Local authority planner under investigation over developer links
Kirklees Council in west Yorkshire has confirmed that it is investigating the local authority’s acting principal planning officer after it emerged he had links with a major property developer, Princegate Estates, for the past five years.
A spokesman for the planning authority said: “We are aware of the connection between our employee and this company. The matter is now being investigated according to HR guidance, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.
"However, Princegate Estates have stated they have made no effort to work in Kirklees and have made no land acquisitions in the district”.
The planner has not been suspended but as a precaution he is no longer working on the council’s Local Development Framework (LDF).
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman has called for a police inquiry into the running of the planning department.
"What I want to know is: has our planning department been working properly? I believe there should be a full inquiry."
Surveyors and planners urge more advice on localism
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has produced an analysis of the current condition of planning and development in the context of the Coalition’s localism agenda.
The report, which has been submitted to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, suggested that more guidance and information for the planning sector may be needed to ease transition to the new regime.
In a separate but related development, the Planning Officers Society has put forward a model for the proposed new national planning policy framework which the organisation argued was shorter, more accessible and much more jargon-free than the existing mass of documentation
Planning powers to be returned to London Boroughs
Planning minister Bob Neill has confirmed that the London Boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Newham will resume planning functions in the area known as London Riverside, from the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation on 1 April.
The Order needed to effect this change has been laid before Parliament.
However, the Corporation will for the time being retain planning powers in the Lower Lea Valley area, covering the London boroughs of Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets.
Decisions on the way forward in this area will be taken once the Mayor of London has decided whether to establish a Mayoral Development Corporation in part of the area currently the subject of consultation.
The London Thames Gateway Development Corporation's planning powers only apply to major applications above a certain threshold.
The Thames Gateway has two development corporations covering London (London Thames Gateway Development Corporation) and Thurrock (Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation).
The way forward for Thurrock was announced last September 2010 when ministers concluded it should transfer to the local council from 1 April 2012.
Pickles urges growth in small seaside towns
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has insisted small seaside resorts should seize the opportunity presented by local enterprise partnerships to transform economic growth along the coast.
His comments came as he launched a new report by Sheffield Hallam University, which highlighted the economic and social challenges faced by smaller seaside resorts and their enterprise and resilience over the last decade.
The report noted classic seaside towns - mainly in the South West and East Coast - missed out on the economic growth of the past decade but despite this smaller resorts have often done better than their larger counterparts, often experiencing a smaller rise in unemployment during the recession.
The report’s findings suggested that Aldeburgh, Arnside, Budleigh Salterton, Grange over Sands, Lynton/ Lynmouth, Portreath, Salcombe and West Mercia have strongest local economies among smaller seaside towns.
Those facing toughest economic problems are: Chapel St Leonards, Cromer, Dymchurch/St Mary's Bay, Filey, Hunstanton, Mablethorpe, Sutton-on-Sea, Watchet and Withernsea. Seven of the nine towns are on the East Coast.
Review of town hall legal duties
Councils have been asked to review their statutory duties and suggest ones which could be extinguished.
This exercise will include planning and environmental powers, Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark has signalled.
This move forms part of a major Government initiative which is assessing the cumulative legal burden from central government on local authorities.
Ministers have stressed that this review will proactively identify unnecessary burdens and barriers preventing councils from getting on with their job.
Clark said: "Historically, Whitehall has prescribed how councils should conduct their business. As a result hundreds of accumulated legal requirements have become attached to the functions councils undertake.
"Until now no Government has comprehensively reviewed the relevance and worth of these legal duties to check if councils aren't being smothered by top-down bureaucracy”.
DCLG has said that this exercise won’t include duties stemming from Parts 1 and 2 of the Building Act 1984 as a separate review of these is already underway.
Boosts for Croydon regeneration
Croydon Council is poised to sign off a series of master-plans for the south London urban centre intended to kick-start a new wave of regeneration.
Developers Stanhope and Schroder have just submitted a fresh application for the long-dormant 3.4 hectare Croydon Gateway site next to the town’s busiest station.
The proposals for the Ruskin Square project include 93,000 sq metres of offices, divided over five blocks, 550 homes, a theatre, squares, restaurants and shops.
Other initiatives climbing off the drawing board include up to 10 more trams for the Tramlink network and a new entrance to East Croydon Station.
Both initiatives are being part funded by Croydon Council which is expecting to invest around £10m in the two projects.
Plans that could see land at the former Preston Barracks developed along with adjoining University of Brighton sites are under consideration by Brighton & Hove City Council’s planning department which has drawn up a planning brief for the area.
This calls for a mixed-use development with new housing, student accommodation, shops, offices and educational facilities.
Derby scheme scores
Derby City Council has announced the development partner for its £100m Castleward Urban Village scheme will be urban renewal and regeneration specialist Compendium Living.
The first phase of this project is on land provided by Derby City Council and the East Midlands Development Agency, helped by acquisitions financed by national housing and regeneration body the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).
The first phase centres on a pedestrian-friendly boulevard from Derby railway station to the city centre as well as 70 homes, 2,500 square metres of commercial floor space, community facilities and a new central park/square.
Approval for Derbyshire power plant
Energy Minister Charles Hendry has given the go-ahead for RWE npower proposals to construct a new gas-fired power station of up to 2,000 megawatts at Willington, South Derbyshire.
New homes approved in Wolverhampton
Wolverhampton City Council has granted detailed planning approval for the first 314 new homes to be constructed on the 88-acre former Goodyear Works site, located off Stafford Road.
Superstore makes the grade in Bristol
Bristol City Council has approved plans for a new Sainsbury’s superstore at Ashton Gate, against the advice of the planning department.
The scheme is planned to part-fund Bristol City Football Club’s new stadium, the proposals for which are currently embroiled in a town green wrangle.
Solar parks receive green light
Plans for solar farms of up to 10,000 panels on two sites in Carmarthenshire have been approved by the county council. The schemes, with a combined capacity of 8 megawatts, are earmarked for the Ffos Las horse racing course and the former Cynheidre Colliery near Five Roads and could generate enough power for 1,000 homes.
In January, neighbouring Pembrokeshire became the first council in Wales to approve a solar farm when planning permission was granted for land at Rhos-Y-Gilwen Mansion, a country retreat near Cardigan.
Gypsy and traveller developments
Somerset needs an extra 295 pitches for gypsies and travellers by 2020, a study compiled by researchers from De Montfort University has concluded.
The survey was commissioned by six Somerset councils. In a separate but related development, plans for a new 22-pitch traveller site on the outskirts of Bridlington have been approved by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.
Factory site primed for retail warehouse
Plans for a new Morrison’s warehouse in Bridgewater have been given the go-ahead by Sedgemoor District Council at the site a former cellophane factory on Bristol Road.
Coastal data offer
Astrium GEO-Information Services has introduced new marine and coastal geospatial data that is now downloadable from its Geostore website (http://www.geostore.com).
The new data is claimed to be particularly useful for environmental protection activities and coastal projects like wind farm exploration.
The material includes the Admiralty Raster Charts, and a new generation of vector data known as Marine Themes that is based on information sourced from the UK Hydrographic Office.
10 March 2011