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News in brief: Campaigners show most homeless families have jobs

Words: Huw Morris
Temporary accommodation / Shutterstock_92569951

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 24 July, 2018

New NPPF set for this week despite looming Parliament recess

With Parliament's summer recess set to start tomorrow (24th July), there is still no sign of the revised National Planning Policy Framework despite communities secretary James Brokenshire saying that the document would be published prior to MPs breaking up for the summer. The Planner website and our social media channels will cover all of the details once the revised NPPF has been published.


Campaigners show most homeless families have jobs

More than half of homeless families in England are in work, according to latest figures from Shelter.
The charity’s social housing commission found that 55 per cent of homeless families in temporary accommodation have jobs, amounting to 33,000. This is an increase by 73 per cent since 2013.

Expensive private rents, the continuing freeze on housing benefit and a chronic lack of social homes are driving the rend in working homelessness, said Shelter.

The figures, released by the Department for Work and Pensions following a Freedom of Information request, were revealed as the government prepares to publish a green paper on social housing.

High housing costs are a major concern for many working families, particularly those in low-paid, part-time or contract jobs, the campaigners said. Losing a tenancy is now the single biggest cause of homelessness in the country – accounting for 27 per cent of all households accepted as homeless in the past year.


Radical overhaul of construction sector is required, say Lords

The House of Lords has reported that the construction sector cannot meet the UK’s housing needs and ‘may struggle’ to meet its infrastructure needs.

It lags behind other countries in productivity and is facing a labour shortage.

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee’s report Off-site Manufacture for Construction: Building for Change, concludes that off-site construction (OSM) could help to increase productivity in the sector, while simultaneously reducing the environmental impacts associated with traditional construction. Currently, though, off-site manufacturing is “somewhat limited” across the sector because of outdated and unsustainable business models.

It requires clients, designers and contractors to collaborate at an early stage, but the committee said that evidence it had received suggested that the construction sector is “fragmented” and “lacking in trust”. It said this needs to be addressed and “strong leadership” is required from the Construction Leadership Council.

While off-site manufacturing can reduce the impact of labour shortages, a different skill set is required for manufacturing – such as site implementation, digital and procurement – skills the sector currently does not have. The committee recommends that the government should make sure that young people entering the workplace are equipped with the digital skills needed for modern methods of construction, including off-site manufacture.


Tariff closure confirmation dismays energy industry

The renewables industry has expressed dismay at confirmation of government plans to end the financial initiative that supports small green schemes.
The Feed-in Tariff (FiT) was launched in 2010 to provide payments to owners of small-scale renewable generators at a fixed rate per unit of electricity produced, ensuring that the cost of installation is recouped over the lifetime of the generator. As the cost of renewables has plummeted over the past eight years, this fixed rate payment has fallen by up to 90 per cent.

The 2015 government review said the current FiT scheme would close in April 2019. The government promised to set out its policy on post-2019 support for small-scale renewables more than a year ago but this has been repeatedly delayed, causing huge uncertainty for companies in the sector, according to RenewablesUK, which represents about 400 organisations.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy confirmed the scheme’s closure while calling for evidence on potential new policies for small-scale renewables.

RenewableUK’s executive director Emma Pinchbeck said the confirmation is a major blow to small-scale renewables across the country. The industry has been “waiting, at great cost” for more than a year for the government to start consultations.


Consultancy team set to masterplan Bristol’s Temple Quarter

A team of consultants has been appointed to create the masterplan for a 70-hectare mixed-use quarter with up to 11,000 homes.

The 70-hectare development zone will feature a mixed-use quarter comprising up to 11,000 homes and a revitalised transport interchange. The quarter is the home of Temple Meads railway station, which currently handles 10 million passengers a year – a figure that is expected to rise to more than 22 million by 2030.

The development will include station capacity improvements, better access to Temple Meads and the area, with new public space and improvements to the public realm.

The project will also involve a sensitive adaptation, development and protection of the grade 1 listed station, which was designed by Brunel.

The team will be led by Mott MacDonald and includes Weston Williamson and Partners, AWW Architects, Alan Baxter Associates, GVA, Deloitte, Turley, TLT, and Pragma.


RTPI writes to education minister over apprenticeship degree

The RTPI has written to education secretary Anne Milton following the decision by the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) to dismiss the appeal against its decision to pass the Town Planning Apprenticeships Level 7.
The letter outlines concerns that the Planning Apprenticeship Trailblazers Group has regarding the IfA’s handling of the apprenticeship approval and appeal process, including a lack of clarity.

The trailblazers group has written to the chair and CEO of the IfA to request all information regarding the decisions around the apprenticeships and to complain about the IfA’s handling of the matter.

Victoria Hills MRTPI, chief executive of the RTPI, said in her letter: “On behalf of the RTPI Board of Trustees and 25,000 members, I wish to express my deep dismay and concern at what appears to be a poor level of operational competence and transparency by the IfA.

“For example; the lack of dialogue and information during the application and appeal processes gives me no confidence that the IfA has any understanding of the importance the Trailblazers Group places on the role of professional bodies in setting industry-led qualifications for professional competence. It is also apparent that the IfA does not understand the gold-standard professional qualifications that the RTPI sets under its Royal Charter. This is conspicuously at odds with the stated intention of the government’s apprenticeship programme to be employer-led and aligned to professional qualifications.”

Protest group launches legal challenge to Aberdeen stadium plan

Campaigners against Aberdeen FC’s plans for a £50 million stadium have formally launched a legal challenge.

The No Kingsford Stadium Group has lodged a petition for judicial review in the Court of Session after raising more than £66,000.

In January, Aberdeen City Council overwhelmingly voted to approve the plan, which comprises a 20,000-seat stadium, a training pavilion, groundsman’s accommodation, and seven pitches to be shared with the club’s community trust.

The group claims the planning application for the stadium breaches green belt and development policies. The campaigners are also protesting against the scheme’s impact on the environment, amenity and infrastructure of the city’s Kingswells and Westhill areas.

Aberdeen FC aims to open the stadium for the 2021/22 season.


Government kicks off consultation on shale gas development

The government has launched a consultation on proposed planning reforms for exploratory shale gas development in England.

The two 14-week consultations are open until 25 October 2018, after which the government will analyse the comments and issue its response later in 2018.

The government seeks views on whether to designate exploratory drilling for shale gas resources as a new form of permitted development, and whether such development should be decided under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) regime.

The housing and energy secretaries issued a joint statement in May declaring that the development of shale gas is of “national importance” and that mineral plans should not place restrictions on its extraction

However, earlier this month a group of MPs cautioned against government proposals to bring fracking applications under the remit of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) regime, instead concluding that mineral planning authorities are best placed to decide such applications.

Permitted development rights would need to abide with environmental and site protection laws and would not apply to exploratory drilling in sensitive areas such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Wales green regulator in turmoil as chair quits

The country’s green regulator was plunged into crisis this week as the chair of Natural Resources Wales resigned.
Diane McCrea quit in the wake of a scandal about the sale of timber from publicly owned woodland managed by the organisation, which should have been put up for sale on the open market but wasn’t.
The chair was under pressure after the Wales Audit Office queried the organisation’s accounts for the third time in as many years.
Rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths told AMs the resignation was “an appropriate response”.
The minister said a senior civil servant would be seconded to Natural Resources Wales to help chief executive Clare Pillman implement "the changes necessary to have a delivery organisation with strong governance”.
Griffiths also said she would appoint an interim chair pending the recruitment of a new chair and five new board members.

Officials warn that housing crisis poses major threat for Ireland

The Irish Republic’s housing crisis looks likely to continue for the “foreseeable future” and will have a major impact on economic growth and Irish society, say civil servants.

This stark assessment of the threats facing the country was highlighted in the latest review of strategic risks confronting the nation compiled by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s own officials.

They maintain that the housing shortage is “one of the most prominent risks and challenges facing the country”.

Their report also warns of infrastructure constraints, including the threat of rising levels of litigation leading to delays in infrastructure delivery.

Social media was also held out as a potential problem. “There is a risk that the growing influence of social media may become a relevant factor in the context of opposition of citizens and communities to the implementation of infrastructure projects.”

The Taoiseach is warned: “Ireland’s development consent systems need to be robust and efficient to maximise certainty and minimise delay in converting capital to projects that deliver.”

In a separate but related move, the Parliamentary Budget Office has concluded that the housing crisis, if left unresolved, will have severe macroeconomic consequences. It warned that persistently high housing costs would eventually erode the republic’s competitiveness and attractiveness.


Housing associations launch development venture

Four housing associations have launched a joint venture to build about 2,000 homes in the area of the Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority in the next five years.

Hyde, Flagship, Longhurst and Cross Keys Homes, which together own one in three housing association homes in the area, have created Evera Homes, which will officially launch in September.

The joint venture will focus on large sites and use community land trusts, small and medium-sized builders and modern methods of construction to build a range of homes across tenures.


Scottish Government gives updates on Awards for Quality in Planning

More than 50 entries have been received for this year’s Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning.

The Scottish Government said the entries have been across five categories covering projects for children and young people, partnership, place, plans and process. Shortlisted applicants have been contacted for site visits and interviews to take place in September.

This year’s honours also include two other awards for personal achievement in planning and a people’s choice in planning. Shortlisted applicants in the first category will be asked to prepare a short video for the awards judges while the public has been invited to vote for their favourite planning project in 2018, with the poll open until late September.

Results of this year’s award will be announced at a ceremony in Edinburgh in late November.

Whitchurch housing and jobs site for sale to help medieval almshouse

A site with planning permission for 94 homes and employment use on the outskirts of Whitchurch, Hampshire is up for sale.

Hospital of St Cross, a medieval charitable almshouse, is selling the site which comprises two adjoining parcels of land on the north-west edge of Whitchurch. Pro Vision, a firm of planners and architects, drew up a comprehensive scheme for the new neighbourhood on behalf of the charity.

The first parcel of land, a former horticultural plantation, comes with outline planning permission from Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council for 60 houses and flats, including 24 affordable homes. The site also has consent for 3,300 square metres of employment space and a new 70-space railway station car park. The second parcel, a former allotment site, has planning permission for 34 homes. The site is being sold by Carter Jonas.

Proceeds from the sale will be reinvested in essential repairs and improvements to the grade 1 listed Hospital of St Cross, which provides sheltered housing for 25 elderly men.

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