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  6. News round-up 17 February 2011

News round-up 17 February 2011

First wave of New Homes Bonus cash announced

Housing Minister Grant Shapps has announced almost £200m in the first wave of cash bonuses for communities that have decided to build new homes through the New Homes Bonus scheme.

He said the Government will match the council tax raised from new homes for the first six years, which for an affordable home will mean an extra £350 per house each year. He confirmed that the bonus will also apply to any empty properties brought back into use.

Read the Department for Communities and Local Government news release.


Localism Bill makes progress

Parliamentary consideration of the Government’s Localism Bill has now reached the specific planning clauses of the legislation which is making progress as MPs debate the proposed measure clause by clause.

To date there have been no major upsets or significant changes to the Bill. MPs have been discussing the wording of an amendment proposed by the Royal Town Planning Institute over strategic planning and the ‘Duty to Cooperate'.

MPs will later be considering an amendment from two Lib-Dem MPs on the bill committee which would introduce a limited 'third party right of appeal’.

The right would be limited to local councillors, parish councils and neighbourhood forums and would only kick in when the application went against the council's planning policies.


Tesco developments

A Tesco superstore has been approved by Corby Borough Council on the town’s St James industrial estate.

There were objections to the development, earmarked for an out-of-centre industrial estate, by town centre landlord Land Securities, which was backing a bid for a Sainsbury's supermarket.

About a dozen independent town centre businesses also objected. They said the new store, situated about 1km from the town centre on the site of former steelworks slag heaps, would have a negative impact on trade.

In a separate but related development, the retail giant has won permission for a scheme that involves turning part of the former Newcastle General Hospital site into a Tesco store and medical walk-in centre, as well as provision of medical research facilities.


Pickles says fuel is material consideration for bio-mass burner

Plans for a £70m biomass power station proposed by green energy company W4B for a site in Avonmouth, opposed by Bristol City Council, has been approved on appeal by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles who decided that the sustainability of the bio-fuel to be used was a material consideration.

“As a general rule, the Secretary of State does not consider that the sustainability, and, in so far as it is relevant to sustainability, the geographical source of fuels used to fuel non-renewable generating stations are material considerations for planning purposes.

“However, he considers that the sustainability of bioliquids (i.e. liquid fuels derived from biomass and not used for transport) is a material consideration which is relevant to his decision,” the minister’s decision letter said.

He allowed the appeal, in line with the recommendation of the planning inspector who heard the appeal inquiry, but added stricter conditions over the sustainability of the fuel to be used.

The project generated significant opposition because of concern plans to use sustainable palm oil to fuel its power turbines.

Read the decision letter and inspector’s report.


Wolves win at home

Wolverhampton Wanderers have announced plans to redevelop and increase capacity of their Molineux ground.

The first phase, costing about £16m, will begin with the demolition of the Stan Cullis (North) Stand in May and a new two-tier stand will be built.

Capacity will rise from about 29,000 to 31,700 and the club is considering a second phase of redevelopment.

Wolverhampton City Council confirmed the club had been given planning permission for the first stage of redevelopment.


Opencast buffer zone Bill

A private members Bill designed to require a fixed separation distance of a minimum 500 metres between opencast mining sites and nearby homes failed to make much progress in the Commons despite considerable support from MPs.

Communities and local government minister Andrew Stunnell said the Government opposed the proposed legislation and insisted that Andrew Bridgen’s Planning (Opencast Mining Separation Zones) Bill was unnecessary as planning authorities had the power to require buffer zones.

The north west Leicestershire MP pledged to return to the House in October to put the case again. He said: “I was pleased with the level of cross-party support for the Bill. This is an important issue for thousands of people who live in former coalfields and this Bill would give them piece of mind.”

Read the Commons Hansard record (11 February, column 647).


Welsh planning aid

Welsh environment minister Jane Davidson has announced funding of £2m to support improvements to the planning service in Wales. She has also announced changes to the way the funding will be allocated.

The new arrangements will see planning authorities applying for a share of £1.75m of funding to support work that the Assembly Government has identified as being key to improving the delivery of planning services.

A further £250,000 will be spent on work to improve the service across Wales, and particularly to develop the Planning Portal.

The minister also confirmed that there would be no increase in planning application fees in Wales from 1 April 2011, but indicated that the Welsh Assembly Government was likely to consult later this year on how the current planning fee structure could be rationalised to reflect improvements to the planning application process.


Newry development

Northern Ireland Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Environment Minister Edwin Poots have jointly announced a £38m investment in the acquisition and development of land for industrial use in Newry.

The investment relates to 73 acres of land beside the Carnbane Industrial Estate, which have been acquired by Invest Northern Ireland and will be developed into a new business park.


Mega-dairy plan dropped

Countryside campaigners have welcomed the decision of Nocton Dairies who have withdrawn their proposals for Britain’s first mega dairy at a site in Lincolnshire because of objections made by the Environment Agency.


Southwark’s Core approved

Southwark Council’s Core Strategy has been approved as sound by a planning inspector. However, proposals which would have seen minimum room sizes for new homes and the creation of new open spaces and conservation sites were turned down.

Read the Southwark Council news release.


Port proposals

The Ellesmere Port Development Board has appointed real estate adviser DTZ, in association with Taylor Young, Regeneris, Gifford, Pan Leisure and Thinking Place, to draw up a strategic regeneration framework for the Cheshire port and town.


Lewisham development mooted

Regeneration company Renewal has submitted outline proposals for the Surrey Canal area in Lewisham around Millwall football club's stadium involving 2,500 new homes, a park, community facilities and a train station.


Welsh marine planning

The Welsh Assembly Government has begun consulting on a planning blueprint for the inshore and offshore marine areas of Wales.

The Marine and Coastal Access Act require the administration to plan, and issue the required licences, for activities along Wales’ coastline and offshore waters. This will include marine conservation, off-shore wind farms, dredging and marine-based tourism.


Ravenscraig rescue bid

North Lanarkshire Council has submitted a proposal to the Scottish Government for permission to deploy a novel measure known as tax increment financing (TIF) in a bid to rescue plans to build a new town on the former steelworks at Ravenscraig.

The public investment would pay for what would effectively be a dual carriageway linking the new town to the M8 at Newhouse and the M74 at Motherwell, which in turn will unlock private plans for a £600m town centre on the site.

The money would be “borrowed” on the basis of future business rates to allow regeneration to go ahead. TIF is an idea imported from the US which has begun to become popular north of the Border.


South Bucks Core strategy approved

South Bucks District Council is poised to formally approve its Core Strategy after it was assessed as ‘sound’ by a planning inspector. A significant proportion of the council’s area is Metropolitan Green Belt.

Read the South Bucks District Council news release.


Green energy development help for Scots

A major new fund to help the development of renewable energy schemes in rural Scotland has been unveiled

Some £ 2.4m is being made available in 2011-12 to farmers and other land managers to help them harness Scotland's renewable energy potential.

The funds are being ploughed into the Scottish Government's existing Communities and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) Loan Fund, which from April will be opened up to farmers and other land managers for the first time.

This scheme is designed to cover the risk of the pre-planning stage by offering loans of up to 90 per cent of the costs, providing there's a minimum community benefit from the project. This is in addition to the Feed-In-Tariffs and the proposed Renewable Heat Incentive.

Read the Scottish Government news release.


Woolwich station latest

Agreement has been reached to build a new 'station box' on the Crossrail line through Woolwich, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has announced.

The station box, which could be converted into a complete station in the future, will be privately funded by developer Berkeley Homes under an agreement with the Department for Transport, Transport for London, Crossrail Ltd and Greenwich Council.

Rob Perrins of Berkeley Homes said: "Berkeley is delighted that its financial strength has enabled it to make a substantial investment in the Royal Arsenal station having now acquired the remaining land from the LDA and secured a planning consent for another 3700 homes and a significant area of commercial space to complete the regeneration of this important part of London.”

The station box at Woolwich would need to be fitted out before it is brought into full operational status – this will be conditional on developers and local businesses making sufficient contributions to pay for the cost of fitting out the station.


Emptying high streets

The Local Data Company’s latest shop vacancy report shows a continued increase in the number of vacant shops, now at an all-time high of 14.5 per cent, along with a widening of the North-South divide.

Town centre vacancy rates in Great Britain have risen from 12 per cent at the end of 2009 to 14.5 per cent at the end of 2010, the report indicated.

The North/South divide showed Northern and Midland regions above the national average at 16.5 per cent vacancy and southern regions below it at 12.3 per cent.

The report also highlighted a ‘size’ divide that showed large centres with significantly higher vacancy than average at 16.5 per cent and smaller centres with around 12 per cent.


New community proposed at Blaby

Plans to build a new community of approximately 4,250 houses in Lubbesthorpe with schools, motorway bridges, shops and employment land have been submitted to Blaby District Council.

The land proposed for development is off Beggars Lane and borders Leicester Forest East, Enderby and Braunstone Town.

The council is expected make a decision on the scheme, proposed by a consortium comprising Davidsons, Hallam Land Management and Barratt David Wilson, by the end of 2011.


Latest IPC advice

The Infrastructure Planning Commission has published a new advice note (no 8) which has been produced in five sections and provides a step-by-step guide through the planning process for major infrastructure projects.

Access the IPC advice note 8.


Residential development tool

Turley Associates’ and Cambridge Econometrics have launched an integrated planning and demographic modelling service - called ‘ChelmerPlus’ - for residential developers.


Roger Milne

17 February 2011