Weekly planning news
Planning news - 27 July 2023
Planning appeal service streamlined
The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has launched an online service for submitting and monitoring appeals.
New householder and section 78 appeals in England will be submitted through this new service, excluding those for listed building consent.
The inspectorate explained that an ‘Appeal a planning decision’ page on the UK Government website1 provides an improved submission process that is both user-friendly and intuitive, with improvements implemented.
The "simpler and more user-friendly" submission process includes being able to save your appeal and resume later, as well as a task list outlining the necessary information needed for an appeal.
PINS is inviting feedback on the service as it develops and refines it. The feedback form can be found here2.
A video explaining how to use the new service can be viewed on YouTube3.
Laura Edgar, The Planner
20 July 2023
£24m to increase planning capacity and PDR consultation published
The government has launched a consultation on permitted development rights (PDR) and committed £24 million in funding for planning skills as part of its long-term housing plan.
The Planning Skills Delivery Fund is intended to scale up local planning capacity and clear backlogs.
Victoria Hills, chief executive at the RTPI, commented: “I believe this investment into the planning system will make a significant contribution to alleviating the pressure placed on England’s planning services. Well-resourced local planning authorities have the power to make a unique contribution to their areas, helping to deliver the affordable homes, public services, and critical infrastructure individuals, families and communities need.”
These announcements were set out [on 24 July] by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove, secretary of state for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Community. This long-term plan for housing includes regenerating Cambridge, inner-city London, and central Leeds, as well as £800 million from the £1.5 billion Brownfield, Infrastructure and Land Fund to unlock up to 56,000 new homes on brownfield sites.
Backed by £5 million, a Cambridge Delivery Group, to be chaired by Peter Freeman, will be established to begin driving forward its project to be "Europe’s science capital" with "well-designed, sustainable and beautiful neighbourhoods”.
A “super-squad” team of leading planners and other experts have been charged with working across the planning system to unblock major housing developments, underpinned by £13.5 million in funding.
The team's first stop will be Cambridge, before looking at sites across eight investment zones in England, the first of which – Sheffield4 – was announced earlier this month.
The government argues that new and amended PDRs would make it easier to convert larger department stores, space above shops and office space into homes, which will increase densification.
Noting that comparable Western countries have high densities in their inner cities, it says densification "will transform the opportunities available to people across the country". England's inner cities have "much lower" densities, which impairs productivity, explains the government.
Furthermore, its plan also “backs” rural communities. Included are proposals to support farm diversification and development, to allow businesses to extend and more outdoor markets to be held.
In addition, a consultation will be published this autumn on how to better support existing homeowners to extend their homes.
The government added that it would continue to ensure that local removal of PDRs through Article 4 Directions “will only be agreed where there is evidence of wholly unacceptable impacts”.
The amount developers pay in planning feels will also be increased, following consultation earlier this year.5
Other announcements include:
- Establishing the Office for Place in Stoke-on-Trent. Nicholas Boys Smith is the interim chair.
- Consulting on proposals to simplify the system of developing a new plan. The government said it will work with councils to reduce the cost and bureaucracy associated with getting an updated plan in place. The government added that "local authorities should continue to develop their local plans, ensuring local people get their say".
- Confirming the intention to mandate second staircases in new residential buildings above 18m.
Laura Edgar, The Planner
24 July 2023
Government outlines plans for regeneration and brownfield land funding
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove, levelling up and housing secretary, have committed to regenerating Cambridge, inner-city London and central Leeds.
An allocation of £800 million has been made from the £1.5 billion Brownfield, Infrastructure and Land Fund. This is intended to unlock up to 56,000 new homes on brownfield sites, "taking an infrastructure-first approach to building up our cities", said the government.
Further reforms to the planning system include the intent to "speed up new developments" and "put power in the hands" of local communities to build their own homes.
Gove set out these measures in a speech today (24 July) while Sunak said the government would meet its manifesto commitment to build a million homes over this Parliament. “That’s a beautiful new home for a million individual families in every corner of our country," he explained.
“We need to keep going because we want more people to realise the dream of owning their own home.
“We won’t do that by concreting over the countryside – our plan is to build the right homes where there is the most need and where there is local support, in the heart of Britain’s great cities.
“Our reforms today will help make that a reality, by regenerating disused brownfield land, streamlining the planning process and helping homeowners to renovate and extend their houses outwards and upwards,” added Sunak.
Regeneration plans build on the government's commitment in the levelling up white paper, which was published in February 2022 to regenerate 20 towns and cities, with Wolverhampton and Sheffield first on the list.
The government wants Cambridge to be “supercharged as Europe’s science capital”. It explained that proposals will address “constraints that have left the city with some of the most expensive property markets outside London”, as well as companies fighting over limited laboratory space.
Proposals include a new quarter of “well-designed, sustainable and beautiful neighbourhoods" for people to live, work and study in, with the space for “cutting-edge laboratories, commercial developments fully adapted to climate change and that is green”.
The government is committed to delivering as much of the accompanying infrastructure and affordable housing as possible using land value capture.
Backed by £5 million, a Cambridge Delivery Group, to be chaired by Peter Freeman, will be established to begin driving forward this project. Immediate work includes convening a Water Scarcity Working Group with the Environment Agency, Ofwat, central and local government and innovators across industries to identify and accelerate plans to address water constraints. Work here will focus on understanding what it would take to accelerate building the proposed new Fens Reservoir and enabling Cambridge to reach its economic potential.
On the subject of water, cash from a £3 million government funding pot will be used to support measures to improve the water efficiency of existing homes and commercial property across Cambridge. This, said the government, should help to offset demands created by new developments in the local plan.
Gove said: “Most people agree that we need to build more homes – the question is how we go about it.
“Rather than concreting over the countryside, we have set out a plan today to build the right homes in the right places where there is community support – and we’re putting the resources behind it to help make this vision a reality.
“At the heart of this is making sure that we build beautiful and empower communities to have a say in the development in their area.”
Mike Davey, leader of Cambridge City Council, said: “We welcome any proposals from central government that help to address the problems identified in our emerging local plan for Greater Cambridge, most notably the water shortage, a continuing housing affordability crisis and a lack of sustainable transport infrastructure.
“We urgently need the government to commit to all necessary measures to resolve these problems with the council and our partners. This includes innovative measures to reduce domestic, industrial and agricultural water consumption and investment to clean our rivers and chalk streams.
“As with all of these announcements, we wait to see the detail, but we look forward to working with central government to ensure we can build a sustainable and beautiful Cambridge, with enhanced and protected green space and a sustainable transport system. We need a Cambridge that will both unlock business potential and benefit all residents who live in our fantastic city.”
Other regeneration and levelling up plans include:
- A ‘Docklands 2.0’ vision in East London for up to 65,000 homes across multiple sites of significant scale including at Thamesmead, Beckton and Silvertown. The government will examine how it can ensure better transport connections from east to west.
- £1 million has been made available to push forward work with the Mayor of London to consider how to drive housing delivery in London, including looking at innovative ways that industrial land can be released for housing.
- Working with local partners in central Leeds, to regenerate the city centre and explore how a West Yorkshire mass transit system could open up the city to many more workers across the city’s burgeoning financial, digital and legal sectors. The government plans to work with local authorities to adapt existing HS2 land safeguarded in Leeds City Centre where appropriate, supporting economic growth and housing delivery.
- To continue working with local partners in Barrow-in-Furness to help make it a new powerhouse of the North – extending beyond its current boundaries with thousands of new homes and space for new businesses to benefit from the scientific and technical expertise already clustered there.
- £800 million from the £1.5 billion Brownfield, Infrastructure and Land fund to unlock up to 56,000 new homes across England, to transform disused sites and create vibrant communities for people to live and work while protecting green spaces, including further accelerating activity in areas such as Sheffield.
Laura Edgar, The Planner
24 July 2023
Enforcement notice issued over unauthorised coal extraction
The Coal Authority has issued an enforcement notice8 to the operators of the Ffos-Y-Fran coal mine in Merthyr Tydfil over a breach of their operating licence after it was found that coal mining had been taking place beyond the agreed licensed area.
A licensing inspection visit on 19 May 2023 led to the Coal Authority requesting a plan setting out how the mine operators intended to end all unauthorised coal-mining operations by 7 July 2023.
This was not complied with, however, so the authority applied its enforcement powers. Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd was granted 28 days from the issuing of the notice – 14 July – during which to object.
The authority’s action comes after Merthyr Tydfil Council issued an enforcement notice on Wednesday 24 May 2023, demanding that Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd should cease extracting coal at the site, with the notice taking effect on 27 June 2023. However, the BBC reported on 28 June9 that the mine operator would be appealing against the council’s enforcement notice.
Friends of the Earth Cymru have called on the Welsh Government10 to stop the unauthorised coal mining while Extinction Rebellion blockaded the mine’s entrance at the start of July, Nation.Cymru reports.11
Planning permission for coal extraction at the mine had run out on 6 September 2022, as the operator’s application for an extended period was refused by Merthyr Council earlier in 2023.
The Coal Authority's letter can be found on the UK Government website.12
21 June 2023
Ben Gosling, The Planner
Welsh minister sets out SuDS reforms
Climate change minister Julie James has announced moves to reform the sustainable drainage system (SuDS) regime following a review of current practices. She has committed to making the changes over the next 12 months.
This initiative will involve setting out standards for amenity and biodiversity which will strengthen the requirement that SuDS should provide wildlife habitat.
The administration will ensure that national planning policy on SuDS will be aligned to guarantee that steps are taken at the development proposal and planning stages to maintain and enhance biodiversity and ecosystems resilience, alongside managing flood risk and the wider socio-economic needs of businesses and communities.
She also revealed that officials have been asked to provide options and timescales to increase capacity building and the delivery of more training for SuDS Approval Bodies (SABs).
In a written statement, the minister said the government would investigate the practical implications of new standards for the inclusion of SuDS design elements within new and existing highways.
“This would enable us to tackle road run-off that drains directly to rivers and other water bodies; a pollutant source which is largely unaddressed,” she said.
“We will also investigate and develop the best mechanism for annual data collection and reporting by SABs. This will drive improved performance across Wales and allow us to consider whether the current fee structure is appropriate.
“We will give careful consideration to how performance data collected might have wider value,” insisted the minister.
Also promised is the consolidation of all guidance material for SuDS into a single publication covering both major and small developments as well as agricultural buildings.
“We will remove the ambiguity and inconsistency that currently exists across these documents to improve clarity,” said James.
She added: “We will also scope out the widely supported recommendation to establish and support a new SuDS advisory group to share lessons and best practice for both applicants and SABs alike.”
James insisted: “SuDS will improve our resilience to the impact of a changing climate, providing flood risk management, improved water quality and treatment and enhanced amenity and biodiversity.
“SuDS also deliver and contribute to multiple environmental, social and economic benefits that include improved air quality, carbon reduction, and various elements of community health and wellbeing that can include traffic calming and reduced crime.”
The written statement can be read in full on the Welsh Government website13.
Laura Edgar, The Planner
20 July 2023
Nature restoration fund opens for Scottish projects
NatureScot is inviting conservation projects to apply for its £65 million nature restoration fund, which aims to put Scotland’s land, rivers and seas on the road to recovery.
The Scottish Government's £65 million Nature Restoration Fund has awarded around £17.5 million to 125 projects across the country since it opened in July 2021. The fund supports projects to take practical steps to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss and restore Scotland’s natural environment.
NatureScot is accepting expressions of Interest all year round for projects that will restore species and habitats, protect marine and coastal areas, and eradicate invasive, non-native species.
Funding is available through two streams; the Helping Nature stream supports nature restoration projects with grants available of between £25,000 and £250,000 and the Transforming Nature stream is for landscape-scale projects with grants over £250,000.
More information about the fund can be found here14.
Kent School of Architecture and Planning receives RTPI accreditation
The RTPI has accredited the Kent School of Architecture and Planning and the University of Kent’s MA Urban Planning & Resilience.
This is a one-year (full-time) or two-year (day release/part-time) programme. It combines the fundamental skills of professional planning with a holistic approach to well-planned and resilient development.
Victoria Hills, chief executive of the institute, said: “This accreditation is an important milestone for both the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Kent School of Architecture and Planning, with the recognition of a new RTPI planning school providing the highest standard of planning education. We call on chartered town planners to consider applying for the newly created senior lecturer in planning post at the university to support students develop their core knowledge and skills.
“With the ability to tackle today's most pressing issues while also anticipating the challenges of the future, planners have a unique opportunity to build communities that are resilient, sustainable, and inclusive. The RTPI is committed to inspiring and nurturing the next generation of planners. We are very pleased that the university has joined us on that journey and is actively investing in planning education and meeting a local need.”
Professor Karen Cox, the University of Kent’s vice-chancellor, commented: “Partnership with the Royal Town Planning Institute is a significant step forward for the University of Kent, and will strengthen the ability of our graduates to plan the prosperous places and vibrant communities that we need as a nation.”
Land purchased in Consett
Miller Homes has completed the purchase of land at Delves Lane in Consett, County Durham.
The housebuilder said it will soon start work on the development, which is named Fellside Gardens.
It will comprise 288 three to five-bedroom properties overlooking the Lanchester Valley. It will also include three distinct character areas, which will provide a mix of diverse and attractive street scenes in an attractive semi-rural setting. Of the homes, 29 dormer bungalows will be available to the local community as discounted market sale units.
The development will see a £579,930 contribution towards local secondary schools and another £225,070 towards the care and maintenance of public open spaces, the creation of a play space and new allotments within Consett.
Council housing plans go to Wolverhampton cabinet tomorrow
The City of Wolverhampton Council's cabinet will tomorrow (26 July) consider the next steps towards a major redevelopment of council housing in New Park Village.
The proposals will see 205 residential properties, including deck-access maisonettes at Ellerton Walk and bungalows on Valley Road and Shawbury Road, demolished and replaced with energy-efficient homes for rent.
Consultations show that 75 per cent of residents who returned surveys were in favour of demolition and redevelopment rather than refurbishment or doing nothing, said the council. Further consultation with residents was carried out between March and May this year to inform the project moving forward.
Cabinet members will be asked to approve a revised two-phased approach to the redevelopment, which could see all 105 phase one properties empty by the end of 2023 – following permanent or temporary tenant moves to alternative city homes – and demolition starting in spring 2024.
During the demolition phase, the final designs will be drawn up, a revised planning application submitted for approval and a construction contractor appointed, with development works anticipated to start in early 2025.
Royal assent for social housing bill
A bill that reforms social housing has received royal assent. The Social Housing (Regulation) Act15 makes a series of changes, including:
Strengthening the Regulator of Social Housing to carry out regular inspections of the largest social housing providers and the power to issue unlimited fines to rogue social landlords.
Additional Housing Ombudsman powers to publish best-practice guidance to landlords following investigations into tenant complaints.
Powers to set strict time limits for social landlords to address hazards such as damp and mould.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “The landmark legislation means social landlords must be professionally qualified and can be properly held to account for the homes they let out. The act should mark a step change in ensuring tenants have homes which are fit to live in, and that nobody’s life is put at risk, as has happened too many times before, from Grenfell to the tragic death of Awaab Ishak.”
National Highways appoints Skanska to Kent roads scheme
National Highways has appointed Skanska as the preferred bidder for the Kent Roads contract on the Lower Thames Crossing project.
The £450 million Kent Roads contract will deliver the southern part of the route that connects the A2/M2 to the tunnel approach.
It includes almost four miles of new road and structures, one of the widest green bridges in Europe, a new public park, and 12 miles of new or improved pathways for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
Skanska will also support National Highways’ plans to recruit almost half (45 per cent) of its workforce from within 20 miles by upskilling local people with new qualifications and training.
Pub refurbishment plans approved in East Leake
Rushcliffe Borough Council has approved plans by Chilled Pubs to extend and refurbish a vacant pub’s dining and kitchen area in East Leake, Nottinghamshire.
The Bulls Head, in Main Street, will be adding an extra 170 covers to the current restaurant’s capacity, with the addition of a 96-square-metre marquee at the rear and side of the venue, an extended kitchen and new outdoor seating area.
The pub owner also has plans to renovate the car park and carry out landscape improvements.
Leegate regeneration plans given go-ahead
Lewisham Council’s planning committee has approved plans for the regeneration of Leegate Shopping Centre in Lee Green, south-east London.
Knight Frank acted on behalf of residential property developer Galliard Homes in the approval process.
The scheme focuses on the sustainable regeneration of a 1.92-hectare underused brownfield site currently occupied by the 1960s Leegate Shopping Centre.
The proposal is for buildings of up to 15 storeys to deliver 562 new homes including 36 per cent affordable housing, flexible commercial floor space, a community centre, public house, a medical facility, gym, a new public square and public realm improvements.
Council approves Stockley Park building extension
Hillingdon Borough Council has approved plans for the extension of a locally listed office building at Stockley Park in Hillingdon.
Boyer, part of Leaders Romans Group, secured a resolution to grant planning permission on behalf of Curve Workplaces.
Stockley Park is a business estate and public country park that is listed in the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England.
Life science building plans gains green light
Tower Hamlets Council has approved plans by Canary Wharf Group (CWG) and Kadans Science Partner for the development of a commercial health and life sciences building at the North Quay site,
The 23-storey, 823,000-square-foot tower will create a vertical campus that is said to be Europe’s largest life sciences facility. Enabling works on the 3.3-hectare site have started and the building is anticipated to complete in 2027.
Benwell Dene scheme approved in Newcastle
Newcastle City Council’s planning committee has approved plans by build-to-rent provider Placefirst for a 146-home suburban build-to-rent scheme known as Benwell Dene in Newcastle’s West End.
The development, two miles west of Newcastle city centre, will transform the 2.75-hectare brownfield site which has been vacant for over a decade into a range of two, three and four-bedroom homes, built specifically for long-term private rent. Thirty-seven of the properties will be fully Part M4(2) accessible and adaptable homes.
The design integrates a network of sustainable urban drainage systems and communal green spaces, as well as public open space and an area dedicated to habitat creation and biodiversity net gain.
Construction at Benwell Dene is expected to start later this year.
25 July 2023
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, The Planner