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News round-up 17 July 2014

by on July 17, 2014

Welsh mergers
The Welsh Government has published a White Paper with its official response to the Williams report which recommended the country’s 22 local authorities should be reduced by around half as a result of mergers.

Ministers have set in motion the law-making process to allow councils to merge voluntarily, and to impose financial restrictions on those that choose to do so.

Under these proposals the existing 22 councils, all of which are planning authorities, would become a dozen:

  • Isle of Anglesey and Gwynedd
  • Conwy and Denbighshire
  • Flintshire and Wrexham
  • Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire
  • Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil
  • Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan
  • Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Torfaen
  • Monmouthshire and Newport
  • Carmarthenshire
  • Powys
  • Swansea.

Ministers are not planning to introduce the Bill to merge authorities until after the next Assembly elections in May 2016 but they have signalled they intend to publish both a draft Bill for consultation in the autumn of 2015 and a separate Bill early next year to facilitate preparatory work. Under this timetable first elections to the new local authorities won’t happen until May 2019.

Download the consultation paper.


Offshore wind farm gets development consent
The Rampion Offshore wind farm, comprising offshore and onshore electrical infrastructure including a cable route from the coast to a new substation near the existing Bolney Substation in Mid Sussex, has been given development consent by the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

The decision supports the recommendation made by the Planning Inspectorate and follows an examination process laid down in the Planning Act 2008 (as amended by the Localism Act 2011).

Planning Inspectorate Chief Executive Simon Ridley said. “This is a significant application for the offshore wind energy sector and required a Panel of three Examining Inspectors who were given the task of considering the evidence put to them by the interested parties.”

Find out more about the wind farm project.


London schemes
Sutton Council has voted to apply to the Greater London Authority (GLA) for housing zone status and to set up a development company to allow it to build both council and private homes and participate in regeneration schemes.

The Council proposes to build new homes for the first time since 1989, using both its Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and a new development company to be owned by the council and funded by borrowing under the Council’s General Fund.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has approved a compulsory purchase order that will allow Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (THFC) to proceed with the final two phases of its plan for the redevelopment of the site of its stadium in north London.

Haringey Council granted planning permission for THFC’s plans for the redevelopment of the site of its White Hart Lane football stadium in September 2010 and approved revisions to the scheme in February 2012.

Proposals include the demolition of the stadium and several buildings and their replacement with a new 56,250 seat stadium, 200 homes and a 150-room hotel. A food-store, a club shop and an enlarged public square are also included in the proposals.


Local plans developments
Wandsworth Council has withdrawn its local plan from examination after an inspector said that modifications included in the submission version were too extensive to be included in the plan without further consultation.

The south west London planning authority consulted on the 2013 version of its local plan documents in autumn 2013. The schedule of changes made to the consultation version of the plan extended to more than 180 pages and included an increase in housing numbers proposed for the borough and changes to the sites allocated for development. The further consultation will take place until early next year, 2015.

Meanwhile, an independent planning inspector has raised concerns about the method used by Cheshire East Council to calculate the areas objectively assessed housing need in its emerging local plan strategy (LPS).

The council’s latest housing need assessment was based on 2011 interim projections from an online toolkit that uses statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the Department of Communities and Local Government.


Court briefing
Gleeson Developments, who received a planning permission in error from a planning inspector for a 180-home development at Malmesbury, Wiltshire, has won an Appeal Court challenge to retain the consent.

The inspector’s decision to grant outline permission was mistakenly sent out hours after the then Planning Minister Nick Boles announced that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles would intervene and determine the scheme himself. Three leading judges have upheld the permission after overturning an earlier High Court ruling.

In a separate case, Scotland’s most senior court has ruled that Viking Energy’s 103-turbine wind farm in central Shetland can go-ahead. The scheme is a joint venture between energy company SSE and local community interests.

The Inner House of the Court of Session decided that Scottish ministers acted lawfully in issuing the decision letter for the 370 megawatt project and there was no breach of the EU Birds Directive.

Meanwhile, developer Gladman has failed in its challenge to Wokingham Borough Council over its adoption of its local plan. The High Court accepted the council’s position that it could adopt a plan which allocated housing development consistent with other council development plan documents adopted before publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

An archaeologist has lost his High Court skirmish over “the first battle of 1066”, after his challenge over the refusal by English Heritage to register Germany Beck at York as the site of the Battle of Fulford failed.


Mixed fortunes for Scots wind farms
Scotland’s Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has granted consent for a 22-turbine wind farm in West Lothian, while refusing permission for a similar sized scheme in the same area.

The approved Harburnhead development, near West Calder, will have a total generating capacity of up to 66 megawatts.

But an application to build the 21-turbine Fauch Hill wind farm, also near West Calder, has been refused on the grounds of unacceptable adverse visual and landscape impacts.

The minister said: “We want to see the right developments in the right places, and that is why I have refused permission for the proposed wind farm at Fauch Hill, which I consider would have brought unacceptable impacts on the landscape, particularly the Pentland hills.”

However, power company EDF Energy Renewables has successfully appealed West Lothian Council’s decision last year to refuse a proposed six-turbine wind park with a maximum height of 125 metres on a site approximately four kilometres south of West Calder.

The council cited unacceptable landscape and visual impacts but the independent reporters who handled the appeal case recommended the scheme should go ahead after concluding that the impacts weren’t unacceptable. Scottish ministers agreed and allowed the appeal.

Read the Scottish Government news release on the West Lothian decision.


Welsh Government publishes ‘fracking’ clarification
A clarification letter about ‘fracking’ development in Wales has been published by Carl Sargeant, Welsh Minister for Housing and Regeneration.

The letter confirms that the extraction of gas and oil whether by conventional or unconventional (i.e. hydraulic fracturing) methods is classed as mineral development, and that general policy considerations set out in Minerals

Planning Policy Wales are applicable to fracking development.
The letter also refers to the responsibilities covered by other regulators outside the town and country planning system.

Access the letter.


Commission assesses ‘Boris Island’ feasibility
The Government’s Independent Airports Commission has published four feasibility studies into the proposals for a new airport in the Thames estuary.

One of these concluded that the plans backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson for a project on the Hoo Peninsula, Kent, would result in “large scale adverse effects on international nature conservation designations” and “radically and irreversibly” change the landscape, “noted for its remoteness”.

This report also said the cost of providing compensatory habitat could be around £2bn. It noted: “the scale of the compensation habit creation needed would be on a scale unprecedented for any single development in Europe”.

Access the feasibility studies.


Safeguarding pubs call
Councils should make creative use of their powers to protect pubs from closure, a report from the Local Government Information Unit and the Campaign for Real Ale has urged.

The report found pubs are closing at the rate of 28 a week, despite almost all the 49 councils interviewed saying they considered pubs valued community amenities worthy of protection. Councils can use the National Planning Policy Framework to protect pubs as community assets, but too few do, according to the report.

It called on the Government to close loopholes through which pubs can be converted or demolished and for the removal of permitted development rights so that planning permission would be needed before a pub could be converted to another use.

A number of councils including Babergh, Lewisham and Cambridge had used article 4 directions to achieve this, it noted.

Access the report.


High speed rail compensation proposals
The Department for Transport has signalled new consultation on additional assistance for people near the HS2 Phase One route between London and the West Midlands.

Ministers have proposed two measures. One involves an ‘alternative cash offer’ that would give rural owner-occupiers within the rural support zone a choice between selling their home to the Government for what it would have been worth had there been no plans for HS2 and remaining in their home and receiving 10 per cent of that value

The other proposal would be a ‘homeowner payment scheme’ that would give rural homeowners outside the voluntary purchase area but within 300 metres of the line the opportunity to share in the benefits of HS2 as it would run near them but will not provide them with a direct benefit.


Architects urge Green Belt review
A new report from the Royal Institute of British Architects has urged the next administration to undertake a Government-led review of the environmental and local amenity value of the Green Belt to support local authorities in making decisions about sites for new housing.

The institute also wants to see higher space standards for new schools and publication of a National Spatial Strategy to identify core objectives and long-term plans across political cycles.

Read the RIBA news release.


Village green designation statistics
Figures published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has shown that the number of village green designation applications has increased marginally, from 123 in 2011 to 132 in 2012 but fell to 122 in 2013.

Download the Defra report.


Dartmoor nature deal
Conservation charities have bought the last remaining section of ancient woodland on Dartmoor. The Woodland Trust and National Trust raised £3.8m to buy Fingle Woods which has existed between Castle Drogo and Steps Bridge since at least 1600.

The trusts bought the 323-hectare woodland in sections, completing the purchase thanks to £845,000 from landfill taxes paid by waste firm Viridor.

Read the Woodland Trust news release.


Nuneaton colliery makeover
Developer Harworth Estates has submitted a planning application to North Warwickshire Borough Council to redevelop the site of the former Daws Mill colliery near Nuneaton into a business park providing 74,000 square metres of B1, B2 and B8 employment uses.


Edinburgh redevelopment
Developer EDI Group has submitted an application to Edinburgh City Council for a major mixed-use redevelopment scheme for the Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh. The proposals involve some 63,824 square metres of retail, housing, leisure and community uses earmarked for an 8.5-acre brownfield site south of Dundee Street and Fountainbridge near Edinburgh city centre.


Northampton moves
Northampton Borough Council has ended its agreement with Legal & General over proposals to redevelop the former Greyfriars bus station site in the town centre.

The local authority will now find a new partner for the redevelopment whose financially viability was jeopardised by the go-ahead for an out-of-town retail park known as Rushden Lakes in east Northamptonshire, recently approved on appeal.

In a separate move, the council has decided to protect and conserve the site of a decisive battle in the Wars of the Roses has been approved by Northampton Borough Council. The Battle of Northampton was fought in the grounds of the town’s Delapre Abbey on 10 July 1460.
Read the Northampton Borough Council news release.


Land Registry sale dropped
The Government has confirmed it has dropped plans to ‘privatise’ the Land Registry by creating a Government company to run some of the services. The measures needed had been included in the Infrastructure Bill currently under scrutiny in the Lords.


Spaceport shortlist
The Government has named the eight shortlisted sites for Britain’s first proposed spaceport. Six of the sites shortlisted for the spaceport, due to open in 2018, are in Scotland. They include Glasgow Prestwick airport and RAF Lossiemouth.

All have to meet strict criteria, including being a safe distance from densely populated areas and a runway that can be extended to more than 3,000 metres. The aim is to use the spaceport to launch tourists into space as well as commercial satellites.

The list of possible spaceport locations is:

  • Campbeltown airport (Scotland)
  • Glasgow Prestwick airport (Scotland)
  • Llanbedr airport (Wales)
  • Newquay Cornwall airport (England)
  • Kinloss barracks (Scotland)
  • RAF Leuchars (Scotland)
  • RAF Lossiemouth (Scotland)
  • Stornorway airport (Scotland).

Read the DfT news release.


Planner novel published
Publisher Bloomsbury Circus has published a novel depicting the picaresque life and times of a fictional Southwark Council planner called James.

The book, called the The Planner, was published on 17 July and is by Tom Campbell whose previous novel Fold was described by one critic “as having the making of a cult classic”.


Roger Milne
17 July 2014

* Due to technical issues this week’s news stories are published on the Director’s Blog. They will be published on the Planning Portal in due course.

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