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  6. News round-up 10 November 2011

News round-up 10 November 2011

Ministers pledge £500m fund to “unlock” stalled projects

The Government has signalled plans to “unlock” stalled housing and employment schemes by providing a £500m fund for the infrastructure required for the projects.

Typically, the money would be available for the development of link roads and access works to unlock mixed-use developments, the provision of flood storage capacity and schemes to improve local connectivity and reduce traffic congestion.

Ministers have said that the Growing Places Fund, due to be allocated in January 2012, will be made available for schemes in 38 agreed Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) areas.

Ministers have published indicative allocations to each of the 38 LEPs, including: £12.9m for the Liverpool city region; £23.9m for the Leeds city region; £17.4m for the Local Enterprise Partnership covering Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire; £14.9m for Birmingham and Solihull and nearly £40m for London.

More information about the Growing Places Fund is available from the DCLG website.


MPs back high-speed rail scheme

A report from the Commons transport committee claims there is a good case for a high speed rail network linking London and the major cities of the Midlands, the North and Scotland. The report also claims the scheme would be affordable.

Committee chair Louise Ellman said: “The Government must do more to promote local and regional growth strategies to ensure we get maximum economic benefit from high speed rail.”

The report said that construction of a high-speed rail network should start with the line between London and the West Midlands but voiced concern that under current plans, high-speed rail lines would not reach Manchester and Leeds for more than 20 years.

“The Government should also look at options to build southwards from the north and link to other lines such as the Midland Main Line.

“We see no reason why the Scottish Government should not begin work on a Scottish high-speed line, to connect with the English network in due course” said the committee chair.

The report’s main recommendations are laid out on the Parliament UK website

The full text of the report is also available in three parts from the same website


Two more land-banking companies wound-up

Two companies have become the latest in a number of companies to be wound-up following an investigation by the Insolvency Service for land-banking activities.

In addition to selling worthless land, the companies attempted to sell land they did not own.

Regency Land Sales Ltd and Regency Land Group Limited IBC, based in London, Spain and Belize were both wound up in the High Court following an investigation by the Government's Companies Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service.

The investigation found Regency Land Group Limited, formed in Belize and operated from offices in Spain, used telesales methods to sell small plots of agricultural land in Grantham to members of the public.

The company suggested the land would 'accrue further value when it was re-zoned for planning purposes'.

In reality, enquiries made of the local authority by investigators have confirmed there is no real prospect of such re-zoning taking place.


Tower Bridge given permission to twinkle

A plan to replace Tower Bridge’s 25-year-old lights with a new, energy efficient eco-friendly system has been granted final planning and listed building consent.

The permission will also allow giant Olympic Rings and Paralympic Agitos to be temporarily installed on the London landmark during the 2012 Games.


Scottish planning fee consultation announced

Scottish planning minister Aileen Campbell has announced a consultation early in 2012 on proposed changes to planning fees.

She said the new arrangements would involve a proportionate but cost-reflective structure. This will be complemented by a continued focus on performance, including the introduction of a new performance assessment framework.

The changes will include looking again at the maximum fees and how fees for different categories of development are calculated.

The minister has also launched two publications for designers and planners.

'Green Infrastructure: Design and Placemaking' sets out the key considerations for incorporating green infrastructure into new developments.

'Rural Design: Future Landscapes' provides good practice guidance on rural design work.


Preston council announces re-development rethink

Preston City Council has announced that the comprehensive re-development of the city centre by the Tithebarn scheme is no longer financially viable and will not now be going ahead in its current form.

The local authority confirmed the rethink following the decision of retail giant John Lewis to pull out of the scheme.

The continuing economic downturn was also cited for the scheme’s demise.

Councillor Peter Rankin, leader of Preston City Council said: “We have to move on and be realistic about what can be achieved. Our aim is to still regenerate the Tithebarn area of the city.

“Our development partner Lend Lease is working with us to rethink the proposals for Preston city centre, and together we are exploring how best to achieve the city’s ambitions to offer a wider range of quality shopping, more leisure and mixed use of the city centre, including new offices and homes.”


Council rejects power station at Hunterston

North Ayrshire Council has rejected Peel Energy’s proposals for a 1,600 megawatt coal and biomass power plant fitted with carbon capture and storage at Hunterston.

The £3bn scheme will now be considered by a public inquiry before a final decision is made by the Scottish Government.

The project was opposed by Scottish environmental groups and attracted thousands of individual objections.


Green light for homes on former road scheme

Plans to build a housing estate of some 21 dwellings at Aston Mead on the site of the aborted A494 road widening project in Flintshire have been given the go-ahead by Flintshire County Council.


Council granted further High Court order over Dale Farm

Basildon Council has been granted a High Court order to prevent travellers returning to the part of Dale Farm in Essex illegally settled.

Part of the UK's largest travellers' site was cleared last month following a 10-year dispute over unauthorised plots.


Go-ahead for South Lanarkshire wind farm

South Lanarkshire Council has given Blantyre Muir Energy permission to install a further three 377-foot wind turbines on a 323-acre site in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire.

This will bring the total number of turbines on the site to six, collectively providing electricity to 5,500 homes.


Poole redevelopment panned

Plans for the redevelopment of Poole's West Quay Road site have been rejected by councilors against the advice of officials.

Neptune Consultants' proposal application included 377 homes, comprising six apartment blocks with basement parking, 2,600 square metres of office floor space, commercial units, a new quay wall, new public streets and a 13-storey tower block.


Brewery-to-homes scheme given green light

Permission has been given for a multimillion-pound redevelopment of the site of a former Guernsey brewery in St Peter Port with 32 homes, a gym and underground parking.


Tesco drops Nottingham store plan

Retail giant Tesco has abandoned plans for a £40m store at Eastside, Sneinton, on the edge of Nottingham city centre following opposition from the planning authority.


Homes near Roman site blocked by councillors

Proposals to build houses next to a Roman settlement site in Nottinghamshire have been rejected by councillors against the advice of officials from Newark and Sherwood District Council.

Caunton Properties Ltd proposed a 29-dwelling scheme at Church Street in Southwell.


Stroud gives thumbs-down to housing scheme

Stroud District councillors have rejected plans for a 200-home scheme at Sellars Farm, Hardwicke, on the edge of Gloucester which had been recommended for approval by officials.


Swindon town centre makeover proceeds

Plans to regenerate Swindon town centre have moved a step closer after the council granted outline permission for the first phase of a £330m development.

The Union Square scheme will include apartments, a multi-storey car park, a bus station, medical centre, shops and restaurants.


Roger Milne

10 November 2011