COVID-19 and LPAs Self Contingency Measures

The planning system plays a vital role in enabling the delivery of development that will support the UK’s economic recovery during COVID-19. The Coronavirus Act 2020, which received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020 makes provision for Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to change the way in which they hold their meetings. This came into force on 4 April 2020. DLP Planning Ltd have been working across our offices to provide a schedule of LPAs current self-contingency measures that are in place in response to Covid-19.

Six weeks on from changes in legislation, we are seeing a mixed response from LPAs across England. The work DLP Planning Ltd have undertaken highlights a diversity in practice with some LPA’s already holding virtual Committees during May 2020.

Several LPAs within West Midlands and London have successfully executed virtual Planning Committees with Members determining applications for schemes that are either departures to Local Plan policies or those with multiple objections. Some of the other Regions have been taking a more cautious approach, reviewing their internal procedures and IT options for holding virtual meetings. It is anticipated that the take up of virtual Committees will spread across LPAs in England as Council’s set up their legal and IT systems. Virtual Committee meetings have been successfully facilitated by different methods, including Microsoft Teams.

In terms of work on Plan Making, there appears to be is a mixed response. Some LPAs are continuing to press ahead with policy work in line with their current timetables, whilst others are pausing work for the foreseeable future.

What is clear is the eagerness of LPAs across the UK to embrace this current crisis, with front runners setting a fast pace of change made possible by legislation. This has allowed politically sensitive applications to be progressed. DLP Planning Ltd schedule provides a summary of LPA’s current self-contingency measures and will assist clients in making decisions on their strategy for current and proposed planning applications. A link is provided to the current Schedule and DLP Planning Ltd will be providing regular updates as the situation changes.

John HelyarCOVID-19 and LPAs Self Contingency Measures
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Planning and Development Control Statistics: London Borough Authorities in 2019

The 2019 draft London Plan emphasises the importance of delivering the homes that Londoners need and highlights the significance the lack of supply has had on London’s housing crisis. The Plan highlights the need for 66,000 new homes each year, of which 43,000 should be genuinely affordable. DLP Planning has undertaken research into the number of planning permissions granted for housing schemes (minor and major) in 2019 by London Borough Authorities (LBA) in order to establish which boroughs are performing well in helping to meet the housing targets set in the London Plan. The research project also assesses the relative performance of LBA’s in granting residential planning permissions based on the number of applications they have received.

National statistics about the number of planning applications made and permissions granted in England are released every three months by The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG). It covers information on planning applications received, including decisions on applications for residential developments.  DLP Planning Ltd have reviewed the 2019 figures for the LBA’s (under the District Planning Application Statistics file PS2) and found that in 2019, LBA’s granted a total of 51138 permissions.

Our investigation identifies which LBA’s have the best and which have the most challenged track record for granting residential applications. Out of the 32 London Borough Authorities, the City of London had the highest percentage rate (98%) in granting planning permissions, compared with the London Borough of Harrow who only approved 65% of the total applications for residential development that they received.

DLP Planning Ltd.’s research also demonstrated that there is a great diversity in the total number of applications received between LBA’s. For example, Barnet received 3208 housing related applications, compared to 580 in the City of London, 658 in Waltham Forest and 747 in Kingston. However, these figures do not necessarily reflect the scale of the developments proposed and total number of houses granted planning permission by Borough. Therefore, the percentage granted may not be a fair reflection on their performance. To account for this, DLP Planning Ltd weighted each LBA’s performance against the total number of granted permissions. The research and statistical analysis can be found in the link below and summarised in Figure 1: Total Planning Permissions Granted for London Borough Authorities in 2019 (Percentage).

John HelyarPlanning and Development Control Statistics: London Borough Authorities in 2019
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Covid-19 Impacts to Housing Land Supply

The likely impacts of Covid-19 are clear for house builders; a decrease in the number of completions for this year and potentially longer build out rates for sites already under construction. This is expected to affect the land supply position of many local authorities across England and be a slow down on any recovery to the economy. But what could be done about this? In our recent client briefing note, Alex Roberts explores how Government can respond through policy and what local authorities should do to ensure their land supply positions are sufficiently robust.

Government have already announced there will be a change to the standard methodology to get closer to their target of 300,000 new dwellings built each year. This change may come in shortly, and could lead to some 5YHLS assessments slipping under 5 years. A change to the standard method has been discussed since it came in to place in 2018.

Whatever the alteration Government make, it will need to remain simple and be genuinely effective in achieving what is a central objective of Government policy, to boost housing (and economic) growth across England. Post the Covid-19 lockdown, the need to boost short-term economic performance will likely become even more pressing so increasing supply could take on an extra importance

We consider there are going to be different impacts for land supply assessments for the 2020/21 period and the 2021/22 period, in general we consider the challenges faced this year will be around presenting evidence that sites are deliverable. For next year, it is likely some authorities will move into the 20% HDT buffer and could have fewer applications to put into the housing supply, both factors could reduce land supplies, even in areas with previously very strong levels of supply. .

 Click here to see the full briefing note.

John HelyarCovid-19 Impacts to Housing Land Supply
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Section 73 Applications & Finney vs Welsh Ministers Judgement

The Court of Appeal reversed the High Court’s decision in Finney v Welsh Ministers [2019] EWCA Civ 1868. The effect of the High Court decision had been that Section 73 (S73) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 could be used to vary not just the conditions to a planning permission, but also the description of the development itself. The Court of Appeal has, however, ruled that to vary the description of development is outside the remit of S73.
Going forward, it will be important to consider the description of development at the planning application stage. The Applicant is likely to seek as much flexibility as possible in the description of development, but this must be sufficiently detailed to allow the proposals to be understood for the purposes of consultation.

Local Planning Authorities may seek to have more precise terms included in the description of development. Indeed, the National Planning Practice Guidance notes identify that before publicising and consulting on an application, the LPA should be satisfied that the description of development provided is accurate. Essentially though, the LPA should not amend the description of development without first discussing any revised wording with the Applicant or their Agent. This discussion needs to consider the implications of Finney and changes to the wording may need to be resisted.

To allow the certainty required, substantive detail can be controlled by conditions to future planning application which could then be subject to S73 application without amendment to the description of development.

Click here to see the full briefing note.

John HelyarSection 73 Applications & Finney vs Welsh Ministers Judgement
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Planning permission secured for 671 homes on Doncaster regeneration site

Acting on behalf of Countryside, DLP has secured full planning permission to bring forward Doncaster’s largest stalled brownfield regeneration site. The scheme includes the delivery of a range of open market, rental sector and affordable homes, as well as extensive areas of formal and informal open space. The scheme is a partnership with Sigma Capital (Build to Rent element), and Homes England funding is being sought to support the delivery of 26% affordable housing.

The application site is a former railway works located close to Doncaster Town Centre and adjacent to the River Don. Despite a number of previous permissions being granted for the redevelopment of the site, and some remediation works having already been undertaken, viability issues had prevented delivery of housing on the site.

DLP worked collaboratively with the Local Planning Authority and neighbouring residents to develop a scheme which addressed previous concerns regarding contamination and residential amenity. The proposals also had to respond to heightened considerations regarding flood risk, following a major flood event at Fishlake in Doncaster during the application process.

The scheme was considered by Members as part of Doncaster Council’s first virtual planning committee and having satisfied the Committee that matters including heritage, biodiversity and noise had been fully considered, the application was unanimously approved, subject to the completion of a legal agreement.

John HelyarPlanning permission secured for 671 homes on Doncaster regeneration site
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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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New Industrial Unit in the Green Belt

DLP Planning Ltd. has successfully secured full planning permission at committee for a new Industrial unit to support the expansion of TRS Roofing Limited in Westerleigh, South Gloucestershire. Given its Green Belt location and various objections this involved significant negation with the Case Officer and alterations to deliver a scheme which was considered both attractive to the client and acceptable by the planning officer and later Council Members when considering its impact on the openness of the greenbelt.

Through our negotiations, working with GSH Architects we were able to deliver a scheme which was larger in volume (albeit one building rather than two) than the original proposals submitted. Our approach focused on emphasising the importance of this application to support a rural business and strong rural economy. Also highlighting how the introduction of the building could help rationalise the site and through careful design allow the business to grow whilst not resulting in significant harm to the character or appearance of the area.


dlpNew Industrial Unit in the Green Belt
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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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