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  6. News round-up 22 September 2011

News round-up 22 September 2011

Traveller developments

Planning and Local Government Minister Bob Neill has insisted the Coalition’s planning reforms won’t weaken controls over unauthorised traveller sites.

He said: "The Government is scrapping the previous Government's planning rules on traveller sites and issuing explicit new planning guidance which increases protection of the Green Belt and open countryside. Stronger weight is being given to protection of local amenity and the local environment. And through the Localism Bill, councils are being given tougher enforcement powers to tackle the abuse of the system."

His comments came as residents of Dale Farm in Essex won an injunction preventing the clearance of 51 unauthorised plots until Friday (23 September).

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has confirmed it would continue to offer ‘land and investment’ to resettle Dale Farm residents – but that it could only find a solution with the help of Basildon Council.

The HCA said it owned ‘extensive’ land within the Basildon district and that its offer of help remained on the table if the council wished to continue negotiations, currently suspended.


Permitted development advice

Government chief planner Steve Quartermain has written to planning authorities drawing their attention to the regulations laid before Parliament which provide new permitted rights for householders to install micro wind turbines and air-source heat pumps.

The measures also include new permitted development rights for outlets for recharging electric vehicles and deemed advertisement consent for installers of charging points to display their nameplates.

Access the letter to Chief Planning Officers.


Shale gas progress

The energy firm which has been test drilling for controversial "shale gas" in Lancashire has said it has found vast gas resources underground.

Cuadrilla Resources began testing for gas on the Fylde Coast in March, using a technique known as "fracking".

It said it had found 200 trillion cubic feet of gas under the ground but acknowledged it does not know yet what proportion would be recoverable.


Go-ahead for trade centre

Plans for a £200m International Trade Centre (ITC) in Birkenhead have been approved by Wirral Council.

The centre, planned for the West Float former docks site, is part of the £4.5bn Wirral Waters regeneration scheme planned by developer Peel.

The ITC will be made up of four multi-level buildings, providing about 230,000 sq m of floorspace.

The Wirral Waters scheme was designated recently by the Government as one of 21 English Enterprise Zones. Work is expected to begin soon on remediating the site.


Golf plan pledge

Northern Ireland Environment Minister Alex Attwood has pledged to make a decision on the planning application for a golf resort at Runkerry near the World Heritage Giant’s Causeway site within 10 weeks.

Read the Northern Ireland Executive media release.


Power block

A planning inspector has dismissed an appeal by Dudgeon Offshore Wind over plans for an electricity substation in Norfolk, earlier refused permission by Breckland District Council for a site south of Little Dunham near Swaffham.

The facility was planned to take electricity output from Warwick Energy’s proposed offshore wind farm near Cromer. Permission was refused because the sub-station’s “visual impacts" would be "damaging" to the rural landscape.


Biomass power plant approved

Energy Minister Charles Hendry has given section 36 approvals to Anglesey Aluminum Metal Renewables to construct a 299 megawatt biomass fuelled power station at Penrhos Works, Holyhead, Anglesey.

The operator is expected to source fuel from both imported and local sources, with imports coming in through the Port of Holyhead .

Read the Department of Energy and Climate Change press release.


Barnsley Core Strategy approved

Barnsley Council has formally adopted its Core Strategy earlier found “sound” by a planning inspector.


Enforcement cases

Northern Ireland’s Department of the Environment has successfully brought two court cases over non-compliance with planning enforcement notices.

A County Tyrone man pleaded guilty and was fined a total of £10,000 with £85 costs at Dungannon Magistrates' Court over failure to remove all vehicles for sale from a site.

The second case involved a man from Ardboe who was man fined £7,000 after erecting three unauthorised units at lands to the rear of 17 Killycanavan Road. He had been fined £15,000 in 2010 for similar offences.


Habitat consultation

A second public consultation is to be held over plans to create a new wildlife habitat on the Steart Peninsula in Somerset.

Bristol Port Company wants to create the habitat to compensate for the area of land that will be used for a new container terminal at Avonmouth.

The aim is to create a network of creeks and islands for nesting birds as well as salt marsh areas for livestock grazing.

Trump objects to turbines

US tycoon Donald Trump has written to Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond objecting to plans for offshore turbines near his luxury golf resort development.

The scheme is known as the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, a £150m joint venture by utility company Vattenfall, engineering firm Technip and the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group.

The consortium is proposing an 11-turbine wind farm off Aberdeen Bay, some 2km (1.2 miles) from his golf course. The tycoon described the wind turbines as "ugly".

Trump's controversial £750m development on the Menie estate on the coast is nearing completion.


Demolition plans

Nottingham City Council is considering the demolition of almost 1,000 council homes to make way for new property. Residents in The Meadows, St Ann's, Lenton and Radford would be involved.

The council estimates it will save £4.8m by pulling down the homes and replacing them with 500 newer ones.


Galashiels new-build

The first phase of a 500-home development in the Borders has been approved by councillors. Persimmon Homes wants to build the houses on a site at Easter Langlee in Galashiels.

The first application - for 118 homes - was approved by members of Scottish Borders Council's planning and building standards committee.


Tram prospects

Light rail has a future in the UK but only if capital costs can be reduced, Local Transport Minister Norman Baker has said, as he published a review looking at how tram schemes can be more cost effective in the future.

Despite tram passenger numbers being at record levels, high building costs have meant that even where passenger forecasts may justify its consideration, light rail has often not been seen as an affordable option for local transport authorities.

The minister said: ““Light rail is good for passengers, good for local economics, good for the local environment and it’s a mode of public transport that passengers really enjoy using – that is why I’m committed to doing everything we can to bring costs down to make it a viable option for more communities.”

Read the Department for Transport press release.


Mosque plan turned down

Plans for a new mosque and community centre in the West Midlands have been turned down for the second time. Dudley Council has refused permission for the buildings, which would feature a 35ft (10m) high minaret.

Dr Kurshid Ahmed, chairman of the town's Muslim association, said the decision was "Islamophobic". The council said its decision was based solely on planning reasons.

The council originally refused outline planning permission for the Hall Street mosque in February 2007 on the basis that the land had already been designated exclusively for employment use under the council's unitary development plan.

A planning inspector overturned the council's reason for refusing outline planning approval in July 2008. The council fought the decision in the High Court in July 2009 and lost.

Dudley Muslim Associates, which submitted the plan, has three years to submit an alternative before the outline planning approval expires.


Rail freight facility rethink

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has invited St Albans City & District Council to make further representations on an appeal by Helioslough Ltd over land in and around the former Radlett Aerodrome where the developer wants to build a strategic rail freight terminal. The location is in metropolitan Green Belt.

The scheme has become a planning saga. In July the High Court quashed the decision of the Secretary of State to dismiss Helioslough’s earlier appeal.


Saatchi scheme makeover

London Mayor Boris Johnson has approved plans for a major new development of offices, homes and commercial space in the heart of London’s West End.

This go-ahead for the redevelopment of 80 Charlotte Street and 65 Whitfield Street in Camden - known as the ‘Saatchi block’ after the world famous advertising agency which currently occupies the buildings – is designed to deliver more than 35,000 sq m of office space, 4,500 sq m of commercial space and 57 new homes, 16 of which would be affordable.

Read the Mayor of London media release.


Estates plan

Plans to build 200 new homes as part of a Southampton City Council estates regeneration scheme have been submitted by Lovell and First Wessex.

They want to build new homes and seven shops as part of the proposed redevelopment of Exford Avenue Shopping Parade, Harefield; Laxton Close, Sholing; and Meggeson Avenue, Townhill Park.


Bad news for newts

Natural England has released the results from the most comprehensive investigation into the population status and distribution of great crested newts in Britain.

Great crested newts have declined dramatically in the last 40 years and although still widespread across lowland England they are now uncommon. Despite protection under UK and European wildlife law, numbers are still in decline overall. The deterioration of habitat remains their biggest threat, concluded the survey.

Read the Natural England news release.


Brixton boost

Lambeth Council has signalled major new plans to introduce new homes, shops and parking to Brixton. The council said it had identified that up to 1,000 new homes could be built in Brixton over the next few years – as part of a wide-reaching regeneration project for the area.

Outline plans also included providing 5,500 sq m of new retail floor space, public car parking, and nearly 5,000 sq m of employment floor space.


Design aid

Design Council CABE has announced the 14 organisations who will receive grants totalling £114,000 to fund work with local communities to help them raise the design quality of their area.

Read the Design Council CABE  news release.


Turbine rejection

Plans for a 23-turbine wind farm at Druim Ba between Kiltarlity and Abriachan have been rejected by Highland Council. Developer Druim Ba Sustainable Energy had proposed siting the wind farm in a forestry plantation.


New homes win out

Proposals by Co-operative Estates to build 80 new homes in a Lancashire village have been given the go-ahead on appeal. Ribble Valley Borough Council had earlier refused the scheme at Whalley in the Ribble Valley.

Tesco depot approved

A new Tesco food distribution depot that will create 1,000 jobs has been approved by Reading Borough Council.

The supermarket chain will open the centre, on the old Courage Brewery site, by Christmas if Wokingham Council agrees to the application next week.

The Imperial Way site is in the Reading suburb of Whitley and is on the boundary between Reading and Wokingham.


Retail approval

Plans to build a supermarket on a prominent site in Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire,  have been narrowly approved by the county council.

The proposals, by Eiddo Davies Properties Limited, were approved by eight votes to seven by Carmarthenshire Council's planning committee.


Dram plan

Plans for a new distillery on the Western Isles have been lodged with the islands' council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

North Uist-based Isle of Harris Distillers Ltd wants to build on a site at Tarbert on Harris. The proposal includes a distillery, warehouse, yard and car parking on an area of reclaimed land.

About 90,000 litres of whisky could be produced a year, using water drawn from two disused reservoirs on the East Tarbert burn.


Planner twist

Media interest in planning took a new twist last weekend when an episode of Dr Who featured an alien, played by the popular comic actor David Walliams, who was a town planner. 

According to the BBC, he was "engaged in a project to line all his planet's highways with trees so that invading armies could march in the shade!"

Read the BBC Dr Who story.


Roger Milne

22 September 2011