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Tower Hamlets is biggest beneficiary of New Homes Bonus scheme

East London local authority Tower Hamlets was the biggest beneficiary of the Coalition’s New Homes Bonus scheme over the past five years.

It was paid £74.7m according to figures just released by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Birmingham City Council came second with £53.7m while Cornwall Unitary Authority (UA) came third, with just under £45.4m.

Local authorities from the capital filled 20 of the top 50 slots. Local authorities from the North and the Midlands were sparingly represented in the top 50 group. Only Barnsley, Bradford, Cheshire East, Coventry, Durham UA, East Riding of Yorkshire UA, Kirklees, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester, Nottingham Salford, Sheffield and Wakefield clocked up allocations of over £15m during the scheme’s lifetime.

The Government bankrolled the scheme to the tune of nearly £3.4bn. DCLG calculated that the scheme rewarded delivery of 700,000 net additional dwellings and over 100,000 long-term empty homes, which were brought back into use.

DCLG’s assessment of the scheme concluded that shire districts were the highest net beneficiaries while more negative impacts were found in the north of England, Yorkshire and the Humber.

The department found no evidence that the initiative “was providing an additional incentive in increasing support specifically for more affordable homes”.

View details of the New Homes Bonus scheme and download the statistics

Roger Milne

Developer backs down on legal challenges to Buckinghamshire and Somerset plans

Developer Gladman Developments Ltd has withdrawn its legal challenge in the Court of Appeal over the “making” of Winslow’s Neighbourhood Plan by Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC).

The Buckinghamshire planning authority had formally approved the plan, following a local referendum in September 2014.

Gladman initially challenged that move in the High Court on a number of grounds, including the reasoning of the independent examiner who scrutinised the plan and the lawfulness of the council’s decision to formally make the plan.

However, a judge dismissed the developer’s case in December 2014. A subsequent appeal against that decision was made to the Court of Appeal in March this year.

However, AVDC has now been informed that the developer has withdrawn from the Court of Appeal proceedings and is also no longer challenging Community Secretary Eric Pickles’ decision to refuse planning permission for a 211-dwelling residential scheme on land off Verney Road in Winslow.

AVDC had refused this scheme and the developer appealed. The inspector who held the recovered appeal had recommended approval but the Secretary of State disagreed, citing the neighbourhood plan.

Susan Kitchen, who heads the council’s development management team, said: “This is fantastic news for the residents of Winslow. A huge amount of work went into drawing up the plan by the Winslow community and the withdrawal of this challenge removes any doubt over the status of the plan when making decisions on planning applications in the area it covers.

She added: “Although AVDC was confident that the Court of Appeal would dismiss this latest challenge to the plan, Gladman’s decision to drop the action is very welcome. We will be pursuing the recovery of our legal costs, where permitted.”

Meanwhile, in a separate move Mendip District Council has confirmed that Gladman has dropped its High Court challenge to the council’s local plan over the adequacy of the strategy’s housing provision.

View the Aylesbury Vale District Council press release

View the decision letter and inspectors report

Roger Milne

Election pledges from Liberal Democrats, Greens and UKIP

The Liberal Democrats’ Manifesto commits the party to at least ten new garden cities (where locals back the idea) and a slew of new garden villages and suburbs to help provide 300,000 new homes. Up to five of these major new settlements are proposed along a new rail link between Oxford and Cambridge.

The party plans to end ideologically motivated onshore wind farm decisions, pilot capturing land value increases from grant of planning permission for garden cities and would require local authorities to plan for 15 years of housing need, a move which will need a strengthened duty to cooperate with neighboring authorities.

Like the Greens the Liberal Democrats favour a community right of appeal. The latter has pledged to introduce so-called “landscape-scale planning” to encourage access to green spaces and would revoke both the new offices to residential permitted development regime as well as the exemption for schemes of ten homes or fewer to meet zero carbon standards.

Both the Greens and UKIP want to scrap HS2. The latter would replace the National Planning Policy Framework with guidance encouraging brown field use and protecting the green belt. The Greens want to scrap the NPPF. UKIP has declared it wants to allow referendums to overturn large-scale housing, wind farm, solar, incinerator and supermarket permissions.

The Greens want to ease planning constraints for wind and solar, in particular for onshore wind schemes and insist that climate change and carbon reduction should figure in all planning decisions.

Roger Milne

Warwickshire new settlement proposals submitted

Nexus Planning, on behalf of Commercial Estates Group and the Bird Group, has submitted an outline planning application for a proposed new settlement on land adjacent to the village of Lighthorne Heath, near Gaydon, Warwickshire.

The application for a first phase of 2,000 new homes includes a village centre with supermarket and elderly accommodation, a new primary school, community hub, health centre, sports and recreation facilities and a 47-hectare managed ecological reserve.

The 140-hectare site forms the first phase of a 300-hectare strategic allocation identified in Stratford-on-Avon District Council’s emerging core strategy for 3,000 new dwellings, 100 hectares of land for the expansion of Jaguar Land Rover, and 4.5 hectares of land for the expansion of Aston Martin Lagonda.

Nexus Planning submitted the planning application in collaboration with place-making practice, John Thompson & Partners following extensive public consultation over the last two years.

The site is located along the M40 corridor within an area of high-value automotive-related research and development activity. Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin Lagonda employ around 7,000 staff in their research and production facilities immediately adjacent to the site where there is scope for further expansion.

When complete, the new settlement will be the second largest settlement in the district with only the Warwickshire town of Stratford upon Avon town being larger.

Read the Nexus Planning press release

View details of the Stratford-on-Avon District Council core strategy

Roger Milne

DCLG modifies guidance on Vacant Building Credit regime

The Department for Communities and Local Government has announced changes to the guidance on the vacant building credit (VBC) regime initially introduced in November last year.

The changes confirm that the intention of the VBC is to act as an incentive for brownfield development on sites containing vacant buildings and that it can operate with respect to either the number of affordable housing units or the amount of a financial contribution towards affordable housing.

The revised guidance makes it clear that the regime provides an element of discretion for local planning authorities (LPAs) over the way VBC is applied.

This means that LPAs can consider whether the building was made vacant for the sole purpose of redevelopment and whether the building was already covered by an existing or recently expired planning permission for a development similar what is now proposed.

The updated advice also sets out the detailed procedure for determining the VBC where there are changes in the gross floor space of vacant buildings on the site, which affect the amount of affordable housing contribution.

When the guidance was originally published some local authorities, particularly in London, opposed the principle of the initiative on the basis that it would significantly reduce the level of affordable housing contributions.

Some local authorities are considering introducing local planning policies to mitigate the impact or establish a local VBC exemption.

George Wilson of planning law specialists Pinsent Masons said: “These changes go some way to alleviating concerns local authorities had when the vacant building credit was first introduced by the Government, but not entirely.

“The amendments provide some flexibility and discretion for the local authorities in the way in which they apply the VBC and in considering whether the VBC would be applied, to encourage genuinely vacant, brownfield sites into use, as is the intention for which the credit was introduced.

“Although the changes have largely been welcomed, we would not be surprised to see further authorities try and introduce blanket exemptions for the credit in their areas and further ‘clarifications’ to the guidance issued,” he said.

View the guidance on the Vacant Building Credit

Roger Milne

Planning round-up 23 April 2015

PINS confirms appeal delays

The Planning Inspectorate has confirmed that staff shortages at the organisation have led to delays of up to 10 weeks to validate planning and householder appeals. For some inquiry categories this means decisions may take 12 months or thereabouts.

The admission of problems has been posted on the Planning Portal. The post says: “We apologise for the delay and are taking measures to address this. We would like to thank you for your understanding and patience during this period.

“When your appeal has been confirmed as valid we will then issue a start date letter giving details of the timetable for the appeal.”

According the latest appeal handling times published by PINS, the worst affected categories appear to involve enforcement appeal inquires, listed building/conservation area consent appeals considered by written representations and appeals involving lawful development certificates.

PINS advised it was recruiting more staff to deal with the growing backlog.

View the appeal handling time statistics


Hampshire 2,400-homes scheme makes waves

The largest ever planning application submitted to East Hampshire District Council is being determined by the planning authority this week.

The application proposes to transform the Army site at Whitehill & Bordon with 2,400 new homes and a new town centre.

The planning application, submitted by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) which is the property arm of the Ministry of Defence, outlines how the area could be transformed with new shops, offices, cafes, restaurants, a food store, a swimming pool in a new leisure centre, new schools and sports pitches.

Plans also include proposals for new a new cycling route, footpaths, public open space, car parking, children’s play areas, multi-use games areas, a BMX or skate park, allotments and landscaping. In addition there are also proposals for the southern section of the new relief road which will link to the A325.

View the planning application in detail


Report charts office to residential conversion activity

Research by commercial property consultancy Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) has revealed that more than 11 million square feet of office space has switched use since changes to permitted development rights (PDR) in England made the move to residential much easier as no planning permission was required.

Although much of the activity has been in the English capital, particular in outer London boroughs like Croydon and Sutton, there has been substantial activity in the regional markets the consultancy tracks outside London.

The consultancy has reported that there around eight million square feet of office stock has left the commercial market since May 2013, when the changes to the PDR kicked-in.

Some 4.7 million square feet of commercial floor space changed use in 2014 with Bristol proving a “hot spot” with over one million square feet changing use since 2013, and 800 000 square feet in 2014 alone.

Commuter locations around London have also been popular. In Slough, for instance, some six per cent of office floor space has gone for residential while the so-called Hertfordshire markets – including Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead – have collectively lost around 900,000 square feet of office since 2013.

View further details of the research


Stroud retail saga latest

The planning saga over proposals for a new supermarket at Stroud took a surprise turn last week when the district council’s development control committee considered three plans for out-of-town supermarkets: Asda at Daniels industrial estate on Bath Road, a potential Lidl on Stroud Metals site at Dudbridge, and a third supermarket at Brunsdon’s Yard, Ryeford.

Planning officers had recommended that the Asda scheme should go ahead and the other two should be rejected.

However, councillors defied this advice and approved the proposal for the Dudbridge site, which Lidl has expressed interest in but which has flooding issues.

The decision had been delayed since September to allow a fourth proposal to be developed – a town centre supermarket on the site of the Market Tavern pub and Cornhill.

The landowner of that site, Setminds Ltd, has said it has been in discussion with Marks and Spencer but no planning application has been submitted for the site.


North Wales power link consent move

The Planning Inspectorate has accepted for examination for development consent proposals from power distribution company SP Manweb for a scheme to connect four new wind farms in North Wales to an existing electricity substation at St Asaph.

Like the latter facility, all the wind farms in question are located in Denbighshire. The scheme involves some 17 kilometres of overhead line carried on wooden poles, which will be around 15 metres in height.

The planned wind farms are Clocaenog Forest (developed by RWE npower renewables), Brenig (Brenig Wind Ltd), Nant Bach (Vattenfall) and Derwydd Bach (Tegni).

View details on the National Infrastructure Planning website


Underground freight delivery trial for Northampton

A study to see whether underground freight deliveries could become reality in the UK is to be carried out in Northampton.

A Government grant will allow Cambridgeshire company Mole Solutions to see whether its magnet and track-based system could work in urban areas.

The firm’s technical director Stuart Prosser said: “We’re going to use Northampton as a bit of an exemplar.

“They have some issues with air pollution and distribution of goods and they want to see if there’s other ways of doing it, rather than just using the traditional ways between the M1, the A14 and into the city centre.”

The “mole” concept involves propelling bulk goods through pipelines powered by magnetic waves. The company said the system could work unmanned in pipes laid beside or under existing transport infrastructure.

View the Mole Solutions press release


Tallest residential tower waved through by Boris

London Mayor Boris Johnson has decided not to intervene over proposals for a 215-metre high residential tower, the UK’s tallest, proposed for Marsh Wall near Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs in east London.

The scheme, known as South Quay Plaza will provide 888 flats, 188 of which will be affordable, was approved by Tower Hamlets Council last November.

Designed by Foster & Partners, the scheme comprises a 68-storey tower and a smaller 36-storey structure. There will also be ground-floor commercial units, car parking and landscaping. Three existing commercial buildings will be demolished. Changes from the original planning application include a reduction in the height of the tallest building from 73 storeys to 68.

Visit the South Quay Plaza website


Revised Plymouth regeneration master plan approved

An updated master plan setting out future phases in the transformation of Millbay – one of the largest regeneration projects in the south of England – has been approved by Plymouth’s planners.

Millbay’s lead developer English Cities Fund (ECf) submitted the outline planning application for the regeneration area to update and replace the current master plan, which was granted outline planning permission by Plymouth City Council in 2008.

Focussed around the historic former docks built by the Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Millbay scheme offers residential, leisure, business and retail development, as well as public spaces and direct access to the waterfront.

The revised outline planning application involves up to 600 new homes, 12,500 square metres of offices and 8,600 square metres of retail/ leisure space, a hotel and a multi-storey car park together with associated engineering works, highway improvements, public realm and landscaping.

Visit the Millbay website


Luton cinema conversion blow

Proposals to partially convert an iconic art deco cinema into a church have been rejected by Luton Borough Council.

It had received a planning application to refurbish the front section of the ABC cinema in George Street, which would have been sublet to a Pentecostal church.

Applicants Fenton Property Management indicated that the old cinema’s screens would have been left untouched and sealed off from the rest of the building.

A council spokesperson said: “It is considered that the granting of a temporary consent for use of the site for a place of worship would not facilitate the redevelopment of this prominent site within the central shopping area as the predominant activities of a use of this kind would take place outside the core shopping and leisure times and therefore it fails to contribute to the regeneration of the town centre in the short term.”


Ipswich screen boost

A new 16-screen cinema looks set to be built in Ipswich’s Buttermarket centre alongside proposals for six new restaurants and a gym.

The new owners of the shopping centre, Capital and Regional, who are in partnership with the Drum Property Group, have applied to Ipswich Borough Council to amend the planning consent that was granted two years ago for Vue Cinemas to create a nine-screen multiplex in the centre.

That scheme fell by the wayside after Vue was unable to press ahead with the project and the centre was sold.


House builder says election is slowing down new home approvals

Persimmon Group Chairman Nicholas Wrigley has highlighted “increasing difficulties” in obtaining planning consents for sites as May’s General Election approaches.

In a trading update, Wrigley said: “while we would expect such delays to be short term in nature, they are hindering the expansion in the number of active outlets required by the house-building industry to support an increase in the volume of newly built homes delivered to the market.”

View the full Persimmon PLC trading update


Tewkesbury mulls premature site work

Tewkesbury Borough Council has confirmed it is investigating reports that house-builder Redrow Homes has jumped the gun on preliminary site work for a proposed residential development of more than 300 dwellings at Leckhampton Gloucestershire for which it has not yet obtained planning approval.


Beech tree is the tops

A beech tree on the South Downs has been named the tallest native tree in Britain. The 44-metre tree has been growing in Newtimber Woods on the National Trust’s Devil’s Dyke Estate in West Sussex.

The tree thought to be almost 200 years old was found to be the tallest by Owen Johnson from the Tree Register.

A 61-metre Douglas fir, in Cragside, Northumberland, holds the title of the tallest non-native species in Britain.


Roger Milne

New prior notification forms now available

Further to my blog post from last week, we have now published the PDF forms for the new prior notification types.

Please note that the forms will not be available on the online application system, fee calculator or paper form chooser. This means the forms will not carry any specific LPA logos or branding.

Notification for Prior Approval for a Change Of Use from Storage or Distribution Buildings (Class B8) and any land within its curtilage to Dwellinghouses (Class C3)

Notification for Prior Approval for a Change of Use from Amusement Arcades/Centres and Casinos, (Sui Generis Uses) and any land within its curtilage to Dwellinghouses (Class C3)

Notification for Prior Approval for a Change of Use from Shops (Class A1), Financial and Professional Services (Class A2), Betting Offices, Pay Day Loan Shops and Casinos (Sui Generis Uses) to Restaurants and Cafés (Class A3)

Notification for Prior Approval for a Change of Use from Shops (Class A1) and Financial and Professional Services (Class A2), Betting Offices, Pay Day Loan Shops (Sui Generis Uses) to Assembly and Leisure Uses (Class D2)

Notification for Prior Approval for a Development Consisting of the Erection or Construction of a Collection Facility within the Curtilage of a Shop

Notification for Prior Approval for the Temporary Use of Buildings or Land for the Purpose of Commercial Film-Making and the Associated Temporary Structures, Works, Plant or Machinery required in Connection with that Use

Notification for Prior Approval for the Installation, Alteration or Replacement of other Solar Photovoltaics (PV) equipment on the Roofs of Non-domestic Buildings, up to a Capacity of 1 Megawatt


Housing supply highlighted in Labour and Conservative manifestos

The two biggest UK political parties published their 2015 Election manifestos this week with housing supply pledges centre stage from both the Conservatives and Labour.

The former formally committed to 200,000 new starter homes built on brownfield sites by 2020 as well as 275,000 additional affordable homes by the same date.

Labour promised that at least 200,000 new homes a year are built by 2020 and committed to a new generation of garden cities. It also said it would implement all the recommendations of the Lyons Commission.


The Conservatives pledged support for “locally-led garden cities and towns in places where communities want them, such as Ebbsfleet and Bicester. It would also extend right to buy provisions to Houisng Association dwellings.

The manifesto states: “We will fund the replacement of properties sold under the extended Right to Buy by requiring local authorities to manage their housing assets more efficiently, with the most expensive properties sold off and replaced as they fall vacant. We will also create a Brownfield Fund to unlock homes on brownfield land for additional housing.

Its manifesto added: “When new homes are granted planning permission, we will make sure local communities know up-front that necessary infrastructure such as schools and roads will be provided. We will ensure that brownfield land is used as much as possible for new development.

“We will require local authorities to have a register of what is available, and ensure that 90 per cent brownfield sites have planning permission for housing by 2020.”

Much of Conservative manifesto confirmed promises made recently by the Coalition on new road spending, flood protection, new railways particularly in the north of England as part of the Northern Powerhouse initiative and a London Land Commission. Crossrail 2 was formally backed.

Labour is promising to give local communities “more power to shape their high streets, and

so preserve their local identities”. Communities will be able to review betting shop licenses in their area and reduce the number of fixed-odds betting terminals in existing betting shops – or ban them entirely – in response to local concerns.

Labour has also promised an English Devolution Act, handing £30bn of resources and powers English city and county regions and a new Infrastructure Commission to prioritise investment in flood prevention. It has confirmed it backs a “value for money” HS2.


The Conservatives will strengthen the Community Right to Bid regime and promised over the next five years “to put in place stronger protections for our natural landscapes, establish a new Blue Belt to safeguard precious marine habitats, and launch a programme of pocket parks in towns and cities”.

It also confirmed its stance on onshore wind farms which will mean an end to the subsidy regime and a legal change “so that local people have the final say on wind farm applications”.


(We will review the planning-related pledges of other major political parties in subsequent weeks.)


Roger Milne

New-look pylons put through their paces

Construction of examples of National Grid’s new T-pylon has begun at the company’s training academy in Nottinghamshire.

The building of the training line of pylons will be the first opportunity to see the new design in the landscape.

The T-pylon was the winner of an international design competition to look for a 21st century design to carry high voltage overhead lines. The winning design from Bystrup, the Danish architects and engineering company, is 35 metres high – up to one third lower than the conventional steel lattice pylon.

A span of six of the new T-pylons will be built at the training academy. The different pylons all have a different function.

They include the standard suspension pylon that is designed to carry the cables in a straight line. Two suspension pylons will be built at Eakring.

Also in the mix is a D30 pylon which can allow for the greater pressure and weight of turning the cables at an angle of up to 30 degrees.

In addition a F10 flying angle suspension pylon which can allow a turn of up to 10 degrees – the first time such a pylon has been used in the UK- is being set up.

David Wright, director of electricity transmission asset management at National Grid said: “We developed the new style of pylon so that we could have a 21st century design to offer as we plan new transmission routes.

“The T-pylon is not a replacement for the steel lattice pylon but it’s a new option and in some landscapes its shorter height and sleeker appearance can offer real advantages.”

Learn more on the National Grid’s website.


Roger Milne

New financial product boosts farm building conversions

Glasgow-based Development Finance Ltd has launched a new finance product which is targeting the new permitted development regime in England, which allows the conversion of redundant agricultural buildings into housing without the need for a planning application.

While there are still planning procedures and regulations that must be met, such as noise impact, flooding risks etc, the new regime allows disused buildings of up to 450 square metres to be converted into a maximum of three residential units.

David Levitus, director of Development Finance Ltd explained “we have had an increasing amount of enquiries regarding development funding to convert farm buildings such as barns, sheds and byres which are no longer suited to modern agriculture”.

The company has created a brand new product – Permitted Development Loans. Levitus added: “This type of development finance is pretty specialised so we have launched a bespoke loan package that takes our clients through the lending and development process.”

Under the current arrangements the converted properties must be occupied by 30 May next year.

Development Finance Ltd confirmed it is being approached by increasing numbers of farmers and owners of derelict rural properties. The firm is also prepared to provide advice on reputable builders and development partners.


Roger Milne


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