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05/12/2017

News in brief: £25m fund for local authorities; New body needed to involve public in infrastructure

Words: Laura Edgar
Alok Sharma / Foreign and Commonwealth Office

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 5 December, 2017

£25m fund for local authorities

Housing and planning minister Alok Sharma has announced that the Planning Delivery Fund is open for bids.

An initial £11 million will be available to bid for as the government aims to have 300,000 homes a year built.

This measure and a number of others are expected to boost local authority planning capacity and encourage leadership in the delivery of new communities.

The other measures announced include an additional £3 million to support the delivery of 14 garden villages and the publishing of a consultation on plans to allow the creation of locally led New Town Development Corporations.

Sharma said: “Locally-led developments have enormous potential to deliver the scale and quality of housing growth that we need. By supporting our local authorities, we will be able to unlock more homes where people want to live.”

He said the measures “will help develop new communities that will not only help deliver high-quality well-designed homes, but will also bring new jobs and facilities and a boost to local economies”.

 

New body needed to involve public in infrastructure

A new report has argued that the government should create a new commission to involve the public in major infrastructure projects.

Published today by the independent Institute for Government (IfG), How to Design an Infrastructure Strategy for the UK argues that a commission for public engagement would reduce costly delays by giving people a genuine opportunity to influence decisions.

It should draw on the example of the Commission Nationale du Débat Public in France, which has reduced public opposition to major projects, IfG said.

The report also suggests that the absence of a national strategy for infrastructure has serious implications. “New projects are dreamt up, reframed, scrapped and reinvented, seemingly with little consideration of long-term objectives,” with the institute citing airport expansion in the South East being an example of this.

To resolve this, the report recommends that the government should develop a long-term national infrastructure strategy that properly coordinates the work of central and local government and more clearly spells out the impact on all regions.

Additionally, the position of commercial secretary to the Treasury, with a portfolio entirely focused on infrastructure and delivering a national infrastructure strategy, should be reinstated.

How to Design an Infrastructure Strategy for the UK can be found on the Institute for Government website.

 

Government urged to let all councils borrow to build

The government should allow all local authorities to borrow to build houses as the number of plots with planning permission yet to be developed is now enough for 400,000 homes, according to a senior councillor.

The government pledged to allow some councils with “high affordability pressure” to bid to borrow up to an additional £1 billion on housing revenue accounts in the Budget.

Speaking at a Commons Treasury Committee, Local Government Association vice-chair Nick Forbes said the government should lift the cap entirely, arguing that previous attempts to link stringent conditions to such a measure had failed to deliver any homes. He said councils should also be allowed to keep 100 per cent of their right to buy receipts, while planning departments’ cost of applications should be covered by funding from central government.

 

Yorkshire Dales ponders higher council tax on second homes

Civic leaders across the Yorkshire Dales are considering a five-year pilot scheme to increase council tax on second homes in the national park.

More than 10 per cent of houses in the Yorkshire Dales National Park - around 1,500 properties - are second homes.

Now Craven District Council leader Richard Foster is warning that community sustainability has become a pressing concern and is working with Richmondshire District Council leader Yvonne Peacock and Yorkshire Dales National Park chairman Carl Lis on a detailed proposal to be considered before Christmas.

Foster said local authorities in the Dales are “putting an immense amount of work into trying to get new, affordable homes built but so many homes are being lost to second home ownership that the positive effects of the new homes are being cancelled out”.

“Higher Council Tax charges on second homes could be the answer. Any additional money raised through this pilot could be ploughed back into community services.”

 

Vacant Bristol waterfront plot to be developed

The Guinness Partnership has been given conditional planning consent by Bristol City Council to develop the McArthur’s Yard site on Bristol waterfront.

The site, which is next to the SS Great Britain, has been derelict for 20 years.

The development comprises 147 new homes and 1,600 square metres of commercial space and amenities. The homes will comprise a mix of one, two and three bedrooms across open market sale, shared ownership and social rent tenures.

The Guinness Partnership said the homes will be thermally efficient and economical to live in, with 20 per cent of energy generated through renewables.

The site comprises a series of derelict warehouse buildings and structures, which had been the headquarters of Bristol-based metal merchant McArthur’s Group.

The Guinness Partnership worked with Nash Partnership on the planning, urban design and architectural work.

 

Preferred bidder for former Jesmond Dene Nurseries site appointed

Newcastle City Council has appointed retirement and later living developer PegasusLife as the preferred bidder for the former Jesmond Dene Nurseries site in the Newcastle suburb of Jesmond.

Subject to contract, PegasusLife is aiming to deliver a mix of 91 later living apartments and, with joint venture partners, 18 executive family homes.

Early plans also include restoring and developing the historic police stables at the site, which will provide 30 additional hotel bedrooms and a spa facility for Jesmond Dene House Hotel.

Ged Bell, cabinet member for inclusive growth at Newcastle City Council, said: “This prime development site, in the heart of Jesmond Vale, offers a unique opportunity to provide a range of housing choices to meet the needs of our residents.

“The sale of the site will help us invest in Newcastle’s future, and deliver on our commitment to create more balanced communities and deliver inclusive growth that everyone can benefit from.”

 

33,000 people sign up to Right to Build

New research by the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) has suggested that, since 1st April 2016, over 33,000 people have signed up to Right to Build registers across England.

NaCSBA said this is over an 80 per cent increase on this time last year, when 18,000 people signed up in the first year of the registers.

During the second year since the Right To Build registers came into force, nearly 18,000 additional people signed up, many via NaCSBA’s Right to Build Portal. Of these and the initial 18,000 people, around 3,000 people have been removed from the registers by local authorities. Reasons include people having found plots and councils applying local connection tests or introducing a fee to join or stay on the registers.

NaCSBA said it supports the fact that the majority of councils are taking the management of their registers so seriously, as they provide one of two important sources of demand and need to be reliable.

Richard Bacon MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Self-Build, Custom and Community Housebuilding and Placemaking and ambassador of the task force said that while he is pleased with the increase in people signing up, demand is much higher, “as the evidence does not follow through that there are several hundred people on a register in one council area, while a neighbouring one only has double figures”.

“Clearly, more needs to be done to promote the registers and really make them work as an evidence tool in local planning, as we know that half of the adult population wants to design and build their dream home at some point in their lives.”

 

Two extra stories for Battersea development

Wandsworth Council’s planning committee has approved developers Omer Weinberger and Marc Pennick’s amendment to its planning consent on the former Homesbase site on York Road, Battersea.

The amendment will see an additional two floors added to the main tower of the mixed-use scheme, bringing it to 23 storeys and increasing the total number of residential units from 275 to 299.

The scheme is due for completion in 2019.

Colliers International advised.

Image credit | Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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