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Planning news – 20 January 2022

by on January 20, 2022

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

Government proposes to make it easier for leaseholders to own their home

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has put out for consultation proposals to give leaseholders in mixed-use premises in England and Wales more control and ownership of their buildings.

The consultation comes after housing secretary Michael Gove wrote to developers earlier this week setting a deadline of early March to agree a plan of action that is fully funded to address the cladding crisis, including remediating unsafe cladding on buildings of 11 to 18 metres high.

The current system means that only some residential leaseholders in England and Wales can buy their building outright through enfranchisement or take over the management of the building through ‘right to manage’. If shops and other similar properties take up over 25 per cent of the total floor space, leaseholders cannot collectively bid to take control of their building.

The department is seeking views on giving leaseholders the ability to manage or own their properties. This would apply to buildings where there is a mixture of homes and other non-residential facilities, such as shops and restaurants.

Under the proposals the 25 per cent limit would increase to 50 per cent, enabling leaseholders to have more control over how shared facilities are run and have the final say on building maintenance costs.

The consultation document also suggests measures to make it cheaper for leaseholders to collectively buy their freehold. The proposal includes a ‘mandatory leaseback’ that would require landlords to keep some properties in the building under lease to reduce the cost of a collective buyout of the building – “making it a reality for thousands more leaseholders”.

Leasehold minister Lord Stephen Greenhalgh said: “The current leasehold system is outdated, unbalanced and broken and we are determined to fix it.

“Our proposals aim to rebalance power and should see more leaseholders than ever before owning the full rights to their homes.

“This comes on top of our new approach to building safety, which includes decisive action to protect leaseholders.”

Julie James, Welsh minister for climate change, added: “I welcome this consultation as an important step towards implementing the Law Commission’s recommendations on leasehold reform, which were jointly commissioned by the Welsh and UK governments. I want us to work together on these important reforms to ensure they reflect the best interests of leaseholders in Wales.”

The consultation, which closes on 22 February, can be found on the UK Government website.

13 January 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Mid Wales Growth Deal is signed off

The Welsh and UK governments, alongside the representative local authorities, have signed the Final Deal Agreement for the Mid Wales Growth Deal.

The deal comprises a combined investment of £110 million and is expected to leverage further investment from other public and private sector sources.

The local authorities involved are Ceredigion County Council and Powys County Council.

Programmes and projects that will be supported by the growth deal should bring social and economic benefits, such as enhanced quality of life, creating business opportunities following the Covid-19, decarbonisation in industry and consideration of climate change impacts.

The potential outcomes of the deal include the creation of between 1,100 and 1,400 jobs by 2032 and support a net additional GVA uplift of between £570 million and £700 million for the Mid Wales economy by 2032.

Ellen ap Gwynn, leader of Ceredigion County Council and joint chair of the Growing Mid Wales Board, said: “We’d both like to thank the UK Government and Welsh Government for the support and commitment shown to ensure this hugely significant investment for Mid Wales. Both Rosemarie [Harris] and myself have worked tirelessly over recent years to ensure this investment turned into a reality, and this signing at last marks the final phases of development before the funding can start flowing.

Harris, leader of Powys County Council, added: “We’ve worked hard to secure this investment in what has been a challenging period as businesses and the public sector have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

13 January 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Second-home loophole to be closed in England

Levelling up and housing secretary Michael Gove has announced that owners of second homes who ‘abuse’ a tax loophole by claiming they are holiday lets will have to pay up from next year.

Following a consultation on the proposed measures, changes to the tax system will go ahead.

Owners of second homes will have to pay council tax if their properties are not genuine holiday lets, said the government. The changes will target people who take advantage of the system so as not to pay towards local services in destinations such as Cornwall, Devon, the Lake District, Suffolk, West Sussex and the Isles of Scilly.

Concerns had been raised that people weren’t actually letting their second homes but left them sitting empty.

From April 2023, second homeowners will be required to prove holiday lets are being rented out for a minimum of 70 days a year to access small business rates relief, where they meet the criteria.

Evidence could include the website or brochure where the property is advertised for holiday let, letting details and receipts. Properties will have to be rented out for 140 days a year to qualify for this relief.

Gove said: “The government backs small businesses, including responsible short-term letting, which attracts tourists and brings significant investment to local communities.

“However, we will not stand by and allow people in privileged positions to abuse the system by unfairly claiming tax relief and leaving local people counting the cost.

“The action we are taking will create a fairer system, ensuring that second homeowners are contributing their share to the local services they benefit from.”

Kurt Jansen, director of the Tourism Alliance commented: “Establishing these new operational thresholds for self-catering businesses is welcomed by the tourism industry as it makes a very important distinction between commercial self-catering businesses that provide revenue and employment for local communities, and holiday homes which lie vacant for most of the year.

“It is recognition that tourism is the lifeblood of many small towns and villages, maintaining the viability of local shops, pubs and attractions.”

17 January 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Partnership to tackle nature recovery proposed

The government has proposed establishing a national landscapes partnership that brings together those responsible for managing national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in England so they can collaborate to tackle nature recovery and improve public access.

The government said the organisations’ independence would be preserved but the partnership would support local leadership to work together nationally, to carry out campaigns, organise events and offer volunteering opportunities that bring people closer to nature.

The partnership is part of the government’s response to Julian Glover’s Landscapes Review.

Environment secretary George Eustice said the measures would represent “a new chapter in the story of our protected landscapes”.

“These reforms will play a pivotal role in meeting our international commitment to protect 30 per cent of land for biodiversity by 2030 as we build back greener.”

The consultation, which is open for 12 weeks, asks for views on proposals to drive nature recovery and support for the communities that live and work within them, such as the design and delivery of new agri-environment schemes and an ambitious management plan for each area.

Other proposals included in the consultation:

  • To encourage improved access to protected landscapes and nature for all parts of society, particularly where this supports improved public health and wellbeing. The government notes Natural England research that showed that approximately a third of those on the lowest incomes visited a natural space in a typical week during the pandemic, compared with almost 60 per cent among those on high incomes.
  • Continued support for the local communities that live and work in protected landscapes, helping preserve heritage for future generations.
  • Driving nature recovery and nature-based solutions within protected landscapes to help to address the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change.
  • Applying structural changes and resources to support our protected landscapes in delivering more for nature, climate, people and places.

Tony Juniper, chair of Natural England, welcomed the measures, which would help it “deliver even more for the whole of society and combat the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss. We look forward to playing a leading role in the national landscapes partnership and working closely with government, protected landscape bodies and stakeholders to deliver these ambitious proposals”.

Reaction:

Dr Kevin Bishop, chief executive at Dartmoor National Park Authority, said: “Since the Landscapes Review was published, the world has changed; the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of connecting people with nature for health and wellbeing benefits and a bright light has been shone on the role protected landscapes play in dealing with the climate and ecological crisis we all face.”

He said the authority would review the government’s response against three key tests:

  • An end to austerity with adequate and sustained financial investment so we can build back better and lead the way towards a green recovery.
  • Recognise the role that national parks and AONBs are playing in tackling the three crises facing us: climate, ecological and public health and provide us with the tools and support to do even more in these areas.
  • Celebrate the fact that our national parks and AONBs are global models of how to manage living landscapes: integrating conservation, recreation and the needs of our local communities.

“With the right resources and powers we can continue to welcome people to this amazing landscape for years to come, help our communities flourish and ensure we lead the response to the ecological, climate and public health crises.”

Andrew McCloy, chair of Peak District National Park Authority, commented: “The Landscapes Review underlined the value of National Parks to the nation’s physical and mental good health, amply demonstrated during the pandemic, and we are looking to build on this so that a younger and more diverse audience can benefit from the restorative powers of nature, landscape and the outdoors. This is already happening through engaging programmes such as Generation Green with our partners.

“As national parks, we can continue to be a beacon within our protected landscapes, for example, by responding to global issues such as climate change; the Peak District has already been at the heart of innovative peatland restoration for many years. Locally, we’re taking steps to reverse the decline in nature and delivering for the future of the farmed landscape through the government’s Farming in Protected Landscapes scheme.

“The Peak District stands ready to once again play a pivotal role in this new era for National Parks, but to ensure that the benefits are maximised and long lasting we endorse the review’s call for enhanced powers and sustained central support for all protected landscapes.”

The consultation closes on Saturday 9 April 2022. It can be found here.

18 January 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

College in Oxford to be redeveloped

Oxford City Council has granted planning permission and listed building consent for the extensive redevelopment of Hertford College (University of Oxford), including the construction of a new two-storey building.

The permissions were secured by property consultant Carter Jonas.

The plan is intended to create a modern and accessible library by constructing a basement extension. A 1960s extension will be demolished and a two-storey building delivered, featuring seminar and lecture theatres, new communal areas, offices and modern storage spaces.

The project will also open up this internationally recognised college to visitors and to local schools through the OxLibris project, said Carter Jonas.

The consent sanctions repairs and conservation work to be carried out on the exterior stonework to the listed building, and the original circulation route between the Quad and the Old Chapel will be reinstated. Ecological enhancements such as new habitats for bats and swifts will also be established.

The permission was granted on 21 December. Carter Jonas worked alongside architect MICA, heritage consultant Donald Insall Associates, Oxford Archaeology and project manager CPC.

12 January 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

News round-up

Leeds approves British Library redevelopment plans

Leeds City Council has approved plans to transform a British Library site at Boston Spa in West Yorkshire into a modern archive capable of storing its growing collection.

The £95 million redevelopment of the 44-acre former Second World War armaments factory site will create storage capacity, improving facilities for staff and visitors and making “significant” improvements to the environmental sustainability of the site.

A new low-carbon archive will be created and new green spaces designed to support biodiversity.

The library has also secured £8.5 million from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) grant for energy-saving initiatives such as solar panels, heat pumps and smart meters.

A 220km of extra shelf space will be created in a new high-density, automated storage building, which will have the highest possible level of air tightness creating a low-energy passive archive.

Phil Spence, chief operating officer of the British Library, said: “A national library is, by its very nature, a long-term investment and an expression of hope in the future, so it’s essential that sustainability should be at the heart of this development. It marks a major step forward towards transforming our presence in the north of England and creating a sustainable British Library for everyone.”


Work begins on Blackburn development

Regeneration work in the Higher Croft region of Blackburn, Lancashire, has begun.

Developer Countryside, Together Housing Group and Blackburn with Darwen Council will deliver 377 homes on land by Fishmoor Drive and Roman Road.

Called Brookfield Vale, the development will be built on three brownfield plots earmarked by Blackburn with Darwen Council for redevelopment. Two sites were owned by the council and the third was owned by Together Housing Group. The council sold its sites to enable the regeneration.

The development comprises 377 two, three and four-bedroom houses, 20 per cent of which have been designated as affordable. Together Housing will deliver the affordable homes and they will be available for rent, managed by PRS provider Sigma Capital. The remaining 154 homes will be designated for open market sale.


L&G acquires SBTR scheme in Peterborough

Legal & General has acquired a suburban build-to-rent (SBTR) scheme in Great Haddon, Peterborough, for £25 million to deliver 117 new family rental homes.

The development will be delivered by mixed-tenure developer Countryside and will consist of existing woodland and new water features as well as new schools and community amenities to be delivered as part of the wider site. The homes will consist of two, three and four bedroom units. 

L&G says Great Haddon will be community focused and service-led, offering residents choice, security of tenure and flexibility.

Its SBTR developments aim to be operationally carbon net zero from 2030 and will be designed to incorporate home offices and offer access to more extensive outdoor space.

Matt Bench, chief investment officer at Countryside, said: “As a mixed-tenure developer, providing quality homes that meet requirements for a wide range of different individuals is important to us. As well as offering options that help families to get on the property ladder, suburban build-to-rent homes such as those available at Great Haddon will combine great places to live in an attractive, family-friendly setting with high standards of management and service. We’re excited to be working with Legal & General and bringing this suburban build-to-rent scheme to life.”


Wolverhampton to invest £118m in new housing

The City of Wolverhampton Council aims to invest £118 million in new homes over the next five years, subject to approval through the Housing Revenue Account Business Plan.

Housing developments have started at Heath Town estate, with more than 200 homes planned. The refurbishment programme for the estate will also see improvements to eight tower blocks with refinements such as sprinkler system installations and more efficient heating systems.

A “detailed” asset management strategy is being worked on to see how many of the council’s 4,100 non-traditional-built homes might need replacing.

The housing plan also includes £4.5 million to refurbish Bond House and convert it into 34 units of supported accommodation and services for single people with a history of rough sleeping and homelessness.

Proposals will be discussed at the cabinet on 19 January and will then go forward to the full council.

18 January 2022
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

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