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  6. News round-up 26 May 2011

News round-up 26 May 2011

Falkirk regeneration

Developer Morston Assets has obtained planning permission from Falkirk Council for its £500m Whitecross regeneration scheme involving 1,500 new homes, 225 of which will be affordable, scheduled to be built on a 120-acre former brickworks site near Linlithgow. The scheme also involves a business park, hotel and a primary school.


Longest ski slope plan

Property consultancy GVA has submitted plans for what would be the UK’s longest indoor real snow ski slope as part of an ambitious project proposed by LeisureDome Ltd for a site in Weston-super-Mare.

The planned 210-metre slope would be 40 metres longer than the one in Milton Keynes. Proposals for the facility include an indoor surf centre, Britain’s tallest climbing wall, a freefall centre - simulating a sky diving experience - and a skateboard and BMX park.

The £50m scheme has been earmarked for the resort’s former RAF Locking site which has been identified by North Somerset Council as a regeneration opportunity

The developers have proposed a new landmark for the town in the shape of wedge-shaped building, some 33,112 square metres in size. It would be 12m at the front rising to 61m at the back.


Travellers evicted over SSI threat

Brighton and Hove City Council has evicted a group of Travellers illegally camped at Woollards Field, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at Falmer. The action was taken in a bid to avoid delays to The Keep, a project intended to provide a new home for all the archives and historical resources of Brighton and Hove and East Sussex and the special collections of the University of Sussex.

The chalk grassland SSSI is home to a number of endangered species including slow worms which need to be moved for their protection during construction work at the development. The council faced charges of £100,000 a month if the scheme was delayed.

Read the Brighton and Hove City Council press release.


Bury core strategy move

Bury Metropolitan Borough Council has formally applied to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to withdraw its Core Strategy which had began its examination in public on 12 May. The hearing has now been cancelled.  

The council’s unprecedented move follows a row at the inquiry when the planning authority tried to introduce 300 ‘minor’ changes to the strategy.

These covered employment land, housing figures and provision, the strategy for Prestwich town centre, retail floor space and new provisions about green infrastructure.


Waste project wins on appeal

Environmental service company Sita Cornwall has won its appeal for an energy recovery project at St Dennis in Cornwall.

The original proposals for a waste-to-energy facility had been refused by the local authority. However Communities Secretary Eric Pickles allowed the appeal, acting on the recommendation of the inspector who heard the inquiry.

The decision letter said the benefits of the project outweighed its disadvantages: visual impact, local amenity issues and conflict with the development plan.

He said the scheme would divert waste from landfill, generate power from a renewable source and move waste up the waste hierarchy. The scheme would also be economically beneficial, he concluded.

Read the decision letter.


New online heritage database

English Heritage has launched a new online database of the country's 400,000 listed buildings, registered parks, gardens and battlefields, protected shipwrecks and scheduled monuments.

For the first time separate registers and lists for different types of heritage have been combined into a single database which can be searched by postcode, by date, by grade or by any category from listed building to listed lamp-post, from scheduled coal mines to castles.

Access the National Heritage List for England database.


Empty home toolkits

Communities and Local Government has launched two online housing toolkits designed to provide local councils and communities with practical help in bringing empty homes back into the housing pool. The Geographical Information System (GIS) Empty Homes Mapping Toolkit plots locations of long-term empty homes in private ownership. The Empty Homes Knowledge Toolkit provides comprehensive information on the legal, investment and partnership building aspects of bringing derelict properties back into use.

Access the toolkits.


Napier reappointed at HCA

Robert Napier has been reappointed to serve an additional three-year term as chairman of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). 


Design matters

Government chief planner Steve Quartermain has written to chief planning officers in England pointing out that ministers set great store by well-designed homes and high quality places. The letter reminds planners that the Design Council will be taking on CABE’s responsibilities for supporting and encouraging high quality design standards in new developments. This follows the integration of CABE into the Design Council after the Government budget review earlier this year. 

Download the letter to chief planning officers.


Flood funding shake-up

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has announced changes to the funding regime for flood and coastal erosion defence projects.

Future funding levels will be based on anticipated benefits from each scheme, with schemes supported in part or full. This replaces the current system where projects are typically fully funded or not at all.

Funding decisions will be made locally by regional committees. The Environment Agency will work with local communities and other interested parties to lower costs or find additional private funding where full costs are not met.

Read the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs news release.


Somerset solar farms

Three large-scale 'solar farms' for sites in and around Bridgewater in Somerset have been approved by Sedgemoor District Council. Between them the schemes involve around 120,000 solar PV panels which will be installed on 90 hectares of land with a combined output of nearly 15 megawatts. Two separate developers are involved: BNRG Bridgewater and Wessex Solar Energy.


Tidal power Thames trials

The Port of London Authority has given special permission to Thames Tidal Ltd to locate a tidal turbine alongside HQS Wellington, moored at Temple Steps in central London. The two-month trial is the first stage of proposals to develop a tidal energy farm along the River Thames and out into the Thames Estuary. The full scheme, if realised, would involve hundreds of tidal turbines from Westminster to Margate, producing sufficient energy to power 35,000 homes.


Tree assessment

Results are now available from the first UK study to employ the I-Tree Eco methodology, a combination of survey techniques and software models for assessing the economic value of tree stocks. The exercise involved Torbay Council, TreeCOnomics, Forest Research, Natural England and tree officers from the Devon local authority.


NI clarification

The Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland) has pointed out that the Northern Ireland Executive has no current plans for departmental reforms which would involve all planning and regeneration policy being brought together in a restructured Department for Regional Development (DRD).


Roger Milne

26 May 2011