John Helyar

Schools, Hospitals and Prison Buildings Determination Period Shortened

The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure and Section 62A Applications) (England) (Amendment) Order 2021 introduces changes in relation to fire safety and ‘public service infrastructure’. In respect of the latter, the consultation period will be reduced from the current 21 calendar day statutory period to 18 calendar days. The determination period is reduced from 13 weeks to 10 weeks.

The changes proposed in the statutory instrument have been billed as a new fast track for public service buildings. The objective of the change is to address what has been perceived as delays and cost increases resulting from the significant amount of time that securing planning permission can take. The intention is to encourage priority to be given to public service infrastructure development applications.

Quite how the reduction in statutory consultation by 3 days will make any meaningful improvement to the efficiency of decision making on public building applications is unclear. Indeed, introducing a range of consultation periods introduces uncertainty which may be unhelpful and result in more administrative confusion over applications.

The opportunity for prioritisation of public buildings may be beneficial of course but it does raise questions over the general resource for decision makers. An appeal against non-determination is not likely to result in an expeditious outcome for such an application for instance. As it stands, the statutory instrument will apply in relation to applications made on or after 1 August 2021.

John HelyarSchools, Hospitals and Prison Buildings Determination Period Shortened
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Oxford-Cambridge Arc Spatial Framework – Consultation commences July 2021

The Oxford-Cambridge Arc is a national economic priority area. The Government believe it has the potential to be one of the most sustainable economic areas in the world and can make a major contribution to national economic upturn as we seek to recover from the impact of COVID-19.

To deliver on this ambition, the Government is developing a Spatial Framework which will set national planning policy and transport policy for the areas of the Arc, namely the ceremonial counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, and Cambridgeshire.

In February 2021, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published a paper to set out how they were intending to develop this Framework to support growth in a more sustainable and strategic way.

As part of this paper, the Government highlighted that, to allow an effective and efficient Spatial Arc to be developed, it should be shaped by those who live, work, and have an interest in the area. As such, three public consultations have been planned to take place, with the first one running from the 20th of July 2021 until the 12th of October 2021.

The Government have now published a new paper titled ‘Creating a Vision for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc’, which outlines both the purpose and the ambition of this 12-week consultation.

The Purpose of the Consultation

The consultation is being undertaken to inform the Government’s approach to the future of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and to seek views to help create a vision for the Framework, to guide the future growth of the area to 2050. This is in line with the commitment the Government made at the launch of the Spatial Framework in February 2021.

Alongside this consultation and since the purpose of the Spatial Framework is to support the delivery of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc in the most sustainable way, the Government are also undertaking a fully integrated Sustainability Appraisal (SA). This will be informed by other statutory assessments and regimes such as a habitats regulation assessment pursuant to the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. As part of the current consultation, the Government are also seeking views on the initial work that they have done to set the scope of the Sustainability Appraisal.

Key Themes of the Spatial Framework

The key “policy pillars” of the Framework, are as follows:

  • To preserve and enhance a ‘green arc’ and to improve access to green space, reduce flood risk, and improve air quality.
  • To provide sustainable economic growth and create more employment and attract businesses.
  • Improve east-west connectivity in the arc – east-west rail project.
  • Provide more homes and affordable homes to support sustainable growth.

Moving Forward

Once the consultation period has come to an end, the Government will consider the responses received which will contribute to the Spatial Framework’s vision for the Arc to 2050 and inform the development of the Sustainability Appraisal. Whilst exact dates are yet to be confirmed, the Government has announced that in Spring 2022, they expect to publish the vision and to carry out further public consultation on options for the policies in the Spatial Framework.

The development of the Spatial Framework will be supported by two further public consultations:

  • Towards a Spatial Framework – the purpose of this consultation will be for the public to have their say on the published options for delivering the Framework’s objectives; and
  • Draft Spatial Framework – the aim of this consultation is for the public to have their say on the draft Spatial Framework along with the Sustainability Appraisal Environmental Report.
John HelyarOxford-Cambridge Arc Spatial Framework – Consultation commences July 2021
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Bespoke planning strategy key to unlocking housing growth

DLP, working on behalf of Woodall Homes, secured outline planning permission for a bespoke development of up to 80 new dwellings in Calow, Derbyshire.  DLP followed a carefully woven planning strategy to secure permission for the site, working closely with Planning Officers at Northeast Derbyshire District Council.

The site comprises agricultural land and is defined as a ‘countryside’ location in both the saved and emerging Local Plans, albeit one that is edge of settlement.

Alongside the planning policy argument supporting the release of the site for housing, DLP worked closely with Officers and consultees on the other key technical issues associated with the scheme. There was a focus on landscape character, highway impact and heritage matters, to ensure that there were no objections from statutory consultees.

The Council accepted that the proposals would represent a logical and sustainable extension to the settlement, with excellent access to local services facilities and amenities, delivering a mixed choice of modern energy efficient homes, including much needed affordable housing.

John HelyarBespoke planning strategy key to unlocking housing growth
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Planning Success at Church Farm, Aldbury

DLP, working with Laxton Properties and Anderson Orr Architects, secured full planning permission, on behalf of clients, for the change of use, conversion, and refurbishments of Units 13, 14, 15 and 19 into flexible use under Class E at Church Farm, Station Road, Aldbury. The proposal also included the demolition of Unit 9 to provide ancillary car parking spaces and associated landscaping.

The site is part of the former racing stables establishment owned by Peter Harris. The historic farm buildings and farmhouse were constructed as part of the new model village of Aldbury in the mid 1840’s replacing earlier structures and altering the village layout. These farm buildings and the farmhouse are locally listed.

DLP worked proactively with the Council, and in particular the Conservation Officer, to ensure that the proposal would be acceptable in the chosen location and would not result in a detrimental impact on the Conservation Area, the AONB and the setting of Listed Buildings. The proposal was subject to a number of amendments following concerns in heritage terms. The Conservation Officer supported the proposal as it would preserve the significance of the existing locally listed buildings and the designated asset of the Conservation Area.

The proposed re-use of the stable buildings for employment purposes was considered to support the rural economy and the maintenance of the wider countryside. The proposal provided an appropriate re-use of otherwise vacant stable buildings that would ensure their sensitive retention, whilst providing local employment opportunities.

 

John HelyarPlanning Success at Church Farm, Aldbury
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New scout headquarters in Holmesfield for 3rd Holmesfield Scout Group

DLP obtained planning permission, via an appeal, for the development of a new scout headquarters in Holmesfield, on Green Belt land in North East Derbyshire.

The permission will allow the 3rd Holmesfield Scout Group to return to their original home of Holmesfield. It will provide additional capacity and up-to-date facilities to accommodate children and young adults who are currently on the waiting list to join the Scouts.

The planning application was refused in July 2020 because the Local Planning Authority considered the development to be inappropriate in the Green Belt, and the public benefits arising from the development would not outweigh the harm to the Conservation Area and the neighbouring Grade II listed Church.

DLP assessed the proposal against the national and local planning policy requirements for development to be approved in the Green Belt and detailed the array of benefits that constitute Very Special Circumstances. Any potential impact of the development on heritage assets was also reviewed.

There was considerable support for the proposal from the local community, and the Inspector gave very substantial weight to the benefit of providing a community facility for children.

The Inspector also found that the character of the Conservation Area and the setting of the neighbouring listed building would be preserved. The Inspector found that these considerations clearly outweigh the harm to the Green Belt, and therefore Very Special Circumstances exist when considering the case as a whole.

 

John HelyarNew scout headquarters in Holmesfield for 3rd Holmesfield Scout Group
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Revitalising high streets and town centres

The Ministerial Statement issued on July 1st sets out proposals to ensure that policy on Article 4 Directions is used in a highly targeted way to protect the thriving core of historic high street areas, but does not unnecessarily restrict the ability to deliver much needed housing through national permitted development rights. The new policy will apply to all Article 4 Directions. Formal changes were made to the National Planning Policy Framework in July 2021 and a new Paragraph 53 now reads:

The use of Article 4 Directions to remove national permitted development rights should:

  • Where they relate to change from non-residential use to residential use, be limited to situations where an Article 4 Direction is necessary to avoid wholly unacceptable adverse impacts (this could include the loss of the essential core of a primary shopping area which would seriously undermine its vitality and viability, but would be very unlikely to extend to the whole of a town centre);
  • In other cases, be limited to situations where an Article 4 Direction is necessary to protect local amenity or the well-being of the area (this could include the use of Article 4 Directions to require planning permission for the demolition of local facilities);
  • In all cases, be based on robust evidence, and apply to the smallest geographical area possible.

The new Paragraph aims to protect established retail areas without preventing the provision of housing. The policy of providing and supporting mixed and flexible high street uses remains and new Article 4 Directions should be applied only to the smallest of areas and ‘the irreducible core of a primary shopping area’. The statement expressly states that Local Authorities will need to have robust evidence to justify the Article 4 Direction and the area it covers and are required to notify the Secretary of State about new Article 4 Directions.  All new Article 4 Directions will be scrutinised to ensure compliance with the new guidance.

John HelyarRevitalising high streets and town centres
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NHS and other blue light services funding through Section 106 – a fair deal?

After a year and a half of the pandemic, the importance of securing adequate funding for the NHS should not be in dispute. There is an essential debate regarding the source of such funding and the extent to which new development might increase demand for blue light services. Some will argue, with some justification, that these services free at the point of delivery are and should be funded through general taxation.

On the other hand, there is the argument that an increase in the population within an area will increase the demand for all blue light services which will not be recognised in the funding regime and as such there will be a funding gap. It is accepted that development has a legal requirement to mitigate its impacts, but a rational basis for funding these services through planning obligations has often been lacking.

Of course, the issue does not end there. For blue light services, one must separate out the population that are new households forming from people already in the area (thus captured by existing funding formulae). Any unfunded impact should be assessed with reference to the new population moving into the development from outside existing catchments for blue light services. ‘Backfilling’ through in-migration resulting from the freeing up of the accommodation of those already living in the area should also be considered.

DLP, working for a number of NHS Trusts, have developed a model to inform the calculation of requests for planning contributions that is responsive to details of individual schemes in terms of location, tenure mix and scale, all of which act to determine the characteristics of the total population (in terms of age and sex) and patterns of migration into any new development.

The model has been accepted by Inspectors at appeal as identifying the extent financial contribution would be fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the development. Negotiations have been conducted more quickly and have been agreed as part of Statements of Common Ground with developers, indicating a fair deal for both developers and the blue light services.

DLP’s recent work has been with Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust and Leicestershire’s Clinical Commissioning Group and we are currently advising on levels of contributions that may be required for large Sustainable Urban Extensions (SUEs) in emerging Local Plans.

For developers, this work can determine the level of funding and prevent the over-exaggeration of claims that are based upon total population or lack of recognition that the funding regimes will in future recognise the increase in the population.

Look out for the Webinar from DLP on Blue light services and Section 106 Agreements.

John HelyarNHS and other blue light services funding through Section 106 – a fair deal?
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Approval secured for new Specialist School for Children

We are delighted to have secured approval from Sheffield City Council for the use of Thorncliffe Hall as a new school facility for Paces Sheffield.

Paces delivers the National Curriculum through the framework of Conductive Education. It is a small, specialist school for children living with Cerebral Palsy and other neurological disorders from Sheffield and other neighbouring authorities. Currently located at Pack Horse Lane, High Green, the existing school is within close proximity to the proposed new site.

The pupils at Paces thrive on the high expectations that staff have of them and the constant encouragement and opportunity to develop their independence. The aim of the school is to provide and develop a curriculum that enriches the learning opportunities for all the children. Each day at Paces is very carefully planned by their fantastic team of staff who are dedicated to providing the highest level of education possible for the children.

The welfare and safeguarding of pupils is a consideration of paramount importance. Everyone is committed to working closely with parents/carers and other professionals. The success of Paces requires additional accommodation and facilities both now and in the future.

The initial proposals are for the use of Thorncliffe Hall as a Special School for up to 60 disabled children with up to 45 members of staff. This will accommodate the expansion of Paces School, which currently stands at 34 full time equivalent places, with the hope to increase to a new full-time capacity of 60 pupils in 5 years’ time.

John HelyarApproval secured for new Specialist School for Children
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Major Later Living Appeal allowed on a greenfield site in the AONB at Sonning Common

There have been a number of recent important appeals relating to later living development schemes in both urban and rural locations. These mostly involve larger retirement village (extra care) proposals. The appeals are often quite complex and involve a range of planning policy and strategy issues.

DLP, who are currently involved with 6 separate retirement living schemes, provided expert planning evidence at a recent public local inquiry into a proposal for a 133-unit Extra Care village at Sonning Common in South Oxfordshire in April/May led by Chris Young QC, assisted by Leanne Buckley Thomson. The scheme comprised a continuing care retirement community by Inspired Villages (part of the Legal & General) on a greenfield site within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Inspector, Harold Stephens, after the 10-day inquiry allowed the Appeal.

The scheme compromised major development in the AONB, and the Appellant, in addition to rebutting the allegations of harm, had also to demonstrate that the proposal satisfied both the “exceptional circumstances” test and “the public interest” test, pursuant to paragraph 172 of the National Planning Policy Framework, in light of the requirement that decision makers give great weight to conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the AONB.

DLP also, as part of the case, addressed the prevailing shortfall in housing land supply, notwithstanding that the South Oxfordshire Local Plan had only very recently been adopted, but had been delayed by political changes within the Council. DLP’s evidence demonstrated a 4.21 year supply.

In terms of the main issue, Inspector Mr Stephens acknowledged that Sonning Common is a large village which borders the edge of the AONB and was itself “very much part of the local landscape context” in this area. He also acknowledged “Planning policy and statute give equal protection to all parts of the AONB” but went on to observe “I saw that the AONB in this location already contains a significant amount of built development. That contrasts significantly with the deep, rural area of countryside within the AONB” (para 56).

A significant factor in the appeal was the need case, as well as the existing supply of dedicated housing for the elderly and alternatives to the proposal.  Specialist evidence was provided on the matter of need, and this was used by DLP in putting the planning balance case.  Equally DLP provided an assessment of alternative development options based upon the council’s own evidence base and both together demonstrated a substantial shortfall in supply when assessed against need and also an absence of alternative sites, such that this provided the basis for both the exceptional circumstance and public interest tests.

In commenting on the position Inspector Stephens observed in relation to the Council’s case that “In my view there is a strong case that Mr Appleton’s 45 per 1,000 overall, with 30 per 1,000 to market extra care, should be far more ambitious given not only the true tenure split in the district but also what it could mean for the ability to contribute towards addressing the housing crisis”

The Inspector also accepted the case, put by DLP on behalf of the Appellant, that whilst the new Local Plan does have a policy encouraging specialist housing for older people, including seeking allocations on the strategic allocations, the policy requirement is generic. It does not allocate any sites specifically for Extra Care provision and that is significant because the Appellant was able to show how Extra Care delivers a lower return in terms of land value than other forms of age restricted and retirement living accommodation.

The Appellant, along with another Extra Care operator from their umbrella organisation Arco, attended the Local Plan Examination-in-Public to request the Plan be amended to ensure an Extra Care specific policy and allocations.

Inspector Stephens also found that the benefits associated with the development were significant material considerations and, taken together with the absence of landscape harm, the noted shortfall in the provision of specialist housing for the elderly, and the housing land supply situation overall, concluded that both the exceptional circumstances and public interest tests were made.

The new Local Plan, arising from the Rectory Homes decision, introduced a policy which requires affordable housing for C2 uses including Extra Care. This was introduced after the planning application had been made and raised difficulties insofar as the deal entered into by the Appellant and the landowner was concerned.  A viability assessment was undertaken which demonstrated that the proposal, in conventional terms, was unviable. However, the landowner and appellant agreed to make provision for a financial contribution via a Section 106 Agreement in order to comply with the policy requirement.

The Council refused to negotiate on the sum required, notwithstanding the viability assessment, and this subsequently led them to make a cost claim against the Appellant, which was dismissed by Inspector Stephens.

Sonning Common Parish Council also opposed the development and appeared separately at the public local inquiry.  The Sonning Common Neighbourhood Plan (2016) has a policy supporting the provision of extra care but does not allocate any land for that purpose, and notably, Sonning Common has a large elderly population and the provision of specialist housing for the elderly was seen as a key objective.  The Neighbourhood Plan is in the process of review but that has not progressed beyond an initial issues and options stage in the last two years and therefore attracted no weight.

The Appeal Decision is important not only because it allowed major development in the AONB, but also because of its findings on the weight that should be given to the need/provision of specialist housing for the elderly, and its contribution towards five-year land supply.  In addition, the overall housing land supply was a further significant factor and, in particular, how this should be demonstrated.  At the time of writing an application for permission to apply to the High Court to challenge the Appeal Decision, under Section 288 of the Town and County Planning Act 1990, has been made by South Oxfordshire District Council on a number of grounds. The outcome of this is awaited.

John HelyarMajor Later Living Appeal allowed on a greenfield site in the AONB at Sonning Common
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Appeal Decision at Macs Farm

DLP Planning working with 39 Essex Chambers and Saloria Architects are delighted to have secured planning permission at appeal, on behalf of our client, for the change of use of the existing ancillary outbuilding on site to an independent dwelling for the sole use of our client at Macs Farm, Stoke Poges.

The site has an extensive planning history. In 2009, a CLOPED was issued for an outbuilding (which formed the appeal site) and was erected as an ancillary building to the rear of Macs Farm, a detached dwelling house accessed from Farthing Green Lane. However, the Council considered that a separate dwelling had been erected, which became the subject of enforcement action with a Notice being served in 2012 requiring its demolition and the removal of all resulting materials from the land.

An appeal against the enforcement notice was dismissed, but this decision was subject to a High Court Challenge. At the interim hearing, the Judge suggested Alternative Dispute Resolution as a means of resolving the differences between the parties. Through this process both parties agreed a Section 106 agreement in 2014, which ‘stayed’ the effect of the Notice which remains valid. The agreement between the Council and the Applicant meant that the outbuilding could remain provided it was used for purposes ancillary to the main dwelling house in accordance with the requirements of the S.106 Agreement.

The Council refused the initial application, which proposed the change of use of the existing ancillary building on site to an independent dwelling, solely for the use of the Applicant on the grounds of inappropriate development in the Green Belt and the impact on openness.

However, in allowing the appeal, the Inspector agreed with the Appellant’s case that the appeal proposal would reuse a building of permanent and substantial construction that is readily capable of conversion, which would preserve the openness of the Green Belt and would not conflict with the purposes of including land within it.

The Inspector also found that the creation of a separate dwelling would result in limited activity and associated paraphernalia and would not result in any additional harm to the Green Belt or the character and appearance of the area.

John HelyarAppeal Decision at Macs Farm
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