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  6. News round-up 19 May

News round-up 19 May

TV guru to head high street review

Retail guru Mary Portas, dubbed television’s “Queen of shops”, has been appointed to lead an independent review into the future of the high street, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister announced.

Mary Portas said: “With town centre vacancy rates doubling over the last two years the need to take action to save our high streets has never been starker.”

The review will address the problem of vacant shops, consider new business models for the high street that fit the needs of the modern shopper, investigate ways of preventing the proliferation of ‘clone towns’ and look at ways of Increasing the number of small and independent retailers doing business in local town centres.

The review is due to be completed for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills by the autumn.

Read the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills news story.


Liverpool waterfront scheme under fire

Peel Holdings ambitious plans for Liverpool’s waterfront – its Liverpool Waters project – are facing a major hurdle. A report commissioned by English Heritage (EH) says the £5.5bn scheme would cause “significant damage” to the city’s World Heritage Site (WHS) status.

EH wants further concessions from Peel including removing a cluster of skyscrapers from the central area around Clarence Dock – leaving only one group of tall buildings around Princes Dock in the development instead.

The report said: “The setting of key heritage assets will be damaged by the scale and density of the development and its failure to respect fundamental notions of form and function which will damage the WHS’s authenticity.

Peel said the report was “flawed”. Lindsey Ashworth, director of investment for Peel Holdings, said: “If you take the tall buildings out it is an opportunity that will be lost for 150 years. The opportunity is now.”


Green power target north of the Border

The new Scottish Government's 2020 renewable electricity target has been raised to 100 per cent, First Minister Alex Salmond has confirmed, as he pledged to move "still faster and further" to secure Scotland's place as the green energy powerhouse of Europe.

During its previous four-year term, the Scottish Government consented 42 renewable energy projects and in 2009 more than a quarter (27.4 per cent) of electricity demand came from renewables.


NI industrial land initiative

Northern Ireland Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has announced a £7m investment by Invest Northern Ireland involving the acquisition and development of industrial land in Strabane.

Part of Invest NI’s land acquisition strategy, the investment will make 22 acres of land at Melmount Road available to support economic development in the area.


Edinburgh homes wrangle

Edinburgh City Council has signalled it will mount a legal challenge after a judge overruled plans for a massive housing development at Newcraighall between Edinburgh and Musselburgh.

More than 400 homes were to be built on Green Belt land, doubling the size of the former mining village under a scheme by council-developer EDI and landowners the Dalrymple Trust.

Rival developers Hallam Land Management objected, arguing that the planning authority had gone against the stance of Scottish Reporters (planning inspectors) who said the housing provision should be spread across more locations including Burdiehouse and Dreghorn.

Last week at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Lord Malcolm found the city council’s reasons for rejecting the reporters' findings were inadequate and ordered the local authority to halt the development.

A council spokesman said the authority was "considering the implications of this judgment and will be taking legal advice on how to proceed”.


Green suburb plan

Sutton Council has granted outline planning permission for what is claimed will become London’s greenest and most sustainable suburb. The development, at Hackbridge on the southern edge of the conurbation, is next to Bedzed, the UK’s pioneering ‘eco development’ built on a site once owned by Sutton and East Surrey Water. The proposals for the Felnex trading estate include 725 zero carbon homes.


London regeneration supremo named

David Lunts, executive director for London at the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), has been appointed by the Greater London Authority (GLA) as interim director of housing and regeneration. He is being seconded to lead on the arrangements for the transition of HCA and London Development Agency (LDA) activities into a new GLA housing and regeneration directorate.


Design panel funding

The Design Council CABE has announced financial support for the design review affiliated network across England.

The support comes in the form of grants to the eight affiliated design review panels across England for 2011-12 to enable them to run local design review, alongside and closely aligned to CABE’s national design review service.

This marks the first funding programme to the affiliated network members. This grant will enable the delivery of 250 design reviews of schemes across England in the next year.

Communities and Local Government is providing the funding for the continuation of key CABE services including local and national design reviews. Each of the affiliated panels will receive £65,000, which will cover a proportion of its running costs for the current financial year (to March 2011). Design Council CABE will continue to review nationally significant schemes.


Levy assistance

Local Authorities are being offered the opportunity to apply to take part in the second phase of the Front Runners project, designed to develop the best approach to implementing the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) regime, first announced in November last year.  

Authorities awarded a place in the second phase will have access to a tailored support package from the Planning Advisory Service. This is likely to include group workshops, best practice advice, together with lessons learned from the roll-out to date.

Read the Department for Communities and Local Government press release.


Regeneration finance

Seven UK cities and town centres are set to benefit from £10m of regeneration investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund, as part of its Townscape Heritage Initiative. This supports local organisations working to bring run down but historic high streets back to life through repairs and other essential works. The projects typically also provide volunteers and local people an opportunity for active involvement.

Areas set to benefit include Coatsworth Road, Gateshead; Ballymoney, Country Antrim; Prescot Town Centre, Knowsley; Parkhead Cross, Glasgow; Dalby Square, Margate; Colwyn Bay, Conwy; and Bromsgrove Town Centre, Worcestershire.


Turbine advice

Revised guidance on criteria for wind farm applications in the Scottish Borders has been published by the Scottish Borders Council. It is designed to provide clearer advice for both would-be developers and wind farm opponents.


E-consultation initiative

A new national e-consultation service that will allow all planning process stakeholders to complete their internal and external consultations online is due to be launched in June and will go fully live in September.

This national “Consultation Cloud” is being developed by local government solutions provider Idox. It will notify consultees of relevant planning applications, and mean application details and associated documents can be read online.


London river park

The award-winning London River Park concept has taken a step forward thanks to a pledge of up to £60m funding by asset managers Venus Group of Singapore.

The scheme aims to provide a continuous 12-metre wide floating pontoon from London Bridge to just beyond The Customs House in the City of London. Themed pavilions along the route will showcase London and host events. The scheme still requires planning permission. It is scheduled to be ready by the 2012 Olympics.

Read the GLA news release.


Affordable homes report

Cluttons, the international property consultants and chartered surveyors, has called on the Government to review the new affordable housing regime after publishing a report which claims the new arrangements represent a “noose” on residential development.


Devolved administration appointments

Following the elections in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales earlier this month the devolved administrations have announced a new set of ministers.

In Northern Ireland Danny Kennedy MLA is Minister for Regional Development with responsibility for strategic planning; Nelson McCausland MLA is Minister for Social Development and his brief includes urban regeneration and housing; Alex Attwood MLA is Environment Minister with responsibility for planning control, environment, heritage and protection of the countryside; while Michelle O’Neill is Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development.

North of the border the following MSPs have ministerial responsibilities for planning, architecture, the built environment, environmental protection, community development and land use measures: Cabinet Secretary John Swinney; Minister for Housing and Communities Alex Neil; Minister for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop; Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochead; and Minister for Environment and Climate Change Roseanna Cunningham.

In Wales John Griffiths AM has been appointed as the Welsh Government’s Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development while Huw Lewis AM becomes Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage.


Flag waving

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has announced that Communities and Local Government will consult shortly on moves to amend planning regulations to make it easier for people to fly flags of their choice. The current legislation restricts the range of flags that can be flown without gaining prior approval.


Roger Milne

19 May 2011