News

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 https://www.rtpi.org.uk/media/3723937/Equality%20Diversity%20and%20Inclusivity%20Plan.pdf

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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Planning Application for Residential Development at Goffs Oak, Hertfordshire

DLP Planning Ltd, working with BE1 Architects, have submitted an outline planning application for a residential development on land at Goffs Oak. The land is washed over by Green Belt, but is in large part previously developed land.

The scheme has been prepared following pre-application discussions with Officers, and in the light of a previous Inspector’s appeal decision part of the site may be considered as suitable for infill development. The illustrative scheme prepared by BE1 shows an organic form of development, incorporating key principles as discussed with the Council such as development across the site frontage and also the safeguarding of the tree/vegetation areas.

Kerry TitmusPlanning Application for Residential Development at Goffs Oak, Hertfordshire
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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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Outline Planning Permission Won on Appeal for a Scheme of 30 Dwellings in Bedford (App Ref: APP/K0235/W/19/3237824)

DLP Planning Ltd, working with BE1 Architects, has successfully secured outline planning permission on appeal, with full costs, for a scheme of 30 dwellings on land at Howards Close, Wilstead, Bedfordshire.

The initial planning application, a resubmission of a previous adverse decision, was recommended for approval by the Case Officer on the basis that the Council cannot demonstrate a five year land supply, and so the titled balance was engaged. Contrary to Officers recommendation however, the Council’s Planning Committee refused planning permission on the basis that (i) the application was premature and prejudicial to the plan making process; and (ii) development would be harmful to highway safety.

In allowing the appeal, the Inspector rejected the Council’s case and agreed with DLP that the status of Wilstead as a Key Service Centre, the distribution of development in the emerging Local Plan, and the scale of development sought, the application would not be premature. Moreover, in exercising the tilted balance, the Inspector found that the provision of much needed new housing would boost supply, and the economic benefits of construction and the ongoing support for local facilities and businesses were significant benefits and outweighed any adverse harm.

In relation to highway safety concerns, given the absence of any technical objection, the Inspector found no evidence to substantiate the harm alleged, and overall the Inspector found the Council to have acted unreasonably and made a full costs award.

Kerry TitmusOutline Planning Permission Won on Appeal for a Scheme of 30 Dwellings in Bedford (App Ref: APP/K0235/W/19/3237824)
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Planning Permission Secured for Minor Material Amendments to a 340 Unit Residential Scheme in Luton

DLP Planning Ltd, working with a team of specialist consultants, has successfully secured planning permission for “Section 73” amendments to a scheme to provide 340 apartments at Newlands Road in Luton.

The site was acquired by our client earlier this year with the benefit of a detailed planning permission. Following a review of the scheme an application was submitted for minor material amendments to improve the internal ventilation and fire safety systems, to remove the  underground car parking, and the internal configuration of the apartments.  The changes were achieved without a reduction in the overall number of units, and with no material increase in the level of Section 106 contributions required.

DLP worked closely with Luton Borough Council throughout the application process to secure a recommendation for approval by the case officer at Planning Committee. The application was subsequently approved by Members of the Committee and who endorsed our approach in order to ensure construction can start on site immediately.

The site is an allocated housing site in the Luton Local Plan (2011-2031), and the changes to the scheme secured by this approval will assist in the efficient delivery of the scheme.

dlpPlanning Permission Secured for Minor Material Amendments to a 340 Unit Residential Scheme in Luton
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The Tories are in!

Well who could have planned for this outcome!

The Conservative Party’s Manifesto ‘Get Brexit Done – Unleash Britain’s Potential’ has interesting implications for the planning and development industry. Aside from its commitment to delivering Brexit, the Conservatives propose further devolution and investment in transport and planning and have stated support for the ‘Crossrail for the North’ but did not fully commit to HS2, which they intend to review. They proposed to bring forward a Social Housing White Paper, which will set out measures to empower tenants and support the continued supply of social homes. They also committed to renewing the Affordable Homes Programme to support the delivery of thousands of new affordable homes.

The Manifesto also contained the standard comment around home ownership. The policy of a multi-tenure approach to housebuilding is set to continue. However, the Manifesto advocated little to no change on issues like Green Belt protection and support for specific infrastructure projects.

The Manifesto included two key planning policy pledges, including the “beauty” agenda and the accelerated White Paper. The Conservative Government pledged to ask individual communities to decide on their own design standards for new development, allowing residents a voice on the design of development in their area. How this will fit with extant policy or its status is however not set out. Secondly, the White Paper was trailed as containing proposals to speed up and “simplify” the planning process (again) by relaxing some rules, cutting conditions and improving resources for local authorities. The plans for the White Paper are to be released next year.

The Conservative Party sought to set a strong message on environmental issues and have also committed to reducing carbon to net zero by 2050.

How this will all play out, and the ‘shape of the new team’ will become clearer in the next few months, but the concentration will remain on ‘getting Brexit done’

Kerry TitmusThe Tories are in!
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