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Applications for Ebbsfleet Development Corporation

As some of you will know, the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (EDC) became a local planning authority on 1 July 2015.  The EDC, established in April 2015, has the role of coordinating investment and driving forward development of a new garden city at Ebbsfleet, building up to 15,000 new homes. Read more…

The Planning Portal… but even better!

I mentioned back in May that one our first priorities as a new business was to move our website safely to a new IT platform. Well, I’m pleased to say that the site build is going well and we’re on track for delivery in the autumn. Read more…

New north-west runway at Heathrow recommended by Airports Commission

A new north-west runway at Heathrow is the independent Airports Commission’s recommendation as the most credible option for expanding aviation capacity in the UK.

The Commission’s final report, published on Wednesday, concluded that the Heathrow scheme, combined with a significant package of measures to address its environmental and community impacts, presented the strongest case and offered the greatest strategic and economic benefits. These included providing around 40 new destinations from the airport and more than 70,000 new jobs by 2050.

The report said that the Heathrow extended northern runway delivered similar economic benefits, was less costly and required the loss of fewer homes. But it provided a smaller increase in capacity and was less attractive from a noise and air quality perspective.

The Gatwick scheme was feasible, the report said. But the additional capacity would be more focused on short-haul intra-European routes and the economic benefits were considerably smaller.

The Commission stressed that its recommendation was a fundamentally different proposition from previous proposals to expand at Heathrow. It delivered a full-length runway, maximising the connectivity gain. It was situated further west than the current runways, which would help reduce the number of people affected by noise. And it was accompanied by strong proposals to limit the impacts on those living nearby.

These included a recommended ban on all scheduled night flights in the period from 11.30pm to 6.00am and a proposal that the government should make a firm commitment in Parliament not to expand the airport further.

The Commission was adamant that there was no sound operational or environmental case for a fourth runway at Heathrow.

It called for a legally binding ‘noise envelope’ putting firm limits on the level of noise created by the airport buttressed by a new aviation noise levy to fund an expanded programme of mitigation, including noise insulation for homes, schools and other community facilities.

The Commission has also urged a legal commitment on air quality that new capacity will only be released when it is clear that compliance with EU limits will not be delayed.

Prime Minister David Cameron this week promised a government decision on airport expansion by the end of the year amid signs of Cabinet divisions over what the outcome should be.

Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies said: “Over the past two and a half years, we have reviewed the evidence without preconceptions, consulted widely, and followed an inclusive and integrated process.

“At the end of this extensive work programme our conclusions are clear and unanimous: the best answer is to expand Heathrow’s capacity through a new north-west runway.”

View the final report

Roger Milne

Huge potash mine approved for North York Moors National Park

Plans for the world’s largest potash mine have been approved by members of the North York Moors National Park Authority (NYMNPA).

The mine head at Dove’s Nest Farm near Whitby and much of its associated infrastructure will be within the North York Moors, a sensitive and highly protected landscape.

Andy Wilson, Chief Executive of the NYMNPA said: “This decision is the culmination of hard work, of thorough examination and in-depth discussions of the largest planning application this National Park, and indeed any English National Park, has had to consider.

“I appreciate that there will be many disappointed by our decision, but members felt that the long term benefits for the local, regional and national economy were transformational.

This truly exceptional nature plus the measures proposed by the company to mitigate harm and deliver widespread environmental benefits to the Park over a long period of time tipped the balance in favour of approval.”

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council has already approved part of the scheme proposed by Sirius Metal. Ryedale District Council and Scarborough Borough Council have supported the project because of its economic benefits.

The officers’ report to the planning committee argued that the proposals did not meet the “exceptional circumstances” required to justify the scheme given the environmental harm it posed. But they did not make a recommendation. Members voted eight to seven in the mine’s favour.

Part of the £1.7bn project is a new harbour which is the subject of a development control order application currently under consideration by the Planning Inspectorate as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NISP).

View the press release

Roger Milne

Lancashire blocks further fracking near Blackpool against officer advice

Members of Lancashire County Council’s development control committee this week voted unanimously to refuse energy company Cuadrilla’s application to explore for shale gas at a site near Blackpool. The proposals included fracking. The application was refused on the grounds of noise and visual impact.

The committee also refused a separate application for the same site designed to enable Cuadrilla to monitor its operations. This was turned down because of concern over the impact on the landscape.

Members went against the recommendation of officials who said the proposals should be allowed, subject to conditions. The councillors also decided not to follow the advice from a top planning brief, David Manley QC of Kings Chambers.

Manley said: “I have not seen any evidence that could credibly justify a contrary conclusion – on any view, impacts are highly localised, temporary and reversible.”

Councillor Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, said: “This is one of the biggest planning decisions ever put before Lancashire County Council. The development control committee has listened very carefully to many hours of evidence both for and against the proposal, and considered the report of the council’s planning officers.

“Each member of the committee has ultimately cast their vote based on the evidence they have heard and whether they think the proposal is acceptable in planning terms, and to the people they represent.”

Councillors last week refused an application for a separate site at Roseacre Wood. Officers had recommended refusal in that case.

View more information on the Lancashire County Council website

Roger Milne

Key ‘Northern Powerhouse’ rail projects in doubt

The government has cast doubt over its so-called ‘Northern Powerhouse’ initiative by announcing it has put on hold plans for the electrification of the Midland mainline from London to Sheffield and the TransPennine route between Manchester and Leeds.

Both rail projects were seen as key elements of the Conservative administration’s election manifesto pledge to “rebalance” England’s economy with major infrastructure spending designed to boost the North.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin told the Commons last Friday that the schemes had been “paused” because of escalating costs and missed targets in Network Rail’s work programme.

He told MPs: “Important aspects of Network Rail’s investment programme are costing more and taking longer. Electrification is difficult.

“The UK supply chain for the complex signalling works needs to be stronger. Construction rates have been slow. It has taken longer to obtain planning consents from some local authorities than expected.”

Meanwhile in a separate but related development the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and the northern branch of policy think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR North) have issued a ‘call for evidence’ on proposals to draw up a spatial planning framework for the north of England. One element of this would be greater integration between transportation and spatial planning.

The RTPI and IPPR North said they would be hosting a series of roundtable events in northern cities through the summer, which would feed into a ‘northern summit’ in Leeds in November to “discuss a way forward for a Great North Plan”.

View the statement to Parliament

Roger Milne

Spending watchdog criticises monitoring of public land sell-off for new homes

The National Audit Office has criticised the Department for Communities and Local Government over its failure to monitor adequately its plans to sell public land to build a potential 100,000 homes.

Ministers set a deadline of March 2015 to reach that target and claimed it had been successful.

However, an investigation by the NAO found that insufficient information had been collected on the amount of money raised or how many homes had actually been built.

“In future land sales, responsibility for monitoring what happens to land after disposal should be made clear,” the independent public expenditure watchdog said.

The NAO report highlighted that the department measured a notional number of expected homes, not actual homes built.

The watchdog complained there was little or no supporting documentation or economic evidence behind the target or how it was allocated to departments.

The NAO said departmental progress in disposing of land was “slower than expected and government had to take action to increase land sales”.

The coalition government took various approaches to increase delivery, such as transferring land to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) for disposal, increasing central support for difficult sites and providing financial assistance to departments to help with the cost of preparing sites.

By the end of March 2015, the administration had disposed of enough land with capacity for an expected 109,950 homes. In total, the land disposed of comprised 942 sites.

The NAO noted that DCLG deployed a wide interpretation of the land that could be counted towards the target. The government’s figure of 109,590 homes included 15,740 homes on land that the public sector disposed of before the target was set, the NAO report pointed out.

The watchdog also found that surplus land was categorised as sold when the organisation owning the sites moved outside the public sector even if the sites were not developed: for example, sites owned by Royal Mail (2,584 homes) and British Waterways (8,199 homes).

View the press release

Roger Milne

Planning round-up 2 July

DCLG reveals timetable for latest planning reforms and initiatives

Ministers plan to unveil the government’s housing bill in September, a senior civil servant told a conference in London last week.

Ruth Stanier, the Department of Communities and Local Government’s director of planning, also confirmed that officials were working on proposals to speed up the delivery of local development plans, reforms to the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) regime and changes to the compulsory purchase process.

Speaking at a Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors event Stainer said that under the new ‘starter homes’ initiative the maximum prices for starter homes would be £250,000 outside London and £450,000 within London.

Stainer said developers of starter homes would be exempted from the CIL and section 106 infrastructure contributions, though infrastructure contributions could be voluntarily provided.

Delegates were told that measures to speed up local plans and neighbourhood plan-making, initially earmarked for the housing bill, would be introduced instead in an enterprise bill in October or November.

Stainer said this legislation would also introduce CIL reform, particularly for large sites, and reform of section 106 agreements, including a mechanism for resolving disputes.


Population growth statistics

The UK’s population grew by 0.77 per cent over the past 12 months, slightly above the previous year, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics for mid-2014.

These highlighted that the population of the UK at 30 June 2014 was estimated to be 64,596,800.

The number and proportion of older people continued to rise, with over 11.4m (17.7 per cent of the population) aged 65 and over in mid-2014, up from 11.1m (17.4 per cent) last year.

Population growth in the year to mid-2014 was greatest in southern and eastern England. London had the highest population growth, with population up 1.45 per cent. The East and South East regions of England increased by 1.08 and 0.92 per cent respectively.

The lowest regional population increases in the year were seen in Wales, North East of England and Scotland growing by 0.31 per cent, 0.32 per cent and 0.37 per cent respectively. The population of Northern Ireland grew by 0.59 per cent. No country of the UK or region of England experienced a population decrease.

View more information


Clark blocks major Yorkshire housing schemes and Essex Sainsbury’s store

Communities Secretary Greg Clark has dismissed appeals by St Modwen Developments Ltd over two housing-led mixed-use schemes proposed for land to the east and west of Brickyard Lane, Melton originally refused by East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

He agreed with the planning inspector who held the recovered appeal hearings that the proposals were contrary to the development plan and that the housing benefits were outweighed by the adverse effect on housing and employment land strategy as well as the urbanising impact on North Ferriby.

The Secretary of State has also turned down a recovered appeal over proposals for a Sainsbury’s development on a largely disused industrial estate at Braintree, Essex, refused by the district council.

Clark agreed with the inspector who held the recovered inquiry that the scheme posed an adverse impact on Braintree town centre and was contrary to both the development plan and the policies in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

View the decision letter


Energy developments round-up

  • Developer Wessex Solar Energy has successfully appealed refusal of its scheme to build a 5.5 megawatt solar farm at Shillingford, Devon originally blocked by Mid Devon District Council.
  • Hatfield Colliery near Doncaster – one of the last three deep coal mines in the UK – is to be shut by the end of this week with the loss of 430 jobs. It is closing a year earlier than planned because it cannot find a market for its coal. The pit has been run by an employee-owned trust since 2013.
  • An application for a twelve-turbine wind farm at Rooley Moor, Lancashire, has been refused by Rochdale Borough Council. Developer Coronation Power has indicated it will appeal. The proposed site straddles the border with Rossendale Borough Council which has yet to determine its part of the scheme, originally planned to involve 17 turbines.


New homes claim

The number of new homes granted planning permission is now higher than before the 2008 economic crash, Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis has insisted.

In the twelve months to March 2015, councils across England granted permission for 261,000 new homes, the highest annual total for eight years.

The Minister also said nearly a third of local planning authorities now had an adopted local plan.

View the press release


Oxford Area Action Plan approved

Oxford City Council’s plans to develop a science and research-led business park and 500 new homes in the Northern Gateway area of the city have made significant progress now a planning inspector has approved the action area plan for the scheme. Hotel, retail and leisure facilities are also included in the proposals.

View the press release


Hull projects make waves

Proposals for a 3,500-seater music and events centre in Hull with a price tag of £36m have been approved by the city council. The chosen site is derelict area behind the Princes Quay shopping centre.

In a separate move the council has backed a scheme for a new cruise terminal and riverside berth at either Sammy’s Point next to the Deep aquarium or Alexandra Dock.

View the press release


Cambridge new town takes another step

Plans for the centre of the proposed new town of Northstowe near Cambridge have been given the go-ahead by Cambridgeshire councillors.

The Northstowe Joint Development Control Committee has backed the outline planning application by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) for the town centre. This second phase of the development involves around 3,500 homes and three schools.

The committee also granted detailed planning permission for a new southern access road for the town that will provide a link to the A14. Northstowe is England’s biggest new settlement since the development of Milton Keynes in the 1960s.

View the press release


London round-up

  • Mayor of London Boris Johnson has announced four more housing zones to fast-track thousands of new homes. The zones in the boroughs of Havering, Enfield, Redbridge and Tower Hamlets will together deliver over 12,000 new homes, nearly 3,500 of which will be affordable housing. Included will be two new rail stations, a large new park, primary schools and retail and entertainment facilities.
  • East London’s Hackney Council has approved plans for an Article 4 Direction covering the borough’s key town and retail centres in a bid to safeguard employment and shop space. The proposed direction will mean planning permission will be required for many activities currently allowed under the change of use regime in areas such as Dalston, Hackney Central, Stoke Newington and Hoxton.
  • Southwark Council has announced it has formally listed two pubs as assets of community value. Involved are the Elephant and Castle on Newington Causeway and the Thomas A ‘Becket pub on the Old Kent Road.
  • Victoria Hills, a professional planner and former Head of Transport at the Greater London Authority, has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation.
  • After a five-year wrangle involving the opposition of Southwark Council and its development partner Lend Lease, campaigners have finally been able to publish the viability assessment drawn up as part of the Heygate outline master plan. This was the subject of a bitterly contested Freedom of Information request.


Legal round-up

  • St Albans City and District Council has been refused leave to appeal the dismissal of its court challenge against the decision of former Communities Secretary Eric Pickles for a strategic rail freight interchange at a green belt location at Radlett in Hertfordshire. Campaigners have been using a crowd funding website to finance a judicial review of the development consent order granted for the Whitemoss landfill extension scheme in Lancashire.
  • The First-Tier Tribunal has ruled that Aylesbury Vale District council was entitled to refuse to disclose correspondence passing between one of its solicitors and various members of its planning department about an unauthorised development and its possible demolition.


RTPI calls for health-conscious city planning

Although there has been much focus on the need for cities to plan for growth the value of planning in promoting health has often been overlooked, the Royal Town Planning Institute has argued.

Institute President Janet Askew, speaking at an international conference in Bristol this week, said “Health problems such as obesity, chronic heart disease, stress and mental health issues are intricately linked to the physical environments in which people live and work.

“Cities need growth, but at the heart of that must be citizens’ well-being. It makes economic sense and good planning can help to achieve both” she insisted.

View the press release


Manifesto launched by TCPA

Environmental charity the Town and Country Planning Association has published a new manifesto for planning, designed to put people rather than economic growth at the heart of the planning system.

View the press release


Short shrift for supernatural objection

Developing a Grade II listed building would bring “tragedy” and a “curse” on Leicester, according to an objection to the £2m scheme to convert the 18th Century Braunstone Hall lodged with Leicester City Council. However officers have told members that “supernatural activity is not a material planning consideration”.

View more information


Roger Milne

Ministers announce onshore wind farm regime change

The government has wasted little time in honouring manifesto pledges over giving local communities a greater say over onshore wind farm projects and axing subsidies for them.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark has announced new planning rules, in the guise of new policy measures, which took effect from 18 June.

Under these new provisions councils should only grant permission for wind turbines in their area if the site is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy as part of a local or neighbourhood plan and following consultation, the planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been fully addressed and therefore have their backing.

Clark told Parliament: “This will ensure the planning concerns of local communities are addressed – even if they give their backing for wind farms in their area through the local or neighbourhood plan.

“If a planning application has already been made for wind turbines in an area where the local plan does not identify suitable sites, the council will only be able to approve the application where it addresses the planning concerns of the affected community and therefore has local backing.”

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has announced that the current support mechanism, known as the Renewables Obligation, for onshore wind will close at the end of March next year, some 12 months earlier than originally expected.

Rudd told MPs that there would be a “grace period” for projects already in the pipeline but estimated that projects totaling over seven gigawatts of capacity would not now go ahead. “That equates to 250 projects totaling about 2,500 turbines,” she told the Commons.

Rudd was specifically asked if she could reassure MPs that the Planning Inspectorate could not over rule local objections to wind farms. Rudd replied: “Yes, I can”.

View the press release

View the statement to Parliament

Roger Milne

MPs back changes to proposed HS2 route to allow petitioning

MPs have approved a raft of changes to the proposed route of the HS2 project between London and the west Midlands.

Backing for the changes means the new details about the route can be petioned against in the Parliamentary Committee considering the hybrid bill.

In total some 125 changes are involved along the line of the route beyond Camden. They are the result of earlier petioning and HS2 Ltd’s continued development of the design of the rail link.

The changes are mostly of a minor nature. They include the realignment of access routes and the diversion of footpaths following discussions with affected landowners, or the relocation of areas of ecological mitigation to reduce the impacts on farming operations

There are, however, proposals for some significant changes. There are plans to realign the route in the Lichfield area so that it runs in a cutting rather than on an embankment, as well as moving the route away from the Trent and Mersey canal.

This will enable the line to go under the A38, the South Staffordshire railway and the west coast main line, which will significantly reduce the visual impact of the railway in the area.

The other significant change concerns the Heathrow Express depot. It is currently located at Old Oak Common, but it needs to be relocated in order to construct the new Old Oak Common station.

It was originally intended to be moved to another site nearby, but more detailed operational work undertaken by Network Rail since the Bill’s deposit has revealed that that site would not work operationally. Now it is proposed to relocate the depot to a site in Langley, near Slough.

View more information on HS2

View the parliamentary debate

Roger Milne


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