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Planning news - 30 November 2023

Government to change national policy to boost electric vehicle charging points

National planning policy will be amended to prioritise the roll-out of charging points for electric vehicles (EVs). 

Under the move, part of last week’s Autumn Statement, the government will look to remove “unnecessary planning constraints” by accelerating the expansion of EV charging infrastructure. It will consult on amending the National Planning Policy Framework to ensure the planning system prioritises the roll-out of EV charge points, including EV charging hubs. 

The decision follows RAC research unveiled in May which revealed that just 27 of England’s 119 motorway service stations have met the government’s target number of six chargers. The UK is estimated to have 760,000 battery EVs. 

The Competition and Markets Authority recently warned motorway service and charge point operators that they must not breach competition laws when planning infrastructure. The watchdog had earlier launched enforcement action against operators over long-term exclusive EV charging point arrangements, citing fears that they would stop other competitors entering the market and impede the roll-out of the government’s £950m rapid charging fund. 

27 November 2023 
Huw Morris, The Planner 

Government extends national priority status to net-zero energy technology

All net-zero technologies covered by National Policy Statements (NPSs) for energy will be considered a “critical national priority”, ministers have decided. 

The move follows consultation on five energy NPSs, which revealed widespread support for extending the higher need status. 

Under the reform, all onshore and offshore energy generation that does not involve fossil combustion will have enhanced priority. This includes renewable generation, anaerobic digestion, low-carbon plants that convert residual waste into energy, nuclear generation, and natural gas-fired generation that is carbon capture ready. 

The higher need status will also apply to electricity grid power lines, including network reinforcement, upgrade works and substations. Low-carbon fuels, pipelines and storage infrastructure, such as hydrogen and carbon dioxide distribution, have also been added, alongside energy infrastructure under the NSIP regime that supports “the onshore network which are routed offshore”. 

Lifetime extensions of nationally significant low-carbon infrastructure and re-powering of projects will also be covered by the enhanced status. 

Elsewhere, the government is retaining the controversial “starting presumption” for overhead lines and pylons for electricity networks developments that are outside nationally designated landscapes – a move backed by a majority of energy industry respondents to the consultation but opposed by most community groups. 

However, it acknowledges that “exceptions” to the starting presumption can be made where the feasibility, cost and potential harm of “the under-grounding or subsea option needs to be weighed against the potential adverse implications of the overhead line and the cost of overhead alternatives”. 

27 November 2023 
Huw Morris, The Planner


Planning authorities fail to allocate Gypsy and Traveller sites

Nearly two-thirds of local planning authorities have failed to allocate Gypsy and Traveller sites despite 29 years of government policy and guidance, according to latest research. 

A study by Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT), which considers the planning and provision of Gypsy and Traveller sites by around 100 local authorities in England between 1960 and 2023, reveals that 64 per cent have not allocated such sites as part of their development plans. 

Of 149 socially provided sites studied, 119 were built before 1994, with only 30 built since that year, when the statutory duty to provide sites was revoked. 

The study says planning inspectors find that a five-year land supply by local authorities is a “poor indication” of whether or not they are meeting demand due to a lack of alternative sites. 

In some cases, the needs of Gypsies and Travellers living in bricks-and-mortar were being missed entirely in accommodation needs assessments, it claims, with “no real consequence” for authorities where there is no provision. 

Some local plans had been adopted without site allocations for Gypsies and Travellers on the basis of commitments by authorities to meet the need in future document, which did not materialise. 

Among its recommendations, the study calls for the re-introduction of the statutory duty to provide sites with proper funding measures, negotiated safe stopping policies across all authorities for Gypsy and Traveller communities as well as an amendment to national Green Belt policy to include “very special circumstances” where the need for public sites provision outweighs the harm. 

“So far, evidence of the constant reduction of living spaces for Gypsy and Traveller people has been almost solely anecdotal and disjointed,” said FFT chief executive officer Sarah Mann. “This report offers an extensive review of how decades of government policy and local authority negligence have led to today’s accommodation crisis for Gypsies and Travellers in England. 

“Offering solutions towards increasing safe stopping places and providing secure accommodation for Gypsy and Traveller communities, this report is essential reading for anyone working to understand and course-correct the state of site provision in England.” 

27 November 2023 
Huw Morris, The Planner

Sunak U-turn prompts landlords to halt energy efficiency plans

More than four in 10 private landlords have abandoned plans to invest in energy efficiency measures following the government’s decision to scrap targets for rental homes. 

In September, prime minister Rishi Sunak scrapped the requirement for all tenanted properties to have an EPC rating of at least band C from 2028. According to research by Lloyds Banking Group, 42 per cent of landlords have cancelled their plans, while 53 per cent are less likely to invest in energy efficient changes in the future.  

The study revealed that housing is one of the UK’s highest emitting sectors, with the country’s 28 million residential properties accounting for 16 per cent of its carbon missions. But while 57 per cent of homeowners see the importance of making their property “net-zero ready” by 2035, 69 per cent have not acted on this in the last five years. 

Nearly half (49 per cent) of homeowners are put off by high initial costs and believe there is a lack of financial support available. Other barriers include not knowing where to start (27 per cent) and the inconvenience of building work (22 per cent). 

However, 96 per cent of homeowners who have made their homes more eco-friendly are pleased with the results and advocate that others should invest, the study found. Of those who have carried out retrofit work, 73 per cent say it performs at least as well as expected, with 50 per cent saying it performs better than expected. 

Meanwhile, 81 per cent would recommend retrofit works to friends or family, with 77 per cent saying their home is now warmer and 64 per cent saying it is cheaper to run. 

28 November 2023 
Huw Morris, The Planner

Landlord hit with £93,000 bill for breaching planning law

A Christchurch landlord has been ordered to pay around £93,000 after pleading guilty to breaching two planning enforcement notices, with a court finding that he had benefitted from criminal conduct. 

Southampton Crown Court imposed a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2022 (POCA) on Ian Kendall of Burley Road, Christchurch. 

The prosecution followed Kendall’s decision to rent out an unlawful dwelling and build an unlawful extension to his property, both of which lacked planning permission from Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council. 

Kendall originally had a detached garage that had been lawfully converted into a dwelling; he applied for planning permission to extend it in February 2016. The application was rejected because the proposed extension was too large, but a fresh application was approved. 

However, in 2018 planning enforcement officers found that Kendall had built a larger extension than the one he had permission for. He had also extended another property he owned and, without planning permission, created a separate dwelling. 

Retrospective planning applications for both unlawful dwellings were refused and enforcement notices issued, giving Kendall six months to comply. His appeals against both notices were dismissed by a planning inspector. 

Kendall rented out the unlawful dwelling and occupied the unlawful extension throughout the process, profiting from his activity. The court ruled that Kendall had benefitted from his criminal conduct and awarded a confiscation order of £77,133.58. Kendall was also fined £8,000 for planning offences and ordered to pay costs to the council of £7,877.84, making a total of £93,011.42. 

“Profiting from letting out unlawfully built dwellings is not only illegal, but unfair on tenants who have the right to live in a legal and safe home,” said Millie Earl, the council’s portfolio holder for connected communities. “I hope the huge amount of money confiscated in this case shows just how far we are willing to go to ensure these important regulations are always followed.” 

27 November 2023 
Huw Morris, The Planner


News round-up

Barclay launches competition for national forest 

A competition for a new national forest will be instituted by environment secretary Steve Barclay this week, alongside the unveiling of two community forests in Derbyshire and the Tees Valley. 

Communities will be invited to put their areas forward as candidates for the national forest, with the winning location receiving up to £10 million in funding. This will build on the success of the National Forest in the Midlands, which spans more than 500 square kilometres in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire. 

Applicants will be assessed on how a forest would transform the area, create habitats for wildlife, broaden access to the countryside and help the country to meet its net-zero targets. Successful bids will be announced by autumn 2024. 

Barclay will also set out further plans on improving green space access, including through new community forests in Derbyshire and the Tees Valley, which will see around 370 hectares of woodland planted by 2025. 

Plans revealed for major logistics centre in Eccles 

Peel Waters has submitted plans for a 100,000 square metre logistics and industrial development in Salford. 

The Halo West scheme would redevelop a brownfield site off Liverpool Road in Eccles into a “hyper-connected employment zone”; it was previously used as a waste recycling facility. The scheme has been designed to “a Grade A specification” and is targeting a BREEAM Excellent rating. It would be split across eight units, providing a range of industrial and logistics space.   

The proposal makes full use of its location next to J11 on the M60, giving future site users access to the ring motorway within minutes – and, from there, the M62 and M6. 

"The development of this brownfield site will create local employment opportunities and enable businesses to serve both the local and wider region by making best use of the location, local infrastructure and the scheme’s strategic proximity to the motorway network,” said Peter Linstead, Peel Waters development director for logistics. 

The design team includes AEW, Langton Development Services and WSP. 

Bid to build mega-studio in Sunderland submitted 

A planning application for a £450 million film industry hub on the banks of the River Wear has been submitted to Sunderland City Council. 

FulwellCain, a joint venture between entertainment company Fulwell 73 and investor Cain International, aims to deliver a film and TV studio with 20 sound stages across three sites. 

The proposed Crown Works Studios would include production workshops and office space, a vendor village for supply chain businesses, administrative and social facilities, a multistorey car park and an extensive backlot. 

“Sunderland City Council has shown its commitment to our plans with this application, and we have demonstrated ours too, with everything lined up and ready to go should we gain approval and get the support we need from government,” said Fulwell 73 managing partner Leo Pearlman. He said the “transformational plan” would reinvigorate the city and region’s economy and “represent a shot in the arm for the UK’s creative industries”, adding: “We are determined to do everything we can to ensure the impact of the studios are fully understood and supported.” 

The studios could generate £334 million for the local economy every year, “creating jobs and contract opportunities spanning a vast range of disciplines including trades and manual skills", according to Fulwell 73. 

“This represents an important step forward for the city, underlining our commitment to a scheme that will be just about the most ambitious catalyst for economic development seen for decades in the North East,” said Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council. “It requires support, and that’s clear, but – as a council, working with FulwellCain – we have absolutely thrown our weight behind this to ensure everything is lined up to make it a reality.” 

If planning consent is granted, the first phase of the scheme will start next year and is scheduled to be completed by 2027. 

York seeks public feedback ahead of new Local Transport Plan 

York Council has launched a public consultation on the future of transport across the city and its surrounding villages. 

The consultation, which will inform a new Local Transport Plan due next summer, is the first since 2010 to cover all aspects of transport rather than individual projects. It will run across an online platform and a series of in-person events asking residents, businesses, tourists and commuters about their travel choices, and will explain why change is needed. 

Consultation themes include accessibility, improving walking, wheelchair access, wheeling and cycling, shaping healthy places, and upgrading and improving bus and rail services. It will also cover carbon, air pollution and noise reduction, the creation of safe, connected transport networks, and the reduction of car dependency and the heavy vehicle impacts. 

“We have ambitious targets to tackle climate change, including reducing carbon emissions from transport by 71% and reducing the number of miles travelled by car by 20% by 2030,” said Pete Kilbane, York’s deputy leader and executive member for economy and transport. “This will not happen overnight and we know that if we are going to free up the roads for those who need to use them, we have to make improvements so that walking, cycling or taking the bus are reliable, practical and attractive options for those who can make the change. 

“We also recognise that we need to better support our disabled residents and visitors.” 

Guildford to scope Local Plan review 

Guildford Borough Council is to consider the scope of a forthcoming review of its adopted Local Plan for strategy and sites. 

The move by the council’s joint executive advisory board (EAB) will determine whether the council should update any elements of the Local Plan, adopted in 2019. A formal review will follow before a report is considered at a full council meeting in February. 

George Potter, Guildford’s lead councillor for planning, environment and climate change, said that the borough is hoping “long-promised government changes to the National Planning Policy Framework will have been made” by the time the full council will consider the review’s recommendations. 

“It is important to us that we are as transparent and accountable as possible throughout both the review process and any potential update of the Local Plan,” he added. “The review process has already been discussed by the new cross-party planning policy board and comments made by councillors at the joint EAB will also be taken fully into account.” 

If the full council agrees to update the Local Plan, the borough will prepare a timetable, budget and list of actions before consulting the public and gathering evidence. 

28 November 2023 
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 - 30 November 2023

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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 © 2024 Planning Portal.