Weekly planning news
Planning news - 6 July 2023
Tributes paid to 'highly effective' Bob Kerslake
Lord Bob Kerslake, whose career included the roles of head of the civil service and permanent secretary to the Department for Communities and Local Government, has died following a battle with cancer.
Kerslake was a towering figure within local government, who most recently served as president of the Local Government Association (LGA) and as chair of the 270 Commission.
His long and illustrious career in local government started in 1979 as a finance officer with the Greater London Council.
Having served as chief executive of Sheffield City Council for over a decade, Kerslake then moved on to become chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency. His role as head of the Civil Service followed, spanning from January 2012 to September 2014.
As chair of the Peabody Housing Association, he introduced that body’s older people’s strategy while in his role as chair of the commission on affordable housing in London he decried the capital’s housing shortage as ‘one of the biggest public policy failures of the last fifty years’.
Kerslake was knighted in 2005 for services to local government.
The shock news of Kerslake’s death has led to a huge response from those who worked with him. Sir Keir Starmer described Kerslake as a "talented public servant, utmost professional, and a good man” while the former levelling up secretary Greg Clark called him “a wonderful public servant”.
“I was privileged to have worked with Bob as a minister when he was permenant secretary of the communities & local government department. He was highly effective in making big innovations - such as the NPPF and Metro mayoralties - happen.”
RTPI board member Professor Tony Crook, CBE FAcSS FRTPI, said that he first got to know him when Kerslake became chief executive of Sheffield City Council and Crook himself was pro vice-chancellor at the University of Sheffield.
“I had the greatest fortune to work closely with him when I became Chair of Sheffield Homes Ltd, taking on responsibility for all Sheffield's Council housing including a major capital spending programme,” says Crook.
“His thirst for good analysis and data as the keystones for decisions made him an excellent colleague to work with. This led us to jointly set up the University of Sheffield's Public Sector Club which he agreed to co chair. We dined each month with joint presentations from an academic working on a public policy research issue and someone in the public or not for profit sector for whom this was a policy responsibility.
“We had long and productive discussions to the mutual benefit of academics and public sector colleagues. When Bob moved to the HCA and then to the civil service we kept regularly in touch and continued to exchange ideas and discuss the latest research findings, not the least on land value capture and how it could be best used to fund affordable housing.
“His commitment to evidence in policy was reflected by his willingness, indeed keenness to chair the UK's National Centre for Housing Evidence and the 2070 Commission on regional inequalities. His commitment to evidence was reflected in his election to Hon Membership of the RTPI and to a fellowship of the Academy of Social Science.
“Most of all, I will miss him greatly for his energy, for his humanity and for his intellect but above all for his enduring commitment to making life better for everyone.”
Sheffield City Council expressed its sadness as the death of its former chief executive.
"Bob, as he was universally known, was chief executive between 1997 and 2008, moving to Sheffield from the London Borough of Hounslow. He was a much-loved and inspirational chief executive, and, working closely with three leaders of the council (Councillors Mike Bower, Jan Wilson and Peter Moore), he led the council to being the national Council of the Year in 2005. Bob believed deeply in the power of public service having a real impact on people’s lives and championed and delivered significant change and modernisation of the council’s services and outlook while he was chief executive."
The council spoke about his work and how he "masterminded much of the city’s post-industrial rebirth". He also cared "deeply" about the people and communities of the city and "worked tirelessly to reduce the city’s deep-seated inequalities".
More than this, "it is his compassion, kindness and humanity which will remain with us as an organisation. A quietly inspirational leader, Bob was also down to earth, unflappable, conscientious and somebody who supported his team to be the best that they could be".
3 July 2023 (updated 4th July 2023)
Martin Read, The Planner
LGA advocates for a national council housebuilding delivery task force
The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the government to establish a national council housebuilding delivery task force as part of a six-point plan for affordable housing.
The task force would bring together a team of experts to provide additional capacity and improvement support for housing delivery teams within councils and their partners.
The LGA also believes every area in England should have a local housing deal by 2025 to spark a “generational step-change” in council housebuilding.
Councillor James Jamieson, whose four-year term as chairman of the LGA ends at the start of its annual conference in Bournemouth tomorrow (4 July), set out its six-point plan. This aims to deliver on council ambitions that “could, over time, support the delivery of 100 more council homes in every local authority per year”.
The LGA has highlighted that the construction of new homes has “failed” to keep pace with population growth and social changes in recent decades, and that there are not enough affordable homes to meet current demand. More than 1.2 million households are on council waiting lists in England, and more than 100,000 households are living in temporary accommodation.
The representative for councils acknowledges that government measures to lift the housing borrowing cap, and to allow councils to keep right to buy receipts for two years, are positive steps in boosting the supply of social housing. However, it argues that more needs to be done to “rapidly build more genuinely affordable homes”.
The LGA urges the government to implement its six-point plan:
- Roll out five-year local housing deals to all areas of the country that want them by 2025, combining funding from multiple national housing programmes into a single pot. This will provide the funding, flexibility, certainty and confidence to stimulate housing supply, and remove national restrictions that stymie innovation and delivery.
- Government support to set up a new national council housebuilding delivery task force, bringing together a team of experts to provide additional capacity and improvement support for housing delivery teams within councils and their partners.
- Continued access to preferential borrowing rates through the Public Works Loans Board, introduced in the Spring Budget, to support the delivery of social housing and local authorities borrowing for Housing Revenue Accounts.
- Further reform to right to buy, including: allowing councils to retain 100 per cent of receipts on a permanent basis; flexibility to combine right to buy receipts with other government grants; the ability to set the size of discounts locally; and the ability to recycle a greater proportion of receipts into building replacement homes, paying off housing debt.
- Review and increase where needed the grant levels per home through the Affordable Homes Programme – inflationary pressures have caused the cost of building new homes to rise, leaving councils needing grant funding to fund a larger proportion of a new-build homes than before.
- Certainty on future rents, to enable councils to invest. Government must commit to a minimum 10-year rent deal for council landlords to allow a longer period of annual rent increases and long-term certainty.
Jamieson said: “Housing is too often unavailable, unaffordable, and is not appropriate for everyone that needs it. The right homes in the right areas can have significant wider benefits for people and communities and prevent future public service challenges and costs.
“Addressing the chronic housing shortage must be a national priority. Our six-point plan would lead to a generational step-change in council housebuilding and give local government the powers and funding to deliver thousands of affordable homes a year – at scale, and fast.
“A genuine renaissance in council housebuilding would unlock local government’s historic role as a major builder of affordable homes, which support strong and healthy communities and help to build prosperous places.”
3 July 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
95 inspectors joined PINS in the last year
The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) recruited 95 inspectors in 2022/2023 and made 51 promotions, according to its annual report.
These appointments and promotions form part of the organisation’s strategic workforce plan, which focuses on inspector recruitment.
Planning Inspectorate Annual Report and Accounts 2022/23 also notes that work has begun on wider workforce requirements, looking at the inspectorate’s support functions as well as other professions’ PINS employees.
The report states: “We have invested in focused resources to attract and appoint to our Inspector roles. This has resulted in 95 new inspector appointments being made and a further 51 promotions throughout 2022/23, supporting both our need to ensure we increase the casework capacity of inspectors and ensuring our ability to handle more complex planning decisions. We continue to examine the future requirements for this profession to ensure we have the right people in place at the right time to deliver our casework.”
In 2022/23, PINS received about 17,000 planning appeals, which is comparable to 2021/22. “However, the mix of cases included a higher share of case types which are more time consuming,” the report notes. “For example, about 20 per cent more cases required a hearing.”
The increase in hearings is likely due to the inspectorate receiving more major housing appeals.
In addition, about 35 per cent of the appeals PINS receives each year do not have all the information or evidence needed to be able to start work on the case, with the process being delayed while this material is gathered.
During 2022/23, three out of every 10 appeals were allowed.
The number of enforcement appeals rose by 8 per cent in 2022/23, compared to the year earlier.
Other statistics in the report include:
- 17,456 decisions and recommendations on appeals, applications and examinations were made, which is “comparable to 2021/22”.
- 258 planning appeals were decided after an inquiry – “slightly more than 2021/22”.
- 570 planning appeals were decided after a hearing, about 34 per cent more than in 2021/22.
- 490 enforcement appeals were decided after a hearing or inquiry, 15 per cent more than in 2021/22.
- 1,711 appeals enforcement appeals were decided after written exchange of evidence, 2 per cent fewer than in 2021/22.
- 33 reports were issued for local and development plans.
This is the first annual report to be published under PINS chief executive Paul Morrison, who took over from Sarah Richards after she stepped down in the autumn of last year. Navees Rahman was seconded from his role as the inspectorate’s corporate services director to serve as interim chief executive.
Writing in the report, Morrison said: “At one level the message for the coming year, is more of the same. The core purpose of the Planning Inspectorate will remain as it ever was; to make fair, open and impartial decisions, reports and recommendations in a timely manner. We will achieve that by continuing to invest in our people, driving the service we deliver to customers and improving our processes and systems, particularly in the data and digital field. But while the fundamentals of our approach remain the same, they will play out against the backdrop of significant changes to policy which will require us to continue to engage across the planning system.”
The inspectorate said it remains focused on clearing the backlog of cases, “but in doing so we won’t compromise on the quality of our work and will meet our customers’ expectations by making consistent decisions in predictable timeframes”.
This will be achieved as the same time as responding to a period of significant change.
“We will use our expertise to provide support to the government in delivering planning reform and infrastructure investment. And embracing the advantages of technology, we will continue to improve our digital systems to enhance the planning process for all stakeholders.”
Planning Inspectorate Annual Report and Accounts 2022/23 can be found on the UK Government website.1
A video of Paul Morrison talking about the report can be watched on the Planning Inspectorate's YouTube channel.2
3 July 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Consultation starts on Welsh draft noise and soundscape strategy
Consultation began this week on what will become the first Welsh statutory national strategy on soundscapes.
The draft retains and refines the core messages of the existing Noise and Soundscape Action Plan 2018 -2023.
These include the government’s ambition for appropriate soundscapes and joined-up action on noise and air quality wherever it makes sense to do so.
The draft plan sets out what has been delivered over the past five years, such as noise mitigation works completed on the trunk road network. It also highlights developments in planning policy and guidance. Notably, this involves a new Technical Advice Note (TAN 11) and related soundscape design guidance.
The revised TAN 11 has been the subject of consultation and will involve a requirement for noise and soundscape design statements (NSDS). These would have similar content to a conventional acoustic design statement when it comes to noise control, but would also include a soundscape design element.
The draft plan highlights the latest suite of noise maps. In addition, it covers new topics that have come to the fore over the past five years, including issues such as remote working, aural diversity, air source heat pumps, changes in speed limits and fireworks.
It insists that decarbonisation, electrification of motorised transport and climate change adaptation bring both opportunities and challenges for the sound environment.
Phasing out the internal combustion engine reduces one major source of outdoor noise in built-up areas, but the sounds generated by air conditioning units, wind turbines and heat pumps must be factored into decision-making as Wales seeks to adapt to and mitigate man-made climate change.
Although working from home reduces the sound emitted by commuter traffic, it turns dwellings that were previously unoccupied in office hours into noise-sensitive locations during the daytime. This has potential implications for those carrying out activities such as building works, who have traditionally assumed office hours to be the least bad times to engage in noisy activities in residential areas.
Meanwhile, increases in home deliveries may affect the sound environments of residential streets, particularly when delivery vehicles fail to switch off their engines while unloading goods. Electric scooters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or ‘drones’) are also likely to present acoustic challenges if their use becomes more widespread.
The draft policy stresses that it is no longer acceptable to regard air quality and noise merely as technical matters to be mitigated at the end of the process. Rather, they are integral to the design, functioning, health, amenity and wellbeing of places.
The government has announced that it intends to use its new noise maps to identify areas where noise mitigation may be required between 2023 and 2028. Priority areas will be determined based on modelled noise levels, the population affected and perception of noise.
The blueprint notes that rail electrification has the potential to significantly reduce the level of sound generated by trains. However, an increase in services and the number of residential properties being built close to existing railways and railway infrastructure may result in increased noise exposure and complaints in some areas.
The draft policy highlights that the ‘agent of change’ principle should be applied whenever new noise-sensitive is proposed close to existing railways and railway infrastructure. The same principle must be applied to development in urban areas when schemes are proposed near music venues and late-night clubs.
The document insisted that in light of the current constraints and pressures on public finances “this first national strategy on soundscapes neither announces significant new government spending nor assigns costly actions to other public bodies.
“Rather, it seeks to maximise opportunities for better, more integrated decision-making across all relevant policy areas and organisations to achieve appropriate soundscapes in Wales.”
The consultation, which closes on 2 October, can be found on the Welsh Government website.3
29 June 2023
Roger Milne, The Planner
Uxbridge mechanic must pay £6,000 over unapproved extension
A mechanic in Hillingdon, West London, has been ordered to pay more than £5,800 after ignoring an enforcement notice and failing to demolish a single-storey extension built without planning permission.
Ijaz Khan, of Jaz Auto Electrician, Redford Way, was fined £2,000 at Uxbridge Magistrates' Court on Monday 19 June 2023. The council issued the enforcement notice in April 2022, which required compliance by 26 August 2022.
However, a follow-up visit by the council showed that the single-storey unit was still in place.
The council felt the building – used for car repairs and residential purposes – was causing harm by damaging the street scene and having an adverse effect on the character and appearance of the residential area.
During sentencing, the bench told Khan: “We've noted that the non-compliance has gone on for a period of time but, we have also taken into account your means. This is a serious matter and it's a protracted period of illegal activity and we are going to mark it by way of a fine of £2,000.”
Councillor Eddie Lavery, Hillingdon Council's cabinet member for residents' services, said: “This is another brilliant result for our planning enforcement team and shows that we refuse to do nothing when people ignore the rules that everyone else has to follow.
“Planning rules help us maintain pleasant communities and prevent overdevelopment, so this hefty fine should serve as a warning that those rules must be followed, or we will take action.”
Khan was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £800 and the council’s prosecution costs of £3,073.30, along with the fine, at a rate of £200 a month.
30 June 2023
Ben Gosling, The Planner
A round-up of planning news
Bury housing plans approved
Bury Council has approved plans by north-west housebuilder Watson Homes to build 132 new homes as part of a mixed-use development on Green Street in Radcliffe, Bury.
Of the 132 new homes, 97 will be made available for affordable tenures via Great Places Housing Group. The development forms part of the wider Radcliffe Strategic Framework, which aims to create a prospering community based upon a thriving and distinctive town centre.
The approved development will see construction of a mixed-use property comprising offices, retail and food and beverage units. Alongside this, the apartments will comprise a mix of one and two-bedroom homes.
The development will be highly energy efficient with a focus on sustainability, including air-source heat pumps and solar PV panels. The office space will achieve a BREEAM rating of Very Good and will be home to Watson upon completion.
CIC’s first female chair is inaugurated
Dr Wei Yang has been inaugurated as the first female chair of the Construction Industry Council (CIC), as well as the first chair born outside the UK and Ireland.
Yang replaces Justin Sullivan in the role for a two-year term of office starting with immediate effect.
Sullivan remains on the CIC board as immediate past chair for a year, in accordance with CIC’s rules and by-laws.
Yang was the president of the RTPI in 2021.
She said: “I am delighted to have become the first female chair of CIC – a forum for built environment professionals to share our best practices without professional boundaries.
“Our living environment has a direct influence on our daily activities, health and wellbeing. The responsibility of our sector is not just building physical objects; we are here to create places embodied with empathy, inclusivity and creativity.
“Through my role at CIC, I will dedicate my efforts to strengthen interdisciplinary collaborations between built and natural environment professionals to stimulate mindset changes within the sector for a better future.”
£82m Dawish sea wall work complete
The government has supplied funding of £82 million to protect the sea wall along the rail route in Dawlish.
The new, rebuilt wall will protect the safety of local passengers from extreme weather conditions along the coast. It has been completed in two phases, with the latter stage protecting the Grade II listed Dawlish train station.
A brand-new railway station at Marsh Barton near Exeter has also opened, which is intended to boost local and regional connections.
Further cliff protection work is underway to deliver two additional phases of the programme, including a rockfall shelter at Holcombe along the coast from Dawlish.
Retailer submits Ealing and Bromley housing plans
A planning application has been submitted by John Lewis Partnership to build hundreds of new rental homes in West Ealing and Bromley.
The retailer plans to deliver 1,000 ‘build to rent’ homes in London and Reading as part of a £500 million joint venture with investment company Abrdn.
The plans would lead to 428 new homes in West Ealing and 353 in Bromley, while initial plans for a vacant warehouse site in Reading would be brought forward later this year.
Twenty-five of the properties will be classed as affordable housing, with a focus on provision for key workers.
Each of the developments will have a public piazza, a flagship Waitrose shop and cafe, roof gardens, flexible work spaces and a gym.
Development partner sought for Southampton masterplan
Southampton City Council is seeking a masterplanner to work with the council's economic development and regeneration team on a transformative programme for the city.
The project will be known as ‘Southampton Renaissance’. The team is asking consultants with a proven track record of delivering successful masterplanning and regeneration projects at a city scale to put themselves forward.
The expression of interest stage closes at 5pm on Monday 10 July.
More information can be found on the government’s tendering portal.4
Manchester park set to receive EV hub
A £1 million deal between Trafford Borough Council and electric vehicle (EV) charging network Be.EV will see Manchester’s Sale Water Park receive a new charging hub.
Sixteen ultra-rapid charger bays will go live at the 152-acre parkland and lake in August, making it the largest ultra-rapid charging hub in Greater Manchester.
Drivers will be able to charge their cars from 20 per cent to 80 per cent in 20 minutes. The site will be equipped with Kempower chargers that feature “unique” load-balancing abilities.
The council will retain ownership of the site and the chargers will be owned, installed and maintained by Be.EV.
Affordable home set to be delivered in north-west England
A seven-year deal between Castle Green Partnerships and Torus will lead to the development of 589 new affordable homes across the North West of England.
More than £142 million will be invested in building affordable homes across Cheshire at Daresbury, Crewe and Congleton and the popular Thornton area of Sefton in the Liverpool City Region.
The homes will include a mix of affordable rent and shared ownership properties. They will be built across four sites – Flowers Lane, Crewe; Bridgewater View, Daresbury; Viking Way, Congleton and Orchard Place, Thornton – all due for completion by 2030.
Barnet Council approves office building plans
Barnet Council has approved plans by Related Argent for the second building in its new commercial district at Brent Cross Town for a nine-storey office building.
The building will offer 138,000 square feet of workspace over eight levels, with a large communal roof terrace.
The new district at 2 Copper Square will be home to knowledge-led businesses and be anchored by Sheffield Hallam University’s first campus outside northern England.
The three-million square foot commercial district is located next to the new Brent Cross West railway station, which opens in autumn 2023.
It sits adjacent to the newly opened Claremont Park, and alongside two major new public squares that will act as a gateway to the rest of the neighbourhood.
The area will welcome businesses that prioritise quality of life for their people and a desire to be part of a new net-zero town with amenities such as parks and sports facilities. The first residents of the new homes will move in from the end of 2024.
Strategy for Scotland's historic environment launched
Scotland's culture minister Christina McKelvie has launched Our Past, Our Future, a new strategy for Scotland’s historic environment sector.
Creation of the strategy was led by Historic Environment Scotland and came after a public consultation hosted alongside 10 organisations representing Scotland’s heritage sector, including the Scottish government.
Building on Our Place in Time, the previous strategy, Our Past, Our Future intends to provide a roadmap for the next five years. It highlights the sector’s shared ambition to make a responsible contribution to Scotland’s economy and use the historic environment to improve people’s wellbeing. It also has a strong focus on the transition to net zero.
Our Past, Our Future can be found on the Historic Environment Scotland website.5
Khan launches £500m fund to support net zero by 2030
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced a new £500 million fund to help organisations achieve net zero by 2030.
The Green Finance Fund aims to support projects delivering benefits in either energy efficiency, clean transport or renewable energy. It is open to organisations in the GLA Group, any of London’s 32 local authorities, social housing providers, NHS bodies, universities and colleges.
Organisations can bid for loans of £1 million to £75 million, with flexible loan terms and lower interest rates than the government’s Public Works Loan Board public sector lending scheme, the mayor's office said. The funds can be used for capital expenditure. Projects that will be operational within the next three years will be prioritised.
Church Commissioners partner Duchy Homes to deliver Yorkshire site
The Church Commissioners for England has partnered with housebuilder Duchy Homes to deliver a 3.7-hectare site of up to 46 homes in Darton near Barnsley, South Yorkshire.
The scheme also includes new pedestrian and cycle access.
“With a proven track record of delivering high-quality sites in the region, Duchy Homes is extremely well placed to take forward our plans for our new Darton development,” said Joanna Loxton, head of strategic land investment at the Church Commissioners for England.
“The site will fulfil Barnsley’s vision for new homes in the area while taking care to maintain its unique environmental landscape, including through the preservation of species-rich grassland.”
Planning permission for residential development on the site was granted in 2021.
Of the homes, 20 per cent will be affordable, in line with the Barnsley Council's local plan. Homes will have between two and five bedrooms.
Views sought on Calderdale planning documents
Calderdale Council is seeking views on its Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) and the Self and Custom Build SPD.
In Calderdale more than 7,000 people are on the waiting list for social housing and only just over 700 social housing allocations in the last year, said the council. In addition, private rents have increased by around 12 per cent in the last 12 months.
The draft Affordable Housing SPD sets out guidance around the amount of affordable housing required on different development sites, the type of affordable housing required and the process for securing affordable housing.
It aims to guide developers when preparing proposals and council officers when considering applications and drawing up agreements.
The Self and Custom Build Housing SPD is intended to manage the process by which developers will be expected to deliver self-build housing plots. It will also guide council officers in decision making.
The documents can be found on the Calderdale Council website.6 The consultation closes on Friday 28 July.
4 July 2023
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, The Planner