Weekly planning news
Planning news - 9 March 2023
Government proposes rise in planning fees
The government has published a consultation seeking views on proposals to increase planning fees for all planning applications in England.
It is proposed that the fee for major applications would increase by 35 per cent and all other applications by 25 per cent.
This is intended to ensure that "the planning application service is principally funded by the beneficiaries of planning gain – landowners and developers – rather than the taxpayer”, states the consultation document.
Additionally, the government is advocating the introduction of an annual adjustment of planning fees in line with inflation, so that they maintain their value year on year, to support “greater financial sustainability”.
Further to these proposals, the government wishes to double the fee payable for retrospective applications.
In September, the RTPI published research that found that local authority net expenditure on planning has fallen from £844 million in 2009/10 to £480 million in 2020/21. This equates to a decline of 43 per cent. As a result, public sector planning services have struggled to recruit and retain skilled staff. The research notes that between 2016 and 2021, just 8 per cent of ‘town planning officer’ jobs posted were in the public sector.
The consultation seeks views on whether the additional income arising from the proposed fee increase should be ring-fenced for spending within the local authority planning department.
On capacity, the consultation acknowledges that, as the RTPI maintains, increasing fees “is not enough to address the capacity and capability challenges faced by local planning authorities”.
Therefore, the government wants to confer about the specific challenges in recruiting and retaining planning professionals and the best ways in which the government, working with professional bodies, can boost the capacity and capability of local planning authorities.
Victoria Hills, chief executive at the RTPI, said: “The RTPI has been calling for increased resourcing to planning services consistently because planners cannot do more for less in perpetuity. We believe it is necessary to raise fees in line with inflation and ring fence their use.
“Former housing minister Lucy Frazer MP wrote to me in January, highlighting the shortfall between the income from planning fees and the cost of processing planning applications. We have worked hard to maintain this dialogue with Rachel Maclean MP, and believe that proposals set out by government to raise fees while giving urgent attention to inflation are reflective of this.
“We've heard time and again that developers see the lack of planning resources as the biggest barrier to building new homes, and are willing to pay more for the services they receive.
“However, while increased fees are an important first step, we do not see them as a silver bullet to meeting the capacity requirements. We’re pleased to see the government’s recognition that money alone is not enough and support its focus on issues of capacity, resourcing, and specialist skills alongside planning fees.
“It is promising to see that government understands that measuring good planning performance by speed is unsuitable and unstable. We must not lose sight of outcomes. We will work hard to help define positive performance that benefits the economy, environment, and communities.”
The RTPI will confer with its members across England on these proposals.
The consultation can be found on the UK Government website1.
1 March 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Supreme Court protects public green space after five-year legal battle
The Supreme Court has ruled that Shropshire Council cannot allow the development of a Shrewsbury park protected by a 100-year-old statutory trust, in what could be a landmark decision for the protection of public green space.
Shrewsbury Town Council had sold off the Greenfields area of parkland, which has been protected by a statutory trust since 1926, to CSE Developments in 2017. Shropshire Council then granted CSE planning permission to build homes on the site. The statutory trust protects residents’ access to the land.
Shrewsbury resident Dr Peter Day opposed the development and had brought judicial review proceedings to both the High Court and Court of Appeal, but failed to have the decision overturned.
However, on 1 March, Supreme Court justices Lord Reed, Lord Kitchin, Lord Hamblen, Lord Stephens and Lady Rose unanimously allowed Day’s appeal. The council had argued that the statutory trust and residents’ rights to the land had been voided when the land was sold.
The court didn’t agree, concluding that the public rights to the land weren’t extinguished by its sale. The planning permission at the site is also now quashed.
The statutory trust required the council to advertise its intention to sell the land in a newspaper for two consecutive weeks, which Shrewsbury Town Council failed to do. This meant that residents, like Day, were unable to voice their opinions on the sale.
Lady Rose concluded: “It is our view that [Shrewsbury TC] must put robust procedures in place to ensure that an oversight such as this is not permitted to recur. Where there should be any future sale of land [Shrewsbury TC] must be able to demonstrate that [it] has taken sufficient steps to establish the legal status of that land and act in accordance with all relevant legislation prior to sale.”
Shropshire Council said: “We will study the judgment carefully, in particular, what this now means for the planning application which becomes undetermined when the quashing order is made.”
6 March 2023
Ben Gosling, The Planner
Luton Airport DCO submitted to the Planning Inspectorate
A development consent order (DCO) application has been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate by Luton Rising, the Luton Council company that owns London Luton Airport.
The submission, which marks the start of the ‘acceptance’ stage of the DCO process, comprises 198 documents, containing about 25,000 detailed pages of proposals and plans.
It also features community funding proposals that could provide an additional £14 million a year for communities across Luton and neighbouring areas.
Luton’s current permitted cap of 18 million passengers a year would rise to 32 million if consent is given.
The plans include:
- new terminal capacity;
- earthworks to create an extension to the current airfield platform;
- new airside and landside facilities;
- enhancement of the surface access network;
- extension of the Luton DART;
- landscaping and ecological improvements; and
- further infrastructure enhancements and initiatives to support the target of achieving zero-emission ground operations by 2040.
Graham Olver, chief executive officer of Luton Rising, said: “We aim to enhance economic activity in and around Luton, provide numerous community benefits, and make the airport a leader in sustainable aviation. We now wait in anticipation of the Inspectorate’s decision as to whether we proceed to the examination stage of the DCO process.
“We have certainly endeavoured to do everything we can to deliver an achievable, detailed and evidence-based application that will meet the Inspectorate’s requirements. We hope that this will mark the start of the next phase of our commitment to grow London Luton Airport and help to deliver the employment, prosperity and positive social impact for Luton and neighbouring communities that they so richly deserve.”
A 28-day period will follow for the Planning Inspectorate, on behalf of the secretary of state for transport, to decide whether or not the application meets the standards required to be accepted for examination, or if further documentation is needed.
28 February 2023
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner
Appeals performance update: January 2023 shows increase in decision times
The government has published its monthly appeals statistics update for January, detailing handling times, decision rates and more.
The Planning Inspectorate’s data indicates a rise in decision times for planning appeals after December’s numbers showed faster processing times. However, once again, more appeals cases (1,694) were closed than received (1,624).
These increased decision times – the median being 31 weeks in January compared with 30 weeks in December – come as the government proposes an increase in planning fees to improve the speed of decisions.
The performance update suggests that more consistent decision times for written representation submissions are a focus. Moreover, the Inspectorate also intends to reduce the number of older appeals determined by a hearing. The median time for planning hearings is 45 weeks, compared with 31 weeks for an inquiry, and 26 weeks for written representations.
The update also highlights the high number of Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects currently live, with 62 at the pre-submission stage, 19 submitted, one where the recommendation is being prepared, and six that the secretary of state will rule on.
6 March 2023
Ben Gosling, The Planner
£4.4m for national parks
The government has announced that England’s 10 national parks will receive an equal share of £4.4 million.
The funding may be used to help protect various assets, such as education centres and ranger services, and it is intended to support the creation of trails, residential programmes and mobility schemes.
Environment secretary Thérèse Coffey said: "“This additional £4.4 million of funding will support the important work that national park authorities do across our countryside, and allow local people and visitors to enjoy these much-loved spaces.”
The government also announced that the Farming in Protected Landscapes scheme, currently delivered across 10 national parks and 34 areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) since 2021, will also be extended until March 2025.
This aims to enable national parks and AONBs to continue to "deliver outcomes for nature, climate, people and place".
A spokesperson for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority said: “The announcement of this one-off additional funding, which will amount to £440,000 for the Yorkshire Dales National Park, is welcome and will help address some of the short-term financial pressures we’re facing.
“However, the longer-term structural problems within our finances remain because the grant we receive from government is still less than it was 12 years ago.
“We, together with partners, are already delivering important climate, nature recovery, and access and engagement projects in the National Park, but need to go further if we’re to deliver on government targets for nature, climate and public access.
“This means having the resources needed to realise the ambitious plans we have for this special and treasured landscape”.
6 March 2023
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Solar farms approved in Cumbria
Cumbria County Council's development control and regulation committee has granted planning permission for two solar farms near Barrow.
The plans were submitted by the county council last year. The two 2MW solar farms will be delivered on council-owned land at Sandscale Park and Dova Way.
Totalling nine hectares, the solar farms are intended to help the council to decarbonise its electricity supplies and future-proof energy costs, which have been identified as part of its Carbon Management Strategy 2022.
The council expects the site to result in savings of around 1,184 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent year, which is the same as the emissions from approximately 5,446 cars.
Affordable homes in Snaresbrook approved
Redbridge Council has granted planning permission for Pocket Living’s proposals to deliver 74 affordable homes on land adjacent to Snaresbrook station.
The 100 per cent affordable scheme will see the homes available to first-time buyers who live or work in Redbridge at a 20 per cent discount compared with the local market.
It also comprises a new pathway and mews space for the local community on the land next to Snaresbrook station. The scheme is car-free for residents, with the exception of Blue Badge parking, and encompasses land that is currently used as a car park.
The scheme forms part of the wider work being undertaken to deliver more affordable homes by TTL Properties Ltd (TTLP) – Transport for London’s wholly-owned commercial property company and is the second time that Pocket Living has worked with TTLP.
Blueprint could cut council waiting lists
A 30-page blueprint designed to stimulate a new generation of council homes has been published by the Housing Finance Institute (HFI) and Localis.
Public Rental Homes – Fresh Perspectives is aimed at providing a solution to the challenge that just 6,000 of the 52,000 new homes listed as ‘affordable’ in 2020/21 by local councils were "truly affordable“ for 1.2 million households on waiting lists.
It would see local authorities develop plans that reduce council waiting lists and galvanise local housebuilding by partnering with private developers to build homes by adopting this new-generation PRH model, which flips the traditional approach to negotiations on ‘affordable’ provision.
The PRH model deals in ‘bottom-up’ plans, rather than top-down targets. Local authorities would be responsible for identifying sites that might meet PRH criteria and initiate discussions with developers. Developers would assume 100 per cent of the risk and a 20 per cent margin on both the PRH homes as well as their own private units.
Report author Peter Bill said: “Families on council waiting lists are squeezed to the bottom of the pile by financial pressures on councils and developers trying to agree on the percentage of affordable homes. A new perspective is needed to ensure the needs of these families become the top priority on sites where PRH is viable.
“The PRH approach addresses that need and provides fresh impetus to councils looking to house those on their waiting list and to developers looking for better, simpler, ways to build. Site-by-site viability is the key. Developers take 100 per cent of the risk and therefore deserve a 20 per cent profit margin.”
Public Rental Homes – Fresh Perspectives can be found here (pdf).2
Training ground for London football club approved
Sevenoaks Council has granted planning permission for a new training ground in West Kingsdown in Kent for Millwall Football Club.
Plans feature “state-of-the-art” facilities on a 50-acre plot. The site, off Fawkham Road, will include buildings for groundsman and security, indoor and outdoor football pitches, artificial turf and training areas, as well as car and cycle parking and hard and soft landscaping.
Sevenoaks Council originally approved the plans for the construction of a training academy last October, but full permission was only granted today, following the signing of a section 106 agreement.
Law firm Irwin Mitchell advised Millwall Football Club, alongside Selby Projects and Quod.
Lords open inquiry into protected areas
The House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee will open its short inquiry into protected areas by hearing from experts tomorrow.
The session aims to gather views on how the UK’s commitment to protecting 30 per cent of land and sea by 2030 should be delivered in England.
It can be followed live on Parliament TV or in person in Committee Room 4, Palace of Westminster on Wednesday 8 March from 10am.
Questions the committee is likely to ask include what is the current environmental state of the protected areas in England which might be included in the commitment to protect 30 per cent of land and sea by 2030 and what are the main factors affecting the environmental state of England’s protected areas on land and sea, including stressors and positive management practices?
The session can be viewed on Parliament TV here3.
Legal fight against fossil fuel drilling in Surrey to continue
Campaign group Protect Dunsfold has been granted permission to resume its legal challenge against exploratory gas drilling in the Surrey Hills by the High Court.
Good Law Project has been supporting the campaigners to prevent the loss of ancient woodland, protected species, and other local wildlife in the area.
The judgment overturned a previous ruling that prevented Protect Dunsfold from continuing with its legal fight to protect the stretch of land which sits on the edge of an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).
It comes after UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) recently announced that it had discovered gas worth an estimated £123 million in the area. It was given granted permission to drill there in June 2022 by the government.
Surrey County Council had refused to allow drilling operations to go ahead on two separate occasions, but it was overruled by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).
Protect Dunsfold was successful in gaining permission on two legal arguments:
Inconsistency in decision-making by the secretary of state, who gave the Dunsfold drilling site the go-ahead on the same day that he refused permission for a comparable site in Ellesmere Port.
The site is on the edge of Surrey Hills, an AONB. National policy requires planning decisions to give great weight to “conserving and enhancing landscape and scenic beauty” in AONBs.
Advance Point Business Park plans approved in Burnley
Burnley Council has approved plans for the £11 million commercial development scheme of Advance Point Business Park located on Rossendale Road, Burnley.
Barnfield Construction features 36 industrial units with roller shutter access teamed with 160 car parking spaces on a site located two miles from junctions nine and 10 of the M65.
The development aims to bring new jobs and investment to the area, with the potential for manufacturing, distribution, or light industrial use.
Commercial property agent Trevor Dawson has been appointed for the sale and lease of the units.
Newlands Business Park plans green-lit in Winchester
Winchester City Council has approved two separate planning applications submitted by Pegasus Group for Dicentra Developments part of the West of Waterlooville Major Development Area (MDA).
Newlands Business Park fulfils the employment element of the original outline planning permission for the two sites as part of the overall masterplan for the growth plans.
Located on Darnel Road, the 65,000 square feet of new flexible employment use is spread across five buildings.
Outline planning permission was originally granted in 2006 for the MDA for a mix of housing, employment and open space. Since then, the housing and open space elements of the MDA have been granted and developed by Taylor Wimpey.
Silvertown residential plans to go ahead
The Royal Borough of Greenwich has approved plans for a residential development along North Woolwich Road in Silvertown.
Planning and development consultancy Montagu Evans advised West Silvertown Place Ltd on the application.
The development will “use and optimise” a previously developed brownfield site to provide 81 homes across a mix of housing types, which includes 28 per cent of family-sized dwellings. Thirty-five per cent of the housing units will be affordable, of which a “significant” proportion will be affordable family homes.
The scheme comprises three buildings ranging between two to nine storeys, with the proposed heights designed to form a positive relationship between the existing low-rise terrace housing to the north and east and the emerging taller contemporary developments of Royal Wharf and Silvertown Quays to the south.
Residential student scheme in Leeds approved
Planning consent has been secured by Urbanite Living for a residential and student living scheme at a former Yorkshire Post site in Leeds subject to conditions.
The Leeds-based developer plans to build three mixed residential towers with new amenity and a public realm on the prominent gateway site that has been vacant since the Yorkshire Post group relocated in 2014.
The £400 million scheme includes three residential towers, ranging in height from 25-42 storeys, designed by DLA Architecture with Quod acting as planning consultant. The tallest two will contain 1,782 student beds in a total of 576 cluster apartments, along with leisure and wellbeing facilities. The third building will provide 348 apartments for private rent, with landscaped roof gardens looking onto the riverside.
Key features of the brownfield regeneration project include a micro-forest, public square, and a riverside walk, joining the site up with other parts of the new public realm along the riverfront.
Liberton High School plans approved
Councillors on the city council’s development management sub-committee have approved plans for Liberton High School in Edinburgh, which will have the capacity for 1,200 pupils.
A key part of the new three-storey school will be the community campus; it will include non-educational facilities such as a café, library, and flexible workspaces.
Sports facilities will include a floodlit multi-use games area, basketball court, and athletics facilities.
A new fitness suite and dance studio will be provided to complement the existing sports facilities.
Construction is due to begin in May this year with the new school planned to open in 2025.
Hillingdon Hospital set for new healthcare facility
The London Borough of Hillingdon’s major applications planning committee has approved plans for a new healthcare facility at Hillingdon Hospital in north-west London.
The 79,000-square-metre project will combine a new “future-ready” hospital alongside a mixed-use development for the promotion of healthy living.
Under the plans, the hospital will be rebuilt to provide a larger emergency department, a new diagnostic centre, labour ward, and a critical care unit.
Construction of the new hospital will take place near the existing one, which will remain operational throughout to minimise disruption. The old hospital will then be demolished, releasing land for other uses.
WMCA awarded £1m to tackle air pollution
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has been awarded £1 million by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to tackle air pollution.
The fund will see the WMCA lead the “most detailed monitoring yet” of tiny particles in the air, known as PM2.5 and PM10, from things like wood burners, factories, and tyre dust.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Significant action is already under way here in the West Midlands to improve the quality of the air we breathe. It was great to showcase our expertise and depth of commitment to the secretary of state and it’s fantastic to see this recognised with £1 million of funding.
“As we seek to tackle the climate emergency and address health inequalities right across our region, the government will continue to be a vital partner on this in the months and years ahead.”
7 March 2023
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, The Planner