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  6. News round-up 4 August 2011

News round-up 4 August 2011

Less brownfield development

Last year there was a four percentage point fall in the proportion of previously developed land in England used for new dwellings (Including conversions), according to the latest provisional national statistics on land use change released under the auspices of the UK Statistics Authority. These indicate that the figure fell from 80 per cent in 2009 to 76 per cent last year.

The figures also showed that new dwellings were built at an average density of 43 dwellings per hectare, an increase from 41 dwellings per hectare in 2009.

Some two per cent of dwellings were built within the Green Belt (unchanged since 2004) while five per cent of land changing to residential use (from any use) was within the Green Belt, down two percentage points since 2009.

Some nine per cent of dwellings were built within areas of high flood risk (a decrease from 11 per cent in 2009) and five per cent of land changing to residential use was within areas of high flood risk (a decrease from six per cent in 2009).

Access the full set of Land Use Change Statistics Live Tables.


Energy efficiency drive: warning over older buildings

Conservationists have warned Energy Secretary Chris Huhne that the Green Deal, the Government’s energy efficiency initiative, risks human health and the fabric of older buildings.

A coalition of organisations and individuals has written to Huhne and the Times pointing out that the drive to promote the complete thermal upgrading of pre-1919 buildings could result in “expensive future problems for both building fabric and human health”.

The group said: “Inappropriate forms of insulation and the sealing up of interiors take little account of the fact that these buildings, which number millions, perform differently from modern ones and need to ‘breathe'.

“They are likely to require a different approach, in particular with regard to the movement of moisture within them.”

The coalition includes the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), the National Trust, the Victorian Society and TV architectural guru Kevin McCloud.

SPAB has conducted research which shows old buildings may not be as energy inefficient as the building industry has generally understood them to be.

Read the SPAB news release.


Land banking warning

Land Registry has updated its guide on land banking to warn the public about the risks involved in buying land forming part of a land banking scheme. These are schemes where it is claimed that the plots of land have good investment value in the expectation of future development but where there is little or no chance of land ever being developed.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) recently estimated that land banking schemes have cost UK investors as much as £200m.

‘Public Guide 21 - Land banking schemes - warning - plots of land in England and Wales offered for sale claimed to have development or investment potential’, originally published in December 2008, now includes contact details for organisations that can recommend independent advisers to members of the public considering investing in a land banking scheme.

It also explains the role of regulatory bodies relating to land banking as well as how to report instances of such activity.

Access Public Guide 21.


More EZs named

The locations of four more Enterprise Zones have been identified by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

These four EZs - in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and Sheffield - were selected by their local enterprise partnerships and will benefit from discounts on business rates, new superfast broadband, lower levels of planning control and the potential to use enhanced capital allowances. The Government will announce the location of a further ten EZs shortly.

Read the HM Treasury press notice.


New advice line for major hazards

The Health and Safety Executive has announced a new dedicated advice line for planning authorities requiring help in determining the safety watchdog’s advice on developments near major hazard sites

The new service is hosted by the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL), an agency of HSE. Previously, advice was provided by HSE area offices. The new arrangements are supported by staff from HSE’s Major Accidents Risk Assessment Unit.

When a local planning authority (LPA) receives a planning application or a pre-planning application for a development within the consultation distance of a major hazard site, they should use a computerised software tool called PADHI+ (HSE’s software for planning advice around major hazard installations) to obtain HSE’s advice. Details at: PADHI (Planning Advice for Developments near Installations).

If LPAs need advice in using PADHI+ on a specific planning application they can send details by email to: If the matter can be dealt with quickly on the telephone contact HSL on 01298 218159.


Green roofs report

Green roofs benefit the environment, help companies achieve sustainability targets and payback times are getting shorter, according to a report from Atmos Consulting. The report reviews recent research on green roofs and assesses the financial and environmental benefits of such measures.

Read the Atmos Consulting news release.


Landscape funding

Morecambe Bay, the Glens of Antrim and the Lomond Hills are among spectacular UK landscapes earmarked for financial support, it has emerged.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has announced that £18.3m has been set aside for the schemes through its Landscape Partnership programme.

The 11 applicants who have passed the first stage of the process will now have to submit a more detailed proposal to secure the funding.

The investment, which is set to attract a further £8.1m of match funding from other sources, will enable the conservation of distinctive landscapes and provide other benefits such as apprenticeships for disadvantaged young people and courses on traditional rural practices such as drystone walling.

Read the Heritage Lottery Fund news release.


S106 payback wrangle

A district council may have to pay back £340,000 set aside for community projects because of a clerical error over a section 106 agreement.

The money was given to Mansfield District Council by Bloor Homes after the developer agreed to fund community schemes as part of a residential permission in 2004.

The deadline for spending the money was August 2009 but an error was made when inputting the information into the council's database and the funds were wrongly given a deadline of August 2011.

The council is negotiating with the developer to see if it can keep the funds.


Thames hub study

Leading architects Foster and Partners and global infrastructure consultants Halcrow have confirmed they have been collaborating on a £100,000 study to produce a detailed ‘vision’ for a Thames Hub.

This would provide rail freight connections between the UK’s main sea ports; a 150 million passenger airport to replace Heathrow; a tidal energy barrage and a new flood protection barrier.

The partners have announced that the initial assessment of the proposals will be published next month (September).


Quarry plan called in

Plans to expand a quarry in Barming, near Maidstone in Kent, into an area of ancient woodland will be decided by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

Kent County Council had backed the proposals but as it was not part of the authority’s current mineral plan it has been referred to the Secretary of State. He has now called it in.

Gallagher Group wanted to expand its Hermitage Quarry to extract ragstone, a move opposed by local environmentalists and the Woodland Trust.


Court ruling on old permission

The Court of Appeal has rejected an attempt by a developer to use a planning permission granted 37 years ago to build a block of flats in Torquay.

Greyfort Properties – owner of land adjacent to Parkhill Flats in Parkhill Road, Torquay – had sought a Certificate of Lawful Use or Development that would have allowed it to carry out the development of 19 flats on the site under a permission granted in 1974 without submitting a fresh application.

The case went to the Court of Appeal after Torbay Council, then a planning inspector, and subsequently a High Court judge, said the developer had failed to prove that the 1974 permission remained in force because of a condition requiring agreement on ground floor levels.

The Court of Appeal decision held that, though preparatory works relating to access for the development were carried out on the site in 1978 within a five-year time limit, these works did not successfully implement the permission because the ground levels condition had not been satisfied.


Capital funds for town centres

London Mayor Boris Johnson has awarded almost £10m of funding from his Outer London Fund to 20 boroughs across the capital to help them boost their high streets and local economy. A further £40m from the fund will be awarded later this year.

The largest single award, £715,000, went to Enfield Council to improve shop fronts, make use of vacant shops, create a new street market in Ponders Green and refurbish street lighting and canopies.

Read the Mayor of London media release.


Restrictive covenant review

Planning Minister Bob Neill has launched a review of restrictive covenants, a legal clause that can be used to prevent community pubs reopening as public houses following a sale.

Between 2004 and 2009 some 572 pubs are said to have been permanently lost following a sale with a restrictive covenant, potentially depriving thousands of regulars of an important community asset.

By changing the use of certain restrictive covenants, communities would be given greater opportunities to use the new 'Community Right to Buy' power in the Localism Bill, which gives local communities the chance to take over and run local assets, such as the 'local', when they come up for sale.

This move came after three local councils (Darlington, Newcastle upon Tyne and Ryedale) applied under the Sustainable Communities Act for the Government to take action on the issue of restrictive covenants.

Access the consultation.


Runway extension legal challenge rejected

The Court of Appeal has thrown out a legal challenge to Southend on Sea Borough Council’s decision to approve an extension of the local airport’s runway.


Roger Milne

4 August 2011