to the application form, is designed to remove approximately 95 per cent of the carbon dioxide from the flue gas from these two units. The carbon dioxide captured will undergo processing and compression before being transported through a new pipeline for storage under the southern North Sea.
The examining authority concluded that the development would make a “meaningful contribution” to meeting the “urgent need” for carbon capture storage infrastructure to support the transition to net zero by 2050.
It was satisfied that the proposed development met the requirements in the designated National Policy Statements (NPSs), as well as the ability of the development to achieve a 95 per cent capture efficiency.
Coutinho agreed with the examining authority's assessment of the principle of the development.
There would be no significant effects on air quality of human receptors likely to arise during either the construction, decommissioning or operational phases, concluded the examining authority . It gave air quality and emissions neutral weight in the planning balance. The energy secretary, having considered the applicant's Air Quality Technical Note 2, felt that while “these emission increases are not considered to be significant and welcomes the proposed mitigation, the applicant’s assessment shows there is a slight increase in pollutants overall”.
Therefore, the energy secretary “considers a neutral weighting is too favourable in the planning balance and that little negative weight more accurately reflects the impact and the policy in the NPS”.
Draw Power has proposed mitigation and compensation for the effects on protected species during the construction of the scheme. The decision letter states that “effects on habitats, bats, and terrestrial invertebrates were considered significant adverse at a local scale, and on breeding and wintering birds at the district scale”.
The examining authority found “that whilst there would be significant adverse effects on some protected species during construction, these would be temporary or short-term until compensation measures have reached target condition” and therefore gave biodiversity and ecology moderate positive weight in the planning balance.
However, the energy secretary “considers it will take a significant amount of time for the habitats to mature to a condition that resembles the existing habitat or reach the condition to produce positive compensation”. Overall, she considered a moderate positive weight too favourable in the planning balance and that little positive weight more accurately reflects the policy in the NPS.
According to the decision letter, the energy secretary agrees with the examining authority's conclusions and the weight it has ascribed to the overall planning balance with respect to a series of issues, including landscape and visual amenities (little negative weight); noise and vibration (neutral); socio-economic effects (moderate positive weight); and traffic, transport and waste management (neutral).
The energy secretary considered the overall planning balance and concluded that the public benefits associated with the proposed development outweigh the harm identified and that development consent should therefore be granted.
Will Gardiner, CEO Drax Group, said: “The DCO approval is another milestone in the development of our BECCS (Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage) plans, and demonstrates both the continued role that Drax Power Station has in delivering UK energy security and the critical role it could have in delivering large-scale carbon dioxide removals to meet net zero targets.
“We look forward to working with our supply chain and other partners over the coming years on the project which, when fully operational, will deliver secure renewable power and approximately eight million tonnes of carbon dioxide removals per year.
“We welcome the ongoing development of policy support for BECCS and the anticipated launch of a consultation on a bridging mechanism for biomass generators to take them from the end of current renewable schemes through to BECCS operations.”
Selby MP Keir Mather welcomed the news. “I’m very pleased to see that Drax have today secured planning permission to progress towards BECCS here in my constituency.
“As well as being a key local employer providing and securing hundreds of jobs in the Selby area, Drax will play a crucial role in Britain’s decarbonisation with this technology. I’m delighted that their almost 1,000-strong workforce can now look forward with confidence following this news.”
The decision letter and all other documents relating to the scheme can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website. 2
23 January 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Requirement to review local plans proves ‘ineffective’
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requirement to relieve local plans within five years of adoption is ‘ineffective at ensuring local plans are kept up to date’.
This is according to a report by planning consultant Lichfields.
Marking Your Own Homework: Interpretation and Application of the Requirement to Review Local Plan Policies Every Five Years finds that there is a lack of clear guidance on what authorities must consider when undertaking their review, while the roll-out of plan-making reforms is “inadvertently delaying” updates to local plans and “undermining the review process”.
Simon Coop, senior director at Lichfields, explained that the “intention of the plan-making reforms is to encourage a more rolling rhythm of updates, ensuring plans and their evidence are routinely kept up to date”.
However, the opposite is happening.
“The regulation, policy and guidance to enable the preparation of local plans under the reforms will not be available until at least autumn 2024 and will be dependent on the timings and outcomes of the general election,” said Coop.
Lichfields considered 55 local authorities that adopted a local plan containing strategic policies in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 monitoring years.
Case studies aim to demonstrate the varying ways that local plan reviews have been conducted and, said the consultancy, reveals there is not a standard approach for reviewing local plans. Rather, each local authority's interpretation of the process “can differ significantly”.
The requirement – in law, policy and guidance – for five-yearly reviews is clear, but how to achieve this is not. The Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) sets out some matters to consider, but it “is neither specific nor binding, leading to variations in how local authorities can review their policies”.
The research found that “many” local authorities in its research completed and published the Planning Advisory Service's (PAS) Local Plan Route Mapper Toolkit, which it produced in 2021. The use of it by local authorities shows “how valued this more specific guidance is”.
Coop explained: “While there is a statutory requirement to undertake a review of local plans every five years, local authorities are not necessarily required to update their plans because of their review. An update would only follow the review if it were deemed necessary. While the PPG states most plans are likely to require updating this does not always happen.”
According to the research, 47 out of the 55 local authorities considered in the research required to have undertaken an initial review of their local plans had completed this review or started work on the update process within the five-year period.
There did not seem to be any consequence for those authorities that failed to start a review within the five-year time frame.
If a review found that the local plan needed updating, the process “often extends beyond 10 years”, given the nature of the plan-making process.
Just four of 55 local authorities in the Lichfields analysis had adopted an updated local plan at the time of writing (January 2024), including Ipswich Borough Council.
The report can be downloaded from the Lichfields website. 3
22 January 2024
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Councillors endorse consultation on draft local plan for Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough Council's Executive Committee has voted to put out the draft local plan covering the period 2022–2041 for consultation.
It sets out the housing allocations where new development can take place, as well as policies for economic growth, green and blue infrastructure, the historic environment and design/placemaking.
The draft local plan identifies the housing need as 400 homes a year, taking into account growing the number of jobs by 350 additional jobs a year. Overall, there is a requirement for an additional 7,600 dwellings between 2022 and 2041 at a minimum
Housing allocations are proposed to meet this requirement plus an additional buffer of just over 11 per cent, which allows for variations in delivery and helps to ensure that the council maintains a five-year land supply.
The whole of the borough of Middlesbrough is covered by the draft local plan, including the area covered by the Middlesbrough Development Corporation (MDC). The development corporation is the planning authority for making decisions on planning applications in that area of the town, but Middlesbrough Council remains the plan-making authority.
The council agreed to commence work on a new local plan in September 2022. The purpose of the review is to ensure all of its planning policies are up to date and bring them together in a single document.
The endorsement of the draft local plan by the executive committee was recommended by the director of regeneration for the council.
Public consultation on the draft is scheduled to take place between 1 February and 15 March 2024.
The report to the committee can be found on the Middlesbrough Council website4.
22 January 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
West Berkshire ‘dissatisfied’ with reasons for local plan intervention
West Berkshire Council has written to planning minister Lee Rowley, responding to intervention by the government regarding the council's local plan.
The letter, sent by council leader Lee Dillon, outlines the council's disappointment at intervention and expresses dissatisfaction with the reasons given for why the government has intervened.
West Berkshire Council members were due to consider a report proposing the withdrawal of the council's local plan review from examination on Tuesday 19 December5.
In a letter to Dillon, sent on the day of the meeting6, Rowley explained that secretary of state Michael Gove was exercising his powers under section 27 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. The council was ordered not to withdraw the draft local plan from examination.
The local plan review was submitted in April under a Conservative administration. In May, the Liberal Democrats were elected.
A commitment was made in the Council Strategy Delivery Plan in September to revise the local plan. When in opposition, the Liberal Democrats expressed concerns about the level of development in green spaces – specifically in north-east Thatcham and Theale.
The council explained that since forming a new administration in May, officers have been working with the executive to address their concerns with the plan submitted for examination, but solutions were not found to meet the aspirations of the Liberal Democrat administration.
The letter to the council states that Gove’s reason for making this direction “is to give the people of West Berkshire the best chance of having a sound local plan adopted in the near future, protecting the area in which they live from speculative development”.
Dillon writes that the council's circumstances arising from the local elections in May 2023 “have clearly altered what residents want to see here in West Berkshire”.
“The residents of West Berkshire elected this new council on one of its core commitments, to challenge the current local plan review.”
Dillon, however, acknowledges that withdrawing the local plan review at this stage would “cause undue further delay and expense through preparing a replacement plan”.
“Therefore, although my colleagues and I strongly believe that this decision should be one for the council to take in line with central government advice, promoting local decision-making and engagement at a local level, especially in the context of the clear mandate from community, through the election in May 2023, the administration has decided not to challenge intervention on this basis, but is disappointed that the secretary of state did not offer a more nuanced position rather than a blanket ban on allowing the clear expression of local residents to be realised."
18 January 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Grant for RTPI to assess historical records
The RTPI has been awarded a scoping grant from The National Archives as part of the Archives Revealed Scoping Grant programme.
The grants aim to help consultancy services to facilitate the scoping of collections. Grant recipients will be able to develop a better understanding of the content of their collections and strategically prioritise collection development.
Grants of up to £3,000 are provided by the programme for the scoping of archival collections that may be of public interest, with the institute seeking to preserve and promote the historical records that contribute to the science and art of planning in the UK.
David Mountain, research manager at the RTPI, said: “This scoping grant will allow us to assess the scope, quality, condition and quantity of our historical records. It will help us to understand the amount of time, work, and money needed to establish a usable, accessible resource for planners, scholars and the public. Such a resource will help to further embed long-standing leadership within the planning community at large.”
Loughborough housing plans submitted
A planning application has been submitted to Charnwood Borough Council to build 65 houses off Parklands Drive in Loughborough.
The scheme would include public open space and a play area, and the homes would be a mix of terraces and semi-detached properties.
The site belonged to Tucker's brickworks, which was established by Gilbert Tucker in 1848 – known as the Beacon Road Works.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) confirmed that two houses will be demolished as part of the development.
Custom Build Homes submits RM housing application
Custom Build Homes has submitted a reserved matters application for 14 self-build homes on Cross Nursery in Hertfordshire.
Outline planning permission was granted by Broxbourne Borough Council in December 2023.
The site is on a derelict former horticultural nursery site and is located on the edge of Goffs Oak.
Eastchurch housing plans submitted to council
Chartway Partnerships Group, in collaboration with Moat Homes, has lodged a planning application with Swale Borough Council for the development of 36 affordable homes in Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey.
The homes would be a mix of one and two-bedroom flats and two and three-bedroom houses. The development will feature sustainable drainage, PVs and air source heat pumps, together with allocated parking for all homes, which include EV charging points.
The scheme comprises the addition of native species field hedges, wildflower and grassland areas, scrub zones and sustainable urban drainage habitats.
Lockleaze housing plans green-lit
Bristol City Council has approved plans for 140 homes in Lockleaze, which will be built by Vistry Group and council-owned housing company Goram Homes.
The new development on Dovercourt Road is intended to transform Dovercourt Depot, a disused Bristol City Council depot, into a new neighbourhood three miles north of the city centre.
There will be a mix of new homes consisting of apartment blocks up to four storeys, including one and two-bedroom apartments, and two, three and four-bedroom houses.
Half of the homes will be council-owned, including social rent and shared ownership, while the other half will be sold on the open market by retail brand Countryside Homes.
The homes will feature solar panels and air source heat pumps, alongside electric car charging points.
Additionally, a new public park will be created to improve biodiversity on the site by over 10 per cent.
Outline planning consent was granted in October 2022 and the design team worked with the community on the detailed plans that have now been approved.
Additional land designated in Glasgow’s LNRs
Glasgow City Council has designated an additional 82 hectares of land for Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) to benefit city wildlife and residents.
LNRs are protected areas of land designated by a local authority because of their special natural interest and/or educational value.
Nine additional areas including four within the Seven Lochs Wetland Park have been designated as LNRs.
Glasgow City Council worked with Scotland's nature agency NatureScot on the official designation of this additional land.
Council approves Hurlingham care home plans
The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham has approved plans for a purpose-built care home located at 160-164 Hurlingham Road.
Global property consultancy Knight Frank acted on behalf of its client Care Concern Group on the application.
The 81-bed scheme is set to include specialised dementia care accommodation and will provide residents with specialist 24/7 care
The site, which has been vacant and derelict for several years, sits within the Hurlingham Conservation Area and includes heritage assets.
Council selects cancer and research district development partners
The London Borough of Sutton has appointed insurer Aviva and developer Socius as partners to develop a district for cancer research and treatment at the London Cancer Hub (LCH) in Sutton, London.
The investment includes the long lease sale for development by Aviva and Socius of a five-hectare site adjacent to the renowned Royal Marsden Hospital and Institute for Cancer Research.
The partnership will deliver one million square feet of research, treatment and innovation spaces alongside residential accommodation and amenities for local people and visitors.
Aviva and Socius have commenced community and stakeholder engagement with a view to submitting a planning application in late 2024.
Views sought on Tewkesbury draft council plan
Tewkesbury Borough Council is asking for feedback on its proposed new council plan. It sets out the council's new vision, priorities and focus areas for the next four years.
The consultation went live on Friday, 19 January.
Priorities include ‘caring for our place’, which commits the council to working with communities to shape the future of towns, villages and rural areas, actively contributing to the prosperity of the borough.
More information can be found on the Tewkesbury Borough Council7.
Councillors approve conservation area statement
Councillors at Brighton & Hove City Council have approved a new Character Statement for the College Conservation Area.
Members of the Culture, Heritage, Sport, Tourism & Economic Development Committee agreed on the statement at their meeting on 18 January 2024, after considering the results of a public consultation held in 2023.
The character statement is intended to define the features of the area that are of architectural or historic interest and the character and appearance which should be preserved or enhanced.
The College Conservation Area is centred on the buildings and grounds of Brighton College; the original buildings date from the mid-19th century.
Alan Robins, chair of the committee, said: “The statement is intended to guide those involved in development and change in the college area. It will assist in the area’s protection and management.
“Planning controls are tighter in conservation areas and this statement will be used to assess future local planning proposals.”
Phase 2 of Leith neighbourhood approved
Edinburgh City Council has backed phase two of the £250 million Ocean Terminal development.
It includes 530 multi-tenure homes; new retail and commercial spaces; amenities; and health and leisure facilities.
Owner of the 23-year-old Ocean Terminal shopping centre, The Ambassador Group, has put forward proposals that open up a stretch of Leith waterfront currently inaccessible to the public. The masterplan was developed by Keppie Design, LDA Design and planning consultancy Turley. It sees the shopping centre site reconfigured and regenerated to create a high-amenity town centre on the waterfront.
Consent for the first phase of the development, which includes part-demolition of a multistorey car park and former Debenhams store, was granted in 2022.
Harborough consults on local plan
Harborough District Council has launched its ‘Issues and Options’ consultation as part of work to ensure that the development plan remains up to date.
The current Harborough District Local Plan was adopted in 2019.
This consultation document focuses on key planning issues, including homes, jobs, heritage, town centres, climate change, biodiversity and protection of important open spaces. Each issue is introduced and explained.
The consultation closes on 27 February 2024.
More information can be found on the council website8.
Eco-friendly distillery proposed for Clyde Valley
Neil Pringle has submitted a detailed planning application for a £2 million off-grid rum distillery and visitor centre on the banks of the River Clyde.
Located at the inception of the Clyde Valley Tourist Route, the building has been designed to be flood-resilient.
The project is a collaboration with iStill.com as it seeks to reduce energy consumption by 80 per cent compared with conventional distilleries.
The facility is designed to produce 60,000 litres of alcohol annually, including rum, vodka, and eventually whisky. Permission is also sought for a visitor centre and a café. The initiative is expected to create 33 full-time jobs.
23 January 2024
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, The Planner