John Helyar

Big announcements across the UK and Sheffield Region

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has delivered his first Budget and set the scene for bold growth and investment in UK Businesses and Infrastructure. Key announcements include that more than £600bn is set to be spent on infrastructure by the middle of 2025, small to medium businesses can expect to benefit from cuts to business rates, funding for green transport solutions will rise by £1 billion and a detailed spending review is intended to put regional prosperity back at the heart of spending decisions.

In the midst of these pledges, Sheffield City Region have unveiled plans for their biggest ever development project – a £1.5bn plan to transform the area around Sheffield Station making the most of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. Their 20 year plan is to undertake huge infrastructure and public realm improvements including the closure of Park Square roundabout and Sheaf Street to make way for a new tram route, a landscaped pedestrian bridge that would link Park Hill with Howard Street and a new park and link to Victoria Quays, Castlegate and West Bar. Reconfiguring the area will connect the train station with Heart of the City II and create new development opportunities for the city centre.

We can’t wait to hear more tomorrow from Sheffield City Council at the alternative MPIM event and discuss how large-scale regional infrastructure investment could translate into a sustainable future for Sheffield and bring investment, jobs and homes to the heart of the city.

John HelyarBig announcements across the UK and Sheffield Region
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Planning for The Future – Government White Paper Announced March 2020

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, has made a Ministerial Statement on planning reform today (12/3/20) to be considered as part of a White Paper alongside the Spring Spending Review. The Statement outlines proposals for changes to the planning system and the need to improve the capacity, capability and performance of local planning authorities and to accelerate the development process to support the delivery of homes, utilise brownfield land and create greener communities.

The Statement outlines a series of reforms for consultation, including a reform of planning fees to resource planning authorities and automatic rebate of fees where planning applications are successful at appeal to promote proper consideration of applications by planning committees.

Delivering a green housing revolution is also recognised as a key contributor to the Government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050. As part of this, the Government will continue to back brownfield development, encourage greater building in urban areas and introduce new tools to support communities to ‘densify’ and make best use of underutilised brownfield land.

There are also future proposals for a Building Safety Bill, a Renters’ Reform Bill and a Social Housing White Paper. These will form the basis of a housing strategy to be published later in the year which will set out longer-term plans to deliver new housing with the intention of creating a fairer housing market.

DLP’s briefing note on the Statement can be found here

John HelyarPlanning for The Future – Government White Paper Announced March 2020
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A day in the Life of a Chief Planner

Molly Gallagher from our Bristol office participated in the RTPI’s ‘Chief Planners of Tomorrow’ initiative, where young planners are paired with a senior leader from a Local Planning Authority for the day to see what it’s like at the top! Below Molly gives her reflections on a great day.

On Tuesday 25th March I had the pleasure of joining the Planning Team at Birmingham City Council (BCC) for the day, to shadow Ian MacLeod, Interim Director of Inclusive Growth, having applied to the RTPI Chief Planners of Tomorrow initiative. I owe a huge thank you to the RTPI and Ian and his team for providing the opportunity, time, and the organisation of a fantastic day.

Whilst I work in the private sector at DLP Planning, I am in the public sector team and provide  support to Local Authorities and other public sector bodies and ground across the country with plan making, policy and evidence studies. Having worked many times with, but never directly for, a Local Authority, I saw the RTPI Chief Planners of Tomorrow programme as a fantastic opportunity to see and experience the planning profession from within the Local Authority.

I feel that I was very lucky to have been matched up with BCC, not only to see the largest Local Authority in Europe at work, but also that the day coincided with Sue Manns RTPI Presidential visit to Birmingham, providing additional value to the day.

A break in the rain on our tour of Perry Barr, with Sue Manns (RTPI President) and Ian MacLeod (BCC Chief Planner and Interim Director of Inclusive Growth).

The day truly did have a packed programme. I took away a great deal of insight, and importantly, it proved to be a really positive experience that has given me confidence and energy from meeting and talking to such accomplished and senior people who took an interest in my career. I would highly recommend this programme to anyone thinking of applying in the future.

The level of activity and ambition for the City  at the Council was fantastic to see, and during the day I experienced a wider variety of strategic matters, such as the experience of the Labour Council’s relationship with Central Government and  the scale of the LPA projects being undertaken . I could also see how planning at the Council was being undertaken, not as a technocrat exercise, but one of partnerships and practical on the ground delivery. I have certainly taken away a more a rounded understanding of the approach within Council’s,  that I will take with me in the work we do at DLP for Local Planning Authorities.

On the day

Having met up with Vicky Madden, my fellow Young Planner shadowing on the day, who was also my wonderfully helpful City guide (New Street Station being my main previous interaction with the city), we arrived at BCC and were greeted by Ian and the Planning Policy Team.

The site visit to Perry Barr was certainly a highlight, where we joined Sue Manns and the RTPI West Midlands group for a tour and presentation on this major residential redevelopment scheme in the north of the City. As Sue remarked, in 2022 when the project is complete, people need to know and realise the role that planning has in creating this, and we need to champion the profession to the public on high profile projects such as these!

The Perry Barr Residential Scheme underway

We were met on site by Ashley Innes, the BCC Project Manager of this ambitious development. There was a great deal of activity to be seen, especially from the wide view from the top floor balcony of the contractor base, with work cracking on at pace to meet each critical milestone. We were shown the new secondary school was being constructed, and ground works being prepared, and the on-site training facility for skills and apprenticeships.

As a planner, particularly one that is generally involved in setting the policy framework for Local Plans, it is always exciting to see projects coming to life. Ian and Ashley provided presentations on the planning work gone into the scheme, describing their roles all aspects from the master planning approach to the land assembly, negotiations and acquisitions between Homes England, Department for Education, Birmingham City University, and the CPO of private land. For me it was interesting to see the role that the planning policy framework had played – having identified Perry Barr as a strategic area for redevelopment in the Birmingham Development Plan., this allowed for the rapid mobilisation of a project around the site when the opportunity and funding suddenly appeared. It was great to hear the discussion of the priorities and focuses in the City Development Frameworks – real focus in Birmingham having declared a climate emerging is on developing their ‘Route to Zero’ approach to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Ashely Innes (BCC) presenting on the development of the Perry Barr masterplan

Vicky and I were then able to have a meeting with Sue, over a break , who generously took great interest in our careers. We were able to discuss all sorts of topics, including women in planning, ethics in the profession, and she impressed on us her advice on the importance of chartership and the value of the competencies of an RTPI planner abroad.

We re-joined Ian on his back to back diary appointments, and sat in on a meeting with Adnan Saif and Russell Poulton from the West Midlands Canals and Rivers Trust. It was very interesting to listen to the approach to partnership working here – in presenting the key aims of the Trust and area of focus, Ian was able to look at the opportunities for alignment of the Trusts goals to those of the Council and where they could work together. Again, it was very interesting to see how the Council’s strategic priorities and agendas always at the forefront of discussion, the Council’s ‘Route to Zero’ strategy again providing the hooks to open up areas of opportunity. It showed me the way in which productive and positive discussion can open up to find ways the Trust and the Council could work together in partnerships, and encouraging where they could input into policy development and future development plan production at an early stage.

Vicky and I with Adnan Saif and Russell Poulton from the West Midlands Canals and Rivers Trust

Ian’s last meeting by contrast was an issue focused management meeting with the Commonwealth Games Programme Manager, undertaken at incredibly fast pace, with a lot of ground to be covered in a short space of time. This gave a snapshot of the ‘Chief Planner’ and senior leadership role entails, covering matters such as staff and contractor management, problem solving, communication strategies, and decision making, and PR, which showed the breadth of understanding and skills at the top to keep key matters moving.

In a drastic change of pace which occurred following the meeting, we were given the chance to talk to Ian ourselves and get his advice to our ‘young’ selves. Amongst other things, he suggested the importance of experience in both the pubic and private sector; attending and appearing at enquiries to realise how important a robust case is and finally, imparting on us the importance of a work life balance.

I am very grateful to the RTPI for putting together this fantastic opportunity for young planners, and to Birmingham City Council for taking part and being brilliant hosts, and giving their valuable time. For me, experiencing the public sector work environment, and spending time with such senior and accomplished council officers, and RTPI President, was brilliant not only for their career advice, but also their engagement and interest in my future career, and their championing of the profession, was very motivating.

Sue Manns RTPI President presenting the ‘RTPI CHANGE Action Plan’ at Birmingham University

The view from Ian’s office at rush hour: how different will this look when the City Council’s proposed Clean Air Zone comes into action?

John HelyarA day in the Life of a Chief Planner
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Intervention Required for the Emerging Local Plan for South Oxfordshire District Local Plan

Further to the South Oxfordshire District Council Cabinet decision of the 3rd October 2019, which recommended withdrawing the emerging Local Plan and the subsequent correspondence from the Secretary of State expressing concern over the current progress with the preparation of the Local Plan, the Sec of State has now taken the decision to intervene.

In reaching a decision the Sec of State cited the following criteria:

  • The least progress in plan-making has been made.
  • Policies in plans have not been kept up to date.
  • There was higher housing pressure.
  • Intervention would have the greatest impact in accelerating Local Plan production.
  • The wider planning context in the area; the extent to which authorities are working co-operatively to put strategic plans in place.
  • The wider planning context in the area; the potential impact on neighbourhood planning activity.
  • Responses from SODC setting out exceptional circumstances as to why a suitable plan is not in place.

As a result the Sec of State has made a direction(s) under section 27(2)(b) of the 2004 Act, which SODC must adhere to, and which require:

  • Progression of the Plan through examination and adoption by December 2020.
  • Report monthly (from the date of the letter) to DCHLG officials on progress of the Plan.

Importantly, SODC will be expected to report monthly on how the Plan can deliver sufficient supply of housing. Progress will be closely monitored and if further delays are incurred further intervention may be required to ensure an up-to-date Local Plan is in place in South Oxfordshire.

There are implications for other Local Planning Authorities, in this instance the latest Development Plan in South Oxfordshire was adopted in 2012 and in terms of progress of the Plan this had reached submission stage as of March 2019. The Sec of State reasoning is “Assuming South Oxfordshire withdraw the Plan and meet their target for adopting a new Local Plan in June 2024, based on current Local Development Schemes, only one Council in England would have an older Local Plan than South Oxfordshire.” The above reason by Sec of State is reliant upon all other Development Schedules being up to date and realistic and in our experience many are not and have certainly not reached the stage of SODC. In this case further intervention might be likely.

In addition, under section 21A of the 2004 Act the Holding Direction on the Plan has been withdrawn with immediate effect

John HelyarIntervention Required for the Emerging Local Plan for South Oxfordshire District Local Plan
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A new vision for High Streets and Centres

The High Street is struggling and it is clear that generations of customers are no longer available to those large stores which have been in place for decades and the convenience, on-demand approach of on-line shopping has had a significant impact on the trading patterns across the world.

The failure of companies such as British Homes Stores, coupled with store closures announced by Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and others, demonstrates that larger retailers can no longer be relied on to anchor the traditional High Street. The High Street needs to offer more than shopping opportunities and employment plus residential uses will be essential to underpinning activity in these central areas in the future.

The changing nature of the town centre environment may not ultimately be suitable for all retail. The provision of bars, restaurants and leisure facilities can result in an area which has high footfall but limited spend and there can be an entirely different atmosphere through the day and night. Artisan units, event space and pop up units in empty shops are other ways in which to attract people to the high street. A widening offer for leisure and hospitality needs to be provided and the increase in footfall which arises from a seasonal continental market or Sleigh Bar demonstrates shows that town centres can still be a destination if the right activity is on offer to draw people in. The creation of a vibrant environment for those who live, work and visit these areas is essential to ensure that there is a continued heart to our towns and cities.

Important measures need to be taken to secure alternative, appropriate uses. Policy will need to be in place to encourage leisure and businesses uses but avoid short term lease and high turnover businesses from securing high profile premises. There should be a commitment to vibrancy, rather than payday loan stores or betting shops. If these uses are all the High Street will support then planning policies are failing.

Fundamental changes are required to the way our centres operate and a less retail focussed experience is essential. Only in this way will the decline of the High Street be successfully addressed with activity and vibrancy stimulated.  The shift in focus has the potential to create both jobs and an enhanced living environment which supports activity throughout the day and into the evening.  The creation of a wider sense of community around the High Street will assist in securing the long term future of this key Town Centre asset.

John HelyarA new vision for High Streets and Centres
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Caddington Retirement Village

“DLP Planning Ltd has secured a resolution to grant Planning Permission, contrary to Officers recommendation and subject to legal agreement, for the construction of a Retirement Village of up to 200 apartment units with ancillary facilities in a ‘Village Core’ (swimming pool, spa, wellness suite, restaurant/bar and lounges, learning/education facilities and administration) on land within the Central Bedfordshire Green Belt, near Caddington, Bedfordshire.

The site comprises an area of around 4.8 hectares and contains Millfield House and the Cotswold Business Park as well as an undeveloped parcel of land. The site lies within the South Bedfordshire Green Belt and adjoins the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), both key considerations that dictated the approach to development and scheme design and which needed to be addressed during the planning process.

Members of the Planning Committee resolved to overturn the decision and resolved to approve the planning application which Members considered demonstrated a number of Very Special Circumstances, sufficient to warrant its approval. These included meeting an identified, significant local need for elderly accommodation within the District; delivery of affordable housing and a range of local community facilities; developing a part previously developed site; and a £100 million gross investment value scheme creating up to 80 jobs.

The village is to be built out and operated by Inspired Villages (L and G), who have contracted to acquire the land from the private owner”.

John HelyarCaddington Retirement Village
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DLP Planning Ltd (DLP) have secured outline planning permission for the erection of 9 new apartments in St George, Bristol. Working with Wotton Donoghue Architects, on behalf of Sampson Developments Limited, the proposal will see the erection of a high quality three storey residential block on underutilised land adjacent to Argyle Morley United Reformed Church.

One of the key considerations that needed to be addressed during the planning process was the location of the vehicular access, due to the site’s proximity to existing road junctions and two pedestrian refuge islands. It was also important that the building was set back in order to preserve the outlook from the neighbouring Church’s north-east facing windows.

The application was decided by the Council under delegated powers. DLP have been retained by the applicant to submit a full planning application for a larger 10 dwelling scheme.


Image credited to Wotton Donoghue Architects


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42-56, Tottenham Road

DLP Planning Limited have successfully secured planning permission from Hackney Council for the proposed change of use from a warehouse (use class B8) to commercial use (use class B1c) at 42-56, Tottenham Road, Hackney.  The existing property was vacant and had previously been used as a trade warehouse. It was considered a change of use to Class B1c use would make the most productive use of the building, which falls within a Priority Employment Area.

The site raised a number of sensitive design considerations, such as how to make efficient use of the building whilst protecting the amenity of neighbouring residents and the De Beauvoir Town Conservation Area in which the site is located. The proposal will see minimal changes to the exterior of the building, therefore resulting in no adverse impact on the character or appearance of the Conservation Area. Class B1 uses are considered to be appropriate in residential areas so the proposed B1c use is considered to be compatible with the residential neighbours in near proximity and also reflects the majority of established employment use in the near vicinity.

No objections were raised by members of the public and the application was decided by the Council under delegated powers. The Owner’s Commercial Agent, Savoy Stewart are confident of an early letting.

John Helyar42-56, Tottenham Road
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Central Bedfordshire Local Plan – Examination Hearings

The Public Hearing Sessions for the Examination in Public (EiP) of the Regulation 22 Central Bedfordshire Council Local Plan are set to begin at 10am on Tuesday 21st May 2019, running until Thursday 25th July.

DLP Planning Ltd will be in attendance for many of the scheduled Hearing Sessions representing a number of clients further to representations made throughout the Local Plan process. The Hearing Sessions will be conducted around 15 key Matters and a range of questions pertaining to each Matter under the guidance of the Inspectors Matthew Birkinshaw and Helen Hockenhull.

DLP has consistently made representations that the housing numbers proposed by Central Beds Council are not meeting the full objectively assessed needs for the area and we will be representing clients with concerns over the spatial strategy and the selection of strategic sites.

The Duty to Co-operate has been a consistent issue within Central Bedfordshire, which saw the previous Development Strategy withdrawn in 2015 and similar concerns have been raised again through this EiP process. Other important areas of discussion are likely to include Green Belt releases, the provision of small and medium site allocations for housing, Important Countryside Gap policies and the identified locations for future growth.

John HelyarCentral Bedfordshire Local Plan – Examination Hearings
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Bedford Borough Local Plan 2030 – Examination Hearing Sessions

The Examination in Public (EiP) Hearing Sessions for the Bedford Borough Local Plan 2030 are due to begin on 29th May at 9:30 with Hearing Sessions running until 26th June. The Hearing Sessions will cover 13 matters ranging from legal compliance, housing requirements and the spatial strategy, through to individual allocations and policies of the plan guided by the Government appointed Inspectors Malcolm Rivett and Anne Jordan.

DLP will be present across these Hearing Sessions having responded to a number of consultations over the course of the Plan’s development, which started back in 2014/15. DLP continues to raise concerns over a range of different aspects of the plan including the level of housing which the Council aims to deliver, which DLP consider both falls short of a full assessment of housing need and relies on a number of sites with question marks over their delivery.

DLP will also be challenging the Council’s late decision to shorten the timespan of the new Plan to 2030 whilst also deferring all site specific allocations outside the urban area to future Neighbourhood Plans for allocation. This approach provides little certainty of sites coming forward and will delay the delivery of much needed market and affordable housing in the short-medium term, particularly in rural areas.

Once adopted, the plan will form be the key policy document against which Planning applications in the future will be determined, so DLP will be seeking to ensure that it has been prepared in the correct manner and in accordance with national policy and guidance.

John HelyarBedford Borough Local Plan 2030 – Examination Hearing Sessions
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