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  6. News round-up 6 May 2011

News round-up 6 May 2011

London Plan backed

London Mayor Boris Johnson’s plan to make the capital a cleaner, greener and more attractive city offers a “sound basis for the planning of Greater London over the next 20 years”, according to the Planning Inspectorate.

London mayor Boris Johnson has published the Inspectorate’s Examination in Public (EIP) Report into the draft London Plan, which looked at each of the mayor’s proposed policies for the future development of the capital.

At the same time, the mayor has sent a draft of his new London Plan to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Subject to ministerial approval, the final plan, which will be more focused than the current version, will be published in the summer.

View the EIP Panel Report.


Eco credits

The Shell Foundation has agreed to fund and provide expertise for the development of conservation credits and other measures by the fledgling Environment Bank.

The Bank has just joined forces with the Environment Agency to pilot a scheme whereby developers and companies will be able to offset their impact on biodiversity and ecosystems by buying ‘credits’ to create coastal grazing and sea marshes along the Suffolk and Essex coast.

This concept of ‘environmental offsets’ will be a feature of the Coalition’s Natural Environment White Paper due later this year and will  become a feature of many large and small infrastructure projects in the future.


Planning aid

Ministers have announced the four bodies which will provide expert advice and guidance to communities involved in the new neighbourhood planning regime.

Communities can choose to take up free advice and guidance depending on their needs through The Prince's Foundation, Locality, The Royal Town Planning Institute, and the National Association of Local Councils in partnership with the Campaign to Protect Rural England. They will be funded through a share of a £3.2m fund to provide assistance to local groups developing neighbourhood plans.

The organisations will offer free, impartial advice, practical workshops with local authorities and community groups, tailored online resources, networking tools and telephone advice lines.

Planning and communities minister Greg Clark said: “Making sure community groups have free access to a number of organisations means they can choose the experts that best suit their needs.”

The Royal Town Planning Institute is receiving £1m; Locality £814,000; the National Association of Local Councils in partnership with the Campaign to Protect Rural England £620,000 and The Prince’s Foundation £800,000.

Read the Department for Communities and Local Government news release.



PM intervenes over wind farm plan

PM David Cameron has agreed to arrange a meeting between a planning minister and constituents of Labour backbencher Phil Wilson who represents Sedgefield, Tony Blair’s former constituency, about plans for potentially England’s biggest onshore wind farm. The 45-turbine scheme is currently under consideration by Eon UK for a site in county Durham. Wilson raised the issue during PM Questions in the Commons on April 27.

Read the Commons Hansard report. (27 Apr 2011, Column 170).


Gloucestershire homes refused

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has dismissed an appeal by Cala Management over the refusal of Cotswold District Council for a 300-home residential development, half of which would be affordable, at Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire.

If built the scheme would have increased the population of the village by 20 per cent. The SoS agreed with the inspector who held the inquiry last year into the outline application that the scheme was premature and though not without merit, conflicted with both local and national policies.

Access the decision letter and inspector’s report. 


Action on land plots scam

The second of two connected companies that mis-sold Green Belt land for investment to the public, has been ordered into liquidation in the High Court following an investigation by The Insolvency Service.

The investigations by Company Investigations (‘CI’) of the Insolvency Service found that UK Investment Consultancy Limited had made exaggerated and misleading claims regarding the investment potential of land at Chailey, Lewes, and East Sussex.

Another company, Queensgate Consultants Limited, also misled the public regarding land it had sold but did not own at Wrockwardine Wood in Telford and in Bromley, Kent. Between them, the companies raised around £1m from the public.

Investors were led to believe the plots they were buying had serious development potential. The investigation found this claim was not supported by any credible evidence.

Both companies are linked to land banking companies previously wound up on grounds of public interest following Insolvency Service investigations, namely Pemberton International Ltd, Eldon International Ltd, Willow International Ltd and Allied Investment Management Limited.


Contaminated land

The local authority contaminated land capital project s programme has been combined with the Environment Agency’s own capital projects programme for special sites, with all funding coming out of a single ‘pot’.

The combined budget for 2011/12 is £4.35m, some 80 per cent less than originally anticipated. The EA expects to offer all of the capital expenditure to successful bids from both programmes in a single bid window for the year which is open until 27 May 2011.


Local plan advice

Planning minister Bob Neill has written to all local authority chief planning officers in England flagging up the withdrawal of guidance on local plan monitoring and signalling that the Department for Communities and Local Government won’t be monitoring the preparation and content of local plans. Councils will now be expected to notify the Planning Inspectorate three months before the publication of any development plan document. Neill’s letter also clarified various procedural matters following the closure of the Government Offices.

Access the letter.  


London planning supremo

London mayor Boris Johnson has appointed Edward Lister as his chief of staff and deputy mayor for planning. Edward Lister is the long-standing leader of Wandsworth Council. The appointment was made following the death of Sir Simon Milton, who had been Johnson’s right-hand man and planning and development specialist.


Budget guidance

Chief planner Steve Quartermain has written to chief planning officers in England drawing their attention to all the announcements made as part of the Budget as well as further updated advice on planning obligations.

Access the letter.


Avonmouth Waste project appeal allowed

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has allowed Virodor’s proposals for a materials recycling facility and energy from waste plant at Avonmouth originally refused consent by Bristol City Council. His decision was in line with the planning inspector’s recommendation.

Access the decision letter.


White City makeover

Plans to redevelop the White City area of West London to help deliver 4,500 homes and up to 10,000 jobs have been published for consultation by the London mayor Boris Johnson.

Over the next 15 to 20 years the White City Opportunity Area, which includes areas of under-used land on the eastern edge of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham near the Westfield shopping centre will be regenerated into new communities with new green and open spaces.

Read the Mayor of London press release.


Green Belt matters

Bob Stewart, the Conservative MP who represents the constituency of  Beckenham, Kent, has obtained Parliamentary approval to introduce legislation in the Commons designed to increase the powers available to local authorities in relation to unauthorised development of Green Belt and greenfield land; and for connected purposes. The measure is called the Planning (Green Belt Protection) Bill.

In a separate development, the latest National Statistics on Green Belt land in local authorities in England, released under the auspices of the UK Statistics Authority, indicate that the area at 31 March 2011 was estimated at 1,639,540 hectares, about 13 per cent of the land area of England.

Between March 2010 and March 2011, boundary changes in three authorities - Enfield, Slough and Vale of White Horse - resulted in a small increase (under five hectares) in the total area of Green Belt.

Over the longer term, since these statistics were first compiled for 1997, there has been an increase in the area of Green Belt after taking account of the re-designation of some Green Belt as part of the New Forest National Park in 2005.

Read the Commons Hansard report (3 May 2011, column 476).


National Park boundary changes

Following last year’s consultation on proposals to extend the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, Natural England has released revised boundary details for further public consideration.

Extension proposals for the Yorkshire Dales National Park now include the Orton Fells, the Northern Howgill Fells and Mallerstang to the north, and the fells and River Lune between Firbank Fell and Ireby to the west. Proposals for the Lake District National Park include Birbeck Fells Common to Whinfell Common to the east, and Helsington Barrows to Sizergh Fell including the Lyth Valley to the south.

Read the Natural England press release.


Roger Milne

6 May 2011