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  6. News round-up 24 March 2011

News round-up 24 March 2011

 Zero-carbon home changes

The Coalition has announced changes to the regulatory requirements for zero-carbon homes and signalled “more realistic requirements for on-site carbon reductions”.

The administration said that house builders will only be accountable for those carbon dioxide emissions that are covered by Building Regulations (i.e. heating, fixed lighting, hot water and building services).

Ministers have promised to work with the building industry on “cost-effective” off-site carbon reductions.

The Home Builders Federation welcomed the move to what it called “more sensible carbon efficiency targets”.

The UK Green Building Council criticised the move. Paul King chief executive of the UKGBC said it represented “a watered down policy”.


Marine planning and offshore wind

The Scottish Government has published a plan for offshore wind development in Scotland's sea which confirms that offshore renewable developments are viable in at least six sites, with a potential to deliver almost five gigawatts of electricity generating capacity by 2020.

The plan sets out the administration's vision for developing offshore wind energy up to 2020 and beyond.

It has identified:

  • six areas for development of offshore wind up to 2020, with a potential to deliver almost five gigawatts of electricity generation capacity
  • 25 areas for further exploration beyond 2020, to harness the additional capacity from Scotland's considerable offshore wind resource
  • three previously proposed sites (off Kintyre, in the Solway Firth and in Wigton Bay) have not been included in the plan based of their adverse environmental and economic impacts.

In a separate but related development, the UK government and the three devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have agreed a UK-wide marine policy statement which provides the framework for preparing marine plans and taking decisions affecting the marine environment.

Read the Scottish Government news release.


Coastal path milestone

A report setting out proposals for the first stretch of the England Coast Path between Lulworth and Portland have been submitted by Natural England to Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman. Its publication marks the start of the eight-week period for formal representations and objections.

A copy of the report and the forms for making representations and objections are available on Natural England’s website at

The Secretary of State will make a decision about the report after all representations and objections have been considered. Establishment of the new route will not begin until her decision is made.

This first coastal access report has been drawn up in partnership with Dorset County Council and follows extensive discussions with landowners, tenants and local organisations and full public consultation on the draft proposals. The report proposes several key improvements to the existing coast path at Weymouth Bay.

Meanwhile, work to prepare proposals for the England Coast Path on five additional stretches of coast will start from April this year. Discussions are already under way with the local access authorities in: Cumbria; Kent; Norfolk; Somerset as well as Durham, Hartlepool and Sunderland.


NI Planning Bill makes the grade

The Planning Bill which provides for the transfer of planning powers from the Northern Ireland Executive to local councils has been passed by the NI Assembly. The Bill sets the framework for the future of planning in the Province.

This will involve the transfer of the majority of planning functions from the Department of the Environment to local government after new governance arrangements for councils and a new ethical standards regime for councillors have been put in place and at a time to be decided by the next Assembly.

Meanwhile, in a separate but related development, NI Environment Minister Edwin Poots has launched a consultation on a new draft policy aimed at conserving and protecting the diversity of Northern Ireland’s natural heritage.


Land use strategy for Scotland

Scotland has published its first land-use strategies in a bid to make more sustainable land-use decisions and maximise the contribution of the country’s land-use resources to a low-carbon Scottish economy.


Capital overcrowding proposals

London overcrowding problems could be part-solved by incentives to build more family-sized social-rented homes and giving overcrowded households greater priority for rehousing, according to a new report by the London Assembly.

The report recommended that instead of focusing on the number of houses built, London Mayor Boris Johnson should base his headline target on the number of new bedrooms provided and measure his success on the number of people taken out of housing need. 

Access the report Crowded houses: Overcrowding in London’s social rented housing


Green Belt rethink urged

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s latest UK economic survey has highlighted the need to make the planning system more responsive to housing demand and suggested replacing Green Belts by land–use restrictions that better reflect environmental designations. This would free up land for housing, while preserving the environment, it argued.

Access the report


Green light for cable-car project in the capital

A planned cable car above the River Thames in London has been given the final go-ahead by the Greater London Authority (GLA).

The crossing will link two 2012 Olympic venues, the O2 arena in Greenwich with the Excel exhibition centre in the Royal Docks in East London.

London mayor Boris Johnson said the scheme was "as good as a bus route with 30 buses on it", carrying 2,500 people an hour.

When completed in two years time cable cars will run some 50 metres above the river.

Greenwich and Newham councils and the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation had already approved the scheme.


Forestry review panel named

Members of an independent panel of experts that will make recommendations on forestry policy for England have been named by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman.

The panel, chaired by the Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, will advise Government on how woodland cover can be increased and look at options for enhancing public benefits from all woodlands and forests.

The panel will make its recommendations to the environment secretary in the autumn. It includes Mike Clarke, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; Tom Franklin, chief executive of the Ramblers Association; Stephanie Hilborne, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts; Sue Holden chief executive of the Woodland Trust; Dame Fiona Reynolds, director general of the National Trust; Forestry Commissioner Sir Harry Studholme; and William Worsley, president of the Country Land and Business Association.

The terms of reference, agreed with the chair, can be found at


Welsh and Shropshire power links

National Grid has launched an extensive consultation exercise about its proposals to connect new wind farms planned for mid Wales. New power lines are needed to carry the electricity from the wind farms to a new high voltage substation to be built in Powys and then on to the national transmission network in Shropshire, England. No decisions about the location for the substation or the routes of the connections have yet been made.


Hampshire development makes progress

A joint committee of Winchester City Council and Havant Borough Council has given outline permission for Newlands, a residential-led, 211-hectare mixed use development at Waterlooville in Hampshire, proposed by developer Grainger.

The scheme, under consideration for over five years, involves some 2,550 family homes, together with supporting social infrastructure including a local community centre, land designated for healthcare and elderly care facilities, as well as two primary schools and a nursery. The proposals also include green space, a revitalised river Wallington and allotments provision.

The planning committee also granted detailed permission for the first phase of development, which includes 194 new homes designed by local architect ADAM Architecture.


World Heritage Site shortlist

Eleven potential World Heritage sites figure on the latest UK shortlist compiled by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The sites include: Chatham Dockyard and its defences, Kent; the Lake District, Cumbria; Creswell Crags, Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire; Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire; Mousa, Old Scatness & Jarlshof, Shetland; the slate industry of North Wales; the Flow Country, northern Scotland ; and the Forth Bridge, Scotland.

Two sites that are already being considered by UNESCO are also listed. They are the twin monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow at Sunderland and South Tyneside and Darwin’s landscape laboratory in Kent.


Manchester chief planner to quit

Manchester City Council has confirmed that Peter Babb, head of planning and building control, is to take early retirement and the £70,000 plus post abolished as part of a review of senior staff. Further cuts in the management of the planning service are anticipated.


Todmorden flood scheme

A planning application for new flood defences for Todmorden has been submitted to Calderdale Council by the Environment Agency. The application is for the delayed third phase of a major project to help to reduce the risk of flooding to 658 homes and businesses from Walsden Water.

Construction work will begin this summer, subject to local authority approval. The proposed works will include construction of a new 500-metre flood wall along Rochdale Road, between the Shade Infant & Junior School and the Morrisons superstore.


Putney makeover

Wandsworth Council has approved plans to replace an ageing concrete tower block in Putney, south west London, with a mixed-use development that will provide new homes, shops and offices.

The existing nine-storey block will be replaced with a glass-clad structure containing 68 flats - including 12 that will be offered to low income buyers on shared ownership terms. The new building will range in height from six to 11 storeys.

The s106 agreement contains a clause stipulating that if the housing market in Putney improves before construction work starts, the proportion of affordable homes will have to increase.


Public inquiry opens over vigil site

A public inquiry has begun over a Travellers’ site in Green Belt near Meriden, Solihull, which has been the focus of a vigil by local residents which has lasted a year.


Turbines approved

Two wind farm projects that will together power 64,000 homes have been approved by Scottish ministers.

A 69 megawatt, 23-turbine extension to the existing Black Law wind farm near Shotts will power 32,000 homes. When complete, the Black Law wind farm will be able to power 98,000 homes in total and provide £100,000 per annum for local projects.

The 69 MW, 23-turbine Blackcraig wind farm near New Galloway will power 32,000 homes.

Roger Milne

24 March 2011