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News in Brief: Local government settlement on planning fees announced; Cardiff ranked in top three for quality of life

Words: Laura Edgar

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 9 February, 2016

Local government settlement on planning fees announced

As part of the Local Government Finance Settlement, communities secretary Greg Clark announced that he would consult on allowing well-performing planning departments to “increase their fees in line with inflation at the most, providing that the revenue reduces the cross subsidy that the planning function currently gets from council taxpayers”.

Richard Blyth, RTPI head of policy said:“We would welcome plans to provide much needed additional funding for planning services. It is difficult however, on the basis of very limited information available in the announcement, to see how what is being proposed would actually improve the total resources available for planning departments. We would want to discuss with the secretary of state the detail of what he has set out."

Blyth added that the RTPI has previously argued for an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill that would allow pilots to run by local authorities with "flexibility to set planning fees, conditional on authorities reinvesting the additional resources in planning and where those authorities would need to demonstrate improved service, innovation and better outcomes”.

Melanie Leech, chief executive at the British Property Federation, said the lack of skills and resources within local authority planning departments is a “chronic problem”. Announcements such as this one, Leech continued, show that the government is moving in the “right direction to address it”.

“Allowing well-performing authorities to make inflationary increases to their fees, however, is unlikely to make a huge amount of difference in practice.

“Coupled with the announcement a few weeks ago that will allow local authorities to outsource the processing of planning applications, this is a step in the right direction and it is good that the government is listening to the concerns of both the public and private sectors. A more decisive move is needed if we are to properly tackle this problem once and for all.”

Clark's full speech can be found here.

Cardiff ranked in top three for quality of life – survey

A new European Union survey ranks Cardiff as Europe’s third-best capital city to live in, according to residents.

The Welsh capital has gone from sixth to joint third in the rankings, alongside Copenhagen and Stockholm. Oslo, the capital of Norway came out on top, with Belfast second.

The Quality of Life in European Cities Survey gathers the opinions of residents in 79 cities in EU member states.

It focuses on quality of life and shows how satisfied people are with various aspects of city living, including employment opportunities, house prices, public spaces, green spaces and public transport.

Leader of the City of Cardiff Council, Phil Bale, said: “Our four key priorities - creating better jobs, delivering better education for all, helping the vulnerable and working in partnerships to improve public services - are all linked to making Cardiff a great and vibrant place to live.

“Our plans for Central Square are beginning to take shape and will bring jobs, boosting the economy. The new Local Development Plan has secured a green wedge across the city until 2026 and now we can work with developers to deliver homes, schools, roads and the infrastructure required to ensure that Cardiff grows while retaining its charm and all the elements that make it such a great place to live.”

Consultation feedback on Sussex development ‘positive’

More than 200 people attended a public consultation for the redevelopment of Hodson’s Mill in Robertsbridge, East Sussex.

Planning consultant Stiles Harold Williams, ADD Architects and developer Hodson’s Mill held the consultation. The proposals include turning the Victorian mill, which has been derelict since 1999, into a mixed-use site including 95 residential units, and 2,430 square metres of commercial space.

Additionally, 41 social, affordable and private ownership homes are planned for Ockham Green while 16 starter homes are planned for the Mill Stream Cottages site. Fourteen sustainable four and five-bedroom houses with solar panels at Mill Stream Lane are included in the plans.

Stiles Harold Williams said the feedback from the consultation “was mostly positive”.

A further meeting will now be held with Rother District Council this month, and if all parties are in agreement, a full planning application will  be submitted.

Essential Living to redevelop factory in West London

Essential Living, a developer and operator of homes for rent, has received outline planning permission to redevelop a former Elizabeth Arden factory in West London.

The consent, granted by Ealing Council, is for 534 homes for rent.

The design by Squire and Partners, said Essential Living, reflects the history of the site and maintains a modern Art Deco influence throughout the scheme.

The plans include a range of amenities, onsite concierge, extensive landscaping, a dedicated family block and 70,000 square feet of commercial space. The investment amounts to more than £200 million.

Permission secured for Hampshire solar farm

Planning permission has been granted for a solar farm near Romsey, Hampshire.

WYG project management consultancy secured the planning permission on behalf British Solar Renewables.

The solar farm will, said WYG, have a generating capacity of up to 5 megawatts, which is enough to meet the annual energy requirements of approximately 1,300 homes.

The planning applications face a number of challenges, including a Local Gap designation.

Tibbalds appointed for Northstowe Design Code

Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design has been appointed by the Homes and Community Agency to produce a detailed design code for the delivery of phase two for Northstowe, the largest planned new town since Milton Keynes.

Phase two received outline planning permission in July 2015. It consists of 3,500 homes, three new schools, a sports hub, a road linking the town to the major road network and the town centre.

The design code aims to build on the information in the outline application and deliver a “comprehensive guide that will determine the aesthetic” of phase two.

Located to the north-west of Cambridge, it is expected that on completion the new town will have a population of about 25,000 people, 10,000 new homes, eight new schools, amenities and transport links.

Katja Stille, associate director at Tibbalds, said: “Northstowe Phase Two will include a variety of homes and buildings by a range of small and large developers. To be really successful in the long term it needs a consistently high quality of delivery and a coherent style.

“This design code is the tool for ensuring that this quality is achieved and the new town becomes a great new place to live, with a strong and distinctive character.”

Consultation will take place in the spring with the design guide expected to be completed in summer 2016.

Image credit | iStock