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News in brief: Labour to push Jenrick for answers over Westferry development; Heritage funding deadline extended

Words: Laura Edgar
Robert Jenrick / Stuart Graham

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 23 June, 2020

Labour to push Jenrick for answers over Westferry development

A three-hour opposition day debate on Wednesday 24 June will see Labour push housing secretary Robert Jenrick for answers surrounding his decision to approve a 500-apartment, 44-storey development at Westferry Printworks, in East London.

Jenrick approved the scheme in January – the day before community infrastructure levy charges placed on developments were increased. A planning inspector had earlier recommended its rejection. The timing of the decision meant Conservative Party donor Richard Desmond avoided paying between £30 million and £50 million, said the council.

Jenrick accepted his decision was unlawful.

Two weeks after the decision was made, the property developer made a £12,000 donation to the Conservative Party.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend (20 June) that Desmond showed Jenrick a promotional video on his phone when the pair sat next to each other at a Conservative Party fundraising dinner, before the housing secretary issued his decision.

According to The Guardian, shadow communities secretary Steve Reed is expected to press Jenrick on whether department officials asked him to recuse himself from the decision because viewing the video would appear to constitute lobbying by Desmond. 


Heritage funding deadline extended

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has announced that the deadline to apply for emergency grants has been extended to the end of July.

The £50 million Heritage Emergency Fund was set up in late April to help the UK’s heritage survive the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic.

Hundreds of grants have been awarded in a bid to address immediate pressures for those most in need. However, when their existing business model may no longer be fit for purpose, heritage organisations still face significant challenges.

Grants have supported heritage organisations with essential costs to keep them afloat, including core staff wages and utility bills. They can now also be used to start the recovery process, which could include new operating and business plans, investing in digital, or the costs of reopening.

Ros Kerslake, chief executive at the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “This is still a time of great change and uncertainty for heritage organisations, and we are with them in heart and mind right now as they take uncertain steps back into a fast-changing world. We are keen to help them in planning for the recovery that is so vital for heritage, its people and communities.”

More information about eligibility and applying can be found on the National Lottery Heritage Fund website. 


Housing could replace warehouse in Chesham

Hightown Housing Association has completed the purchase of Preston Hill House in Chesham.

Subject to planning permission, it plans to build about 60 new affordable homes. 

Hightown said it is preparing a full planning application for the redevelopment of the site to provide a mixture of houses and flats. The homes will all be below market rates, with the rented homes allocated to those on the council’s housing register. There will also be a number of homes available for shared ownership.

The planning application is expected to be submitted this summer.

The housing association has agreed with the previous owner, event catering and logistics specialist Global Infusion Group, that it can stay on rent-free while it prepares and cooks more than 4,000 meals a week for Buckinghamshire’s NHS Trust during the coronavirus pandemic. The site has also been used as a warehouse, office space and a small brewery.


Berkshire film studios to expand

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council had approved the expansion of the existing commercial filming use at Bray Studios in Berkshire.

The development would see the construction of a number of new studio and workshop buildings, as well as the use of adjoining land for outdoor filming purposes – for a temporary period of two years.

The site is in the green belt and the proposed development was deemed to have special circumstances for its approval.

The permission was secured by consultancy Nexus Planning on behalf of Farmglade Ltd.

Oliver Bell, director at Nexus Planning’s Reading office, explained that the proposed development would generate “substantial economic benefits” for the local area. 

“This includes the creation of 400 to 600 direct and indirect jobs on a day-to-day basis, and up to approximately 1,000 at peak times, as well as the investment of millions of pounds in the UK economy as a whole. Collectively, the economic benefits were found to clearly outweigh any harm to the green belt, so we’re pleased the council accepted the very special circumstances which existed in this development.”

Bray Studios has most recently been used to film the Elton John biopic, Rocketman, and the BBC’s Dracula television series.  


National park approves homes plan

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority's planning committee has approved an application for the construction of eight homes in Austwick in Craven.

This brings the number of extant permissions for new homes in the park to 472. 

The site is allocated to new homes in the local plan.

Jim Munday, member champion for development management, said: “These houses are very much needed in Austwick, just as houses are needed in towns and villages across the national park to help retain a critical mass of population to maintain local services. 

“Some planning committee members expressed disappointment that none of the eight houses was to be affordable or local occupancy.  However, the developer will be required to provide a proportionate sum of money that will then be used to support affordable housing at other sites in the national park that would not come forward without funding.”

Munday added that before work can begin on site, further permission would need to be sought for the heating system. “We will be working hard with the applicant to make sure renewable energy is installed, in line with the authority’s commitment to address the climate and nature emergency.”


Plans to protect South West rail link submitted

Network Rail has submitted plans to Teignbridge District Council for the remainder of the new £80 million Dawlish sea wall.

This seeks to help protect the “vital” rail line to the South West from rising sea levels and extreme weather for the next 100 years.

Work on the first section of the wall, at Marine Parade, is expected to be completed this summer. 

Plans for section two should see the wall run for 415 metres between Coastguards and Colonnade breakwaters. They also include a new accessible footbridge at the station and a wider safer promenade that retains the views of the coast.

Network Rail has submitted the plans for prior approval under its permitted development rights while Listed Building Consent is also being sought from the council as the work is attached to the grade II listed-Dawlish station.


Councillors approve Rotherham leisure plans

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council has approved plans for Forge Island, a mixed-use development that includes a greater choice of food and drink outlets.

Muse Developments Ltd will be working with the council to deliver the leisure destination, which forms a key part of the Town Centre Masterplan.

The council’s cabinet member for jobs and the local economy, Denise Lelliott, said: “It’s fantastic to see the plans for Forge Island approved by the planning board, which is particularly important as the town centre begins to find its feet again as lockdown eases a little. We know residents are keen to see the area develop and this is an important milestone towards delivering a scheme which is a catalyst for the wider regeneration of the rest of the town centre.”


Living wall approved in London

The City of London Corporation has granted planning approval for a five-storey living wall to be built at 20 Cousin Lane.

Approximately two metric tonnes of recycled aluminium and 1.5 tonnes of compost, made from recycled garden waste, will be used to build the wall.

The project, for client PSR Agency Limited, is the culmination of work between planners at the city corporation, Veolia UK and Red Squirrel Architects.

It seeks to represent circular economy principles and demonstrate how recycling plays an important role in protecting and preserving the environment, said the corporation.

Cans recovered from Veolia UK’s Materials Recovery Facility in Southwark, which sorts recycling collected from homes and businesses in the City of London, will be shredded and recast by a specialist metal fabricator near London into latticed modular honeycomb panels. The aluminium panels will be hung within a grid of recycled steel girders. 

Compost made from recycled garden waste will be used to plant an extensive wall and planter boxes on the buildings façades.

The project is expected to be completed next year.


Consultancy becomes carbon-neutral 

Planning consultancy Turley has announced it has become a carbon-neutral company as part of its continuing commitment to tackle the climate emergency and encourage a green economic recovery.

It has voluntarily reported its carbon footprint since 2016, and explained that it has reduced and offset emissions associated with its activity to achieve CarbonNeutral® company certification in accordance with The CarbonNeutral Protocol. 

Turley then partnered with Natural Capital Partners to develop how to go further. Measures included powering offices with renewable energy and funding a high-quality carbon offset project to address remaining unavoidable emissions.

This project provides communities in Kenya with access to clean groundwater and is community-managed by teams with a 50/50 gender split. This reduces pressure on nearby forests, empowers local people and improves the health of families.

Turley said it is also funding projects to deliver tree cover growth and enhance biodiversity through the restoration of mangroves on Mtwapa Creek, near Mombasa, and supporting new woodland in Cumbria under the UK’s Woodland Carbon Code.

The carbon-neutral strategy was developed with the firm’s in-house sustainability team.

Image credit | Stuart Graham