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News in brief: Making cities better for women; Durkan considering exempting churches from planning fees

Words: Laura Edgar

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 8 March, 2016

Blog: Making cities better for women

"As today is International Women’s Day (IWD), this should be an opportunity to reflect on the places we create and whether they are empowering for everyone, including women and girls.

"I think an important question is what planners (men and women) are doing for women in their work. In order to provide spaces that meet everyone's needs it is necessary to look at cities through the lens of gender."

The full blog, by Victoria Pinoncély, research officer, can be found on the RTPI website.

Community Rights reach 5,000 uses

The latest Community Rights figures suggests that there are 5,000 uses of community rights, including 3,000 buildings, green spaces and other local assets now protected.

To promote the Community Rights programme, the government has produced an interactive map that lists protected assets and other community rights uses in the country.

The map was launched as part of Community Rights week yesterday (7 March). It can be found here.

Property developer calls for development tax relaxation

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and Section 106 payments are no longer viable property taxes, according to Poole-based property developer Richard Carr.

Carr says that the taxes are “seriously” affecting the industry and are a factor in the current housing shortage in the country.

He said he believes CIL and s.106 payments can work if they are used correctly, “however, I don’t think they are”.

“CIL is an outdated tax that developers have become disillusioned with. The line between CIL and s.106 payments has become faded and clarification is need from the government to explain why they are in place.”

Carr suggests abolishing them for 24 months on the condition that the development is started within 12 months from permission being granted.

“It should only be implemented on greenfield sites that are inherently cheaper to develop."

Royal Dock towers reach milestone

Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales took part in a topping-out ceremony for house builder HUB’s Hoola development in Royal Victoria Docks yesterday.

Designed by CZWG Architects, HUB’s development sees the previously disused half-acre site transformed into two glass-clad towers featuring 360 one, two and three-bedroom studio flats, each with a balcony. It also includes a gym and communal gardens, and energy-sharing agreements have been made with nearby landmarks.

At the ceremony, held on the 23rd floor of the development, Wales said: “Hoola is an exciting scheme which will bring life and activity into a piece of land which was previously derelict. The regeneration of the historic Royal Docks is coming and this is the start of area’s new era as a business and residential heart for London.”

Durkan considers exempting churches from planning fees

Northern Ireland environment minister Mark H Durkan has announced that he is considering making churches exempt from paying planning fees.

Not-for-profit clubs and societies are already exempt. Durkan is undertaking a review to see whether the exemption should also extend to churches.

He said: “I have been approached by a number of representatives of churches in recent months enquiring whether the current nil fee for planning applications available to not-for-profit clubs and societies should also extend to churches. Given the important role our churches play in society, I have thus instigated a review to see whether that should happen.

“We need though to take on board councils’ experiences of operating as the local planning authorities. Any future changes in fee exemptions may impact on the amount of cost they recover in processing planning applications. Councils will therefore be well placed to inform the review.”

The review work will be taken forward in conjunction with the recently established Strategic Planning Group. It includes Department of Environment officials, heads of planning from district councils and other key operational stakeholders.

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