Planning round-up 3 December
Clark intervenes over Lancashire shale gas appeals
Communities Secretary Greg Clark has recovered four related appeals by energy company Cuadrilla over proposals to drill for shale gas and carry out seismic monitoring in Lancashire originally refused by the county council. The proposals involve sites near Little Plumpton and Roseacre and Wharle, all near Preston.
In his recovery letter Clark said he would determine the appeals because the projects were “proposals for exploring and developing shale gas which amount to proposals for development of major importance having more than local significance and proposals which raise important or novel issues of development control, and/or legal difficulties”.
In a statement the local authority voiced concern at Clark’s move. “The county council went to great lengths to thoroughly consider these applications and councillors made their decisions based on a huge amount of evidence both for and against each application.
“When the appeals were lodged it already meant that the decisions would be taken out of the hands of elected representatives here in Lancashire.
“The difference now is that, rather than being determined by an impartial planning inspector, they will be determined by a minister in a Government which has already made its views on shale gas very clear.”
Green belt issues see off solar farms and an anaerobic digester
Proposals for two major solar power projects in southern England have received short shrift from Communities Secretary Greg Clark following recovered appeals. In both cases the inspectors had recommended the schemes earmarked for green belt locations should be blocked.
The largest scheme involved a 32.5-hectare solar park at Mynthurst Farm at Leigh in Surrey. Mole Valley District Council has refused permission.
Clark concluded that the scheme represented inappropriate development in the green belt and would pose significant harm to the landscape and visual amenity of the area.
The other scheme was for a 22-3-hectare solar park proposed for land to the south of the village of Five Oak Green near Tonbridge, Kent which had been refused by Tunbridge Wells District Council.
Once again the SoS agreed the scheme would be inappropriate development in the green belt, would harm the landscape and visual amenity of the area and, in this particular case, result in the loss of 8.5-hectares of versatile farmland.
In a separate but related development Clark has also refused plans for an aerobic digestion plant at Ramsbottom in Greater Manchester refused by Bury Metropolitan Borough Council.
Once again the site was in green belt and had been recommended for refusal by the inspector who held the recovered appeal. Clark acknowledged there were some environmental benefits including green energy, but agreed that green belt and potential odour problems outweighed them.
NLP report gives thumbs up for Infrastructure planning regime
The planning regime introduced for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs) has achieved its intended objectives, according to a report from planning consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners (NLP).
Over two thirds of the 45 NSIPs that have had development consent order (DCO) applications determined have navigated the process within 39 months, with projects taking on average 37 months (or just over three years), from the initial submission of an Environmental Impact Assessment Scoping Request through to the receipt of a decision.
The statutory timescales that guide the process once a DCO application has been submitted are being met, providing a greater sense of certainty and confidence that a decision will be made within the defined periods.
However the NLP analysis highlights wide variations in the pre-application stage where overall timescales are undefined.
The research shows that the time incurred at this stage can range from anywhere between seven months to four and half years in the most extreme cases.
New home registrations static
New home registrations over the last three months remain at a similar level to the same period a year ago, according to the latest NHBC figures.
In total, 37,582 new homes (30,046 private sector; 7,536 public sector) were registered between August and October compared to 37,707 (29,784 private sector; 7,923 public sector) in 2014.
In total 36,219 new homes were registered in the third quarter compared to 36,955 a year ago. The private sector is static at minus one per cent (28,527; 28,906 in 2014), with the public sector down by four per cent (7,692; 8,049 in 2014).
In October 16,434 new homes (12,965 private sector; 3,469 public sector) were registered, an increase of 17 per cent on the same month last year (13,997 – 11,188 private sector; 2,809 public sector).
One reason for the substantial volumes seen during October is that builders registered new homes in time to take advantage of the lower rate of Insurance Premium Tax which increased by three and a half per cent on 1 November.
Cannock retail project approved
Cannock Chase Council District Council has approved a designer outlet village in Cannock proposed by development partners U+I (formerly Development Securities) and Rioja Developments.
The Mill Green proposal consists of 130 designer outlet retail units, restaurants, a play area and a visitor centre and at 23,758 square metres would be the biggest development of its kind in the West Midlands region.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will now decide whether to intervene and call-in the £110m project.
Traders have voted in favour of turning the centre of York into a Business Improvement District (BID). Almost 900 firms will contribute to an annual budget of more than £800,000 for projects to improve the city centre over the next five years. Firms will pay an extra levy of one per cent on top of business rates to fund the initiatives.
Go-ahead for Slough town centre revamp
Plans to revamp the centre of Slough and build new flats have been approved after years of debate. The scheme involves partial demolition, extension and refurbishment of both The Queensmere and The Observatory shopping centres in Slough’s High Street along with the construction of five new residential towers providing 675 flats.
Four of the residential blocks will be located on top of the shopping centres while the fifth will be a stand-alone tower.
New energy and transport Infrastructure proposals
Plans to connect the A75 in Scotland directly to Cumbria across the Solway estuary have been unveiled, part of a wider scheme to build bridges down the west coast of Britain on top of a series of tidal barrages.
The proposals would see a crossing built from the Stewartry to Workington, carrying road traffic from the A75 directly to Cumbria.
The barrage is part of a wider scheme from Manchester-based development company North West Energy Squared which would see five similar structures built along the west coast of Britain.
Meanwhile a study into the feasibility of constructing a major road and rail tunnel through the Peak District to improve transport links between Sheffield and Manchester has concluded that the project was feasible, would cut journey-times significantly but would be the most ambitious highways scheme since the construction of the first UK motorways fifty years ago.
The report, prepared by consultants working for Highways England, noted that the engineering and delivery of the proposed tunnel would represent “a national first”. The road tunnel section(s) would be the longest in Europe. Further work on the scheme is being undertaken for the Department for Transport and Transport for the North.
Belfast concern over regeneration powers decision
Belfast City Council has called for an urgent meeting with Northern Ireland’s social development minister Mervyn Storey following his announcement of indefinite delay over the transfer of regeneration powers to local authorities in the Province.
It is the second time there has been a delay the original transfer was delayed from 1 April 2015 to 1 April 2016 and the council is concerned that this time it is indefinite, with no clarity whether the powers will ever be handed over to local authorities.
Brighton bike move
A bike hire scheme for Brighton & Hove is set to go ahead following full funding approval from the Coast to Capital (C2C) Local Transport Body.
The news came two days after the city council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee voted to support the scheme which will be similar to the so-called ‘Boris Bikes’ in London.
The south coast service will provide some 430 bikes which will be available from a minimum of 50 docking points across the city.
- Developers of all major sites in Southwark must deliver 35 per cent affordable housing or publish a viability assessment setting out why they cannot achieve this, the south London council has announced in a draft supplementary planning document.
- Meanwhile the council has agreed terms with British Land for a £2bn regeneration project in Canada Water. The regeneration project covers 18-hectares and the site is made up of the former Harmsworth Quays print works, Surrey Quays shopping centre and Mast Leisure centre. The agreement includes terms that enable the delivery of thousands of new homes and a new town centre.
- Mayor Boris Johnson has appointed volume house builder Berkeley Homes to construct 3,500 new dwellings on a 10-hectare former east London industrial site in Newham.
- Chelsea FC has submitted a planning application to rebuild Stamford Bridge into a 60,000-seat stadium. The Barclays Premier League champions have consulted over the redevelopment of their west London home, which currently has a capacity of 41,600.
- The French Government has failed in a judicial review challenge to the validity of two certificates of lawfulness issued by the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea for works to the basement of a property next door to its embassy in London.
New Building Regs proposed
The Department for Communities and Local Government has begun consulting on a proposed new Part R of the Building Regulations which will ensure all new buildings and major renovations have the ducts and distribution channels to enable connection to super-fast broadband.
Revised Bristol Arena proposals submitted
Revised proposals for the £92m Bristol Arena have been submitted to the city council. The 12,000-capacity multi-use venue is earmarked to be constructed on the old diesel depot behind Bristol Temple Meads railway station.
Faringdon town green proposal backed
Humpty Hill, a popular open space in Faringdon, Oxforshire has been designated a town green by the county council following a campaign by residents who objected to plans by developer Gladman to build around 100 new homes there.
Green light for ‘Fawlty Towers’ hotel conversion
The hotel that inspired the cult TV series Fawlty Towers is to be knocked down and replaced with retirement flats.
York street wins top accolade
Bishopthorpe Road in York has beaten hundreds of high streets across the country to be crowned Britain’s best. It was judged the Winner of Winners in the Great British High Street Awards 2015 surpassing over 200 other contenders.