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News round-up 30 June 2011

Building standards review

Housing Minister Grant Shapps has welcomed the appointment of Sir John Harman to a key group looking at reducing the complexity of home building standards and the impact regulations have on the industry.

Sir John, a former Environment Agency chairman, will now run a new steering group, established jointly by the Home Builders Federation and the Local Government Group, to oversee work to” simplify, harmonise and declutter” the 'minefield' of building standards applied to new housing.

The group will also provide advice to councils and developers on the best way to conduct plan level viability studies in a bid to ensure housing development is not blocked by unrealistic expectations or policies.

This work will support the new National Planning Policy Framework, due to be published early in 2012.

Read the Department for Communities and Local Government news release.

 

Pickles responds to regional strategies report

Communities Secretary Eric Pickle has published the Government’s formal response to a report from the Commons committee monitoring his department over the abolition of regional’s strategies.

In a Parliamentary statement, Pickles said the debate round the report’s findings “helped to inform the amendments that we made to the Localism Bill at the Commons Report stage to strengthen the duty to cooperate and my department will continue to take the findings into account as policy is developed”.

He told MPs: “We have made it plain that our decision to remove regional strategies was based on clear evidence that they did not work.

“We are determined to address this through our clear and comprehensive approach to reform: promoting economic growth and recovery through incentives such as the New Homes Bonus and a reformed Community Infrastructure Levy; encouraging local authorities to work together effectively across their boundaries through a strengthened duty to co-operate; and driving house building by combining the incentives we are introducing with the removal of top down targets.”

 

Preston retail scheme legal challenge fails

Blackburn with Darwen Council’s appeal against a £700m shopping centre proposal in Preston has been rejected by the High Court.

A High Court judge sitting in Manchester rejected the appeal over the controversial Tithebarn project in Preston which neighbouring local authorities fear could have an adverse impact on the viability of their existing town centres.

Mr Justice Langstaff said Communities Secretary Eric Pickles was right to allow the Tithebarn application to proceed.

 

Archaeology war of words

A war of words has broken out over comments by Alan Melton, leader of Fenland District Council over the role of archaeological surveys.

He announced plans to scrap the need for archaeological surveys when new developments get under way. He added: “The bunny huggers won’t like this but if they wish to inspect a site, they can do it when the footings are being dug out.”

Umbrella group the Archaeology Forum said the speech had sparked “anger and disbelief” among archaeological community.

The Forum said the archaeology of the Fens was of “national and international importance”. It went on: “Current planning policy works well to ensure that the most important sites are managed in a way that protects them while still allowing new development to take place.”

 

Applications and decisions on the up

The latest national statistics on English planning applications released under the auspices of the UK Statistics Authority showed that during the first quarter of 2011 district level planning authorities received 119,400 applications, an increase of around one per cent when compared with the same quarter last year. Decisions (granted or refused) also showed a similar increase when compared with the March 2010 quarter.

However, authorities undertaking 'county level' planning decided 1,285 applications over the same period, a decrease of four per cent when compared with the 12 months to March 2010.

Access the full set of Statistics of Planning Applications Live Tables.

 

Draft guidance on Welsh pre-application stage

New guidance aimed at improving the pre-application stage of the planning application process has been launched by Wales Environment Minister John Griffiths.

The Welsh Government has published new draft guidance and is inviting interested parties to consider and comment.  

The draft guidance highlights the importance of a more formal pre-application service and the adoption by local planning authorities of statements of service/protocols.

The consultation runs from the 29 June 2011 until the 28 September 2011. Copies of the document are available on the Welsh Government website.

Read the Welsh Government news release.

 

Longbridge go-ahead

Brownfield development specialists St Modwen and its partner Advantage West Midlands have received planning approval from Birmingham City Council for the £70m redevelopment of Longbridge town centre. The scheme will be delivered in three phases and include the development of a new Sainsbury’s store, a cart-park, an urban park, an 80-room hotel and 40 flats.

Tidal power project shelved

Renewable energy developer Peel Energy has shelved a proposed £3.5bn tidal power scheme in the Mersey Estuary after explaining that the economics of the project are not sustainable at present. The planned barrage was expected to generate around one terrawatt hours (TWh) of electricity per year.

Read the Peel Energy news release.

 

Transport applications for IPC

The Infrastructure Planning Commission has received two applications for  transport schemes. The first application, from Network Rail, is for a railway chord north of Doncaster. The new track route would allow east to north-west freight trains to cross the East Coast Main Line (ECML) on a viaduct rather than having to travel on the ECML for a short distance. 

The second application, also from Network Rail, is for a railway chord 1km north of Ipswich goods yard linking the East Suffolk and Great Eastern Lines.

 

Housing appeal success at Mold

Planning and urban design consultancy Turley Associates has won an appeal against Flintshire County Council’s refusal of planning permission for a 50-home scheme near Mold. Costs were awarded against the local planning authority. Officers had recommended in favour of the scheme.

 

New Planning Officers Society president

The new president of the Planning Officers Society is Mike Holmes, currently director of planning and transport at Bournemouth Borough Council.

 

Bridgend sports village progress

Multimillion-pound plans for a major sports village at Island Farm, the site of a former prisoner of war camp in Bridgend, have negotiated a key planning hurdle.

The application for a 15,000-seat rugby league stadium and separate rugby union and football stadia has now been backed by the council's planning committee and will now be considered by the full council. The proposals include a tennis centre and a swimming pool and have generated opposition from local residents.

 

Lighting up Tower Bridge

Planning approval is being sought for the temporary installation of giant Olympic Rings and a new architectural lighting scheme for London’s iconic Tower Bridge.

 

Roger Milne

30 June 2011