Weekly planning news
Planning news - 28 September 2023
New biodiversity laws set to secure big rise in natural habitat
Since the publication of this story, government have announced the introduction of Biodiversity Net Gain requirements from January 20241, rather than the November date mentioned below.
More than 15,000 hectares of natural habitats will be created in England each year following the introduction of biodiversity net gain (BNG) regulations, according to analysis.
Developers will be required to invest in measures to increase the biodiversity score of sites by at least 10 per cent when they come into effect under the planning system in November.
The analysis by Joe’s Blooms, a digital solution provider specialising in the new regulations, combined net gain impact assessment figures with government estimates for total development each year to calculate the avoided habitat loss and creation for each hectare development.
This reveals a big increase in natural habitats – the equivalent of 23,500 football pitches – particularly in the South East and East of England. The South East can expect 2,700 hectares of new natural habitat a year under the regulations while the East of England could see 1,900 hectares annually.
Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester will also see significant increases as new developments continue to expand.
Birmingham can expect to see 79 hectares of habitat created and 140 hectares of biodiversity loss avoided each year, and Leeds will see 60 hectares created and 106 hectares of biodiversity loss avoided. In Manchester, 45 hectares will be created and the loss of 80 hectares will be avoided.
“Biodiversity net gain provides the housebuilding sector with an opportunity to contribute to the UK’s biodiversity. For the first time, new developments will result in the reappearance of nature in our local communities,” said Joe’s Blooms advisory board chair Robin McArthur. “This analysis demonstrates that biodiversity and nature recovery can be a central part of housing development.
“It’s important that developers of all sizes are supported to deliver these ambitious targets that will create more green spaces and enhance plants and wildlife.”
Huw Morris, The Planner
20 September 2023
Sunak pledges a spatial plan for energy infrastructure
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that the government ‘will shortly bring forward comprehensive new reforms to energy infrastructure’.
In a press conference yesterday (20 September), following a leak to the BBC about a rowback on measures designed to meet the UK's climate targets, Sunak said he is “proud that our country leads the world on net zero, with the most ambitious 2030 target of any major economy”.
He argued that meeting climate targets, such as achieving net zero by 2050, can be done “in a fairer, better way”.
He said millions of pounds are being invested in new energy projects but that the UK doesn’t have the grid infrastructure to take that power to households and businesses, with it taking “14 years to build new grid infrastructure”.
He said that the chancellor and energy security secretary would shortly bring forward comprehensive new reforms to energy infrastructure.
“We’ll set out the UK’s first-ever spatial plan for that infrastructure to give industry certainty and every community a say.
“We’ll speed up planning for the most nationally significant projects," pledged Sunak.
“And we’ll end the first-come-first-served approach to grid connections by raising the bar to enter the queue and make sure those ready first, will connect first.
"So, from offshore wind to nuclear to a revolution in our energy infrastructure, investors should have absolute confidence that we’re getting on with the job and the UK will remain the best place in the world to invest in the green industries of the future.”
A press statement released after Sunak’s speech explained that a “fast track” through the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) regime would be made available for “major eligible transmission projects, to ensure they are prioritised, helping businesses and households connect to the grid sooner”.
Other changes include moving back the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035 and the ban on new fossil fuel boilers for certain households will be delayed. Cash grants for boiler upgrade schemes will increase by 50 per cent to £7,500 for those who want to transition now.
Sunak defended the moves, stating that the UK is cutting emissions faster than other G7 countries, with emissions down by 48 per cent compared with 41 per cent in Germany, 23 per cent in France, and no change in the United States.
According to Sunak, this progress already made by the UK to reach its 2030 and 2035 targets means measures that were planned are no longer needed to fulfil them.
“We are going to change the way our politics works,” said the prime minister. “We are going to make different decisions. We won’t take the easy way out.
“There will be resistance, and we will meet it. Because I am determined to change our country and build a better future for our children. Nothing less is acceptable.”
Earlier this year2, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) warned that the government has been “too slow” to support and adopt cleaner, cheaper alternatives to fossil fuels. It also said it was “markedly less confident” than a year earlier that it would meet its 2030 and 2035 emissions reduction targets.
Chair of the committee Lord Deben argued that the government has been “too keen” to support new production of coal, oil and gas. The committee’s confidence in the UK meeting its goals from 2030 onwards is “now markedly less than it was in our previous assessment a year ago”.
Victoria Hills, chief executive at the RTPI, said: “Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a goal of setting out a spatial plan for energy infrastructure, which we believe will be vital to achieving our net zero ambitions, protecting our energy security and driving economic growth at scale.
“Understanding of the importance of spatial planning is positive, and we must ensure we are seeing the same recognition when it comes to all other aspects of policy such as transport, housing and the environment. Today’s [21 September] report of the House of Lords Built Environment Committee3 drew attention to the importance of building evidence and capacity in planning for the environment.
“We know that planners will play a key role in meeting climate goals by creating the right incentives to move the country towards net zero, and will continue to engage with government to ensure a sustainable future, where planning plays a central role. We’ll soon launch our ‘Planifesto 2024’, calling on political parties to explain where manifesto promises will be delivered.
“We’re urging parties to engage with the planning profession early in their general election preparations to ensure that every community has access to the homes, infrastructure, and support they need to prosper.”
RenewableUK’s chief executive Dan McGrail said: “The prime minister is right in saying the UK should embrace the huge economic opportunities in green industries like offshore wind and create well-paid jobs by making the UK the best place to invest in clean tech. However, [these] announcements will undoubtedly knock investor confidence, as many green technology leaders are now nervous about the increasing uncertainty around net-zero policies in the UK.
“The government is going to have to outline clear measures to restore market confidence in the Autumn Statement, not least to ensure that we can compete against the USA, Europe and China for investment at a time when the global race to build new renewable energy projects has never been more intense. The financial incentives being offered elsewhere risk draining private investment from the UK, so we need to see capital allowances that will bring developers back to the table here and stop vital energy infrastructure projects being put on hold. We also need to see new incentives focused on investment in manufacturing.
“The prime minister acknowledged the need to reform the annual auction process for new renewable energy projects, as there were no bids for new offshore wind farms this year, and the need to speed up the planning process as it can take over 10 years to get some projects up and running. These are excellent aims, but we need clarity and detail urgently on how this will be achieved, otherwise, they will remain nothing more than aspirations."
Fiona Howie, chief executive at the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), said: “The government’s net-zero strategy is already facing legal challenge, so there is no space for watering down existing commitments. Backtracking on the phase-out of gas boilers and energy-efficiency measures for homes will condemn the UK’s poorest households to decades of draughty homes and unnecessarily high energy bills. Rather than weaken these policies, the government needs to be doing more to support climate mitigation and adaptation. In his speech, the prime minister recognised the role of planning to enable grid connections. But there is much more the government needs to do in relation to the planning system. Only by aligning town planning legislation with the Climate Change Act, and by setting a clear direction in national policy will the government deliver emission reductions at the speed required. The measures announced today strike us as counter-productive and potentially disastrous for future generations.”
The Good Law Project, ClientEarth, and Friends of the Earth recently launched a second joint legal challenge4 against the government’s Carbon Budget Delivery Plan. They argue that it falls short of legal requirements set by the Climate Change Act 2008.
Last year, they went to the High Court, which resulted in the government being asked to rewrite its plan to reach net zero, which was found to be in breach of the Climate Change Act. The organisations believe the rewrite falls short again.
Friends of the Earth’s head of policy Mike Childs commented: “Rishi Sunak is being environmentally reckless and economically inept.
“Building a green economy is the best way to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, boost energy security and strengthen the economy. Weakening these green policies will simply undermine business confidence and put British jobs at risk.
“The government is already being taken to court over its weak and feeble climate action plan, which we say is unlawful. If this current package is weakened further, and in a way that’s not transparent about delivery risks, then further legal challenges are inevitable.
“With the world in the midst of a climate crisis, we need bold political leadership – not another prime minister posturing to a narrow section of his own party for perceived short-term electoral gains. The consequences won’t just fall on people in the UK – they will reverberate globally.”
Legal director of Good Law Project Emma Dearnaley added that these announcements “are designed only to grab headlines as a political gamble”.
“But the stakes for the environment are much higher. Most people agree that we must do better than this – and we can.
“We believe the government’s current plans are already inadequate and unlawful. The last thing we need is for them to be weakened further.”
Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation (NHF), said: “It’s hugely disappointing to see the government row back from its commitments to net zero, particularly on improving the energy efficiency of our homes.
“England’s homes are among the oldest and draughtiest in Europe. Making homes more energy efficient is a win-win, not only helping to save our planet, but also boosting our economy by creating jobs and, crucially, saving money. Our research found that retrofitting homes would save social housing residents on average 40 per cent on heating bills. Scrapping targets on this could lead to people facing higher bills for years to come.
“Housing associations are committed to carrying out this work and ensuring residents on low incomes benefit from homes that are affordable to heat. It's a commitment that will help people across the country. However, they cannot do this alone and need leadership, policy certainty, and long-term investment from government.”
RIBA president Muyiwa Oki said: "The built environment is the UK’s second highest carbon emitting sector. Despite concerted effort from architects, and our partners across the built environment, [the] announcement signals that the government has no real intention to lead the charge towards net zero – and it is generations to come who will pay the heavy price.
"Millions of people in the UK are living in draughty, damp homes that are leaking energy and money. [The] announcement reverses the little policy progress the government has made in upgrading our ageing and inefficient housing stock. Without consistent government signal, support and investment, our homes will remain the least efficient in Europe for years and decades to come.
"It’s time for leadership and ambition.”
21 September 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Major Cardiff housing redevelopment makes progress
Cardiff City Council has reached a significant milestone in its scheme to regenerate its Channel View estate in Grangetown in the southern part of the capital.
The project is the largest estate redevelopment project within the council's development programme and is set to deliver 319 new highly energy-efficient, low-carbon mixed-tenure homes, including the replacement of the existing 180 council-managed properties.
A report providing an update on the council’s search for a partner to develop the project alongside was presented to members of the community and adult services scrutiny committee on Monday 18 September. The procurement process yielded one bid. The local authority’s cabinet will be asked to approve the appointment of the bidder at a meeting this week.
This will begin with the first phase of plans for 81 flats for older people to replace the existing tower block on the estate, as well as new communal facilities and a café. These accessible and adaptable flats will promote independent living for older people, meeting their changing needs as they age.
The preferred bidder will also work with the council on the design, development, consultation, and planning of future phases of the redevelopment, the demolition of the existing housing stock and the construction of future phases, subject to viability.
The redevelopment will provide better connectivity for the estate and the wider community to local facilities and transport links, improvements to the public open space at The Marl, and the creation of a well-managed, attractive public realm in the area, which borders the River Taff.
Meanwhile, in a separate but related move, the process to find a developer for the regeneration of Atlantic Wharf, part of the adjacent area of Cardiff Bay, is now under way.
The proposed area for redevelopment covers about 12 hectares and includes the planned indoor arena, County Hall and The Red Dragon Centre.
Russell Goodway, cabinet member for investment and development explained that the marketing of the site would deliver the ancillary facilities for the indoor arena, as well as modern office space and a production studio.
21 September 2023
Roger Milne, The Planner
NSIP reforms must be more than procedural, says RTPI
Many of the reforms proposed by the government to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) process in England have been welcomed by the RTPI, but the institute has called on ministers to go beyond procedural reforms to ‘ensure that infrastructure can deliver a net-zero future whilst driving economic growth’.
In its response to the government’s consultation on reforms, which included establishing a fast-track route to consent to potentially halve the time it takes for some projects to be determined and bolstering resources across the system, the institute said the proposals have the ability to speed up the NSIP consenting process.
It also outlined that they could improve the pre-application and post-consent stages, as well as put funding arrangements for the Planning Inspectorate, local authorities, and statutory consultees on a more stable footing.
However, the government’s future strategy for the NSIP regime needs to do more than “simply identifying what infrastructure is required”, explained the RTPI.
“It will need to provide significant spatial guidance on where infrastructure should be built and connected in order to establish a more comprehensive understanding of our built environment and rapidly and effectively achieve net zero.”
The institute thinks that new national policy statements should be updated at least every five years, with national policy statements and the National Infrastructure Strategy providing a clear spatial planning framework for infrastructure.
Furthermore, it believes that resourcing the Planning Inspectorate must become a greater focus of the government’s capacity and capability strategy for planning and that the government should explore options for better participatory approaches to community engagement to create a more level playing field between applicants and communities as well as reduce the delays and costs associated with local opposition.
Victoria Hills, chief executive of the RTPI, said: “These proposed reforms are a step in the right direction for our nation’s infrastructure, but must go further if they are to deliver a coordinated spatial planning framework, boosting the economy and meet government’s net-zero ambitions.
“Ultimately, their success will depend on the ability to recruit and retain sufficient numbers of experienced planners to deliver these reforms. Planning officers are the hardest occupation for local authorities to recruit and retain, with public sector resourcing becoming a chronic concern among planners. If we’re going to ensure proposed reforms deliver for the country, we will need sufficient resources to enact them.”
21 September 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
UNESCO urges major changes to Stonehenge tunnel plan
The UN’s cultural body has repeated its warning this week that Stonehenge risks losing its World Heritage Site status over plans for a tunnel near the prehistoric monument.
The plans by National Highways, approved by transport secretary Mark Harper in July5, would see a £1.7 billion tunnel stretching two miles or 3.2 kilometres from Amesbury to Berwick Down in Wiltshire. This would also involve a major overhaul of eight miles or nearly 13km of the A303.
National Highways argues that the tunnel is needed to cut congestion and journey times.
UNESCO warned that Stonehenge could be stripped of its status entirely in 2021. It now says the scheme would have a significant impact on the landmark and “should not proceed in its current form”. The UN body wants the government to act before the World Heritage Committee meets again next February.
The High Court quashed a development consent order for the project in July 20216 amid concerns about the impact on the World Heritage Site, after the former transport secretary Grant Shapps approved the project in November 20207 against planning inspectors’ recommendations. The inspectors had said the road works would cause “permanent, irreversible harm” to the prehistoric monument.
The High Court ruled that Shapps’ approval was “unlawful” as there was no evidence of the impact on each individual asset at the site – and he had also failed to consider alternative schemes.
The Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site campaign launched a fresh legal challenge against Harper’s decision last month.
20 September 2023
Huw Morris, The Planner
Government announces £12.3m community fund
The government has announced funding of £12.3 million from its Community Ownership Fun for 45 institutions including pubs, museums and sports clubs across the United Kingdom to safeguard their future.
Funding of £1 million will rebuild a historic Yorkshire railway bridge in urgent need of repair, which carries the railway line over Bridgehouse Beck between Keighley and Oxenhope.
An educational aerospace discovery centre in Kinross will be created with funding of £300,000, offering interactive learning opportunities and exhibitions.
The Vale of Aeron pub in Ystrad Aeron, Wales, has been given £300,000 for renovations to keep it open and make it accessible to the whole community.
Other funded projects include:
- Lordsfield Swimming Club in Hampshire;
- £1.2 million to secure the future of four pubs including the Vale of Aeron;
- £560,000 for Knutsford Market Hall in Cheshire;
- Sterts Theatre in Cornwall;
- The Margate School in Kent; and
- Dartford Gym and Youth Club will get £244,920.
Click here to view the prospectus for the Community Ownership Fund8.
Durham solar farm plans approved
Planning permission has been granted to Livos subsidiary Voltis Renewable for a 41MW solar project in County Durham.
Tree and hedgerow restoration will increase screening while providing much-needed shelter and food resources for local wildlife.
A species-rich grass mix will be sown across the whole site to encourage soil health while the introduction of a wildflower meadow area will provide a vital resource for local pollinators.
The project will establish a local community benefit fund equating to an annual payment of £15,525 as well as paying standard business rates to contribute to the wider Durham community.
Construction of the scheme, developed in partnership with Logogen and Aukera, will start in 2024.
Life of Norfolk wind farm to be extended
Breckland Council has granted planning permission to extend the life of an eight-turbine wind farm capable of powering around 10,600 homes annually.
Pegasus Group secured the permission.
The wind farm has a capacity of approximately 16MW. The extension means the wind farm, situated at North Pickenham airfield, Breckland, will enable the production of renewable energy until at least 2041.
Cherwell consults on local plan
Cherwell District Council has begun a six-week consultation on its draft Cherwell Local Plan 2040.
The consultation will be open until 3 November 2023.
Dan Sames, portfolio holder for planning and development, said: “We aim to protect and enhance our natural environment and ensure a sustainable future with responsible development in the right places. We understand the need for a limited amount of additional housing while maintaining affordability for those struggling to access the housing market. We must support our town centres, promote climate action and ensure towns and villages are attractive and welcoming places to live and visit.”
More information can be found here on Citizen Space9.
Cambridge homeless scheme gets go ahead
Cambridge City Council has approved plans to create new homes for the homeless on Hills Avenue, Cambridge.
National property consultancy Carter Jonas secured planning consent on behalf of It Takes A City Community Land Trust (ITAC CLT).
The scheme will consist of four small homes constructed using modular technology. They will be built off-site.
Residents are identified as having ‘low to medium needs’ and will receive a comprehensive support package from ITAC, including regular visits from staff and volunteers, and direction to a wide range of statutory and voluntary sector organisations.
The development also includes a bin and bike store and landscaped areas with opportunities for residents to garden.
The first site for the charity will be completed in early 2024.
Canada Water commercial scheme green-lit
Southwark Council has approved plans by Art-Invest Real Estate (Art-Invest) for a commercially-led scheme in Canada Water.
The plans are for two commercially-led buildings where amenities will include prioritisation of active travel, enhanced biodiversity, promotion of connections to sport, play and wellbeing facilities in the area, and the “unique” composition of uses on the ground floor.
Designed by HWKN, A2 will be the first building brought forward. comprising 240,000 square feet of space across 11 storeys.
Designed by the scheme’s masterplanner BIG and located on the waterfront, A1, at 24 storeys, will offer flexible workspaces with access to open terraces, accommodating tenants with differing requirements.
Kent housing plans approved
Plans by LSI Architects for 23 new energy-efficient homes and a community hall in Edenbridge have been approved.
The scheme will deliver 23 new homes to meet demand in the area, eight of which will be houses and 15 will be flats. An existing convenience store and community hall, which have reached the end of their useful lives, will be rebuilt as new modern premises.
The proposals also include improvements to the existing playground, providing a sequence of engaging spaces for children away from vehicle traffic. Extensive landscaping improvements are proposed across the site, which include an additional naturalistic play area under the mature trees for different age groups.
The new masterplan has also been designed to improve visibility to create a safer neighbourhood.
Tower Hamlets housing funding announced
A cabinet meeting has revealed extra funding of £73 million for building new homes in Tower Hamlets.
The additional money will be used to help the council deliver on its target of 1,000 social homes for rent a year.
The additional funding will pay for 67 new homes that were already in the pipeline, including Ensign Youth Centre, Whitehorse Road, Bradwell Street, Wapping Lane and Solander Gardens.
New home sites under consideration that could now be funded include those at Whitechapel Sports Centre, John McDougall Park, Christian Street, Pigott Street, Lark Road, Cubitt Town Library, and John Orwell Sports Centre, which will provide up to an estimated 126 homes.
RICS launches new global edition of its Whole Life Carbon Assessment standard
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has launched the second edition of its Whole Life Carbon Assessment for the Built Environment (WLCA) standard.
It was first published in 2017 for the UK's built environment sector. This 2023 edition is a global version of the standard that aims to provide a more developed understanding of the carbon costs and benefits of design choices in construction and infrastructure projects and assets.
The new standard was produced in partnership with the UK’s Department for Transport and Net Zero Waste Scotland.
RICS has updated the standard to be used globally and to cover all built assets and infrastructure projects throughout the built environment life cycle, after a public consultation held in March 2023 that received more than 1,300 responses.
More information can be found on the RICS website10.
TfL’s property company to become ‘Places for London’
Transport for London (TfL) has announced that its wholly-owned commercial property company TTL Properties Limited has been renamed Places for London Limited.
Places for London became financially independent of TfL in April 2022. The intention is to take forward TfL’s property development activity without diverting funding from transport improvements across the capital.
All operating profits made from recurring revenues will continue to be returned to TfL as a dividend, creating a long-term revenue stream that can be reinvested into the transport network.
TfL has the capacity on its land for 20,000 homes, and Places for London’s approach is underpinned by the ambition to start on-site on all of these by 2031. The aim is to deliver 50 per cent affordable housing on average across its sites.
Homes England launches information hub
Homes England has announced a new national index of professional housing resources.
Available on gov.uk, the Housing Information Hub provides direct access to more than 300 sources of guidance, information and tools relating to homebuilding, placemaking and regeneration.
The hub was developed by Homes England’s Local Government Capacity Centre and is one of a series of initiatives designed in collaboration with local authorities and other partners to respond to the needs and asks of the sector.
The aim is to cover the full housing and delivery journey, with resources split into five key areas – financing, leading, building, using land and planning.
More information can be found on the UK Government website11.
26 September 2023
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, The Planner