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Planning news - 9 December 2021

Further allocation made from brownfield fund

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has made a second £11 million allocation from the £75 Brownfield Land Release Fund.

The money will be shared between 15 councils for 23 redevelopment schemes.

Housing minister Christopher Pincher said: “Our brownfield-first approach is transforming underused sites into thriving communities where people want to live, work and visit.

“The investment we are announcing today will help people onto the property ladder, create jobs, deliver new infrastructure and provide a boost to local communities as we level up across the country.”

In October, DLUHC allocated £57.8 million to 53 councils to develop brownfield land.

Projects allocated funding include:

Stoke-on-Trent: A former refuse destruction site on Booth Street will be redeveloped with £700,000 of BLRF funding. This funding will release land for the development of 118 new homes, 90 per cent of which will be affordable housing including social rent homes for older people.

Hythe: In Hythe, the district council will receive £2 million towards the site remediation costs of a former waste tip on this council-led development. The regeneration will deliver 150 new homes, a new leisure centre and improved public spaces and parkland.

Barrow: In Barrow-in-Furness, Barrow Borough Council will receive £1.5 million to improve roads, infrastructure and utilities for the Marina Village development and key employment sites, close to the town centre. The funding will release land for 315 new homes.

Gloucester: A major redevelopment of a derelict former cattle market site at St Oswalds Park will be supported by the BLRF to deliver 180 new homes. The St Oswalds Park redevelopment is part of the regeneration work across the city supported by government, which includes the £20 million investment from the Levelling Up Fund.

Chorley: In Chorley, £1.1 million will help bring forward the proposed redevelopment of a council-owned site on Bengal Street, demolishing existing buildings and addressing ground contamination to deliver a mixed-use scheme incorporating residential, retail and leisure space.

1 December 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

'Succinct' new Dartmoor local plan is adopted

The local plan, for the period 2018-2036, was voted through at a meeting of the Dartmoor National Park Authority on Friday 3 December.

The housing strategy in the plan makes provision for at least 65 homes each year across the national park.

"This number of homes will enable the delivery of affordable housing to meet local needs, allow sufficient open market housing to cross-subsidise affordable housing delivery, and bring about a small increase in population intended to reduce the scale of the demographic issues described above," states the plan.

Development, it says, will be permitted that furthers, and does not prejudice, the statutory national park purposes, which include conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area.

News homes will be focused in local centres deemed the most sustainable locations for development.

The national park authority said its local plan "sets out the high standards that all proposed development must meet to protect and value nature while allowing communities to grow in ways that respects the national park’s special environment".

Dartmoor National Park Authority chair Pamela Woods added: “The local plan, taken as a whole, pursues national park purposes of conservation and enhancement, and promoting understanding and enjoyment. It ensures that at a time of change and uncertainty, Dartmoor stands firms as a stronghold for wildlife, a landscape of national, cultural and natural importance, a home and workplace, and a haven for recreation and quiet enjoyment."

The national park authority sought to make the local plan accessible, with 97 policies and allocation replaced with 78, something the inspector noted about the plan: "The document as a whole is succinct ... Focussed text, diagrams, maps, and the selective inclusion of highlighted definitions, together, make for an accessible and easily navigated document.”

Head of forward planning and economy Dan Janota said: “The plan responds to the challenges of climate change and ecological crisis through a pattern of sustainable growth, policies to reduce energy use and a groundbreaking approach to biodiversity net gain.

“Crucially it puts the needs of Dartmoor at its heart by raising the bar on the quality, efficiency and accessibility of new homes while recognising the gap between local incomes and house prices. Business and enterprise which is consistent with national park purposes is encouraged and supported."

7 December 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

14,289 homes delivered between April and September by Homes England

Homes England's housing programmes resulted in 14,289 completed homes between 1 April and 30 September 2021 – higher than the comparable period in 2020.

A further 13,229 homes were started on site through programmes run by the government housing body.

Noting the increase in both starts and completions are higher compared to the same period in 2020, Homes England said it shows the industry is "beginning to recover" from delays to construction as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to statistics published on the UK Government website, the number of affordable homes completed during the period was 10,007 – or 70 per cent of finished builds (a 23 per cent increase on 2020). The number of affordable homes started but not completed, however, was 7 per cent down on 2020, at 9,255.

The number of affordable starts was thus the lowest since 2017/18, said Homes England. It attributed this to the closure of bidding for the Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes Programme (SOAHP) 2016/21 in March 2021.

Peter Denton, chief executive at Homes England, said: “The statistics show positive signs that housebuilding is beginning to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the pressures still faced by the industry, it’s clear that our partners are working incredibly hard to build the new homes the country needs.

“As the new Affordable Homes Programme swings into action, we look forward to working with ambitious housebuilders of all shapes and sizes, to help them realise their development ambitions and support the government’s housing objectives.”

The affordable housing statistics for 1 April and 30 September 2021 broken down:

  • 1,656 affordable homes started were for affordable rent, 50 per cent less than the 3,322 delivered in the same period in 2020.
  • 1,472 homes were started under schemes, including shared ownership and rent to buy.
  • 5,259 homes were started which are defined as ‘affordable tenure TBC’, meaning homes for which the tenure is not known until completion.
  • 868 homes were started for social rent, which is 80 per cent more than the 483 started in the first half of last year.
  • 5,346 completed homes were for affordable rent.
  • 3,506 completed homes were under Intermediate Affordable Housing schemes.
  • 1,155 social rent homes were completed, 62 per cent more than the first half of last year.

Housing Statistics December 2021 can be found on the UK Government website (pdf)1.

6 December 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Liverpool council told to outsource simple planning applications

Commissioners have recommended that Liverpool City Council should outsource straightforward planning applications so that the planning team can focus on more complex applications to reduce the backlog.

Although the planning team has been strengthened from what was “a significantly under-resourced position”, the commissioners say there is a “considerable backlog of approximately 300 planning applications which is clearly constraining development in the city”.

The government appointed a team of independent commissioners in June to support Liverpool City Council to “implement rapid and far-reaching changes”.

This came after an independent report, published in March, concluded that there had been multiple serious failures by Liverpool City Council to comply with its Best Value Duty. It found there had been a lack of scrutiny and regard for public funds and a culture of intimidation at the council.

According to the commissioners, delays in planning are the subject of a high number of customer complaints, with continuing problems implementing a new IT system further exacerbating “frustration both for officers and members of the public”.

The first report by the commissioners states: “Due to the lack of capacity, capability and financial resources in the planning team, there is a lack of supporting policy framework and strategy documents to encourage good development. We have encouraged officers to work with partners and stakeholders, including housing associations, to co-fund and co-manage the delivery.”

The commissioners also note that the regeneration team needs “a complete rebuild”. However, the interim director of regeneration and economy “has a good understanding of the skills required”.

In particular, the team needs to develop skills in financial analysis and appraisal, economic strategy and impact, and commercial acumen.

Therefore, the interim director has ensured that his team will participate in the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s 12-month commercial and financial skills training programme. The interim director is also examining the potential to bring not-for-profit social enterprise Public Practice to the city to help to support both recruitment and skills development.

Responding to the commissioners’ report, Mayor Joanne Anderson and Tony Reeves, the council’s chief executive, said in a joint statement: “A huge amount of work is under way to develop the council plan and the Strategic Improvement Plan which will go a long way to addressing many of the concerns raised both within the ‘Best Value’ report and this first report from the commissioners.

“Many changes have taken place at the council since the ‘Best Value’ report and we acknowledge that there is still a lot to do. This is a complex journey and the council needs to find the right balance between implementing improvements and building capacity, whilst managing a very difficult budget.

“The well-publicised issues within the highways and regeneration teams are being tackled head-on. These teams both have a new head of service to instigate the necessary changes to drive up standards, including a new business plan for the highways department."

The statement in full can be read here2.

1 December 2021
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Redevelopment of Cardiff Arms Park shapes up

Ambitious proposals to redevelop Cardiff Arms Park in the heart of the capital made progress this week.

A new subsidiary company has been established by the owners of the ground, Cardiff Athletics Club (CAC), to spearhead plans to build a new stand. A new hotel, flats, bars, restaurants, and commercial floor space are also potentially in prospect.

The subsidiary, the Cardiff Arms Park Redevelopment Company, has set up a design team to advise on redevelopment options and will prepare a feasibility study.

The design team consists of property adviser Savills, architects at HMA, planning consultant DPP and cost management consultant ChandlerKBS.

The ground is next to the Principality Stadium. Media reports suggest that a redeveloped stadium could have a capacity of around 15,000 – slightly higher than that of the existing ground – with a major mixed-use scheme on the north side of the ground.

3 December 2021
Roger Milne, The Planner

News round-up

Historic England set outs objections to Bristol development

Historic England has objected to a proposed development on the Floating Harbour, arguing it would damage Bristol’s historic and distinctive cityscape.

The proposed development in question is a seven-storey office block. Historic England says it will harm the city’s character and identity, as well as people’s appreciation and enjoyment of the city.

Advice given to Bristol City Council sets out that the development will harm the setting of the grade I-listed Bristol Cathedral because it would block "important views across the docks to the cathedral and the historic city centre".

Also, it says that the design of the proposed building is of "insufficient quality for such an important site" and would therefore "harm the character of the City Docks conservation area". Historic England says the proposal does not conform with either national planning policy or that of Bristol’s local plan.

Ross Simmonds, acting regional director for Historic England in the South West said: “A dynamic city like Bristol needs to fully embrace development and we do not oppose change, but this scheme is not good enough to justify the damage it would cause to the City Docks conservation area, the setting of the cathedral, and the views of some of the city’s most important buildings and spaces. It is possible to accommodate growth in this area without compromising valuable historic character, as many other repurposed historic buildings on Bristol’s waterfront demonstrate, such as the Arnolfini, the M-shed, the Mud Dock, and the Watershed.”


Liverpool approves £3.15m brownfield funds

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has approved £3.15 million from the Brownfield Land Fund for Sandway Homes to build homes in the region.

The Sefton Council-owned housing developer will begin work on two brownfield sites for 150 new homes at Bentham’s Way, Southport and 63 new homes on the former site of Bootle High School.

Louise Davies, managing director of Sandway Homes, said: “Targeting challenging brownfield sites for development, in locations where new homes are in high demand is an important part of Sandway’s business model, which complements other schemes being delivered across the Borough.

“Our successful applications for this Brownfield Land Fund support means we will be able to progress these further sites and provide more local people with the affordable, high-quality homes they want.”

If approved by the combined authority and Sefton Council, the two sites and a third will bring the total number of houses to be delivered by Sandway as part of its phase 2 plans to 350 new homes. The schemes will include “affordable” housing, providing a combination of affordable rent, shared ownership and open market sales.


£2m for London high street recovery

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has committed £2 million to support high street recovery in 15 boroughs.

The money has been allocated from his High Streets for All (HSfA) Challenge.

The projects seek to "breathe new life" into town centres and high streets, and aid their recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The funding can be used to transform vacant and underused high street buildings and public spaces, promote local employment, protect existing community and cultural spaces and introduce new types of businesses to London’s high streets.

It will also support the Mayor’s vision to transform London into a 24-hour global city, and help High Street businesses thrive around the clock.

Projects to receive funding include a youth hub on Church Road in Brent and an accessible programme of business support for local enterprises on Rye Lane in Peckham.


Plans for Bristol later living community set out

Plans for net zero integrated retirement communities have been revealed by FORE Partnership and extra care operator Amicala.

They have been designed by PRP Architects and will be developed by First Base to provide assisted living for older people.

The facility would include 120 specialist homes as well as a range of community benefits. It is planned for a five-acre site which was formerly St Christopher’s School in Westbury Park.

The homes will be provided by refurbishing existing buildings, along with a collection of two storey cottages and four low-rise blocks ranging from four to six storeys.

Grace House will be transformed into a hub for the wider community, while the project team is committed to generating a biodiversity net gain of at least 10 per cent.


Levelling up white paper to be delayed

Media reports suggest that the levelling up white paper will be delayed until next year. It had been expected before Christmas.

According to the BBC, the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant is among the reasons for the delay. Labour accused ministers of being in "disarray" over levelling-up plans.

Government sources told the BBC levelling up secretary Michael Gove is determined to address the issue.


Street appoints cycling and walking commissioner

The Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street has appointed Adam Tranter as cycling and walking commissioner to get more people active in the region.

Tranter has previously volunteered as bicycle mayor for Coventry, and will support the planning and delivery of the region’s Starley Network of safe cycling and walking routes.

He will work with Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), local council partners and the Department for Transport to steer the region’s cycling and walking policies and plans.

Tranter said: “I want our region to achieve its active travel potential. We saw during lockdown that vast numbers of people will cycle given the right environment to do it in; our goal has to be giving these people a genuine alternative to using a car for short journeys. We can only do this by building high quality, direct and connected infrastructure.

“Congestion really drags down our region’s health and prosperity; cities that have embraced active travel have been rewarded with better air quality, less carbon emissions and happier citizens. I want the West Midlands to have these rewards too."


Phase Two of Oaklands College masterplan complete

The £62 million redevelopment masterplan for phase two of Oaklands College at its St Albans Campus has been completed by DLA Architecture.

Phase two has seen the £13.4 million Evolution Centre built, which provides 49 classrooms, six ICT rooms and a new office space for staff. There is also a wing for Pathway 4 special needs students.

Phase one included student accommodation and the third and fourth phase which DLA has retained will see new workshops for gas, electrical, construction and wet trades, administration areas, learning resource centre, a refectory and sports pavilion with gymnasium and studio facilities.

The development is due to be completed in 2024.

Chris Levett, director at DLA Architecture, said: “The majority of the building is clad in vertical square profile black cladding. Clay brown pockets of horizonal cladding break up the mass and provide a warmth in areas of the building where visitors, staff and students pass through. The dominant cladding is designed with diagonal sloping parapets, helping to conceal the roof plant but also bring a drama and excitement to the building form. Ensuring that the integrity and strength of the design was retained after many rounds of value engineering the retention of the high-quality cladding was a key priority.


Barnsley secures funding to expand digital campus

Barnsley Council has secured £15.6 million from the government’s Future High Streets fund for Arcadis to expand The Seam, Barnsley’s digital campus.

The funds will introduce new low carbon energy efficient development and an active travel hub that will encourage the uptake in active travel and promote reduction in vehicle movement within the campus and wider town.

There will be investment in new infrastructure including a new multi-storey carpark and public realm which will support the wider community and visitors to the town.

The Seam campus launched in October 2020) as the Barnsley Digital Media Centre (DMC 01) expanded into a second building (DMC 02) to provide larger space for businesses to expand into following the ongoing growth of the technology sector locally and regionally.

This campus has grown further this year with the launch of the redeveloped SciTech facilities at Barnsley College focusing on digital and technology skills provision.

7 December 2021
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 - 9 December 2021

      The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities. All content © 2022 Planning Portal.

      The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities. All content © 2022 Planning Portal.