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News in brief: ‘City park’ plan for Swansea’s Castle Square; England not windy enough for new turbines, says expert

Wind turbine / Shutterstock_71491516

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 7 June, 2016

England ‘not windy enough for new turbines', says industry expert

England is not windy enough to power more onshore wind turbines, admits Hugh McNeal, chief executive of RenewableUK, the wind industry trade body.

Speaking about the chances of installing more onshore turbines in the UK, he said he believes there is a case for it – just not in England.

McNeal, formerly with the Department of Energy and Climate Change, said wind speeds were not high enough to make the projects economically viable without subsidies that are now unavailable. 

The government has implemented a manifesto pledge to end subsidies for new onshore wind farms, but McNeal and others believe they will be able to demonstrate onshore farms are the cheapest form of new power generation capacity even if not in England.

Wholesale electricity prices are too low to warrant big investment in any new form of electricity generation, and so the government has already made subsidies available to new gas plants.

Analysis of government databases by the Renewable Energy Foundation, a group critical of subsidies, suggests there is still 425 megawatts of capacity in England in the planning system – about a tenth of the amount seeking permission in Scotland.


‘City park’ plan for Swansea’s Castle Square

Swansea's Castle Square could be transformed into a ‘city park’.

The square, developed from a garden in the 1990s, is considered "tired" and councillors want to make changes to make it more vibrant.

It would also fit in with the planned city centre regeneration, which would make Swansea "unrecognisable" by 2020.

The council's cabinet will decide later this month if it wants to redevelop the square and then the public will be able to give their views. 


No money for both M4 relief road and metro, warns Labour AM

Money allocated for the M4 relief road should be spent on the metro for South Wales as there is not enough money for both schemes, says Jenny Rathbone, Labour AM for Cardiff Central.

The UK Government is allowing Welsh ministers to borrow £500 million for the relief road. But Rathbone said benefits offered by the metro project to upgrade public transport in South Wales were greater.

The Welsh Government said it would deliver both schemes.

Recent assessments have put the cost of the M4 upgrade at over £1 billion – excluding VAT and inflation. One estimate of the full cost of the Metro has been put at £2 billion.

Some £764 million has been allocated for the Metro as part of the 20-year Cardiff Capital Region deal and EU funding could also be used.


Reading FC homes plan causes concerns over building heights

The Environment Agency has objected to a proposed 600-home development because of fears that high-rise buildings will put a nearby river in the shade.

It says the planned £500 million development next to the Madejski Stadium has not adequately assessed the impact to wildlife in the adjacent Foudry Brook.

Plans for the 20,000 square metre site, which could include an ice rink and a park, were released in February.

Environment Agency planning adviser Michelle Kidd said: "We object to the proposed development as submitted because the assessment and mitigation of the risks to nature conservation are inadequate."

Reading FC says it is working with Reading Borough Council to resolve issues raised by the Environment Agency.


Council rejects Heacham Lidl store plan

Councillors threw out multimillion-pound plans for a Lidl store on the edge of Heacham yesterday (6 June).

West Norfolk Council’s planning committee voted eight to six against the proposed development of the former RJ Stainsby garage site, next to the A149.

Concerns had been raised over the impact of the development on the surrounding road network and the design of the store.

Lidl consultants had insisted that their assessment, which suggested little impact from the development, was “robust”, and Norfolk County Council roads officials said the store chain’s plans for access to the site were “by far the best solution” for the area.

But members rejected the scheme on transport and design grounds, despite warnings from planning officers that the arguments could be difficult to sustain at appeal. Lidl has so far made no comment on the decision.


Tibbalds CampbellReith JV chosen for major north London estate regeneration

Genesis Housing Association (GHA) has appointed the Tibbalds CampbellReith JV to develop a detailed planning application for the next phase of the Grahame Park Estate regeneration in Barnet.

Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design leads the multidisciplinary team, which includes Mæ Architects.

Grahame Park Estate, located on the site of the old Hendon Aerodrome, was originally built in the 1960s and is the borough’s largest housing estate.

Mæ Architects has led the work on an overall masterplan for this renewal stage, providing 1,700 mixed-tenure homes.

The scheme will cover the first phase of the masterplan to provide 855 homes on a 6.3-hectare site.

The plans also include a neighbourhood centre, retail units, and areas of landscaped open space, and improved pedestrian links. 

The application is due to be submitted in late 2016. The first stage of the regeneration, Stage A, which received planning approval in 2008, should provide 650 new homes by early 2018.


Khan pledges to protect office space for London's small businesses

New measures will be put in place to help protect and expand office space for small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs in London, the city's new mayor has announced.

Announcing the protections, the mayor's office claimed that conversion on this scale could mean space for 93,750 jobs could be lost, based on a calculation that 16 metres squared equates to one job.

Among the protections promised by Khan are:

• Amending the London Plan so that there is stronger protection for small businesses and start-up workspace

• Delivering new spaces for small businesses, the creative industries, artists and the fashion industry within new residential and mixed-use developments

• Promoting schemes to provide linked affordable housing and business space in new housing developments

• Working with the government on changes to permitted development rights.

Read more here.


Local authority planning processes need repairing, says pig industry body

Pig farmers are finding it “increasingly difficult” to gain planning permission to replace worn-out buildings thanks to “clunky” planning processes, according to the National Pig Association (NPA).

If the government is serious about reducing antibiotics on farms, the NPA said, early action is need to repair local authority planning processes, which have become “progressively clunky in recent years”.

Keeping livestock in new buildings “dramatically reduces” the need for veterinary interventions, it claimed. However, farmers, particularly pig farmers, are struggling to gain permission to replace worn-out buildings.

As part of its recently introduced Pig Industry Antibiotic Stewardship Programme, the NPA is urging the government to issue guidance, including that the level of detail demanded by planners should be proportionate to the scale of the application.

Read more here.

Image credit | Shuttershock