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News in Brief: Neighbourhood plans adopted by 100 communities; Office-to-residential conversion change made permanent

Community housing / iStock_000036031766

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 13 October, 2015

Office-to-residential conversion change made permanent

Changes to permitted development rights allowing offices to be converted into homes are to be made permanent. In moves unveiled under the housing and planning bill, the temporary change introduced in 2013 will become permanent after 4,000 conversions were given the green light between April 2014 and June this year. The move was denounced by the Town and Country Planning Association, with chief executive Kate Henderson saying: “The decision to extend permitted development from office to residential seriously undermines the ability to create decent homes in vibrant communities. The announcement means that local communities will have even less say over how their neighbourhoods are developed,” she continued. But the British Property Foundation welcomed the move, adding that extending the rights is "a useful tool in breathing life back into underused commercial space" while thriving areas such as the City of London should be protected.

Neighbourhood plans adopted by 100 communities

More than eight million people in 1,600 neighbourhoods across England have voted to adopt their local neighbourhood plan. Last week marked 100 neighbourhood plan referendums passed in the country to date. Locality, a national network of community-led organisations, runs the neighbourhood planning programme on behalf of the Department for Communities and Local Government and has been helping communities through the legislative process since the Localism Act emerged in 2011. “People want to be able to influence what kind of development happens on their doorstep, whether that’s ensuring there’s enough affordable housing for their children in the future or safeguarding their neighbourhood’s heritage” said Locality chief executive, Tony Armstrong. “Neighbourhood planning puts power back into the hands of the people, instead of elected representatives, giving communities collective clout to shape where they live for the benefit of the people who live there”, he continued. More than 200,000 votes have been cast at referendum, with an average of 88 per cent of people voting in favour of adopting neighbourhood plans. In some areas, turnout has been higher than for the general election.

£13m flood defence scheme planned for Lincolnshire housing project

North Lincolnshire Council is set to invest £13 million on flood defences for a major housing project planned near Scunthorpe. Plans for the £612 million Lincolnshire Lakes project include two new villages to be built on a flood plain near Burringham and Gunness. A new primary school, community centre and stadium, plus access roads and local shops, would be built among a series of artificial lakes as part of the scheme, designed by engineering firm Mott MacDonald. Funding for the scheme was provided by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Heathrow runway protests backed by mayoral candidates

Rival candidates in London’s mayoral election, Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) and Sadiq Khan (Labour), have joined forces to condemn plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport. Speaking ahead of the Anti-Heathrow Expansion Rally in Parliament Square on 10 October, Goldsmith said that the environmental case against the runway was “devastating”, rendering expansion “both legally and morally impossible”. Mr Khan echoed these sentiments when speaking to BBC London, calling the proposal “madness”. Candidates for the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and UKIP were also in attendance.

Peak District receives £12m for conservation project

A Derbyshire project, MoorLIFE 2020, has received funding to protect moorlands in the Peak District and South Pennines. The project seeks to conserve 9,500 hectares of active blanket bog with the aim of providing breeding habitats for wildlife, improving water quality and increasing carbon retention to help combat climate change. €12 million (£9 million) of the funds were donated from the EU’s LIFE fund, with three water companies also contributing to the scheme’s £12 million total.