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News in brief: Starmer announces his shadow cabinet; Permanent secretary appointed at MHCLG

Words: Laura Edgar
Thangam Debbonaire / Chris McAndrew

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 7 April, 2020

Starmer announces his shadow cabinet

New Labour leader Keir Starmer, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, has appointed Thangham Debbonaire as the shadow housing secretary.

Appointments to Starmer’s shadow cabinet were announced after he won the Labour leadership contest with 56.2 per cent of the vote. The vote brought to an end Jeremy Corbyn’s almost five-year tenure as party leader.

Debbonaire has been the MP for Bristol West since the 2015 general election. Very little can be gleaned from Debbonaire’s voting record, but she has voted for measures to prevent climate change.

Steve Reed will serve as the shadow communities and local government secretary. He has been MP for Croydon North since 2012 and was previously the leader of Lambeth Council from 2006 to 2012.

Ed Miliband, MP for Doncaster North, returns to the cabinet as the shadow business, energy and industrial strategy secretary. He stepped down as leader of the party following the 2016 EU referendum.


High streets to benefit from £22bn grants and business rates package

The government has promised struggling high street firms that they will be receiving £22 billion coronavirus boost, with grants of up to £25,000 already being paid into their bank accounts.

Also, to support those affected by the coronavirus outbreak, eligible properties, including those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, will not pay business rates for the next 12 months. The measure is projected to save firms in England £11 billion.

The smallest businesses in these sectors are also starting to receive one-off grants of either £10,000 or £25,000.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “High street businesses are at the core of what keeps our economy thriving.

“That is why we are taking the unprecedented step to provide businesses with the vital cash they need to ensure their survival during this difficult time, with 300 businesses having already received money in their accounts.”


Permanent secretary appointed at MHCLG

Jeremy Pocklington has been appointed as permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill approved the appointment with the backing of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Pocklington succeeds Dame Melanie Dawes, who left the civil service in February. He has been acting permanent secretary since her departure. 

Pocklington said: “It’s an honour to be leading the department as we respond to the nation’s current challenges and support those who need our help most.

“MHCLG has a critically important agenda to level up all parts of our country, support local government and deliver the homes the country needs.”

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Jeremy’s appointment as permanent secretary at MHCLG is excellent news for the department and the government.

“He is a highly talented and dedicated senior civil servant who has been a great support to me since I became secretary of state and most recently as we work intensively to respond to Covid-19.

“I look forward to working with him in the months ahead to deliver on the department’s priorities.”

Pocklington became the MHCLG’s director general for housing in August 2018.


Membury neighbourhood plans backed

Membury Neighbourhood Plan was supported by 81 per cent of voters at a referendum held in March.

Turnout was recorded as 33 per cent of residents.

The neighbourhood plan sets out policies for the future of the parish to help inform decisions about development and planning applications.

Work on the plan began in April 2012, with members of the parish council, local amenity groups and individuals from the community contributing.

A steering group composed of members of the parish council, local amenity groups and individuals from the wider community has worked hard since April 2014 to produce the Membury Neighbourhood Plan. 

The plan will be taken to a meeting of East Devon’s council cabinet to be formally ‘made’. This is expected to be beyond the usual eight-week timescale, owing to the restrictions in place to stem the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19). 

The plan can be reviewed here on the East Devon District Council.


Architects appointed to deliver masterplan for East Sussex town

Architectural practice Conran and Partners has been appointed by Wealden District Council to develop a masterplan for the historic town of Hailsham in East Sussex. 

It should offer a “strategic vision” for the town centre, improving the retail and leisure offer at Vicarage Field. The project brief includes:

  • new leisure facilities;
  • an enhanced public sector hub with improved co-working opportunities;
  • improved relocated healthcare facilities;
  • new homes in the town centre to meet a range of local housing needs;
  • relocation and improvement of facilities for the Hailsham Club and Charles Hunt Centre;
  • consolidation of car parking arrangements; and
  • energy-efficient new buildings, sustainable infrastructure and clean energy options to support the council’s climate change commitments.

Conran and Partners has also been tasked with prioritising pedestrians over vehicles and improving access and journeys through the town and creating new open spaces.

The council acquired most of the land within the area of the town covered by Hailsham Aspires as part of its investment to ensure that any approach to urban regeneration is “comprehensive and capable of being delivered”.

Conran and Partners will consult on and develop a design process before submitting an outline planning submission to the council.

The wider project team includes engineering consultant Hilson Moran, town planners at Lambert Smith Hampton and design team project manager Mott MacDonald.


Public consultation on major upgrade to railway in West Yorkshire extended

Network Rail has extended the public consultation period on proposals to upgrade the railway between Huddersfield and Westtown (Dewsbury).

The consultation will now close on Thursday, 30 April.

The proposals are part of the TransPennine upgrade, which would see the route between York and Manchester via Leeds and Huddersfield “vastly improved”.

This is the second stage of consultation on this part of the project. Public events about the proposals have been cancelled owing to the restrictions in place to stem the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19). 

Network Rail decided to extend the consultation period to make sure everyone has enough time to respond to the proposals.

The proposals include redevelopment of both Deighton and Ravensthorpe stations, the replacement of the bridge on Colne Bridge Road, and the replacement of John William Street bridge.

They can be viewed here on the Network Rail website.

Image credit | Chris McAndrew