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Planning news - 29 February 2024

£4.7bn of HS2 funding to be split between North and Midlands from 2025

A new Local Transport Fund has been launched by the Department for Transport (DfT), totalling £4.7 billion of reallocated HS2 funding. 

The fund is specifically for communities in the North and Midlands that are outside city regions which receive City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements (CRSTS). It is part of Network North, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak committed to at the Conservative Party Conference in October 2023, after axing the Northern leg of HS2.1  

At the time, Sunak argued that, with costs doubling, the economic case had been “massively weakened with the changes to business travel” after the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Although the line to Manchester will not go ahead, the route to Birmingham will begin at Euston, travelling via Old Oak Common in West London to the West Midlands. 

The Local Transport Fund, explained the government, demonstrates its commitment to reinvest the £19.8 billion saved from the cancellation of the Northern leg of HS2 in the North and all of the £9.6 billion from the Midlands leg in the Midlands. The £6.5 billion saved through the new approach at Euston will be spread across every other region in the country. 

Speaking on Radio York today (26 February), Sunak said: “Last year I made a decision on HS2 and what that's done is free up considerable funding, every penny of which is being reinvested in the North and Midlands." 

He said it was now “for local areas to decide how they want to spend that money”. 

Sunak and transport secretary Mark Harper have said the North will receive £2.5 billion and the Midlands will receive £2.2 billion from April 2025. The funding is intended to improve local transport connections. Local authorities should make development funding plans and “prepare to hit the ground running” so the plans are delivered as soon as possible, according to the government. 

The government said the investment “will deliver an unprecedented long-term funding uplift across the North and Midlands over seven years” and that it is the first transport budget of its kind that is specifically targeted at smaller cities, towns and rural areas. 

It adds that over the seven-year duration of the funding, the amount allocated will on average be “at least nine times more than” these authorities receive through the local integrated transport block, the current mechanism for funding transport improvements in their areas. 

The money could be used to build new roads and improve junctions; install or expand mass transit systems; fill in potholes and install better street lighting; increase the number of EV charging points; and improve street safety so that children can walk to school and accessibility is increased for everyone. 

Sunak said: “We have a clear plan to level up our country with greater transport links that people need and deliver the right long-term change for a brighter future. 

"Through reallocating HS2 funding, we’re not only investing billions of pounds directly back into our smaller cities, towns and rural areas across the North and Midlands, but we are also empowering their local leaders to invest in the transport projects that matter most to their communities – this is levelling up in action.   

Committee raises ‘unknown ramifications’ of HS2 Northern leg cancellation. 

"The Local Transport Fund will deliver a new era of transport connectivity. This unprecedented investment will benefit more people, in more places, more quickly than HS2 ever would have done, and comes alongside the billions of pounds worth of funding we’ve already invested into our roads, buses and local transport services across the country." 

The DfT plans to publish advice for local councils and transport authorities to help them develop plans for improving transport. The government added that local authorities will be held to account to make sure the money is spent “promptly and effectively”. 


Lord Patrick McLoughlin, chair of Transport for the North (TfN), said: “We welcome this funding for our local transport areas as a sign of progress towards transforming the North to a more inclusive, sustainable and better-connected region. By having greater clarity on the funding that’s available, and consolidating funding streams, it helps remove inertia and accelerates delivery on the ground. 

"TfN looks forward to working with government and local leaders because we know that the travelling public will get better results the more locally the decisions are made on how those services should be provided.” 

Maria Machancoses, chief executive at Midlands Connect, commented: “This funding represents a significant investment in our region’s infrastructure. The Midlands contributes more than £90 billion to the UK economy, and to boost that even more, we need reliable transport networks and investment in new technology.   

“We welcome this announcement and the improvements it will bring for our communities and businesses across the Midlands, and we will continue to work with the government and support our local authorities to ensure these vital Network North transport upgrades are delivered.” 

26 February 2024 
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

Sunak announces cut to farming ‘red tape’

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has told farmers that he wants them to be able to ‘easily’ develop buildings and diversify earnings through farm shops, commercial space and sporting venues. 

To do this, he said the government would “cut bureaucratic red tape” around permitted development rights (PDR). 

Sunak was speaking at the National Farmers Union annual conference in Birmingham on Tuesday (20 February). The PDR proposal was set out by the government last year.   

The government expects the move to “benefit the broader rural community by increasing job opportunities and commercial units available, helping local residents to develop small and medium enterprises in rural communities, and connecting communities more with their local farms”. 

A statement2 from the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) said PDR legislation will be laid before Parliament in April. 

It is one part of a package of measures intended to “support profitable farming businesses, improve food security and protect the British agriculture sector for generations to come”. 

22 February 2024 
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

685-home scheme approved in Lewes

The South Downs National Park Planning Committee has approved plans for 685 homes on a 7.9-hectare brownfield site in Lewes. 

The Phoenix development, which also features cultural, business and flexible workspace, involves the redevelopment of the North Street Industrial Estate and Springman House, in North Street. 

The permission is subject to a series of conditions. These include the resolution of highway concerns raised by National Highways and East Sussex County Council, as well as a section 106 legal agreement that requires 30 per cent affordable housing, including for local people. If the highway matters are satisfactorily addressed within six months, full planning permission can be granted by the South Downs National Park Authority. 

The Phoenix has been designed to prioritise people over cars and to be walkable. Of the 685 mixed-tenure homes, 30 per cent will be affordable – made up of 154 homes at local housing allowance levels and the remainder as First Homes). They will be energy efficient and powered by renewable energy. 

The scheme is phased and includes planning permission to demolish existing buildings, construct flood defences, and highways improvements. Further phases include buildings of up to six storeys comprising 656 dwellings, as well as up to 3,279 square metres of business, employment and flexible workspace. 

The plans feature a mobility hub off The Causeway (providing electric-car share, an electric bike service and a shuttle-bus facility), highway improvements, including a realignment of North Street and Phoenix Place, a recycling and reuse centre, and construction of a new footbridge over the River Ouse and a riverside pedestrian walkway. 

A decision on the plans was deferred last October because of design, air quality and flood risk matters, all of which have now been addressed. Some highway issues are still to be fully resolved, including trip rates, transport modelling for Lewes and the A27, and traffic mitigation measures. 

Once complete, it will be the UK’s largest timber-structure neighbourhood. 

Human Nature, a Lewes-based company founded by former Greenpeace directors Michael Manolson and Jonathan Smales, are behind the development. The Phoenix was masterplanned by Human Nature’s in-house design team, regenerative design agency Periscope, and Kathryn Firth, director of masterplanning and urban design at Arup. 

“Our focus on radically improving environmental and social impacts through the power of placemaking is uncommon in 21st-century Britain,” said Smales. “But the result won’t feel unfamiliar, rather a return to traditions we’ve forgotten: a place of elegantly designed buildings made using local materials, streets safe for children to play in, with most daily needs met within a short walk and where it’s easy to meet and socialise with your neighbours.” 

Tim Slaney, chief executive at the South Downs National Park Authority, commented: “This a hugely important and strategic site in Lewes that is crying out for redevelopment and bringing a new vitality to the area. We’re pleased to have reached a positive outcome on this groundbreaking and complex planning application, working with the owners of the site and many partners. It brings so many benefits to the wider town, as well as redeveloping the site. 

Lost and found: How Jonathan Smales is bringing new life to an old ironworks 

Former Greenpeace MD Jonathan Smales is behind what he describes as the UK’s most sustainable housing development on the site of a former ironworks in Lewes. Ben Gosling discovers a Phoenix rising in a corner of East Sussex. 

Read The Planner interview here3

22 February 2024 
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

‘Unpredictable’ planning system contributing to housing under-delivery

A ‘complex and unpredictable’ planning system and the limitations of speculative private development are responsible for the ‘persistent’ under-delivery of new homes, according to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). 

Its report into the housebuilding industry also set out “substantial” concerns about estate management charges. 

The CMA found that homeowners are facing high and unclear charges for the management of facilities such as roads, drainage, and green spaces, alongside concerns about the quality of some new housing, with snagging issues increasing during the past 10 years. 

The report identified “persistent” shortfalls in the number of homes built across England, Scotland and Wales. Fewer than 250,000 homes were built last year across Great Britain, with the government targeting the delivery of 300,000 homes a year in England. 

Around two-fifths of the homes built between 2021 to 2022 were delivered by the largest national housebuilders. More than 50,000 homes were delivered by thousands of smaller, regional builders, the report found. 

The CMA also found that 60 per cent of all homes built from 2021 to 2022 were delivered by speculative private development, a reliance on which “has seen the gap widen considerably between what the market will deliver and what communities need”. 

Such an approach, together with “complex and unpredictable planning rules” across the three nations, has resulted in the under-delivery of homes. 

The CMA found that the planning systems in England, Scotland and Wales are producing “unpredictable results and often take a protracted amount of time for builders to navigate before construction can start”. 

The report states: “Overall, we have found that the nature and operation of the planning systems in England, Scotland, and Wales is a highly significant driver of long-term under-delivery of new homes against targets and assessed need.” 

It highlights that planning departments are under-resourced, some don't have up-to-date local plans and some don't have clear targets or strong incentives to deliver the numbers of homes needed in their area. The RTPI, which has commented below, has consistently adovated for more resources for planning departments across the UK. 

Requirements to consult with a wide range of statutory stakeholders “often” see the stakeholders holding up projects by submitting holding responses or late feedback to consultations on proposed developments, according to the CMA. 

Sarah Cardell, chief executive at the CMA, said: “Housebuilding in Great Britain needs significant intervention so that enough good quality homes are delivered in the places that people need them. 

“Our report, which follows a year-long study, is recommending a streamlining of the planning system and increased consumer protections. If implemented, we would expect to see many more homes built each year, helping make homes more affordable. We would also expect to see fewer people paying estate management charges on new estates and the quality of new homes to increase. But even then, further action may be required to deliver the number of homes Great Britain needs in the places it needs them.” 

The report also found: 

  • Speculative private development: The evidence shows that private developers produce houses at a rate at which they can be sold without needing to reduce their prices, rather than diversifying the types and numbers of homes they build to meet the needs of different communities (for example providing more affordable housing). 
  • Land banks: The CMA said it assessed more than a million plots of land held by housebuilders and found the practice of banking land was more a symptom of the issues identified with the complex planning system and speculative private development, rather than it being a primary reason for the shortage of new homes. 
  • There is a growing trend among developers to build estates with privately managed public amenities – with 80 per cent of new homes sold by the 11 biggest builders in 2021 to 2022 subject to estate management charges. These charges are often high and unclear to homeowners. While the average charge was £350 – one-off, unplanned charges for significant repair work can cost thousands of pounds and cause considerable stress to homeowners. There are also concerns about the inability to switch estate management providers, inadequate information, and shoddy work or unsatisfactory maintenance. 
  • Quality: Housebuilders don’t have strong incentives to compete on quality and consumers have unclear routes of redress. 

The report sets out some proposed options for consideration regarding the planning systems, but given the “wider policy trade-offs and complexities that are inherent in the design and operation of the planning system, the CMA does not consider it appropriate to make specific recommendations to governments in this report about how those trade-offs should be made”. 

However, suggestions include: 

Ensuring that local authorities put in place local plans and are guided by clear, consistent targets that reflect the need for new homes in their area. 

Streamlining the planning systems to significantly increase the ability of housebuilders to begin work on new projects sooner while not watering down protections such as for the local environment. Measures to improve the capacity of council planning departments would also enable them to process more applications. 

Introducing measures to increase the build-out of housing sites by incentivising builders to diversify the tenures and types of homes delivered. 

The CMA has made recommendations to governments in the areas where it says there are opportunities to improve market outcomes without significant trade-offs with other policy objectives. These include requiring councils to adopt amenities on all new housing estates. 

Cardell added: “The CMA has also opened a new investigation into the suspected sharing of commercially sensitive information by housebuilders which could be influencing the build-out of sites and the prices of new homes. While this issue is not one of the main drivers of the problems we’ve highlighted in our report, it is important that we tackle anti-competitive behaviour if we find it." 

The housebuilders under investigation under the Competition Act 1998 are Barratt, Bellway, Berkeley, Bloor Homes, Persimmon, Redrow, Taylor Wimpey, and Vistry. 


The RTPI engaged directly with the CMA as part of the investigation. It welcomes the acknowledgments of the insufficient resourcing of the planning system as a significant barrier to development.

Victoria Hills, chief executive, commented: "Our members operate within the framework established by the Central and Devolved Governments, adhering to the policies and regulations set forth. However, one thing they all have in common is that there can be no doubt that the planning profession is being held back by increased policy uncertainty, making it harder for planners, developers and investors to create, and deliver, effective long-term plans, whilst staying abreast of the constantly evolving policy arena. 

“The report underscores the under-resourcing of many planning departments citing the extensive reporting and research from the RTPI as evidence. We have consistently advocated for increased resources in the planning system. When appropriately resourced, planning is an enabler, not a blocker to unlocking the economic, environmental, and societal gains of the country. 

“It’s encouraging to see statutory consultees included in the report, which we have previously noted should be a top priority for government. Statutory consultees are required to participate in various planning processes, but are also often working under resource constraints which can postpone their input and create unwelcome delays. We hope that Sam Richards’ Rapid Review to accelerate UK infrastructure development will help resolve this issue. 

“We’re pleased to see CMA recognise that the picture varies across the UK nations, which are currently undergoing different stages of planning reform. Furthermore, it’s positive to see calls for additional support for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), which were outlined in Oliver Letwin's review in England. These models, if implemented by government, could significantly benefit the small and medium-sized housebuilders." 

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “The Competition Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into the state of housebuilding is right to highlight the planning system as a problem slowing down delivery of new homes. Resources are desperately needed by planning authorities to help small builders through the planning system. The CMA findings are a step forward, especially with an acknowledgement that SMEs are disproportionally affected by the planning system. These findings will hopefully give the Government renewed impetus to resolve these long-standing issues which the FMB has been highlighting for many years.   

“It is concerning, however, that the report does not provide enough nuance in such a complex market. The report has a very broad definition of SMEs with very little definition given to the range of house builders within the SME market, such as micro developers, custom house builders and new entrants. There are also few international comparisons and where they are included, the findings are fairly tepid, with little realisation for the potential of areas such as custom build, which could be an area of growth for UK builders. In similar countries, such as Germany, they are much further ahead on custom build properties accounting for a much higher percentage of overall housing delivery, which means less reliance on a small group of major housing developers and more diversity of design.” 

Colin Brown, head of planning & development at Carter Jonas, commented: “In my view the CMA has quite correctly pointed out that a central issue in the slow delivery of new housing is the state of the planning system, and particularly its funding and the slow progress made with local plans. I am also pleased to see that the myth that 'landbanking’ is being pursued nefariously by housebuilders has been debunked and there is an acceptance that their need to have a secure pipeline of sites necessitates the holding of land.” 

Housebuilding Market Study can be found on the UK Government website4.   

26 February 2024 
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

Homes England purchases Quayside West in Newcastle

Homes England has acquired Quayside West to deliver 1,100 homes in Newcastle –an extensive tract of brownfield land in Forth Yards.  

Forth Yards is located next to Newcastle Central Station and Quayside, and has the potential to deliver 2,500 new homes and a sustainable neighbourhood for the city. 

Several viability challenges, including constraints and infrastructure requirements, have prevented the private sector from bringing it forward. 

The acquisition by Homes England has brought the site into public sector ownership, which will help it reach its full potential as part of the wider transformation of Forth Yards. 

Peter Denton, chief executive of Homes England, said: “It’s hard to overstate the importance of this acquisition. Not only will the site deliver around 1,100 quality, sustainable new homes, but bringing Quayside West into public sector ownership will act as a catalyst for the wider regeneration of Forth Yards, a key regeneration area for the city that has been stalled for more than 20 years. It’s a complex, challenging brownfield site that could have a transformational impact in the city, but it needs upfront public sector intervention to unlock its full potential – and this acquisition is one of the first examples of that.   

“Newcastle City Council and North of Tyne Combined Authority have a clear vision for Forth Yards, and we’re working with them and Network Rail to take a holistic approach and ensure that it delivers for the people of Newcastle. This will include, if necessary, using our statutory powers to make this happen.” 

22 February 2024 
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner 

News round-up

Decision letter for energy project removed from PINS and government websites

The decision letter for the Medworth Energy from Waste Combined Heat and Power Facility has been removed from the Planning Inspectorate's Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) and UK Government websites. 

The development would recover useful energy in the form of electricity and steam from up to 625,000 million tonnes of non-recyclable, non-hazardous municipal, commercial and industrial waste each year. It would have a generating capacity of more than 50 megawatts (MW) and the electricity would be exerted to the grid. 

The scheme is proposed for an industrial estate site on Algiers Way in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Medworth CHPA Limited applied for a development consent order (DCO). 

Energy secretary Claire Coutinho granted the DCO last week (20 February), finding that the public benefits associated with the scheme “outweigh the harm”. Both PINS – the examining authority – and the government sent out notices to say the decision had been published. 

However, the decision letter is no longer available on the PINS NSIP site. 

The Department for Energy Security & Net Zero told The Planner that “further clarification is being sought on the Medworth Energy from Waste Combined Heat and Power Facility development consent decision”. 

“A further update will be provided in due course.” 

The application form and other details can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website5.   

Flooding funding announced for 40 projects 

The government has announced funding of £25 million for 40 projects that use natural processes such as planting trees and creating wetlands to reduce the risk of flooding.   

Community, charity and council projects set to benefit from the £25 million Natural Flood Management programme include: 

Severn Rivers Trust will carry out a mixture of natural flood management measures in the headwaters of Illey Brook, near Halesowen in the West Midlands. 

The Ribble Rivers Trust has proposed several projects focusing on slowing river flows across the Ribble catchment, in Darwen, Clitheroe and Lea Green. 

The Environment Agency is managing the £25 million programme, with work taking place from now until March 2027. 

Student accommodation plans approved in Southampton 

Southampton City Council has approved plans for 198 units of student accommodation at 6 Hulse Road, Southampton. 

Planning and design consultancy Boyer (part of Leaders Romans Group, secured a resolution on behalf of Barsad Investments Ltd. 

The site is located less than two miles from the city centre and is currently occupied by St Margaret's House – a 1960s block that offers 100 student rooms/suites. The existing block will be demolished to create 198 modern, improved student units. 

The building will incorporate biophilic design principles and, if successful in its aim, will be one of the first buildings in Southampton to achieve a BREEAM Outstanding rating. 

Diamond’s extension plans approved 

Oxford City Council has approved plans to extend Diamond Light Source’s presence at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire. Consent was secured by national property consultancy Carter Jonas. 

This new building will create space for the assembly process and storage facilities which will enable the 48-section machine at the facility to be assembled. It will provide office and laboratory space for about 100 staff. 

The new space will be located on the southern side of its circular building. The 0.97-hectare site will accommodate assembly rooms, accessed off a central service spine, with all plant accessed from the perimeter road. 

It will also include offices and a variety of spaces for different staff preferences, working styles and team events. A south-facing staff rest area will provide a balcony and a respite from work, as well as an informal ‘touchdown’ and collaboration space. 

Arts hub plans approved in Eastbourne 

Members of the South Downs National Park Authority’s Planning Committee have approved plans for a new culture, arts and education hub to provide a downland visitor gateway.                 

The planning approval is subject to conditions, including a section 106 legal agreement to secure an expanded bus service, a new public footpath and further consideration of the location of the proposed bus stop to reduce the impact on the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). 

Eastbourne Borough Council plans to transform a farmstead into a cultural and education centre, featuring business studios, a refectory, and event space. The proposal also includes the construction of a new gallery building, improvements to pedestrian access, and enhancements to vehicle access, parking, and landscaping. 

The scheme includes areas for chalk grassland restoration, and the restoration of two dew ponds, both of which are objectives of the Eastbourne Downland Estate Whole Estate Plan (WEP). There will also be new hedgerow planting for wildlife. 

The hub will be operated by Towner Eastbourne. 

27 February 2024 
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, 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 - 29 February 2024

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