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News in brief: Government needs to address Britain’s broadband backlists ‘oversight’; Councils secure infrastructure contributions after government challenge


A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 24 May, 2016

Government needs to address Britain’s broadband backlists ‘oversight’ – RICS

Key industrial hubs such as the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and Aberdeenshire are currently being backlisted from the UK Broadband Delivery programme, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Five per cent of the UK, including large parts of Northern England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, are currently set to miss out on the government’s pledge to roll out faster broadband by 2018.

Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at RICS, said that the prime minister appeared to have “gotten his wires crossed”.

“On one hand, he is pledging support for Britain’s oil industry and the Northern Powerhouse, yet on the other he is refusing to give them the tools they need to compete with their UK and overseas competitors.

“Broadband has now become the fourth utility and is as important to running an effective business as electricity and water,” said Blackburn. “We know that increased availability of faster broadband speeds will add about £17 billion to the UK’s annual Gross Value Added (GVA) by 2024. But unless things change we will create a two-tier nation, in which vital areas of Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland are missing out.”

Blackburn also calls for an update to the Electronic Communications Code, which currently governs the UK’s broadband supply and which he says is “30 years out of date”. He urged the government to “ensure that it is properly updated and implemented so that disputes between landowners, agents and telecoms operators are avoided – allowing broadband delivery to all communities wherever their geographical location.”

More information can be found here.


Residential construction ‘remains strong’ – Barbour ABI

According to the May edition of Barbour ABI’s Economic and Construction Market Review, £6.1 billion worth of construction contracts were awarded during April in the UK. Some £2.1 billion worth of this was from projects awarded in the residential sector - up from £1.4 billion in January – with 67 per cent of the value coming from private housing.

Infrastructure also saw a 35 per cent increase in contract value compared with April 2015, due in part to renewable energy projects including two major wind farms and a £500 million nuclear decommissioning project in Sellafield, Cumbria.

Michael Dall, lead economist at Barbour ABI, said: “Currently the UK has one of the lowest rates of new build housing worldwide in developed countries and with the various government incentive schemes in effect, it’s no surprise to see residential contracts continue to grow, boosting the construction industry as a whole.”

Read the review here.


Councils secure infrastructure contributions after government challenge

West Berkshire Council and Reading Borough Council have expressed “extreme disappointment” following the recent Court of Appeal decision which stipulates that local authorities will not be able to impose affordable housing contributions through section 106 agreements on development of 10 homes or fewer.

The councils had jointly sought a judicial review to challenge the government’s proposals to restrict these contributions; the review was successful last summer, but an appeal by the government was recently upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Despite this loss, the councils’ decision to challenge the government helped to secure contributions to local infrastructure in both areas. In West Berkshire, the council agreed over £1.4 million in contributions from developers, and secured 13 affordable housing units. In Reading the council agreed more than £1.2 million in contributions from developers and secured an additional three affordable housing units.

Councillor James Fredrickson, West Berkshire’s executive member for legal services, said: “The requirement for developers to make contributions on smaller developments has not had a negative impact on planning applications or developments in any way. In fact, we’ve exceeded our expectations and delivered more than 600 new homes in West Berkshire over the last year.

“Both councils remain committed to providing affordable homes and together we are considering our options in light of the Court of Appeal decision.”


£10 million ‘luxury’ care home announced for Dorset

Albion Care Communities has announced that it will begin developing a new care home in Wareham, Dorset, which is due to open in the summer of 2017. The home will house 64 residents and will also include a café, cinema room, hairdressing salon, activities spaces and “extensive landscaped gardens”.

Mike Parsons, chairman of Albion Care Communities, said: “The Wareham site is at the heart of the local community and fits very naturally with our model, which is focused on delivering premium care services to private payers.”


Poole marina set for £100m upgrade

Poole Borough Council has approved plans for a seven-storey development including a five-star hotel and 73 ‘luxury’ apartments at Salterns Marina, on the former site of the Harbourside Hotel.

The development will also include a spa and gym for community use, a “state-of-the-art marina facility” and a 226-space car park. The development is being “future-proofed” by a £7 million investment in raising the sea wall to protect the area from flooding.

Planning board chairman, councillor Peter Pawlowski, said of the scheme: “I think this is future-looking and not looking backwards. I strongly believe this town needs that to protect its economy and to provide jobs. We should be taking advantage of our harbour to promote and help our area, and that area is so tired.”


Croydon Council to launch Place Review Panel

The London Borough of Croydon is looking to recruit a multi-disciplinary Place Review Panel to help raise the quality of is built environment and public spaces.

The panel will include roughly 20 industry professionals who will possess expertise in planning, landscape architecture and urban design, architecture, conservation, engineering, placemaking and culture. The recruitment process will begin in late May.

The panel is intended to act as a gateway to the planning committee, and will offer impartial advice on all major schemes. The council states that place reviews will soon become integral to all major regeneration projects planned for the town centre and wider borough.

Councillor Paul Scott, chair of the planning committee, said: “The council has recently seen the delivery of several new high-quality built environment schemes, and this review panel will take us a step closer to our goal, as well as hopefully speeding up approvals and therefore saving time and expense for developers.”

Expressions of interest for the Place Review Panel can be made through the London Tenders Portal here.