Log in | Register

News in brief: Stantec asks Jenrick to clarify advice to local authorities; Coal-free record stands at 18 days

Words: The Planner
In a letter / iStock-537907964

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 28 April, 2020

Stantec asks Jenrick to clarify advice to local authorities

Engineering services firm Stantec has sent an open letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, regarding the impact of Covid-19 on the determination of planning applications. In the letter, the company’s senior associate planner, Michael Gilbert MA (Hons) MTCP MRTPI, asks for further government guidance to ensure that applications can be progressed and determined without delay.

Although encouraged by most local authorities’ responses to the Coronavirus Act and Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations, Gilbert states that, “some authorities have not heeded government guidance to take a pragmatic and innovative approach”, instead continuing “to place obstacles in the path of the determination process”.

The legislation, says Gilbert, is “too narrow in its scope and does not consider the other important aspects of the determination process, including the relevant parts of the DMPO and associated council policy such as that contained in SCIs”.

“Enabling remote decision-making through virtual planning committee meetings will only work if local authorities are able to progress applications to that stage.”

Gilbert wants the government to write again to local planning authorities, reiterating the need for flexibility and pragmatism in all aspects of the process. If not, he says: “There is a risk that the 2020 act will not have the desired effect, and the ongoing pandemic will continue to delay the planning process and hold back the development industry.”


Coal-free record stands at 18 days

Great Britain has set a new record for the longest period of generating electricity without burning coal, which has reached 18 days, six hours and 15 minutes – and counting, according to Carbon Brief.

Renewables have been the largest source of electricity for more than 18 days, generating 37 per cent of Britain's power. Gas generated 32 per cent, nuclear 22 per cent and imports 9 per cent.

It says the coronavirus lockdown has cut electricity demand by nearly 20 per cent.

RenewableUK's deputy chief executive Melanie Onn said: “Renewables will continue to grow rapidly to meet the UK’s target of net-zero emissions; offshore wind alone will generate over 30 per cent of UK power by 2030.

“Alongside other low-cost options like onshore wind, there are huge opportunities for innovative technologies like marine energy, floating wind, battery storage and renewable hydrogen to accelerate the UK’s transition to net zero.”


Carlisle council joins land charges register

Carlisle City Council has joined the central Local Land Charges Register, which means searches in the local authority area of the council will need to get them from HM Land Registry rather than going directly to the council.

Karina Singh, director of transformation at HM Land Registry, said: “Everyone will now have instant, online access to local land charges search results in Carlisle, meaning it will be quicker and simpler to buy and sell property across the area. It is even more important at this current time that public services can be accessed digitally and instantly where possible and we are pleased to be able to contribute to that through the central Local Land Charges Register.

Gareth Ellis, deputy leader and portfolio holder for finance, governance and resources at Carlisle City Council, said: “By updating, transforming and migrating our local land charges data to the central register, we have ensured that all those buying or selling, leasing or remortgaging property across Carlisle have instant access to our local land charges data. Our aim throughout has been, and continues to be, helping our residents and businesses to conduct their property transactions smoothly and efficiently.”


Construction minister: Infrastructure crucial to post-Covid-19 recovery

Construction minister Nadhim Zahawi has spoken of bringing forward infrastructure projects to support the construction sector’s economic recovery after the Covid-19 crisis.

In an online speech to members of the National Federation of Builders’ Large Contractors Forum, Zahawi said he was “talking to other departments to see what projects we can accelerate or bring forward because in terms of incentivising growth, infrastructure is going to be important and the government’s commitment to infrastructure is going to be important”.

Zahawi also said that the government was keeping its options open when it came to dealing with potential post-Covid-19 contractual disputes.

“We will keep under review all the interventions to make sure that as we move to a different profile of how businesses operate, as we come through this crisis, that we are able to respond in a way that can help businesses”.


Council webcasts planning committee meeting

South Northamptonshire Council (SNC) has held its first online planning committee meeting.

On Thursday 23 April, 15 SNC members dialled into the council’s videoconference system to participate in the meeting, which was broadcast live on YouTube. 

Democratic, planning and legal officers also took part, as did the public, via seven recorded representations and one written statement from applicants, interested parties and objectors.

Richard Dallyn, chairman of the planning committee, said: “Overall, I’m very pleased. Decisions were made in a fair and professional manner.

“We’d had a dress rehearsal of the technical aspects of the remote meeting the day before and I was very impressed on the day with how smoothly democratic officers administered the meeting and how planning officers managed to give thorough presentations with their usual array of images and graphics.”

He added that there were some hiccups that “mainly illustrate the need for better broadband in some parts of the district”.


Councillors warm to new remote meeting options

BECG, through research with Savanta ComRes, has conducted a survey of 429 councillors to establish what they think should happen next as planning adapts to the coronavirus environment.

About 75 per cent urged developers to adapt to consult remotely to support their applications, with a similar percentage believing planning committees continuing to take place is key to keeping the economy building.

Some 68 per cent said the most effective means of conducting planning consultations would be by telephone or videoconference consultation sessions, 60 per cent suggested email, 48 per cent selected virtual public exhibitions; 47 per cent called for webinar consultation sessions, and 45 per cent chose project websites.


Trafford introduces housing strategy to support older residents

Trafford Council has approved an Older People’s Housing Strategy with the aim of ensuring that the borough can provide attractive accommodation that is suitable for older people to live in.

The strategy recommends allocating sites for specialist housing for older people where there is an identified unmet need, and considering the provision of grants to older and vulnerable residents to ensure that their homes are safe, warm and dry.

The strategy comes as future projections suggest that in the next 20 years Trafford will see a close to 50 per cent increase in the number of people over 60 (with 10,700 people aged over 75) compared with 2015. 


U+I set to transform railway site into creative hub

Developer U+I, in partnership with Quinn Estates, has secured resolution from Ashford Borough Council to grant planning at Newtown Works in Ashford, Kent, subject to the signing of a section 106 agreement and the standard procedural/judicial process.

The aim is to regenerate the derelict railway works site, with the aims of creating a key UK hub for the creative industries. The site includes a grade II* Victorian engine work and other listed buildings, into a mixed-use scheme delivering film and studio floor space, 300 homes, offices, a 120-bed hotel and a 383-space multistorey car park.

U+I has also completed the acquisition of Arkley Golf Club in Barnet, Hertfordshire. The company now has six current or former golf courses in its development and trading portfolio, and said, “these have the potential to deliver long-term development gains”.

Image credit | iStock