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News in Brief: Goodwill calls for increase in cycling and walking; New 'nationwide rental brand' launched

Cycling / Shutterstock_211943203

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 29 March, 2016

Goodwill calls for increase in cycling and walking

Transport minister Robert Goodwill has launched a new strategy to encourage travelling by bike or on foot, with the ambition that these methods of travel would become the “natural choice” for shorter journeys or as part of a longer journey by 2040.

The strategy also includes aims to reduce deaths and serious injuries among cyclists and to increase the number of children walking to school. It will be supported by the provision of “safe” and “attractive” infrastructure. Goodwill said the strategy would “benefit the whole of society by boosting the economy, improving health, cutting congestion and improving air quality”.

He added: “That’s why we have committed over £300 million to support cycling and walking over this Parliament and this will increase further when spending on enhancing and maintaining existing infrastructure is taken into account.”

But he stressed that this long-term plan would require a change in attitudes among government, local bodies, business, communities and individuals, and would require “patience and persistence”.

A consultation has been launched to seek views on the strategy until 23 May 2016. The final strategy will then be published in the summer.

A number of case studies illustrating good practice taken by local authorities when designing and implementing cycling infrastructure were also published alongside the draft strategy.

New 'nationwide rental brand' launched

Real estate investment and development company Westrock has unveiled PLATFORM_, a new "national rental brand" for the UK.

PLATFORM_ developments will purportedly offer renters the ability to interact with the building's management both through on-site staff and through a “bespoke portal” and smartphone app. The apartments will also be equipped with smart meters and thermostats to help residents save money.

The scheme has a pipeline of 2,000 homes, with about 600 units set to be delivered across sites in Bedford, Bracknell, Crawley, Exeter and Stevenage later in 2016.

Each development will be managed by a single owner, which Westrock says would reduce “many of the problems arising from absent landlords or poor-quality agents looking after buy-to-let houses”. The developments will also include a number of facilities aimed at fostering a friendly community, including accessible rooftops and outdoor cafés.

Dominic Martin, operations and strategy director at Westrock, said: “For too long, renters outside of the main cities of London and Manchester have been overlooked and forced to accept the often substandard accommodation and service that is all too common in the traditional private rented sector.

“With PLATFORM_, we’ve developed a brand that will appeal to the new breed of renters and genuinely cater to their needs in an intuitive fashion.”

LDO recommended to aid Devon skills growth

Torbay Council has recommended that a Local Development Order (LDO) should be adopted by South Devon College to aid development of its Paignton campus.

Billfinger GVA advised South Devon college on the preparation of the LDO, which provides permitted development rights for specific types of development within a designated area. The order will simplify planning control to allow the college greater flexibility to adapt and develop its existing premises to improve the education, training and skills on offer for the local community, and will have a life of 15 years.

Laurence Frewin, vice-principal of corporate services at South Devon College, told the council: “The purpose of this LDO is to enable a vibrant education area at the Long Road campus to maximise the success of the college.”

He added: “We understand that an LDO places responsibility on the college to develop in a responsible manner. The college is committed to high-quality facilities that provide the most inspiring environment possible for our learners.”

BLP to further advise on Thames Tideway Tunnel

Law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) has been appointed to advise Tideway, the company created to finance and deliver London’s Thames Tideway Tunnel (TTT).

The £4.2 billion ‘super sewer’ will stretch 15 miles under London to intercept 34 combined sewer overflows, which currently pollute the Thames at times of heavy rainfall.

BLP has been advising on the TTT for nine years. Under this new appointment the firm will offer advice in a range of practice areas including planning and environment, asset protection and compulsory purchase compensation.

Construction of the tunnel is set to begin in 2016.

Major office-to-residential scheme completed in Nottingham

A 23-unit residential development has been completed in Nottingham city centre. It is understood to be the largest office-to-residential scheme completed in the city since the financial crisis.

The 16,000 square foot office block was purchased by developer Crosslane Residential Developments Limited for £910,000, and the  apartments are now being sold to professionals for between £100,000 and £350,000.

Thirteen of the 23 flats were sold before construction was completed. A spokesperson at LendInvest, the marketplace lending platform that financed the scheme, said the high pre-completion demand demonstrates the need for more good-quality, good-value housing in the city centre.

HS2 Phase One bill passed in Commons third reading

The London to Birmingham phase of HS2 has passed its third reading in the House of Commons. MPs voted 399 to 42 in favour of the bill.

The Phase One Bill will now be passed to the House of Lords. Construction is due to begin in 2017 subject to the completion of the bill’s parliamentary passage.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “Once again Parliament has backed HS2 and brought this vital new railway one step closer to reality. British contractors are now bidding to build the line, British apprentices are waiting to work on it and British cities are waiting to benefit from it.”

McLoughlin also made three pledges: to work closely with communities affected by the HS2 route; to keep a “firm grip” on costs; and to drive maximum value for money from the new railway.

Right to Buy take-up reaches nearly 50,000

Nearly 50,000 households have taken up their Right to Buy since 2012, according to new figures released by the government.

These figures show that more than 3,000 people bought under the scheme between October and December in 2015, with councils receiving £259 million from home sales to go towards the building of new homes.

For every home sold under Right to Buy an additional affordable home is built, and the target of one-for-one additional sales has now been exceeded.

The top 10 places revealed to be taking up Right to Buy are Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Wolverhampton, Kingston Upon Hull, and the London boroughs of Newham, Tower Hamlets, Southwark and Barking.

The voluntary Right to Buy will now be extended to 1.3 million housing association tenants – more than 25,000 have already  registered their interest.