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Planning news - 26 May 2022

Survey: Councillors want councils to move to hybrid way of holding meetings

Responding to a survey, 72 per cent of councillors say moving to a hybrid model of holding meetings could attract more younger people, ethnic minorities and women to stand in local elections.

This would see some meetings held in person and others online.

The survey reveals that respondents believe that hybrid meetings could improve local accountability, engagement with residents, and reduce carbon emissions and costs for councils.

The County Councils Network (CCN) surveyed its 36 members, and 479 councillors responded.

Of those respondents, 87 per cent agree that they would like their council to be able to adopt a hybrid set-up going forward. The government has said it is considering this.

Legislation in the Coronavirus Act 2020 allowed local authorities to hold meetings online during the height of the pandemic and the lockdowns implemented to stem the spread of Covid-19. This lapsed in May 2021.

During the lockdowns, 83 per cent of respondents said they spent at least six hours a week taking part in video conferences while 27 per cent said they took part in at least 15 hours a week. Before the pandemic, just 12 per cent of councillors said they had participated in council meetings online.

A Hybrid Future: Experiences From Remote Meetings During the Pandemic in County Authorities was compiled by the CCN and Zoom.

The survey found:

  • 45 per cent of respondents to the survey said they were either self-employed or in full-time work.
  • 89 per cent of councillors with caring responsibilities either agreed or strongly agreed that they would like to adopt a hybrid model for statutory council business, compared to 83 per cent without caring responsibilities.
  • Nine in 10 respondents with caring responsibilities said that a hybrid model would allow them to better balance their role as councillors with the rest of their lives.
  • Eight in 10 without caring responsibilities said a hybrid model would provide a better councillor-life balance.
  • 92 per cent of councillors under the age of 44 and 61 per cent of those aged 65 and over said that adopting a hybrid model would help improve the diversity of councils. In total,
  • 85 per cent of female councillors said such a model would enable a better councillor-life balance.
  • 11 per cent of respondents to the survey were under the age of 44.
  • 51 per cent said adopting a hybrid model that enables local people to watch all meetings online would make their council more accessible and accountable to their residents.
  • 69 per cent of respondents said videoconferencing had helped them to engage with community groups during the pandemic.
  • 70 per cent said a hybrid model would cut down on travel expenses for their local authority, while 76 per cent said it would cut down on their carbon footprint.
  • 71 per cent of councillors said they expect their local authority to adopt a hybrid model which mixes remote and office working for most of their staff.

Julian German, rural spokesperson for the CCN, noted that councils embraced hybrid technologies during the lockdowns, with meetings going virtual.

“Whilst councillors will always want the ability to meet, discuss and scrutinise in person, when reflecting on the lessons learned from the last two years, there are clear benefits to councils offering a hybrid model. There is a clear consensus that hybrid meetings could open the door to attracting a younger, more diverse set of councillors, who are able to effectively balance their councillor and caring or employment responsibilities.

“Councillors across the country are also clear that such a model would also increase transparency and accountability, encouraging more residents to engage in council business, as well as providing cost and environmental benefits to the public sector. This should be viewed as a win-win scenario for government, with a hybrid model offering the best of both worlds. We urge ministers to consider including legislation to enable such a model.”

Charlotte Holloway, UK Government relations director at Zoom, added: “After successfully adapting to new and innovative ways of working over the past two years, this report demonstrates a strong desire from the vast majority of councillors to continue using hybrid technologies for day-to-day work as well as statutory meetings – something currently prohibited in legislation.

“Although councillors have not been able to hold statutory meetings remotely since the emergency Covid-19 measures expired, it’s encouraging to see that councillors recognise how holding regular hybrid meetings can improve transparency and accountability, increase the diversity of councils and save carbon emissions. For councillors, the genie is clearly out of the bottle and they don’t want to go back to the way things were done before.”

23 May 2022                   
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Government pledges £15m for garden communities

Housing minister Stuart Andrew has announced £15 million in funding to support the delivery of thousands of homes in garden communities across England.

The government’s garden communities programme intends to deliver 16,000 homes a year from 2025. This £15 million takes the total funding for the garden communities programme to more than £69 million.

The new funding will go towards regenerating:

Long Marston in Warwickshire, formerly a disused airfield that is “now a vibrant, green neighbourhood”, will see 3,500 new homes built, with a requirement for 35 per cent affordable housing.

Halsnead Garden Village in Knowsley will deliver 1,619 new homes in Merseyside along with 22.5 hectares of land for new businesses. A country park will accompany wetlands and restored wildflower meadows to improve biodiversity.

West Carclaze Garden Village will support the delivery of up to 1,500 new homes, in an “innovative, sustainable new community” to promote the health and wellbeing of its residents.

Andrew said: “Building beautiful new homes in the places they are most needed lies at the heart of the government’s levelling-up mission.

“Garden villages and towns are perfect examples of the vibrant, green communities we want to see right across the country and today’s funding will allow us to work hand in hand with local leaders and industry to deliver the high-quality new homes that we need.”

The garden communities programme provides support to help long-term housing projects progress from their earliest stages. Through it, local authorities can recruit specialist staff, undertake the required planning and receive advice and support from Homes England.

Peter Freeman, chair of Homes England, said: “Working collaboratively and supporting locally led ambitions to deliver well-designed and great-quality new places and communities in the right places is central to our mission.

“This funding will support the delivery of much-needed homes and bolster the local economy.”

24 May 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

154 homes approved for Rochester development

Medway Council has granted planning permission for phase seven of Rochester Riverside in Medway, a £419 million regeneration scheme.

The permission was sought by developer Countryside and housing association Hyde.

Phase seven comprises 154 homes ranging from one-bedroom apartments to four-bedroom houses. At least 10 per cent of the homes will be for shared ownership.

The phase will stretch down to Doust Way and also feature a further section of the 2.5km river walkway that surrounds the development, as well as new public realm and public artwork.

Andrew Usher, managing director, South London, Countryside, said phase 7 would complete the southern quarter of Rochester Riverside.

In full, Rochester Riverside will be a mixed-tenure community of up to 1,400 homes with a primary school, nursery, as well as a hotel, commercial units, open green spaces, and landscaping. Phases one and two are complete and comprise 331 homes, a hotel, food store and coffee shop. Phase three is under construction and will deliver 171 homes, a waterfront park and new public areas around the dockside blue crane.

23 May 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

307 homes approved in Mid Sussex

Mid Sussex Council has granted planning permission for 307 homes at Burgess Hill.

The development, which will be called Abbeville Park, will be jointly delivered by Places for People and ilke Homes.

The first entered into a strategic partnership in 2019 to develop the 19.3-acre site to “set a new standard for development”.

Homes will be a range of apartments and a mix of two, three and four-bedroom properties; they will be constructed using modern methods of construction. The homes will all be available for affordable rents or for sale as shared ownership.

Of the homes, 219 of the 307 will be manufactured off-site at ilke Homes’s factory. Alongside the modular construction, three traditionally built wheelchair-accessible homes and 86 apartments will be constructed.

Adrian Bohr, Places for People’s group development director, said: “The development will deliver houses built using traditional construction methods and modular houses through modern methods of construction.

“The delivery of this new neighbourhood at Burgess Hill forms an integral part of Places for People’s strategy to deliver high-quality affordable homes that provide choice and meet people’s needs. Working alongside partners such as ilke Homes allows us to combine expertise and supports our aim of creating well-designed, sustainable, mixed-tenure communities.”

Places for People has a strategic partnership with Homes England. Bohr said Abbeville Park will be developed as part of this partnership.

Tom Heathcote, executive director of Development at ilke Homes, added: “The new development will deliver a well-designed, sustainable, mixed-tenure community that will provide residents with precision-built quality homes, open space and strong links to the town centre. We are very excited to deliver this brownfield regeneration scheme in partnership with Places for People and look forward to collaborating on future projects.”

The scheme is expected to be completed by 2025.

18 May 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Map to document roadside biodiversity is commissioned

National Highways has commissioned Manchester Metropolitan University to develop a mapping system to make it easier for National Highways to keep track of the ecosystems bordering England’s 4,300 miles of motorways and major A-roads.

The mapping system is part of plans to boost biodiversity. More than 20 different sets of data will be used to overlap and layer National Highways’ soft estate, roughly 28,258 hectares of green land close to the roads.

The government-owned company explained that it has detailed environmental maps of many individual locations, but that this new system will map the entirety of England’s strategic road network for the first time.

The system will support ground-level assessments of the local habitat, enabling National Highways to “more precisely target biodiversity investment in the future” and address that it “isn't possible or practical” to survey its land manually.

Laurence Lewis-Jones, principal biodiversity adviser at National Highways, said: “This is an important building block of the work we’re undertaking to protect and enhance the ecology and the environment across the country, with an aim of achieving no net loss of biodiversity across all our work areas.  

“We know roads have the potential to compromise the quality of their surrounding environments. For wildlife, roads can fragment important habitats, putting pressure on plant and animal populations.

“This project should help to combat these challenges, identifying areas where we can increase biodiversity, putting nature at the heart of our network.”

The university will also devise a tool to enable Natural England’s Biodiversity Metric to be used on the maps and allow a targeted approach to maximising the number of biodiversity units across the network.

Dr Chris Field, leader of the research team at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “Through remote mapping and the application of the biodiversity metric across the whole strategic road network, we can take a holistic view that helps National Highways make strategic investment decisions that optimise gains in biodiversity.”

23 May 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

News round-up

Eight towns to become cities

As part of Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, eight locations have received city status through a competition.

For the first time this competition was open to applications from the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.

The eight places to receive city status are:

  • Bangor, Northern Ireland
  • Colchester, England
  • Doncaster, England
  • Douglas, Isle of Man
  • Dunfermline, Scotland
  • Milton Keynes, England
  • Stanley, Falkland Islands
  • Wrexham, Wales

The competition for city status has taken place in each of the last three jubilee years. Previous winners include Chelmsford, Lisburn and Newport.

TfL searching for joint venture partner

Transport for London (TfL) is searching for a joint venture partner to create a portfolio of three new commercial office developments at Bank, Paddington and Southwark.

TfL intends to deliver sustainable commercial office developments that provide "exceptional workplaces and positively impact the local community through this new joint venture partnership".

Details about the three over-station developments include:

Bank over-station development – Located above the new station entrance on Cannon Street, the eight-storey development, along with a basement, will include office and retail space, measuring around 140,000 square feet (net internal area (NIA), external terraces on fifth, sixth and seventh floors and a green roof, subject to the outcome of a planning application that seeks permission for an additional storey of office space and an outdoor terrace.

Paddington Triangle over-station development – Located by Grand Union Canal and close to the new Elizabeth line station at Paddington, this 19-storey building will deliver office and retail space measuring around 235,000 square feet. (NIA). It will include a canal side reception and use a ground and air source heat pump system.

Southwark over-station development – Located above Southwark Tube station on the Jubilee line, TfL intends for this 17-storey hybrid timber building "to be one of the greenest and healthiest large-scale commercial buildings in the UK". Measuring around 220,000 square feet (NIA), it will provide a mixture of commercial office space and retail space and has external terraces on most floors.

All three sites have received planning consent or resolution to grant planning consent and have the potential to target BREEAM Outstanding.

Rail groups urge Golborne link rethink

The High Speed Rail Group (HSRG), Railway Industry Association (RIA) and Rail Freight Group (RFG) have urged the government to not scrap the ‘Golborne link’, a key section of the HS2 Phase 2b line.  

The three rail groups have written a joint letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps and have described the plans as “deeply concerning”. They maintain that the Golborne link has already been factored into the budget for HS2, and state that axing the line would create a bottleneck north of Crewe on the West Coast Main Line – affecting passengers and freight.

The letter says that by contradicting the plans for HS2 as set out in November’s Integrated Rail Plan, the government risks further extending timescales for the project, as well as delaying the wide-ranging benefits that HS2 will deliver to communities in the north of England and Scotland. The letter calls on the secretary of state to confirm that the Golborne link will remain part of HS2 as a matter of urgent priority.

DLA presents Westbank Leeds plans

DLA Architecture has presented plans to Leeds City Council for a £150 million mixed-use scheme on a site in the South Bank regeneration area of Leeds City Centre.

The four-acre site currently houses a three-storey call centre building with 117 car parking spaces.

Plans for ‘Westbank Leeds’ includes delivering around 500,000 square feet of grade A office accommodation within four buildings alongside a “luxury” hotel with sky bar and more leisure space within the ground floor of the offices.

A full planning application is set to be submitted in late summer 2022.

Gloucestershire Airport announces completion of refurbishment works

Gloucestershire Airport has announced the completion of major upgrades to its crosswind and main runways, leading to permanent closure of its north/south runway.

The work involved runway resurfacing, the installation of new runway lighting, upgrades to signs and drainage and new below-ground infrastructure in readiness for a new radar system.

Funding for the works came from its shareholders and Gloucester City and Cheltenham Borough councils, and was delivered by engineering firm VolkerFitzpatrick and project managed by Ridge & Partners LLP.

CGX Connect, the airport’s new commercial development, has been unlocked for future development following completion of the works.

It will be located on the northern perimeter between the existing Anson and Meteor business parks. Vehicular access works for the site were completed earlier this month and the scheme is set to be complete by early summer. 

Surrey awarded £5.9m for travel projects

Surrey County Council has been awarded about £5.9 million of government funding to invest in more active travel improvement projects in Surrey.

The new projects aim to enhance walking and cycling for residents, as well as rendering it safer to travel around the county.

The funds will support “transformational” and “innovative” projects that reallocate road space to active travel modes. These include roundabout upgrades as well as liveable streets, a school street, and two segregated cycle routes and quietways. Proposals for the funding will go to public consultation later this year, with the aim of work beginning during 2023.

Matt Furniss, cabinet member for transport and infrastructure, said: “Improving our road network will enable residents to play their part in helping us become a greener county.

“With 41 per cent of Surrey’s carbon emissions coming from transport, using cars less and choosing to travel more sustainably will help us in our mission to become net-zero carbon by 2050.”

Homes approved in Hallow

Malvern Hills District Council has granted planning permission for 55 homes, 40 per cent of which will be affordable, at Hallow, Worcestershire.

The 7.4-acre site was put forward by land promoter Mactaggart & Mickel through Hallow Parish Council’s neighbourhood plan. Hayfield Homes will build the homes.

Hayfield Grove will feature 55 “eco-efficient” homes and around 2.5 acres of new public open space, which will link in with the landscaped space that was created as part of the neighbouring Hayfield Meadow scheme, for which Mactaggart & Mickel secured planning permission in 2016.

24 May 2022
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

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      Planning news - 26 May 2022

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