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Planning news – 13 January 2022

by on January 13, 2022

Our planning news is published in association with ThePlanner, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

Survey finds 49 per cent of people feel their property is unsuitable for working from home

Local planning policies should be reviewed to ensure that they support working from home, according to a housebuilder and planning consultancy.

A new Barratt Developments and Lichfields report – Working from Home: Planning for the New Normal – highlights how having a dedicated space for doing their job supports the wellbeing of working people.

It draws on a survey by polling company Savanta ComRes which reveals that 49 per cent of households feel their current property is “unsuitable” for working from home, with only 28 per cent of respondents saying they have a dedicated work space such as a study, rather than working at the dining room table.

Noting changing work patterns as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with people working from home for at least some of the time, it shows an estimated 7.5 million people hope to work from home on a permanent basis, which is double the pre-lockdown estimate.

Sixty-nine per cent of respondents said they would prefer an additional room in their home as a dedicated office space, but the report explains that local authorities have policies that dictate how many bedrooms should be provided in new homes. These are “often skewed” towards providing one and two-bedroom homes.

Set out before the pandemic, these policies don’t take account of the demand for a dedicated work space at home, the organisations argue. Younger people who are looking for their first home or want to move up the housing ladder, want an extra room for homeworking.

Philip Barnes, group land and planning director at Barratt Developments, says the focus on one and two-bedroom properties “favoured” by existing planning policy “is unlikely to satisfy this demand”.

Employers are responding to the desire for more homeworking by planning for a hybrid or full-time approach to remote working.

Lichfields notes that research indicates that almost half of younger and middle-aged workers suffer a negative impact from a lack of a dedicated work space at home, which fell to 20 per cent for the over-55s.

Matthew Spry, senior director and head of Lichfields’ London office, said: “This is important research that shines a light on the relationship between Covid and how people use their homes. It raises important issues and reinforces the message that homeworking is now here to stay, which is influencing how people choose their new homes and use their house space.”

Working from Home: Planning for the New Normal says two-thirds of people across all age groups are considering homeworking options when planning their next move, with a similar proportion believing that new homes should be designed with working from home in mind.

Barnes said: “Local planning policies, which aim to control the size and mix of residential developments, have to be urgently re-evaluated in the light of the report’s findings. Pending preparation of new local policies – which can take years – planning authorities need to be more flexible when it comes to determining planning applications for homes with more rooms than expected by their outdated policies.

“National planning policy already asks local authorities to accommodate needs not anticipated when policies are drafted, to allow for new and flexible working practices. We need to see this in practice, to take into account the shift towards millions of us now working from home. Without such moves, the mismatch between the supply and demand of homes will become ever more acute. We could see family homes with a dedicated homeworking space even less affordable for those who most need them.”

The report can be found on the Lichfields website.

10 January 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Welsh Budget boosts housing and green spending

The Welsh Government’s latest three-year budget, just announced, has committed the administration to spending £1.6 billion capital in providing good-quality housing, including £1 billion for social housing and £375 million for building safety.

The spending package also includes additional green investment of £160 million as part of a total capital investment of £1.6 billion, which will support the national forest initiative as well as biodiversity, active travel, the circular economy, renewable energy, flood prevention and decarbonising housing.

Finance and local government minister Rebecca Evans complained that the UK Government’s Spending Review did not deliver for Wales.

“This budget is delivered in that context. Where the spending review was silent on the climate and nature emergency, we are taking action.

“Where it did not support coal tip safety, we are stepping up. And where it failed to address regional inequality, we are investing in every part of Wales and making meaningful investment in tackling inequality,” she insisted.

7 January 2022
Roger Milne, The Planner

Developers must devise plan to fix cladding crisis

Housing and communities secretary Michael Gove has written to developers warning them to pay to fix the cladding crisis ‘that they caused’.

This forms part of his plans to overhaul the government’s approach to building safety.

Gove wrote: “Our home should be a source of security and pride. For too many of the people living in properties your industry has built in recent years, their home has become a source of misery. This must change.”

He has set a deadline of early March to agree a plan of action that is fully funded to address the crisis, including remediating unsafe cladding on buildings of 11m to 18m in heights. This is currently estimated to cost £4 billion.

According to the letter, developers must also:

  • Fund and undertake all necessary remediation of buildings over 11 metres that they have played a role in developing.
  • Provide comprehensive information on all buildings over 11 metres that have historic safety defects and which they have played a part in constructing in the last 30 years.

The housing secretary said he would take “all steps necessary” to make this happen, such as restricting access to government funding and future procurements, as well as by using planning powers and the legal system.

Should the industry fail to take responsibility, the government said it will, if necessary, impose a solution in law

Gove said: “It is neither fair nor decent that innocent leaseholders, many of whom have worked hard and made sacrifices to get a foot on the housing ladder, should be landed with bills they cannot afford to fix problems they did not cause.

“Government has accepted its share of responsibility and made significant financial provision through its ACM remediation programme and the Building Safety Fund. Some developers have already done the right thing and funded remedial works and I commend them for those actions.

“But too many others have failed to live up to their responsibilities.”

Developers, he added, must prioritise the buildings with the greatest risks. 

In the House of Commons

Following his letter, Gove explained in the House of Commons today (10 January) that a dedicated team is being established to pursue and expose companies at fault and to force them to shoulder the burden of making buildings safe.

This forms part of the government’s four-point plan that it said is reset of its approach. The plan also includes:

  • The opening of the next phase of the Building Safety Fund to drive forward taking dangerous cladding off high-rise buildings, with those at the highest risk a priority of the £5.1 billion fund.
  • Restoring common sense to building assessments: indemnifying building assessors from being sued; and withdrawing the old, misinterpreted government advice that prompted too many buildings being declared as unsafe.
  • New protections for leaseholders living in their own flats: with no bills for fixing unsafe cladding and new statutory protections for leaseholders within the building safety bill.

Gove said: “More than four years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the system is broken. Leaseholders are trapped, unable to sell their homes and facing vast bills.

“But the developers and cladding companies who caused the problem are dodging accountability and have made vast profits during the pandemic whilst hard working families have struggled.

“From today, we are bringing this scandal to an end – protecting leaseholders and making industry pay.

“We will scrap proposals for loans and long-term debt for leaseholders in medium-rise buildings and give a guarantee that no leaseholder living in their own flat will pay a penny to fix dangerous cladding.

“Working with members of both houses, we will look to bring a raft of leaseholder protections into law through our building safety bill.

“And we will restore much-needed common sense on building safety assessments, ending the practice of too many buildings being declared unsafe.”

Reaction:

David Renard, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association (LGA), said: “No leaseholder should have to pay the costs of making their homes safe and the secretary of state’s threat to use the legal system to ensure developers meet their responsibilities to leaseholders is a positive step in the right direction. However, leaseholders are not the only innocent victims of the construction industry’s failure to build safe homes.

“The construction industry must also be made to fix the fire safety defects it has built into blocks owned by councils and housing associations. Unless the government forces the industry to act – or provides funding – we are concerned that the costs of fixing social housing blocks will fall on council housing revenue accounts and housing associations.

“This will reduce the funding available to meet the government’s ambitions for improvements to social housing, net zero and the provision of new social housing, leaving tenants and those on the waiting list to suffer the consequences of decades of industry failure and poor regulation. Like leaseholders, council tenants and those on the waiting list are innocent victims and the government needs to help them too.”

Mary-Anne Bowring, group managing director at Ringley, commented: “Leaseholders affected by the cladding crisis living in buildings between 11 and 18 metres have long been taken for granted in the government’s approach to fire safety remediation. The announcement today is vindication for thousands facing astronomical costs that come with replacing unsafe cladding.

“Those imprisoned by these costs still face an uphill struggle as funding will only cover cladding replacement when new legislation mandates much more substantial changes to meet fire safety compliance which come at a steep cost. We ought to also question how this funding will be secured, the accessibility of grants, and the transparency of a system which transfers responsibility from the true culprits who were largely wound down and disappeared post-Grenfell, to developers more broadly who face a blanket tax for the failure of a few.”

Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said: “More than four years on from the horrors of Grenfell, many people are still trapped in dangerous homes. This announcement is a welcome step in the right direction. Developers played a part in this cladding scandal so it’s only right they help to fix it.

“The government must act to make buildings safe as quickly as possible, but it must remember that safety and supply are both critical. As MPs including the former Conservative housing secretary made clear, funding shouldn’t come from the social housing budget. Right now, 126,000 children are homeless in England and many are waiting for a social home. The government and developers must get on with building the new social homes needed to fix the housing emergency once and for all.”

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyor (RICS) welcomed the announcement.

“While this solution will not cover all historic fire safety defects, we believe these steps could go a substantial way to freeing thousands of leaseholders from concern about the safety of their homes and the possible cost of remediating dangerous cladding.

“RICS is encouraged to see the new secretary of state proposing bold steps with the interests of leaseholders at their heart. We will consider its impact on valuation practice carefully with stakeholders.

“RICS has consistently taken a proportionate approach to valuation guidance which is evidence-based and supported by all market participants. The data, published by government, demonstrates that this proportionate approach is working, with EWS1 forms being requested in a small (and decreasing) number of valuations. We will continue to work with valuers and lenders to ensure that a proportionate approach is being applied consistently in practice and RICS’ Standards and Regulation Board will keep the guidance under review.”

10 January 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Liverpool council to consider adopting local plan

Liverpool City Council’s cabinet will consider whether or not to approve the city’s local plan, which provides for the development of nearly 35,000 homes and 145 hectares for business and jobs growth.

If approved, it will be considered by all councillors at a meeting on Wednesday 26 January.

Mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson said the local plan gives the council a foundation on which to deliver its “vision of improved communities, dealing with climate change and giving everyone an equal footing in life”.

“It is a fundamental part of our work to improve the quality and type of new developments, to rebalance the relationship between cars, pedestrians and bikes on our road network, meet our net-zero carbon commitment and embed social value in every decision we make.

“An important part of our work will be talking to landowners, developers and partner organisations to make sure they understand the new policy requirements in the local plan, and deliver positive outcomes on the ground for Liverpool’s communities.”

The meetings follow a six-week public consultation in the summer of 2021, after which a planning inspector deemed it sound subject to modifications.

The local plan seeks to sustainably develop the city; protect parks, open spaces and heritage; and make sure high-quality development and placemaking takes place. A policy has also been included that is intended to guide and manage development in the city centre, whereas others address the energy efficiency of buildings, sustainable and active travel, enhance green infrastructure, manage flood risk and minimise pollution.

It features a Tall Buildings Supplementary Planning Document that takes into account the sensitivity of key views.

The council said a key focus is making sure that development takes place on brownfield land and to allow for regeneration projects and job creation in the city’s main employment areas.

It added that the local plan will support the city plan published last year (pdf).

5 January 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Final Trent Basin neighbourhood phases submitted

Plans for the final phases of the Trent Basin neighbourhood project have been lodged with Nottingham City Council.

Trent Basin lies at the eastern edge of Nottingham’s wider Waterside Regeneration Zone.

The developer is Blueprint Regeneration (managed by igloo Regeneration), with the plans designed by Proctor & Matthews Architects, which is also the masterplanner for this phase of the project, alongside Sarah Wigglesworth Architects and Turner Works Architects.

The overall plan is for Trent Basin to be a sustainable neighbourhood, which is being built on a three-hectare site. It will comprise 300 “contemporary low-carbon homes” in total.

Phases four to eight of the project features 111 homes. The housing types offered include terraced homes, apartments, four-storey maisonette buildings and three-storey terraced houses to run along the outer edge of the site. Modern methods of construction will be used to build the homes.

These phases of the masterplan seek to reduce the dominance of vehicles and make streets more pedestrian-friendly environments. Plans include a sequence of residential courtyards, arranged and connected via semi-private pedestrian routes. Electric vehicle charging locations will be provided across the site. 

Samantha Veal, chief executive at Blueprint, said: “Trent Basin is a growing neighbourhood that is paving the way for sustainable living in Nottingham and changing the way local communities live together now and in the future. The development is already celebrated for its groundbreaking energy scheme and this next round of planning applications mark an exciting next step in the Trent Basin masterplan.”

Two of the first phases are complete and one is under construction.

11 January 2022

News round-up

Ealing approves next phases of Acton Gardens

Ealing Council has approved plans submitted by mixed-tenure developer Countryside and housing association L&Q for phases 9.3, 9.5 and 9.6 of Acton Gardens.

The £800 million scheme will deliver a total of 3,463 new homes on the former south Acton estate.

The 52-acre Acton Gardens site is located next to recently constructed phase 9.2 and opposite West Park. It will provide another 215 mixed-tenure homes, 50 per cent of which will be “affordable”.

It will also include new public spaces, a courtyard garden at both phases 9.5 and 9.6, alongside private gardens at all new houses in phase 9.3. This will see the completion of the western quarter of Acton Gardens. 

The site forms the remainder of phase 9 of the masterplan and will complete the Enfield Road Character Area, which serves as a gateway to Acton Gardens from Acton Town station and Bollo Lane.

Work is set to begin in late summer 2022 with the first completions due in 2024.


Royal borough approves Maidenhead regeneration plans

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead’s planning committee has approved plans submitted by mixed-tenure developer Countryside for the regeneration of Maidenhead town centre.

The royal borough and Countryside formed the Royal Borough Development Partnership in 2017 to deliver residential-led regeneration of four town centre sites in Maidenhead – York Road, Saint Cloud Way, West Street and Reform Road. The York Road regeneration scheme now known as Watermark has started. 

The Saint Cloud Way development is located on a former Magnet Leisure Centre site and will deliver 434 homes in a mix of houses, apartments and maisonettes, including 33 affordable rent and 54 shared-ownership homes. It is the second-largest placemaking opportunity and construction is expected to begin by mid-2022.

Connectivity will be improved across the site through the delivery of the new ‘missing links’ cycle route, a new pedestrian crossing and improvements to the existing subway that will provide safe and inclusive access into the town centre.

There will be 346 on-site parking spaces with 20 per cent of these incorporating active electric vehicle charging points and the remaining 80 per cent incorporating future electric car-charging capability. Secure parking spaces for 455 bicycles will also be delivered.


EnerPHit Plus secured for house in conservation area

An architect has secured EnerPHit Plus certification for a retrofit renovation project within the Harpenden Conservation area.

Local architect Heather McNeill, of A D Practice Ltd in Wheathampstead, secured the certification, which is the first in the South East and the third in the UK.

Enerphit Plus is a high standard for adapting existing properties to low-energy use and thermal efficiency. Such adaptations see properties generate more energy than it uses over an annual cycle.

Sustainable materials were used where possible to minimise the use of high embodied energy materials such as concrete and steel. Timber was used instead where appropriate, while a cellulose insulation was installed rather than a petrochemical-based PIR foam.


New president announced for BPF

The British Property Federation (BPF) has announced that Guy Grainger, global head of sustainability services & ESG at JLL, has become its president.

He succeeds David Partridge, chairman of Argent Related, who served as president from July 2020.

Grainger will work closely with chief executive Melanie Leech to “champion the role of real estate in delivering stronger, more resilient and productive communities across the country whilst meeting ambitious carbon reduction targets”.


RVG set to acquire ABC Cinema site in Tunbridge Wells

Retirement Villages Group (RVG) has agreed to acquire a 1.5-acre site on a former ABC Cinema in the centre of Tunbridge Wells.

RVG proposes to develop a new integrated retirement community located on Mount Pleasant Road and Church Road in Tunbridge Wells. It intends to develop 150-180 apartments with a café, restaurant, several retail units and a wellness facility. This will be available for use by the public.

It will deliver the scheme as ‘whole-life net-zero carbon’, which is a standard of sustainable development for carbon created in the operation of the building and during the construction process.

The developer says its 10-year plan is to acquire, develop and operate 5,000 homes across 30 to 40 new developments in urban locations across the UK.


Crest buys land for 2,220 homes

Housebuilder Crest Nicholson has acquired more than 2,200 plots with a Gross Development Value in excess of £725 million.

The company says it aims to deliver more than 3,000 homes annually by 2024. These will include one-bed apartments, five-bedroom houses across private sale, affordable and private rent, and shared ownership.

Its five acquisitions are located in Northwest Bicester (Oxfordshire), Daventry (Northamptonshire), Perrybrook in Brockworth (Gloucestershire), Harry Stoke (Bristol) and Ringwood (Hampshire).

In Northwest Bicester there will be a net-zero development, incorporating a combination of sustainable measures including enhanced building insulation, air source heat pumps, solar panels on roofs and electric vehicle charging points.

The housebuilder says placemaking will form an “important” aspect of the planned sites, with a particular emphasis in creating public open spaces, infrastructure, schools, community buildings, retail units and amenities.

Tom Nicholson, chief operating officer at Crest Nicholson, said: “With a volume of over 2,200 units, these are significant acquisitions in areas that have been identified by our land teams as key growth towns. Collectively, these form part of our ambitious strategy to continue to deliver growth on both our operating margin and volumes, securing high-quality land and expanding our already strong portfolio of sites across these regions.”

11 January 2022
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

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