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News in brief: Views sought by RTPI on apprenticeship scheme; Brookside creator calls for transparency in C4 relocation

Words: Laura Edgar
Channel 4 / Tim Benedict Pou

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 24 October, 2017

Brookside creator calls for transparency in C4 relocation

The TV producer and screenwriter behind Brookside, Grange Hill and Hollyoaks has called on the government to be transparent about plans to relocate Channel 4.

Phil Redmond said that any debate about its location should be “conducted transparently, in the daylight and with academic rigour – as it was when Channel 4 was first established in 1980”.

The broadcaster’s future is part of the government’s industrial strategy to “rebalance the economy”.

Channel 4 is currently located in Horseferry Road, Westminster. Liverpool, Sheffield and Birmingham are among the cities bidding to host the company's headquarters.


Feedback sought by RTPI on apprenticeship scheme

The RTPI is seeking feedback from employers on its proposed apprenticeship degree scheme.

Working with employers, the institute is looking to establish a Degree Apprenticeship for Chartered Town Planners in England.

The aim is to start courses from as early as September 2018, subject to government approvals and delivery arrangements with accredited universities.

The apprenticeships would combine academic education with vocational training to equip future employees with vital skills as well as a degree.

If you are an employer, you can respond to the survey here.

If you work for a university, you can respond to the survey here.


Chester University unveils plans for £40m medical school 

Plans for a £40 million medical school have been revealed by the University of Chester to tackle shortages of doctors.

The move aims to tackle national and local shortages of medics, particularly GPs and specialists in mental health and treating the elderly.

The plans envisage a 12,000 square metre facility as part of an extension of its Parkgate Road campus. The preferred location is on the university’s land at Glenesk, off Parkgate Road.

The scheme comprises four lecture theatres, six science laboratories, eight seminar rooms, a clinic with consulting rooms focusing on older people, a library, offices and an anatomy and dissection room as well as a mortuary.

Externally, the scheme includes a tunnel link under the Sustrans cycleway for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to campus, parking for 250 vehicles and landscaping, including two lakes.

The school would create 90 jobs for academic and professional services staff.


Demolition of Scarborough’s Futurist Theatre moves forward

The demolition of Scarborough’s iconic Futurist Theatre has moved a step closer after the local authority approved plans.

It has been boarded up since 2013.

Flamingo Land has been selected as Scarborough Council’s preferred bidder for the site, where the developer wants to build a tourist attraction including rides and a space shot tower. The council had already agreed to the £3.91 million cost of the demolition.

The move will now go to the National Planning Casework Unit, which will decide whether it should be called in by the secretary of state.


Funding awarded to improve local roads

A total of £244 million has been awarded to 76 projects across England to improve local roads and public transport as well as supporting housing development.

The cash is part of a £345.3 million package under the National Productivity Investment Fund and the Large Local Majors fund.

Among the schemes to benefit are £101.3 million for two new major roads in Middlewich, Cheshire, and Worcester.


Flow test for oil application submitted in Sussex

Fracking company Cuadrilla has announced plans to submit a planning application to West Sussex County Council to flow test and monitor in existing exploration oil well at its site in Lower Stumble, Balcombe.

Planning permission was granted for the site in May 2014 for flow testing and monitoring of the exploration well, which was drilled in the summer of 2013. This permission has now expired.

Cuadrilla said it was unable to complete the permitted exploration testing works in the allocated time because of the length of time and resources spent starting operational works at its Lancashire exploration area. There were also changes to the environmental permitting requirements for the Lower Stumble site that required assessment.

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, said: “The new planning application will cover the same scope of work as the previous permission: a flow test of the existing exploration well followed by plugging the well with cement, and fully restoring the site.”

The well at Lower Stumble requires no hydraulic fracturing because the rock is naturally fractured. The flow testing Cuadrilla is looking to undertake will measure the rate at which oil flows from the well.


£35 million to be reinvested into the railway

Network Rail has announced that it has generated £35 million from the sale of its National Logistics Centre in Ryton, Coventry, to the West Midlands Pension Fund, following a competitive sales process.

Funds generated from the sale will be reinvested into the railway, said Network Rail. It will contribute to delivering the Railway Upgrade Plan.

As part of the sale agreement, the National Logistics Centre will be leased back to Network Rail with a 15-year term.

The sale follows external analysis that suggested introducing a new inventory and order system, meaning the site would eventually no longer be needed by Network Rail.

David Biggs, managing director of Network Rail Property, said: “Investment is crucial to improving the railway in Britain. Improvements lead to longer, faster, more frequent trains, a better, more reliable infrastructure, and better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.

“The sale of the National Logistics Centre in Ryton is part of this plan to build a bigger, better and more reliable railway which benefits all rail users, and delivers the best value for money for taxpayers.”


London council says no to ‘super-home’ conversions

Westminster City Council’s planning committee has rejected plans to convert two penthouse apartments in the Knightsbridge Apartments development into a 10-bedroom £180 million ‘super-home’.

Ashley Tabor, owner of Classic FM, submitted an application to knock his two penthouse flats together, but the proposals did not meet the council’s policy to protect homes and deliver more housing, and exceed its target of creating 1,068 homes every year.

The council’s policy allows development that converts one-bedroom properties into family homes, but does not allow two family homes to be amalgamated.

There have been more than 200 similar applications in Westminster since 2013, which amounts to a potential loss of nearly 300 residential properties, said the council.

Daniel Astaire, Westminster City Council cabinet member for planning and public realm, said: “This case raises issues which cut to the heart of our planning policy. It is unconscionable to accept this kind of proposal when we face a pressing housing shortage. In fact, it is the exact opposite of what we are trying to do.

“Our aim is to ensure fairness and opportunity in housing and we refuse to sell golden postcodes to the highest bidder. For the future, we intend to strengthen our policy to prevent this kind of loss of homes in the city.”


Plans submitted for 147 homes in Exeter

Acorn Property Group and Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education have submitted plans for 147 homes on the current school site in the Topsham area of Exeter.

Plans comprise two, three, four and five bedroom homes across the 8.5 acres site. The existing pre-school will be re-housed, and a care home and assisted living units delivering in partnership with retirement specialists Castleoak.

The sale of the site facilitates the academy’s move to a new purpose built facility in Exmouth. The site is next to two conservation areas.

Local architects Clifton Emery worked on the design for the site.

Image credit | Tim Benedict Pou