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News in brief: Royal Parks objects to Holocaust memorial next to Parliament; Ex-planning and housing minister takes issue with constituency homes plan

Words: Huw Morris

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 12 February, 2019

Royal Parks objects to Holocaust memorial next to Parliament

Westminster City Council is considering a planning application submitted in December for the National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens, which is next to the Houses of Parliament.

The £50 million scheme is designed by a team led by architects Adjaye Associates, with Ron Arad Architects as memorial architect, and Gustafson Porter + Bowman as landscape architect. Their proposal includes a structure of 23 large bronze fins with a learning centre developed underground and aims to create “a living place, not just a monument to something of the past”.


Ex-planning and housing minister takes issue with constituency homes plan

Alok Sharma, who held the portfolio from 2017 until he became employment minister in January 2018, is taking issue with the scheme at Pincents Hill in his Reading West seat.

Site owner U+I plc has applied to West Berkshire Council to develop 285 homes and a mixed-use building.

A proposal by developer Blue Living to build 750 homes and shops on the site in 2009 was rejected following a campaign launched by local protestors Save Calcot Action Group and supported by Sharma.


Groundbreaking event marks new council housing development

Dacorum Borough Council has held a 'groundbreaking' event to mark the preparation of work starting on a housing development in Apsley.

Magenta Court, situated next to the old Apsley Paper Mill building, will provide 29 one and two-bed flats within four blocks, all for social rent. The contractor is Jarvis Contracting Ltd.

Today, Tuesday 12 February a groundbreaking event was scheduled to be held at the former Martindale School housing development site that will provide 65 new homes, including 44 for social rent.

Dacorum Borough Council owns around 10,000 tenanted properties, as well as 1,800 leasehold flats. It says it is on target to build 300 affordable new homes by 2020.


Highways England launches drive to revolutionise roads of tomorrow

Two competitions have been launched by Highways England to encourage innovative ideas to “revolutionise” roads and driving.

Highways England has set aside £20 million to invest in projects to change the way the country’s motorways and major A-roads are designed, managed and used.

The competitions will look for ideas covering design, construction and maintenance, connected and autonomous vehicles, customer mobility, energy and the environment, operations and air quality.

Highways England said the types of benefits which road users and communities could see include better quality journeys, improved road safety, more efficient use of vehicles, enhanced public spaces and improved health.

The move comes as it plans for the future, the changing roads landscape and the increasing automation in vehicles and systems.

Anyone interested in entering the competitions, which have a deadline of 8 May, is encouraged to join a webinar, hosted by Innovate UK and Highways England on Thursday 14 February. See here for further details.

York’s Guildhall set for major restoration

One of York’s most prestigious and historically significant buildings could be in line for its first major restoration and redevelopment in more than 60 years.

York City Council’s executive committee is this week considering a plan to redevelop and repair the Guildhall and approve the appointment of a construction contractor to start work later this year.

The Guildhall is a collection of grade I, II* and II listed buildings built around the 15th century hall and riverside meeting room. The Guildhall has only had reactive maintenance and repairs since extensive rebuilding following the Baedeker bombing raids in 1942. Surveys have revealed significant structural problems with the tower, which is subsiding and cracking. Its main roofs also need replacing to prevent further water ingress.

The £16.5 million project would see the building stabilised through major underpinning, protected from water damage and given a new lease of life. The redevelopment would secure the long-term future of the Guildhall site, offering high-quality office space, community use, cafe, a riverside restaurant, better access for residents and up to 250 jobs.

The scheme, which is expected to generate around £848,000 annual income to be reinvested in the city, has attracted grant funding from West Yorkshire Combined Authority of £2.3 million.


Central Bedfordshire to launch company to build affordable homes

Central Bedfordshire Council is to set up its own company to ensure that more affordable new homes are built in the area.

The council says the area is facing a shortage of affordable homes to rent, homes for older people, social housing for large families and accessible housing for people with disabilities or who need modified homes.

“High levels of demand from these types of residents means that there aren’t enough affordable homes,” said executive member for assets and housing delivery Eugene Ghent.

The council aims to build homes on land it owns to plug gaps in the local market that are not being met locally by either private developers or by council-owned properties.

It is also working on an enabling strategy to identify where the housing gaps are as well as the scale, type and locations to meet residents’ needs.

Judge hits out at ‘plainly inadequate’ green space consultation

The High Court has criticised a West London council over its consultation of a decision not to designate playing fields as green space.

Udney Park Playing Fields (UPPF) in Teddington were donated by press baron Lord Beaverbrook to St Mary's Hospital Medical School in 1937 but owned since 2015 by developer Quantum Teddington.

The company is proposing to build 107 apartments and a doctor’s surgery on the site, a move opposed by the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames.

The judicial review follows a planning inspector’s statutory examination of Richmond’s local plan last year, which rejected the fields’ designation as a green space.

Local campaigners Friends of Udney Park Playing Fields claimed that modifications proposed by the inspector and put out for consultation did not make clear the site’s de-designation as a local green space. The group’s judicial review challenge was contested by Quantum but not by the council.

Backing the campaigners, Mr Justice Waksman branded the consultation as “manifestly unfair”, “plainly inadequate” and said campaigners had little opportunity to comment.

He ruled the outcome could have been different if campaigners had been allowed a proper opportunity to take part and that they have “sufficient substantial prejudice as a result of the procedural defects”.

Life Kitchen moves step closer to UK’s first cancer cookery school

Life Kitchen founder Ryan Riley’s plans to convert a historic Sunderland building and create the UK’s first cancer cookery school have been approved.

Consultancy Lichfields successfully secured Listed Building Consent from Sunderland City Council to change the use of the grade II listed Mowbray Park Lodge. North East regional and national businesses volunteered time and resources to the project, with Riley now launching a £50,000 fund-raising drive to upgrade the building’s electricity supply.

Riley founded the Life Kitchen, which offers cooking classes for people living with cancer, following the death of his mother to small-cell lung cancer. The company aims “to give back the fun and enjoyment of eating: for cancer sufferers whose treatments often impair their taste and appetites.

UK still a magnet for global investment in renewable energy

The UK remains one of the most attractive places for investment in renewable energy across the world.

Investor adviser Octopus surveyed institutional investors and found that 55 per cent had already invested in the country and saw it as a priority for the future.

A total of 61 per cent of those institutions which had yet to invest in the country had identified the UK and Northern Ireland as key targets for the future. Only 15 per cent would not consider investing.

The UK is the main investment focus for global investors other than Australia. A total of 44 of Asian investors, 74 per cent of investors from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and 55 per cent of UK investors say the country is their current focus.

However 56 per cent of respondents highlighted energy price uncertainty as a concern for the future followed by a lack of government support by 32 per cent and 34 per cent pointing to a skills deficit within the UK renewable energy sector.

Grid-scale solar power plants are the most popular renewable energy asset for investors in the UK followed by hydro power, energy from waste and biomass, and offshore wind power.

Europe is the most popular region for renewable energy investment with UK, France and Nordic countries topping the list. Octopus said the UK offers the most “diversification, security and the ability to tailor investments” for institutions.

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