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Planning news - 28 April 2022

Protected areas need radical change to aid nature’s recovery

The UK’s protected areas ‘must be more than lines on a map’ if they are to be central to nature’s recovery, according to research.

A study by the British Ecological Society says the UK government’s commitment to protect 30 per cent of land and sea by 2030 offers the opportunity to revitalise the contribution of protected areas to recovery. However this ambitious pledge will fail without “radical, transformative changes”, it warns.

Many protected areas are not delivering for nature and are in poor ecological condition, despite the “30x30” target close to being achieved with 27 per cent of UK land and 38 per cent of UK seas under some level of protection.

National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and other protected areas make up 27 per cent of UK land. But the report finds that the proportion of land that is effectively protected for nature could be as low as 5 per cent.

Many protected landscapes, such as National Parks, do not specifically prioritise biodiversity and were not established or funded to do so. The report recommends these areas should not be included in the ‘30×30’ target in their current state.

“Designating an area of land or sea does not automatically make it an effective protected area,” said Joseph Bailey, geography lecturer at York St John University and the study’s lead author, “Designation is simply the first step in a long process towards ensuring that long-term ecological benefits are delivered for nature and people. To be effective, a protected area needs adequate implementation, enforcement, monitoring, and long-term protection.”

The research maintains that, on paper, coastal environments seem better protected than UK landscapes with Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) already exceeding the government’s target and covering 38% of UK seas. However, many have no management measures in place and most areas closed to fishing are in UK overseas territories.

Although regulations to control fishing are in place in some MPAs, only three small MPAs across the UK ban all fishing activity. The operations of large bottom trawlers is still unregulated in many MPAs across the UK.

The study calls for protected areas to have rigorous monitoring in place to inform their long-term management and to meet conservation goals. Despite their “enormous potential”, they cannot protect nature on their own as surrounding landscapes are also vital, particularly with species ranges shifting in response to climate change.

“We need to make sure landscapes are suitable for species to move between highly protected areas,” Bailey added. “This could be done with wildlife corridors such as hedgerows. Protected areas simply won’t work if the spaces in between them are not working towards the same goals.”

25 April 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner

A development consent order has been granted for the proposed M54 to M6 link road after ministers decided that the scheme is consistent with the UK’s drive towards net-zero.

The National Highways proposal would provide a 1.6-mile (2.5km) link road between Junction 1 on the M54 and Junction 11 of the M6 North and the A460 to Cannock. The scheme is intended to relieve congestion on A-roads, including the A460, A449 and A5, which pass through South Staffordshire. it would also separate “local traffic from long-distance and business traffic”, according to National Highways.

The project’s “very special circumstances” – including cutting congestion and delays – outweighed its harm to the green belt and bat habitats, and Natural England had accepted that new woodland would compensate for the loss of ancient woodland.

The £200 million project involves replacing Junction 1 of the M54 near Featherstone with “free flow” slip roads between the new link road and the M54. Three new roundabouts and a new dual carriageway between Junction 1 of the M54 and Junction 11 of the M6 are also included.

In a letter on behalf of transport secretary Grant Shapps, Department for Transport motoring and freight co-director Rosalind Wall noted “substantial local support for the principle of development”.

The secretary of state had accepted that “the only statutory carbon targets are those at a national level and notes that neither the applicant nor any other party has suggested that there are non-statutory carbon targets at any other level that may need to be considered”, added Wall, with the project contributing 0.0062 per cent to the government’s sixth carbon budget.

The proposal is the 110th Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and 38th transport application to have been examined by the Planning Inspectorate within the timescales laid down in the Planning Act 2008. 

25 April 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner

Industrial scheme on green belt and greenfield land refused

Wigan Council has refused permission for an outline planning application comprising up to 58,064 square metres of industrial, storage and distribution floor space.

The scheme, for land south-east of South Lancashire Industrial Estate in Ashton-in-Makerfield also comprised ancillary offices, the construction of a primary estate road and services off Bolton Road and associated works.

The 18.43-hectare site is partly in the green belt but predominantly greenfield land.

Developer Glenbrook’s scheme was refused against the advice of the planning officer.

The planning officer’s report notes that the parts of the scheme that are on green belt land are the proposed access road from Bolton Road and the SuDS drainage pond. It states these features “will have a limited impact on the openness of the green belt and [are] compliant with both local and national planning policy in this respect”.

But the report also says that 445 individual representations have been submitted, 436 of which formally objected to the development, including representation from the Stubshaw Cross Residents Group. Furthermore, Yvonne Fovargue MP and councillor Danny Fletcher submitted formal objections to the development, citing an “unacceptable loss” of green belt land, impacting on openness.

Road safety and congestion also features as reason for objecting.

The report can be found here on the council website (pdf).1

20 April 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Student scheme approved in East London

Newham Council's strategic development committee has granted planning permission for a mixed-use regeneration scheme at Grove Crescent Road in Stratford.

The scheme comprises 22,000 square feet of workspace aimed at local makers and creative businesses; 397 purpose-built and managed homes for students; and improvements to the public realm.

The approval was in line with a recommendation in the planning officer's report but is subject to “appropriate conditions and s106 planning obligations”.

It explains that the section 106 agreement requires a number of conditions to be met, including that 35 per cent of student bed spaces must be affordable.

hgh Consulting secured the permission on behalf of developer Watkin Jones and worked with architectural practice Glenn Howells and local community groups, including the Maryland Community Group, to design the scheme.

Matthew Robinson, associate director at hgh Consulting, said approval of the scheme “is a major step towards rejuvenating a tired and somewhat forgotten corner of Stratford, whilst providing much-needed student homes and workspace for local artists and creators”.

The planning officer's report can be found on the Newham Council website (pdf).2

21 April 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Gove to fund social rent homes

Housing secretary Michael Gove has announced that he will ‘tilt’ government funding towards providing more homes for social rent.

Speaking at charity Shelter's event in Westminster, Gove said that for various reasons “social housing is simply inadequate for any notion of social justice or economic efficiency”.

The charity revealed that more than 4.4 million private renters in England, equivalent to 40 per cent of renters, are being held back in life by their housing situation. Also, polling by YouGov on behalf of Shelter found that 5.8 million – 52 per cent – cannot save for the future because of their housing situation.

Shelter highlighted that government figures show that there are more than a million households on the waiting list for a secure social home in England.

Gove said: “The quality of the private rented sector, the circumstances in which people find themselves, the inadequacy of so many of those homes, the fragility and vulnerability that so many people find in their daily lives... is insupportable and indefensible... that is a function of broader supply questions, but it is also a critical function of our failure to ensure that there are homes that are genuinely affordable for rent, our failure to ensure that there are more social homes.  

“If we want to have functioning communities, if we want to have our cities and towns having places where key workers and individuals who keep our public services going can ensure that they have a decent roof over their heads and raise a family in stability and security, then we need more social homes.”

Speakers and panellists at the event included former Prime Minister Theresa May, social housing campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa, journalist and author Liam Halligan, and the Bishop of Barking, Lynne Cullens.

May noted that high housing costs are the “at the heart of failing social mobility”.

“Fundamentally, it is a Conservative ethos that whether you own your own home or rent in the social sector, residents deserve security, dignity and the opportunity to build a better life. We know our housing system is broken but the housing crisis in this country began not because of a blip lasting a year or because of a Parliament but because not enough homes were built over many decades.

“For too long, my party has been seen in many people’s eyes as the party only of homeownership. Indeed, dare I say it, our policies have too often made it seem that way. But we are the party of decent homes for all, be they people who want to rent their home or to own their own home. Moreover, supporting those struggling to find a home to rent is in no way contrary to boosting homeownership.”

21 April 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

News round-up

Government bans ground rent charges at the end of June

Ground rent charges on new residential leases will be banned in England and Wales at the end of June.

The new law will also apply to retirement homes, when the ban will be extended in April 2023. The government said ground rents, which can run into hundreds of pounds a year, provide no clear service in return and can be set to escalate regularly, with a significant financial burden for leaseholders. 

The Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act is the first of a two-part programme of legislation to reform the leasehold system in the current Parliament. Future measures include a new right for leaseholders to extend their leases to 990 years at zero ground rent and an online calculator to help find out how much it would cost to buy their freehold or extend their lease.

The government added that thousands of leaseholders have already seen a reduction in their inflated ground rent costs. In a government crackdown, the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) secured commitments with major homebuilders to stop doubling ground charges every year for leaseholders.

Those who own properties with Aviva, Persimmon, Countryside Properties, Taylor Wimpey and others will see their ground rent returned to the rate it was when they first bought their home. The CMA’s investigation is continuing into Barratt Developments, Brigante Properties and the investment group Abacus Land and Adriatic Land.


Garden village suburb application unveiled for Tring

A planning application for a 1,400-home garden village suburb on the eastern side of Tring has been submitted to Dacorum Borough Council.

The Harrow Estates scheme next to the Grand Union Canal will comprise 45 per cent affordable homes, with more than half the site dedicated to green open spaces with allotments, a community orchard, a canalside park and play areas. The development aims to secure 40 per cent biodiversity net gain through retaining trees and hedgerows as well as new and improved habitats within the canalside park.

The Marshcroft village plans also include two schools, a sports hub, health centre and retail space.

The developer said up to 10 per cent of the proposed properties would be dedicated to Tring’s over-65 population, which is expected to grow by 31 per cent by 2035. It added that its application has been informed and guided by the emerging local plan for Tring and associated policies.


Pinewood Studios reveals further expansion plans

Pinewood Studios has announced that it is “evolving” its plans for expansion in Buckinghamshire after securing planning permission this month for a screen industries growth hub.

Screen Hub UK, which will include studio buildings, a visitor attraction and education and business growth hubs – known as Centre Stage – will be developed on land to the south of its site. Pinewood said feedback it has received from the community, its customers and the market points towards increasing the amount of studio floor space in the scheme, while retaining and committing to the hub’s delivery.

It is preparing a planning application for a variation in the scheme to provide more studio space, and a related application is also proposed for an open-air filming space with supporting workshop buildings, landscaping and associated parking on part of Alderbourne Farm, which is owned by the studios. The scheme also includes a proposal for the majority of the land at the farm to be used to create a nature reserve with public access.

“We have listened to the feedback regarding development at Pinewood Studios and the need for further studio space,” said Pinewood Studios chairman Paul Golding. “We are looking at how our plans can evolve to deliver this with improved benefits for the community and our customers. “We will invite the local community to share their views with us on the emerging ideas and how all the benefits of the permitted Screen Hub UK scheme can be retained to continue to strengthen UK film and bring much-needed jobs, skills and spending as well as local ecological benefits.”


Developer applies to build new community at Clacton-on-Sea

Tendring District Council has received a planning application for a community of nearly 900 homes on the edge of Clacton-on-Sea.

M Scott Properties is seeking to develop 710 homes along with a primary school, early years and childcare facility, a local centre, open space, allotments and a community building. The Oakwood Park scheme, which focuses on the majority of a site identified for mixed-use development in the Tendring Local Plan, will include 186 age-restricted bungalows and a care home.

The developer is seeking full planning permission for part of its plans, including the age-restricted bungalows and care home, and outline consent for the 710 homes.


Wilshire delays incinerator decision to find more facts

Wiltshire Council is delaying a final decision on plans to build a £200 million incinerator at Westbury until July.

The decision on the Northacre Renewable Energy scheme was referred back to the council after levelling-up secretary Michael Gove declined not to call in the application following a request by South West Wiltshire MP Andrew Murrison.

Wiltshire’s strategy planning committee voted to defer a decision last week after saying there had been “material changes” to the application in the nine months since the plans were previously approved. These include a consultation on the scheme and government moves to significantly reduce waste going to both landfill and incineration by up to 50 per cent.


Developer selected for Nottinghamshire village scheme

Major plans for a village near Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, have moved a step closer with the appointment of a housing developer.

Vistry Partnerships will take on the construction of about 800 homes at the planned new village at Top Wighay under a multimillion-pound agreement and one of the biggest development contracts ever handled by Nottinghamshire County Council. The new village is expected to boost the economy by more than £873 million over a decade.

Completed infrastructure work at the site includes an expanded roundabout on the A611/Annesley Road, a new signal-controlled junction as well as a new three-metre wide, shared use footway/cycle lane along the northern side of the A611 north of Hucknall and to the west of Linby. The council said this work has already helped to limit the impact of traffic on nearby towns and villages.

“This really is the best possible use for this county council-owned land, which already has outline planning permission, as we look to create more quality, sustainable  housing to meet the needs of our growing population,” said Nottinghamshire’s economic development and asset management committee chairman Keith Girling.

“One of the key aims of this planned new community is for it to be as green as possible so as well as having greener homes, we want to encourage greener travel as we look to help meet the UK’s net-zero targets.  

“Footpaths, cycling routes and traffic calming measures are at the heart of plans and the site is already near to an existing bus route.”

26 April 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner


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

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    Planning news - 28 April 2022

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      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.