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  6. News round-up 6 January 2011

News round-up 6 January 2011

Inspectorate braced for significant savings

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has warned of staff reductions but claimed it will be a more nimble and integrated organisation as it shapes up to handle a cut of 35 per cent in its administrative resources over the next five years.

Writing in the organisation’s latest newsletter, chief executive Katrine Sporle said: “To live within this smaller budget, we know that we will have to reduce numbers of staff. At the same time, we will be seeking to make savings in other areas of our business so that we are as efficient and effective as we possibly can be.”

She pointed out that PINS was working with the Infrastructure Planning Commission on the integration of a new major infrastructure planning unit as part of a restructured Planning Inspectorate. “The outcome will be a smaller, more nimble and effective integrated organisation,” she said.

Sporle added: ”I am confident that the Planning Inspectorate will rise to these challenges.”

 

Flood planning grants confirmed

Some £21m worth of grants to help councils manage flood risk has been confirmed by environment secretary Caroline Spelman.

The funds will support new local authority responsibilities under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 and will involve flood mapping, producing risk management plans and supporting community flood awareness groups.

The funds have been allocated based on the individual risk that each local authority has. Funding for 2011/12 will total £21m rising to £36million for 2012/13 and subsequent years of the current Spending Review five-year period.

At least £105,000 will be allocated to Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) which are being established under the new legislation and are responsible for local flood risk management, including surface water issues.

Read the Defra news release.

 

Leicester urban expansion approved

A new urban extension involving up to 3,000 homes earmarked for land at Ashton Green on the northern flank of Leicester has been granted outline planning permission by the city council's planning and development control committee.

The Ashton Green project will be developed as an environmentally-sustainable community on a 130-hectare site on the North West edge of the city. The scheme will include around up to 900 rental and lower-cost affordable homes, employment land to create new jobs, new schools, community and health facilities, public transport improvements and new retail floor space. Around a third of the site will be public open space. The plans include proposals for an energy centre for the new homes.

The council is now considering potential developer partners with the aim of work starting on site by 2013.

Read the Leicester City Council news release.

 

Buildings Regs reboot planned

Communities minister Andrew Stunell has committed the Government to a programme of work to improve the system of building regulation in England.

In a Parliamentary statement Stunell reaffirmed that that Building Regulations relating to the conservation of fuel and power will be revised. He also said he would examine how regulations might be used to ensure suitable toilet and changing facilities are offered for people with multiple and profound disabilities in new developments and explore further the rules might be used to improve the security of new homes.

In a separate but related development, departmental ministerial colleague Grant Shapps has confirmed that all new homes must be carbon zero by 2016 and that all new non-domestic buildings will be zero-carbon from 2019.

In a Parliamentary statement Shapps confirmed that Government was working on a final definition for zero carbon homes which would mean this could include ‘off-site’ measures which might involve contributing to a ‘community energy fund’ delivered via the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

Read the Commons Hansard report (20 December, column 146WS).

 

Audit shows SSSI improvement

Over 95 per cent of England’s finest wildlife and geological sites, covering more than one million hectares of countryside, are now in favourable or recovering condition, environment secretary Caroline Spelman has announced.

This signals a major improvement since 2003, when only 57 per cent of these Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) were in the same condition. It follows seven years of work by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in conjunction with Natural England, the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission and partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Read the Defra news release.

 

Planning applications rise by six per cent

Planning applications handled by district-level planning authorities rose by six per cent during the third quarter of 2010 according to the latest figures compiled under the auspices of the UK Statistics Authority.

These showed that in the period July to September 2010 local authorities undertaking district level planning received 126,200 applications, up by around six per cent when compared with the September 2009 quarter.

The planning authorities decided (granted or refused) 120,200 applications, an increase of seven per cent when compared with the September 2009 quarter. Authorities undertaking 'county level' planning decided 297 applications, a decrease of 12 per cent when compared with the same quarter a year ago.

Read the Department for Communities and Local Government news release.

 

Mayor approves Battersea power plant plans

The redevelopment of the iconic Battersea Power Station on the banks of the Thames has been given the go-ahead by London mayor Boris Johnson, bringing closer the prospect of a major extension to the Northern Line of the London Underground, the creation of more than 20 acres of new public space and the construction of thousands of homes.

Under the Irish developers’ master plan, approved last year by Wandsworth Council, the historic Grade II* listed building will be restored and opened up to public use for the first time. The station has remained vacant since it was decommissioned in 1983.

The application is an integral part of the wider Vauxhall-Nine Elms-Battersea Opportunity Area (OA), one of the largest regeneration proposals being considered in London.

Read the Mayor of London press release.

 

Hinkley regeneration boosted

Plans for an £80m regeneration project in a Leicestershire town have been given the go-ahead by Hinkley and Bosworth Borough Council.

The project, known as The Crescent, will involve the construction of a new bus station, supermarket and multiplex cinema on the site of the town’s former bus station.

 

New eco-development website

A website showcasing eco-developments and the latest information on sustainability is now live following an initiative by the Eco-Development Group coordinated by the Town and Country Planning Association.

The website has been designed to provide a quick-to-digest introduction to the issues and projects now climbing off the drawing board. The Eco-Development Group is a network of innovative local authorities bringing forward eco-developments. The website will encourage knowledge sharing and best practice.

Access the website.

 

Ground-breaking energy scheme for Eden project

Cornwall Council has granted planning permission for what is claimed to be the UK’s first geothermal power plant. The scheme will power the Eden Project and feed energy into the National Grid. It will draw its energy from ‘hot rocks’ some 4.5 kilometres underground and is expected to be up and running in 2013.

 

Campus plan safeguarded

London’s High Court has rejected a legal challenge to redevelopment plans for Oxford Brookes University's Gipsy Lane campus mounted by a Headington resident who claimed the scheme would adversely affect the Oxford suburb’s existing retail centre and pose a noise nuisance for local people.
 
Planning permission for the redevelopment was granted by Oxford City Council in June after earlier plans were turned down.

 

New Year’s honours

Katrine Sporle, chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate, has been awarded a CBE in the 2011 New Year's honours list. Sporle, given the award for public service, has been chief executive of the inspectorate since 2003.

Caroline Burden, former head of planning at the Government Office for the North-East, was given an OBE in the list, along with Alison Quant, president of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy Planning and Transport, and Jean Dent, former director of city development, Leeds City Council

Other planning professionals recognised in the list included: Keith Clarke, chief executive of WS Atkins; Peter Head, director at Arup; Robert Napier, chairman of the Homes and Communities Agency. All have become CBEs.

Jane Halestrap, senior executive officer, eco towns programme team, Department for Communities and Local Government ,was awarded an MBE.

 

Preston redevelopment legal challenge

Preston City Council has voiced disappointment at the decision of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council to mount a further legal challenge over the Preston Tithebarn development approved last year by community’s secretary Eric Pickles against the advice of the planning inspector who held the public inquiry into the controversial proposals.

Read the Preston City Council news release.

 

Let it be

The zebra crossing near the Abbey Road Studios in London, world famous after it appeared on the cover of The Beatles album of the same name, has been listed Grade II by John Penrose, minister for tourism and heritage, following expert advice from English Heritage.

The crossing has become the first of its kind ever to be listed, reflecting its cultural and historical importance. The Abbey Road studios themselves were listed in February 2010.

Meanwhile, housing minister Grant Shapps has called for a temporary reprieve to the demolition of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr's birthplace in Madryn Street, part of the Welsh Streets area of Toxteth, which is due to be pulled down as part of a major Liverpool City Council regeneration scheme.

Read the DCMS press release.

 

Roger Milne

6 January 2011