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Planning news – 3 February 2022

by on February 3, 2022

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

Pincher sets out new planning appeal monitoring measures

Housing minister Christopher Pincher has written to the Planning Inspectorate’s (PINS) chief executive Sarah Richards outlining new measures for appeals, including an expectation to reduce average times for decisions.

The letter also sets forth that the government will work on what is necessary to achieve “a further significant improvement in appeal decision timeliness beyond the new measures”.

The new measures for appeals are:

  • An expectation that measures are put in place through the new digital services to prevent invalid appeals being made and that appeals are increasingly submitted “right first time”.
  • Measuring decision timeliness from valid receipt of an appeal through to decision to reflect the whole customer experience.
  • An expectation that average times for decisions will be reduced, as well as reducing the range of time within which decisions are made. The average time to decide written representations cases currently varies between 20 and 30 weeks, with some determined as quickly as eight weeks but some taking more than a year. This range provides insufficient customer certainty.
  • Moving progressively towards all cases across all appeal types being decided within these ranges:

                  – wholly written representations: 16-20 weeks.

                  – partly or wholly by hearing: 24-26 weeks.

                  – partly or wholly by inquiry: 24-26 weeks (reflecting the previous Rosewell target).

                  – publishing the number of cases we have quality assured.

The measures that won’t be used are:

  • The range of different target times for different appeal types: eight, 14, 22, 24, 26, 28, 32, 33 or 43 weeks depending on the appeal type.
  • The target of fewer than one per cent of decisions being the subject of successful legal challenge.
  • Targets based on the ‘start’ date (which is not at the ‘start’ of the customer experience of PINS services).

The statutory time frames for national infrastructure applications (NSIPs) and the target for local plans remain the same. However, they may change when current proposals for wider reforms are finalised.

Pincher writes: “As you know, the government is also committed to improving and modernising the planning system. The work you are undertaking to develop 21st-century digital public services is an important part of this. I would welcome you complementing that by identifying what steps might be necessary to achieve a further significant consistent improvement in appeal timescales beyond those above so that most appeals could be consistently decided in four – eight weeks, or faster, whilst maintaining good standards of decision. Consideration can then be given to whether these steps might be appropriate.”

Richards commented: “The measures by which ministers assess the Planning Inspectorate’s performance have needed updating for a considerable time to better reflect what our customers want. The replacement measures are good news for us and our customers and will support us implementing ongoing improvements.

“We know our decisions are currently taking too long and customers tell us their experience of our services is too inconsistent. We are working hard to improve this in the short term and continue to invest in recruiting and training more inspectors. Achieving the ambition of these new measures will not be quick, or without dissatisfaction from some, but everyone at the Planning Inspectorate will work together to achieve them.

“We are also investing in the long term, building digital public services which will be at the forefront of a digital planning system and piloting innovative new approaches which have the potential to support both our work and the wider planning system.

“I welcome the minister’s request to report to him on what would be necessary to support a further significant improvement in appeals. This recognises the importance of a fair appeal system to the nation’s economy and is an important opportunity to reflect on how the appeal system can be reframed to operate sustainably for the future. We will engage with key stakeholders on this in due course before we report to the minister.”

Read Christopher Pincher’s letter here on the UK Government website (pdf).

31 January 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Wolverhampton and Sheffield are first places to receive government levelling-up support

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has announced that 20 towns and cities will be transformed through a ‘radical’ regeneration programme.

This pledge forms part of the government’s levelling-up agenda, the white paper for which is due to be published this week.

Wolverhampton and Sheffield will be the first of 20 places to receive government support; planned regeneration projects are set to “create urban areas people will be proud to live and work in”.

The government said local leaders in Wolverhampton would be given the tools needed to “catalyse the revival” of the city and the wider Wolverhampton-to-Walsall corridor. This builds on the city’s £20 million allocation from the Levelling Up Fund.

Regeneration projects in Sheffield will also build on the city’s £37 million investment from the Levelling Up Fund, as well as the Integrated Rail Plan, which features electrification and upgrades intended to cut journey times between Sheffield and London to 87 minutes.

The £1.5 billion Brownfield Fund will also prioritise these 20 towns and cities, said the department. It added that as part of a wider package of brownfield funding worth £120 million, £28 million will be allocated to the West Midlands Combined Authority and £13 million for the South Yorkshire Combined Authority, “to fund the projects most needed to support local levelling-up ambitions”.

Homes England will lead this regeneration programme, helping local leaders to regenerate large areas of towns and cities – entailing aspects such as housing, health, education, leisure facilities, roads and railways – as they adapt to economic trends such as the rise of online shopping.

The government added that it would work with devolved administrations to explore the best way of supporting places across the UK.

Levelling-up secretary Michael Gove said: “We are on a mission to regenerate the nation, transforming derelict areas in our towns and cities into thriving places people are proud to live and work in.

“We are refocusing Homes England and empowering local leaders to support levelling up, delivering King’s Cross-style transformational regeneration projects across the country – starting in Wolverhampton and Sheffield.

“This huge investment in infrastructure and regeneration will spread opportunity more evenly and help to reverse the geographical inequalities which still exist in the UK.”

Homes England chair Peter Freeman CBE added: “A sense of a place and indeed a pride of place are crucial to thriving communities. Our expanded mandate will allow us to further support ambitious local leaders in delivering placemaking and regeneration alongside a wide range of public and private sector partners.

“We have many years of experience undertaking a broad range of brownfield land and regeneration projects which combined with full use of our statutory powers and funding means we’re well positioned to transform places and communities.”

Later this week the government is expected to launch a £1.5 billion Levelling Up Home Building Fund, which will provide loans to small and medium-sized builders and developers to deliver 42,000 homes. Most of the money will be allocated outside London and the South East. And £120 million of funding will be given to seven mayoral combined authorities to transform derelict brownfield sites (West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, North of Tyne and Tees Valley).

Three mayoral combined authorities – Greater Manchester, Tees Valley and West Midlands – will receive a share of £30 million to go towards transforming disused brownfield land, and £8 million from Brownfield Land Release Fund (BLRF) is being allocated to 13 councils to help deliver housing.

Reaction:

Victoria Hills, chief executive of the RTPI, said the institute is “reservedly optimistic of the secretary of state’s initial briefing”.

“There is clear recognition of the built environment’s vital role in addressing economic inequality and shifting power closer to communities. Planning is more than delivering homes; it encompasses transport, health, work, environmental sustainability and other policy areas across the missions that Michael Gove has mentioned.

“The regeneration of 20 towns and cities is a positive first step for the levelling-up white paper. Previous regeneration projects have put strategic planning at their heart and shown how the planning system can set the context for development, creating a more sustainable and healthier built environment. The RTPI hopes the model established by these schemes can be adopted across England to help communities restore pride in the places they live, work and interact.

“Our members will be encouraged by these initial announcements. Planners are passionate about the communities that they live and work in. Our members tell us consistently that being resourced appropriately to engage communities and reflect their needs in development is the most important factor. The right level of support can help to make a planner’s career fulfilling and bring planning professionals to the table early and often can create better economies of scale.

“The RTPI will be keeping a close watch in the coming days, but it is our ambition that the planning system will be provided with the adequate recognition and resourcing necessary to benefit housing delivery, better-quality development and regional imbalances to create and shape communities that citizens can be proud of.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Here in the West Midlands we have been the real pioneers of a brownfield-first approach to housing, using government cash to remediate derelict old industrial sites and turn them into thriving new communities – all whilst protecting irreplaceable green belt land.

“So I am absolutely delighted that the government are continuing to support our work, putting further funding on the table so we can build on the progress we have already made. I am particularly pleased to see the new funding for Wolverhampton, which is really at the heart of the brownfield revolution taking place in the West Midlands.

Dan Jarvis, the Mayor of South Yorkshire, said: “I warmly welcome this support for regeneration in Sheffield and South Yorkshire. It’s a much-needed recognition of the potential of our region.

“Giving Homes England a wider focus on regeneration is also a very positive move, as is their commitment to support local and regional leadership. We’ve always argued for a more joined-up approach, and lasting progress can only be driven from our communities. The key challenge will be ensuring that this comes with the long-term, transformative investment we need, and that it connects not just housing and buildings but skills, public services and environment.

“We’re looking forward to working with the government to realise the ambition we all share to create a better future for Sheffield and South Yorkshire.”

31 January 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Cardiff city centre rejuvenation proposals promised

The city council has published a five-year plan to reimagine and revitalise Cardiff city centre in a post-pandemic world.

Central to this plan is the idea of a managed city centre delivering more job opportunities, served by a fully integrated transport network. The centre will be green and biodiverse and make use of the rivers and canals.

The council will prepare a streetscape design guide for the city centre, consolidating and updating existing guidance to ensure that new and existing streets, spaces, and buildings are developed with high-quality architecture, landscape and biodiversity standards

Commercial premises will be encouraged to upgrade building/shop frontages and to raise design standards, focusing on historic buildings and conservation areas. Cardiff Market will be regenerated.

A new capital city high street is planned with an enhanced public realm, including greening, art, wayfinding, and amenity spaces, following the historic central ‘spine’ from Cardiff Castle, through High Street/St Mary Street, Callaghan Square and Lloyd George Avenue, terminating at Cardiff Bay and the docks.

The council will also develop proposals for new landmark squares and public spaces at the Canal Quarter, Callaghan Square, Central Quay, University/ Cultural Quarter, The Embankment, Mount Stuart Square, Boulevard de Nantes, and Westgate Street.

The local authority has committed to a green asset plan and will work with partners to green the city centre, with large-scale interventions such as street greening, increased tree planting and the installation of green roofs/walls on new/redeveloped buildings.

Also In prospect is a network of new public green areas including large new parks at: Callaghan Square, Lloyd George Avenue, and the Taff River Embankment.

28 January 2022
Roger Milne, The Planner

Housebuilders report an increase in workloads

A survey has found that housebuilders report a 19 per cent increase in workloads, while the industrial and commercial sector saw an 8 per cent rise.

The Federation of Master Builders’ (FMB) State of Trade Survey of its members – covering the fourth quarter of 2021 – also shows that 86 per cent of respondents believe that now is the time to introduce mandatory licensing for building firms.

The FMB says licensing would “professionalise the industry, remove rogue traders and help protect consumers”.

The poll found:

  • 86 per cent of FMB members want the UK Government to introduce a mandatory licensing regime to help to raise standards in the building industry.
  • The repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI) sector is performing most strongly, with 32 per cent of respondents reporting an increased workload this quarter.
  • Housebuilders report a 19 per cent increased workload, and the industrial and commercial sector only an 8 per cent increase.
  • Despite this growth, all sectors have lower rises in workload than in Q3 2021.
  • 43 per cent of builders are struggling to hire carpenters/joiners, down 4 per cent on last quarter.
  • 41 per cent of FMB members are finding it difficult to hire bricklayers, down 4 per cent on last quarter.
  • 95 per cent of FMB members report an increase in material costs in Q4 2021.
  • 91 per cent of respondents expect material costs to increase in Q1 2022.
  • 74 per cent of builders have raised their prices for work.

Brian Berry, chief executive at the FMB, said: “The FMB State of Trade Survey shows loud and clear that the industry is crying out to be regulated. In what other walk of life could you have so much responsibility regarding the safety of consumers and not need any basic level of competence? 

“The government need to listen to industry on this matter. They are the boots on the ground that have seen the shoddy and dangerous work cowboy builders deliver. Rogue traders take work away from quality builders and leave consumers out of pocket. With the cost of living rising the issue will only get worse as consumers are drawn in by unscrupulous builders offering unrealistic timelines and prices.”

31 January 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Tendring adopts local plan

Tendring District Council has adopted its local plan in full, which covers the period to 2033.

At a full council meeting on 25 January, councillors approved the second and final section of the Tendring Local Plan.

The first section of the local plan, which was submitted alongside Colchester Borough Council and Braintree District Council, was adopted in 2021. At the end of 2020, a planning inspector concluded that section one of the local plan was sound.

Section two is unique to Tendring, providing more detail on where housing and other development will take place within the district.

In November 2021 the inspectors confirmed the plan to be legally compliant and sound and, with their recommended changes implemented, could be adopted.

Neil Stock OBE, leader and cabinet member for planning at Tendring District Council, said: “Having an up-to-date local plan is critical for the future of an area, allowing a strategic shape to be given to development to ensure it happens in a controlled and sustainable way.

“The local plan underpins not only planning, but economic growth, our natural environment, and so much more; shaping where we work, spend leisure time and everything else in between.”

Nick Turner, chairman of the planning policy and local plan committee, added: “This plan is robust, and is already showing its worth in the latest appeal decisions. It will serve all of us, and most importantly the residents of Tendring, well.”

27 January 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

News round-up

Twyford backs neighbourhood plan

Residents have voted in favour of Twyford Neighbourhood Plan, by 349 votes to 70.

The neighbourhood plan is the final piece in the housing strategy for the South Downs Local Plan, which was adopted in 2019. Several neighbourhood plans still needed to be completed at the time of adoption.

Once the Twyford plan is formally adopted, it will mean 40 neighbourhood plans will be incorporated into the local plan for the South Downs National Park. Some communities are still developing their plans, but they do not include housing allocations.

Arundel was the first community to approve its neighbourhood plan in 2014. 

Lucy Howard, planning policy manager for the national park, said: “Local communities sit at the heart of our landscape-led local plan and this is a great achievement for them and everyone who has worked so hard on these neighbourhood development plans.

“These adopted plans are a powerful way of local people helping to shape where and what development happens in their communities.”


Report outlines climate change challenges for railway

Network Rail has published a report outlining the risk to Britain’s railways as a result of climate change and the measures that will be required to improve resilience.

The report was published in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Network Rail says the impact of the changing climate has been increasingly evident in recent years; the railway has suffered “more frequent and more severe extreme weather events”.

The report highlights weather trends that point towards an increased frequency of extreme drier periods followed by prolonged and extreme wet weather in the coming years. Such events will accelerate deterioration of earthworks and put pressure on drainage systems and other rail infrastructure, increasing the likelihood of critical coping thresholds being exceeded.

Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “Climate change is having an undeniable impact on our infrastructure and the effects are forecast to be greater still in the coming years. More infrastructure failures would mean delays for passengers and our freight partners, who move thousands of tonnes of goods across the country by rail.

“As the greenest form of large-scale transport, it’s critical we can continue delivering low-carbon travel to customers. While there is no silver bullet to making our railway more resilient to the effect of climate change, the action plan outlined in this report demonstrates the progress we are committed to making.”

The report can be found on the Network Rail website (pdf).


Protection needed for South Bank, says petition

Coin Street Community Builders (CSCB) and Waterloo Community Development Group (WCDG) have called for the protection of London’s South Bank.

A proposal by Mitsubishi and its developers CO-RE would see office blocks constructed in the place of ITV’s former London Studios.

A petition calls on the decision-makers at Lambeth Council to listen to the hundreds of objections raised to the proposed redevelopment and rethink what is needed.

More information can be found here.


Environmentally friendly homes to be designed in Liverpool

Changing Streams CIC has formed a partnership with Your Housing Group and the University of Liverpool to design and build six prototype houses in Liverpool.

The partnership aims to create economically viable housing that is environmentally friendly to help to reduce heating costs and fuel poverty.

The six prototype houses will be located in the Liverpool City Region with the first house designed and built to prioritise carbon reduction. The second will prioritise plastic reduction, and the final four will be developed as hybrid carbon/plastic-reduced homes that will be used to identify and address the potential clashes between these two objectives.

Once these have been built, six families will move in and the research team will observe how they function in day-to day-life.

Brian Cronin, chief executive of Your Housing Group, said: “The prototypes we develop within this partnership will be highly innovative – but they may not be the final solution. As a business we intend to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible and as an industry we must be prepared to make such commitments if we are to achieve our goals in reducing climate change and environmental pollution.”


Camden approves new hotel plans

Camden Council has approved plans submitted by RE Capital to build a new ‘lifestyle’ hotel at 7AB&C Bayham Street. 

Dexter Moren Associates (DMA) has been appointed by RE Capital to enhance the hotel scheme with the aim of increasing capacity and improving its design and ESG credentials.

DMA has increased the capacity from 58 rooms in the original planning consent to 70. It has also reconfigured guest rooms to improve the general circulation and standardise the layouts and added 10 guest rooms at basement level.

It will feature 5,810 square feet of co-working office space and a reconfigured reception area, with a “unique” speakeasy bar at ground-floor level.

The hotel will provide a hospitality offer to the area and will be situated next to international live music venue KOKO Theatre. 


Housing plans submitted in Hemel Hempstead

Design firm rg+p has submitted plans on behalf of Dacorum Borough Council to regenerate a brownfield site in the centre of Hemel Hempstead.  

If approved, 56 new homes and a purpose-built headquarters for homeless charity DENS will be built on a Paradise Depot site located off St Albans Road, east of the town centre. It is currently occupied by the DENS office and food bank as well as other commercial/industrial premises.

The design by rg+p proposes a two-storey building for the charity with a ground-floor food bank and bike workshop together with first-floor community café, office space, kitchen and multifunctional meeting rooms. The building will feature a shared surface with a new apartment block of 56 one and two-bedroom homes. These will have a private balcony.

Additionally, cycle and scooter storage, car parking, residents’ garden and landscaping will be incorporated into the overall design.

Grant Giblett, the project’s lead and rg+p’s director, said: “Paradise Depot occupies a central location within Hemel Hempstead; there are plenty of amenities nearby, it’s easily accessible by public transport and is bordered by a public park so is entirely suited for a modern, mixed-use development.

“Our design has sought to create a real sense of place, not just somewhere to live and work, but an attractive, sustainable environment that will wholly benefit the community.”


PJA joins Active Travel England

Birmingham-based PJA has secured a role in the consultant team that will help to shape the new agency body Active Travel England (ATE).

ATE will be led by former racing cyclist Chris Boardman as interim commissioner.

It has responsibility for driving up the standards of cycling and walking infrastructure and managing the national active travel budget, awarding funding for projects that meet the new national standards set out in 2020.

As part of the consultant team, PJA will help establish processes and protocols as well as carry out inspections of planned designs referring to Local Transport Note 1/20, which PJA authored.

01 February 2022
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, The Planner

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