Weekly planning news
Planning news - 3 August 2023
Government to introduce gateway assessments into plan-making
Mandatory ‘gateway’ assessments are to be introduced into local plan-making under government proposals to provide ‘greater visibility’ for stakeholders and communities about how plans are progressing.
In its latest consultation on plan-making reforms, the government proposes to introduce through regulations a requirement for planning authorities to undertake three gateways at the beginning, middle and end of the plan.
The first gateway would be at the very beginning of the 30-month process, following a plan’s scoping stage. This is to ensure that the plan sets off in the right direction and to support early diagnosis of potential legal and procedural requirements and soundness.
A second gateway would be introduced between the two mandatory consultation windows. This is aimed at resolving potential soundness issues, ensuring legal and procedural compliance, while monitoring and tracking progress.
A final gateway would be introduced at the end of the preparation process when a planning authority intends to submit the plan for independent examination in public. Although the first two gateways are advisory, the third will have a binding role, as planning authorities will be required to submit their draft local plan or minerals and waste plan for examination.
Elsewhere, the government has revised the options for amending development proposals with planning permission, under the latest guidance.
Applicants under Section 73 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 can seek a material amendment by varying or removing conditions associated with a planning permission. There is no statutory limit on the degree of change permissible to conditions under Section 73, that change must relate to the operative part of the permission and statutory consultation and publicity provisions do not apply.
The latest guidance now gives planning authorities the discretion to consider whether the scale or nature of the change warrants consultation. An authority can choose how to inform interested parties if it finds this to be the case.
• The consultation paper is available here1.
• The guidance is available here2.
31 July 2023
Huw Morris, The Planner
Homes England unveils £1 billion fund to unlock housing development
Up to £1 billion will be available under Homes England’s new Brownfield, Infrastructure and Land Fund to unlock housing-led development.
The fund is intended to support the delivery of smaller, locally important sites, as well as larger-scale projects of regional or national significance. The move should unlock up to 40,000 homes across England.
Eligible activity includes land acquisition, preparation and enabling works; transport infrastructure; placemaking and community facilities: and infrastructure required under Section 106 agreements.
Homes England said it can offer a flexible range of funding solutions to partners, including grant, loan or partnership equity, or a combination of these options. The agency may also use the fund to directly acquire and de-risk land and carry out development.
The fund’s priorities include maximising private sector investment, design quality, beauty, sustainability and carbon reduction, as well as diversification and innovation in the housing market.
31 July 2023
Huw Morris, The Planner
Hammersmith and Fulham Council launches housing repairs improvement plan
Hammersmith and Fulham Council has initiated a housing repairs improvement plan in a bid to tackle a backlog and improve its complaints management.
According to a report that went before the council’s housing and homelessness policy and accountability committee on Tuesday, the plan was “initiated to address identified shortfalls in our repair services and complaints management”.
The report said that at the heart of the improvement plan is the establishment of a housing hub, which streamlines repairs, complaint-handling and broader housing issues under one umbrella.
The plan also introduced a feature known as ‘Home MoT’, which aims to provide a suite of additional home services, ensuring the resident’s home remains fully functional and fit for purpose.
The offer specifically caters to those who have previously raised a legitimate complaint and, according to the report, is “dedicated to cultivating a culture of prompt and effective problem resolution, ensuring residents feel valued and their concerns are attended to swiftly”.
It says: “Understanding the past difficulties of our housing repairs service provides a critical foundation in developing our comprehensive improvement plan.
“A key area of concern has been the repairs backlog. Several external factors have contributed to this, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns and the unexpected departure of key contractors, which have fuelled an excessive number of repair requests.”
The plan includes six interventions designed to make immediate and long-term service improvements, including significant investment and resourcing. Hammersmith and Fulham Council has committed to investing £600 million over the next 10 years into repairing and enhancing homes. It is planning to strengthen its leadership team with new senior housing specialists, including roles specifically added to the repairs team, and to bring on board additional contractors and surveyors.
The council has revised its contractor management approach, “ensuring accountability” from its contractors for below-par workmanship.
There are weekly head of service meetings, monthly director meetings, and regular direct communication with the managing directors of both contractors involved in delivering the service.
According to the report, the council is also improving its housing service culture, processes and systems to “deliver prompt and effective repair services, underpinned by exceptional customer service”.
On quality assurance and safety compliance, it has introduced an automated post-inspection form that simplifies its procedures and provides comprehensive audit reports.
To support corporate oversight of its repairs and complaint handling, the council has established a corporate housing taskforce, alongside regular reporting to its strategic leadership team cabinet member.
In addition to the housing hub to improve its approach to complaints management, the council has created a dedicated resolution team to deal with all cases that reach the Housing Ombudsman.
The council has also developed a standardised approach to complaint handling and aims to implement a proactive complaint-handling culture within its team.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s report said: “We believe that continuous training and skill development are key to building such a culture.
“We have launched a comprehensive training programme, designed to upskill our team members and prepare them to handle complaints effectively.”
The plan also introduces a “resident-centric” approach to complaint handling. “Our approach will ensure that resident vulnerabilities are identified proactively and services tailored appropriately.
“We are upgrading our record-keeping systems, ensuring every complaint is accurately logged, tracked and analysed.
“These improved records help with individual complaint tracking and help identify recurrent or systemic issues, to prevent similar future complaints,” the report adds.
1 August 2023
Huw Morris, The Planner
Stafford leader rules out legal action on asylum planning decision
The leader of Stafford Borough Council has ruled out a legal challenge to a planning inspector’s decision to allow former university student halls to become accommodation for asylum seekers.
The borough’s planning committee had rejected an application for a centre for more than 480 asylum seekers on Stafford’s Beaconside last year but the decision was overturned following an appeal by Home Office contractor Serco.
Stafford’s leader Aidan Godfrey said legal advice to the authority offered no reasonable prospects of a judicial review succeeding and would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.
“It is very clear in the opinion of the planning law experts that there is no way at all that a judicial review would be successful,” he added.
“My hope is we can all work together for the wellbeing of all our residents and allay many of the concerns local people have by working with our partner agencies and voluntary groups.
“We will be lobbying hard to secure greater funding for services for our residents.”
1 August 2023
Huw Morris, The Planner
Man City wins approval for expansion while Newcastle seeks fan zone
Manchester City Council has approved plans for a major expansion at the Ethiad Stadium to nearly 62,000 seats.
The plans for the home of Manchester City FC will see the North Stand’s capacity increased by 7,900 seats, with the club shop demolished and replaced with an eight-storey building comprising a store, ticket office and museum, with the upper floors used as workspace for small businesses and start-ups. A nine-storey hotel with 391 bedrooms and 10 suites would also be built, and the scheme includes a TV studio and a stadium roof walk as well as a fan zone for 3,000 people.
The project could inject up to £70 million into Greater Manchester's economy each year, and lead to 1,795 new full-time jobs, with that figure topping 3,000 with part-time and casual work. The club expects the main construction work will begin in November, with the North Stand completed and open during the 2025-26 season.
Meanwhile, Newcastle United has submitted plans to create a fan zone next to its St James' Park stadium. The two-storey fan zone, which would be built using repurposed shipping containers, will include a central plaza, stage, and big screen as well as several food and drink outlets.
31 July 2023
Huw Morris, The Planner
Dacorum embraces new design code for Paradise
Dacorum Borough Council has adopted a new design code for the Paradise Lane area of Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire.
The code, developed by Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design, is one of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’s (DLUHC) National Model Design Code (NMDC) Phase 1 pilots. It is now formally a supplementary planning document and material consideration in determining future planning applications for the area.
It was the first NMDC pilot to follow all three stages of the NMDC process – analysis, vision, code – to have reached public consultation and to be formally adopted.
It is designed to steer the transformation of this former industrial area around Paradise Lane and Wood Lane into a new mixed-use neighbourhood and place for workspace, increasing housing provision as part of a sustainable community and stitching the area more closely into the wider town centre.
Government announces cladding safety scheme
The government has announced its Cladding Safety Scheme (CSS) as part of a wider package of measures to help end the building safety crisis across England.
The scheme means that costs associated with removing unsafe cladding in mid-rise buildings will now be covered by government funding, protecting leaseholders from costs that the responsible developer cannot be made to pay.
The scheme will be available to all medium-rise buildings between 11 and 18 metres across England and high-rise buildings over 18 metres outside of London where fire safety professionals have recommended that works must take place. The scheme will also be available to the social housing sector.
All building owners who believe they are eligible for funding need to apply through the Homes England Cladding Safety Scheme application portal.3
Care homes earmarked in Surrey
Surrey County Council’s cabinet has earmarked three sites for extra care housing to offer older people access to care and support if they need it.
The council says it will free up more sites on its land in Lingfield, Redhill and Egham – for purpose-built extra care flats. If approved, more than 200 self-contained units could be provided across the three sites.
The three proposed new sites are:
- Former Orchard Court care home, Lingfield, in Tandridge;
- Former Birchlands care home, Englefield Green, Egham, in Runnymede; and
- Colebrook, Redhill, in Reigate and Banstead.
Enfield logistics hub plans green-lit
British Land has received a resolution to grant planning permission for a 455,000-square-foot multilevel logistics hub at Heritage House, Enfield.
The site, near junction 25 of the M25, intends to cater for the growing demand for rapid distribution across Greater London.
The main 435,000-square-foot building will be split into two levels, allowing access to HGVs to both the ground and first-floor service yards. The plans provide flexibility of layout, including potential for sub-division, to meet the requirements of a wide range of occupiers and ensure that the building can meet both current and future market demand. British Land is also providing 20,000 square feet of space at the front of the site to cater to smaller occupiers.
The scheme is aiming to be rated BREEAM Excellent, with an EPC A rating. All available roof space will be used for solar photovoltaics which, combined with air-source heat pumps, will offset 80 per cent of the site’s carbon emissions.
Council approves Merseyside housing plans
Knowsley Council has approved plans for more than 300 homes in a Merseyside town.
Redrow Homes Ltd, supported by planning and development consultancy Lichfields, have secured reserved matters planning approval for a mix of 318 one-bedroomed apartments and two, three and four-bedroomed family homes on an 11-hectare plot of land at Hilton Grange in Halewood.
The scheme, which will be built on land to the south of the railway line bounded by Lower Road, Finch Lane and Baileys Lane, will also feature 131 affordable properties, comprising a mix of 57 one-bedroomed apartments, 44 two-bedroomed homes and 30 three-bedroomed homes.
Spacious gardens and parking together with landscaping and the planting of trees will also feature as part of the scheme. Residents have already started to move into the Redrow homes approved under the first phase of development.
On-site building work is due to start on this phase as soon as all pre-commencement conditions are discharged, creating several new construction jobs.
Anwyl submits housing plans in Congleton
Housebuilder Anwyl has submitted a reserved matters planning application to Cheshire East Council to build 119 new homes in Congleton.
The proposed development site is located off the Congleton Link Road. If approved, Anwyl will acquire the 13-acre parcel of land which is already allocated for housing in the Cheshire East Local Plan.
The housebuilder proposes to build a total of 98 homes for private sale in a mix of two, three and four-bedroom designs, alongside 21 affordable homes.
As part of the section 106 agreement linked to the outline planning application, the developer will contribute around £1.9 million towards the £90 million Congleton Road Link Road, which opened in 2021.
Hull housing schemes approved by cabinet
Hull City Council’s cabinet has approved three city centre schemes on brownfield sites to deliver about 1,000 new homes to Hull city centre.
Site one, known as East Bank Urban Village will see up to 850 new homes, with another 200 properties at a second site at St Stephen’s Place.
Myton City Gateway is expected to be of mixed commercial use and, given its prominence and proximity to the A63 Castle Street improvements, could deliver an entrance to the city centre with opportunities for retail, commercial and leisure developments.
The projects aim to offer new, inclusive neighbourhoods where people choose to live, work and play, all while developing unused brownfield land in the city centre.
1 August 2023
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner