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January planning applications up 12 per cent on 2015

We had a great start to 2016 with just shy of 40,000 applications submitted through the Planning Portal – an average of 1,811 applications each working day.

This represents a year-on-year increase in total applications of 12 per cent compared to January 2015.

This included over 13,800 householder and 10,800 full planning applications.

If the increase stays at a similar level throughout 2016 we could have over 560,000 applications submitted through the Portal in a single year – taking us well past the three million applications submitted mark.

PAS publishes guidance on housing-led LDOs

Feasibility studies, viability assessments and project leadership are all key elements in developing housing-led Local Development Orders (LDOs), according to a new advice note published by the Government’s Planning Advisory Service (PAS).

The note was prepared with help from consultancy AECOM and Peter Brett Associates who took part in PAS pilots involving Teignbridge District Council, North East Lincolnshire Council, Swindon Borough Council and Welwyn Hatfield District Council.

The note stressed that one of the chief advantages of the LDO is that the order can be shaped to local circumstances and embody local aspirations.

PAS pointed out that what distinguished the LDO approach from more traditional forms of pro-active planning was the importance of ensuring that the development for which permission will be given is deliverable in the timeframe; typically five years for the LDO pilots.

“An LDO for either a regeneration or a stalled housing site will take significant resources to set up, so it is essential that this effort and investment is based in an early understanding of the market conditions and development economics for the specific site” argued the note.

Viability studies and market assessments will be key, argued PAS. This evidence is likely to be provided by external consultants appointed by the council.

The note highlighted the need for strong leadership. “Leadership is critical, ensuring that the top people, politically and managerially, understand the process and are committed to the desired outcome, and will therefore encourage engagement from others, put the necessary resources in place and drive decision making.

“Ideally someone from the leadership team will take the role of project leader and chair the LDO steering group” said the note.

View more information on the PAS website

Roger Milne

Welsh Assembly passes new historic environment legislation

The first Wales-only legislation to improve the protection and management of the country’s historic environment has been passed by the National Assembly.

When it becomes law, the Historic Environment (Wales) bill will introduce new measures to protect Wales’ historic environment.

It will make it more difficult for individuals who damage protected monuments to escape prosecution by pleading ignorance of a monument’s status or location.

It will also introduce new powers to take urgent action to stop unauthorised work to historic sites and to prevent historic buildings from falling into disrepair.

The bill also allows the development of a system of preservation notices and will give local authorities new ways to recover their costs when they have to take direct action.

Once the bill becomes law next month Wales will also become the first country in the UK to put historic environment records on a statutory footing.

These records allow advice on decisions by planning authorities and land managers to be based on sound information.

The bill will also simplify some of the systems in place for the management of scheduled monuments and listed buildings by allowing owners to enter into voluntary heritage partnership agreements with consenting authorities.

In addition the legislation will:

  • Create an independent panel to provide the Welsh Ministers with expert advice on policy and strategy
  • Introduce formal consultation with owners of buildings or monuments before a decision to protect them is made
  • Extend the definition of what can be protected as an ancient monument to include some battlefield sites and prehistoric settlements.

View the news story

Roger Milne

New information regime for fracking projects

Mineral planning authorities (MPAs) should provide key information to both the Department for Energy and Climate Change and applicants when approving relevant shale gas or oil developments involving fracking, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has formally requested.

DCLG director of planning Ruth Stanier has written to all mineral planning authorities in England explaining how these new arrangements triggered by the Infrastructure Act 2015 will work. The aim is to support decision making under the Petroleum Licensing regime.

Her letter made it clear that the information required will be needed when it grants planning permission in respect of any development that involves “associated hydraulic fracturing” or if the application is not clear, involves the “boring for, or getting of oil and natural gas from shale”.

MPAs should “clearly and unambiguously” set out whether environmental information has been taken into account when making a decision on an application. Stanier also said authorities should confirm that no land is involved within a National Park, the Broads, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or a World Heritage Site.

MPAs will also have to spell out that cumulative effects of the application and any other fracking activity have been taken into account. These new arrangements came into force from 4 February.

In a separate but related development the appeal by energy company Cuadrilla over Lancashire County Council’ refusal to allow fracking at two sites in the county began this week.

View the letter

Roger Milne

Clark blocks housing scheme in Cornwall AONB

Communities Secretary Greg Clark has dismissed an appeal over a proposed cross-subsidy residential development of 18 dwellings earmarked for a site at St Just in Roseland near Truro originally refused by Cornwall Council. The scheme was for 10 affordable and eight open market homes on land in the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The SoS recovered the appeal because the site was covered by a neighbourhood plan which when the inspector wrote his report had been passed by a referendum, but had not been made by the council. The inspector recommended that the development should not go ahead.

Both the SoS and the inspector noted that there was no guarantee the policies in the neighbourhood plan would deliver the local housing required and the planning authority could not demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land. The decision letter acknowledged there was a clear need for housing in the area and an acute need for affordable homes.

However this was trumped by the “significant” harm which the scheme would cause to the character and appearance of the area and the landscape and scenic beauty of the AONB. And in that respect the proposals were contrary to saved policies of the development plan, policies of the neighbourhood plan and also a key policy of the AONB management plan.

Clark went on to conclude that the harm to the AONB outweighed the local benefit to the supply of housing in the area.

View the recovered appeal: St Just in Roseland, Truro

Roger Milne

MPs urge greater public involvement in devolution deals

MPs have urged ministers and local council politicians to do more to ensure the public is engaged in devolution proposals, negotiations and outcomes.

That’s the view of the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee which has just published a report on the Government’s devolution legislation and the ground-breaking Manchester deal.

The all-party committee also reviewed the way in which devolution in England is moving ahead in other places such as the Tees Valley, Liverpool, Leeds and Cornwall.

Committee chair Clive Betts MP said: “We believe that the current arrangements should only be a first step towards a much bigger devolution settlement and that devolution should be the default across all Government departments.

“If we are to achieve this local leaders and the Government must make far greater efforts to communicate with and engage the public so they embrace devolution as a positive development too.”

The committee found a significant lack of public consultation and engagement at all stages of the devolution process. MPs urged the Government to publish all information on devolution deals online so the public can access a range of details on the proposals, deals, and negotiations.

The Committee highlighted what the MPs called “a failure to set out clear, measurable objectives for devolution, rushed timetables for negotiation, and a lack of openness about deals.”

The Committee argued that, by the end of this Parliament, the Government and local authorities should move to a position of ‘devolution by right’ with the Government announcing a package of powers on offer to local government.

Meanwhile ministers have announced that the first-ever mayor of Greater Manchester will be elected on Thursday 4 May 2017.

View the press release

Roger Milne

Planning round-up 11 February

Fees increase on the cards

Communities Secretary Greg Clark has announced he will consult on allowing “well-performing planning departments” to increase their fees in line with inflation.

This move was signalled during his statement to Parliament this week on the provisional settlement for local authorities covering the next financial year.

Increased fees will be sanctioned “providing that the revenue reduces the cross subsidy that the planning function currently gets from Council Tax” explained Clark.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “The lack of skills and resources within local authority planning departments is a chronic problem. Allowing well-performing authorities to make inflationary increases to their fees, however, is unlikely to make a huge amount of difference in practice.

“A more decisive move is needed if we are to properly tackle this problem once and for all.”

View the statement to Parliament

View the BPF comments


New Homes Bonus pay-outs

The Department for Communities and Local Government has published the full list of final allocations of the New Homes Bonus for the 2016 to 2017 financial year.

The New Homes Bonus is a grant paid by central government to local councils to reflect and incentivise housing growth in their areas. It is currently paid each year for six years.

It is based on the amount of extra Council Tax revenue raised for new-build homes, conversions and long-term empty homes brought back into use. There is also an extra payment for providing affordable homes.

These latest allocations bring the total amount of New Homes Bonus allocated to local councils to over £4.8bn. This rewards delivery of almost one million net additional dwellings, and over 100,000 long-term empty homes brought back into use and over 270,000 affordable homes.

View the policy paper


Energy project developments

  • Danish power company DONG Energy has confirmed it will go-ahead with its giant Hornsea Project One offshore wind farm, capable of powering well over one million UK homes. It will be located 120 kilometres off the Yorkshire coast and span a huge area of approximately 407 square kilometres. It is set to become (by a considerable margin) the world’s largest offshore wind farm with an array of over 170 turbines, each producing seven megawatts.
  • Communities Secretary Greg Clark has agreed with the inspector who held a recovered appeal inquiry and refused permission for a 16 megawatt solar power farm proposed for a green belt location at Upminster, Essex. The London Borough of Havering had earlier rejected the project proposed by Green Switch Developments Ltd. Clark’s decision letter stressed the scheme represented inappropriate development in the green belt.
  • Investment group Long Harbour has confirmed it is working up proposals for up to 1,000 new homes, offices and a marina at the site of the former Fawley oil-fired power station on the edge of the New Forest National Park. Long Harbour is acting on behalf of a group of investors who acquired the power station land and surrounding 121 hectare site last year.


Lancashire transport strategy

The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has published a strategic transport prospectus which outlines national, regional and local transport priorities designed to boost economic performance and improve connectivity.

The prospectus highlighted that the Government’s proposals for HS2 and HS3 could transform Lancashire’s role as a gateway to the whole of the North while the regeneration of Preston Rail Station could stimulate substantial economic activity across the region.

The prospectus claimed the strategy could create 15,000 net new jobs and would contribute an additional £685m GVA a year to the UK economy.

The publication argued that faster and more frequent journeys between Lancashire’s main conurbations and between Lancashire’s towns and cities to Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds, could substantially increase levels of inward investment.

Road priorities include all the major motorways which traverse Lancashire including specific stretches and junctions of the M6, M61, M65, M66 and M55 plus a potential new River Ribble crossing, to link the Preston Western Distributor and the South Ribble Western Distributor roads.

View the press release


Local plan moves

The inspector who examined the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) has concluded that the strategy is sound and can be adopted by the three councils that prepared it: Malvern Hills District Council, Worcester City Council and Wychavon District Council.

The SWDP includes provision for 28,400 new homes and just over 300 hectares of employment land as well as new retail provision focused in Worcester City and the main towns in the period up to 2030.

Brentwood District Council has this week (10 February) started consulting on its draft local plan which includes proposals for nearly 4,000 new homes in the green belt, a series of greenfield urban extensions and a garden village suburb called Dunton Hills which is planned jointly with neighbouring Basildon Council.

The inspector examining Swale Borough Council’s draft local plan has recommended that the Kent planning authority should make provision for 776 new dwellings per annum rather than the 540 dwellings per annum it was proposing due to capacity and viability issues.

The planning inspectors examining Arun District Councils local plan have concluded that the West Sussex planning authority should undertake further work on its strategy on the basis of an objectively assessed housing need of 845 new homes per annum rather than the council’s original figure of 580 dwellings per annum.

View more information on the South Worcestershire Development Plan

View more information on the Brentwood draft Local Development Plan

View more information on the Swale draft Local Plan

View more information on the Arun Local Plan


Self and custom build registers

The Department for Communities and Local Government has published draft planning guidance to support authorities in drawing up registers of self and custom house-builders.

The requirement to have such registers when planning for future housing and land use comes into force on 1 April.

The registers are in addition to the measure in the Housing and Planning Bill which will require authorities to ensure they have sufficient shovel ready plots to match the local demand on their register.

Housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis said: “Many other countries have a track record of delivering large numbers of local homes through self-build and we’re determined to ensure self and custom house building grows significantly.”

View the press release


Broadband boost

The Government has worked with Openreach (BT’s local access network business) and the Home Builders Federation (HBF) on an agreement which aims to deliver superfast broadband connectivity to new build properties in the UK.

The new deal will see fibre based broadband offered to all new developments either for free or as part of a co-funded initiative. It is estimated that more than half of all new build properties can be connected to fibre broadband free of charge to developers.

As part of the agreement, Openreach is introducing an online planning tool for homebuilders. This will tell them whether properties in a given development can be connected to fibre for free, or if a contribution is needed from the developer to jointly fund the deployment of the local fibre network.

Openreach will make a significant contribution itself before seeking any funds from developers.

View more information


London round-up

  • Transport for London (TfL) has approved the appointment of 13 major property development companies and consortiums to a development framework which will help the delivery of thousands of homes, offices and retail spaces. The 13 organisations have been selected following a competitive procurement process that saw over 50 companies register an interest in becoming a property partner with TfL.
  • London mayor Boris Johnson has begun public consultation on a major package of cycling, pedestrian and road improvements, including reducing through traffic in Regent’s Park, new cycle links between north and south London, a segregated cycle track on the Westway flyover and action to speed up many car journeys on the A40.
  • The Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation has started public consultations on its local plan which sets out how the area of west London around the site of the proposed High Speed 2 (HS2) and Crossrail Station and the adjoining Park Royal industrial estate will be regenerated with up to 25,500 new homes and up to 65,000 jobs.
  • Trafalgar Place, part of the first phase of the Heygate Estate regeneration at the Elephant and Castle won the Mayor’s Award for Planning Excellence at the 2015/16 London Planning Awards.


Welsh round-up


Oxford JV

Oxford City Council and Nuffield College have formed a joint venture company to bring together the land in the Oxpens area in preparation for a comprehensive redevelopment of the site in a £200m mixed-use scheme.

Following this historic deal, Oxford’s West End is set to be transformed into a new neighbourhood with between 300 and 500 new homes, together with offices and commercial space for the many new and growing enterprises which want to locate in the heart of the city and near good rail links.

The JV has acquired government-owned land which will be used alongside land owned by the city council.

View more information


Reading redevelopment

RFC Prop Co Ltd, a partly-owned subsidiary of Reading Football Club, has submitted a planning application to Reading Borough Council for a mixed-use development known as Royal Elm Park next to the existing Madejski Stadium.

The proposals includes an ice rink, a convention centre, 600 new homes, a hotel, a new public square and 2,000 square metres of new retail, leisure and restaurant facilities.

View more information


Legal round-up


Roger Milne

New Planning Portal functionality: Workspaces

In this preview of new Planning Portal functionality I want to take the wraps off a new feature we’re calling Workspaces.

A workspace is a flexible area on the Portal you access once you’ve signed in. From here you can create and submit applications as well access previously submitted projects. This should sound familiar so far.

Where Workspaces differ on the new Planning Portal is in their flexibility. You can set up your workspace just for you.

In addition, if you need to collaborate on an application or project, you can set up another workspace to share with colleagues.

So if you need to work on applications with one or two others, the Portal lets you do that. Likewise, if you need to collaborate with a large number of people, maybe on a larger or more complicated project, our new Workspaces functionality lets you do that, too.

We’ve had basic agent admin functionality on the Planning Portal for years – we think of Workspaces as the grown-up, more sophisticated version of that feature.

Workspaces are simple to set up for colleagues and teams.

Firstly, you add and name your workspace and give it an optional description.

Secondly, you add users to the workspace by adding their email address and inviting them. Your colleague can be internal or external to your organisation.

The new user needs to sign in to the Planning Portal to accept the invite, then he/she will be able to view the applications associated with the workspace.

Thirdly, as the owner of the workspace you can control what each member can do. In other words you can control whether they can view, create and/or submit applications.

Workspaces can be adapted to how you and your team works.

To begin with we will limit the feature to one shared workspace per user while you try it out. However, shortly after we go live we’ll be offering you the chance to buy and upgraded experience with a greater number of workspaces and a richer feature set, such as data reporting dashboards for users with multiple workspaces and much more besides.

We’ve created another video to show you the basic functionality of Workspaces. As usual the video has no sound so no need to reach for the headphones.


Local devolution legislation makes the statute book

Ministers have promised further devolution deals in addition to the seven already agreed across the country as the Government’s flagship Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill received the Royal Assent.

The Northern Powerhouse has been leading the way following the trailblazing Greater Manchester deal, and subsequent deals in Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, the North East and Sheffield City Region.

Local leaders in five northern areas will now see new powers handed to them from Westminster, alongside their counterparts in the West Midlands and Cornwall.

The Act will:

  • Pave the way for elected mayors to cover and chair a combined authority area
  • Allow the radical devolution of functions, including transport, health, skills, planning and job support
  • Enable the creation of sub-national transport bodies which will advise the government on strategic schemes and investment priorities in their own area.

The Government has also announced a separate Aberdeen city region deal.   It involves a fund of up to £250m and will again see equal funding committed by the UK and Scottish governments.

In a related move the Scottish Government said it would invest, over the same five to 10-year time span as the City Region deal, an additional £254m for north-east Scotland’s infrastructure.

This will target the delivery of improved transport links and digital connectivity as well as aiding local housing programmes by unlocking development sites at the request of local authorities and supporting the provision of affordable housing.

View the press release


Roger Milne

Go-ahead for Taunton urban extension

Outline proposals for a residential-led mixed use urban extension in south west Taunton  in the Comeytrowe/Trull area involving up to 2,000 new homes, some 25 per cent of which will be affordable,  have been approved by Taunton Deane Borough Council.

The scheme is in line with the planning authority’s approved Core Strategy. The proposals also involve up to 5.25-hectares of employment land, a new primary school and local centre as well as a “park and bus” facility and a spine road. The project has been developed by a consortium which includes Taylor Wimpey UK, Mactaggart & Mickel Ltd, Bovis Homes Ltd and Summerfield Developments.

The development is conditional on a phasing and place-making strategy from the developers as well as a neighbourhood master plan and design guide for the project.

Among the conditions are that no phase of the development shall be occupied or brought into use until the part of the spine road that provides access to that phase has been constructed.

The outline permission also makes it clear that no more than 350 dwellings shall be occupied on the development site as a whole before the primary school and pre-school facility have been built.

The scheme has been in the planning stage for three years. The next stage will see the plans being refined at workshops with community groups before the developers seek full planning permission.

View more information on the Taunton and Deane Borough Council website, application number 42/14/0069.


Roger Milne


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