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  6. News round-up 28 March 2012

News round-up 28 March 2012

Planning satisfaction in Northern Ireland

The latest Customer Satisfaction Survey – covering 2010/11 – for Northern Ireland’s planning service showed an overall level of 61 per cent, two percentage points down on the previous year.

In total, over 1,000 customers from across Northern Ireland responded to the survey, providing feedback on a range of service provision areas. These included information obtained from Planning, the quality of advice received from Planning, customer experience of dealing with various aspects of service provision, as well as overall level of satisfaction.

The survey was undertaken by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

Planning Minister Alex Attwood said: “There is no doubt that there are many positives in the report. Four out of five people considered the professionalism of staff as satisfactory or better. DOE Planning maintained customer satisfaction levels at a time when 200 staff were redeployed outside the organisation, which has been a major challenge.”

Read the Northern Ireland Executive news release.


Wales Spatial Plan move

The Welsh Government has announced that responsibility for the Wales Spatial Plan, adopted by the National Assembly for Wales in 2004, will move from the Local Government and Communities portfolio to the Environment and Sustainable Development portfolio with effect from 1 April 2012.

As a consequence the regional ministerial and officials’ structures relating to the Wales Spatial Plan will be discontinued. The Welsh Government has also signalled that it will shortly publish proposals for a Sustainable Development Bill that will embed the principles of sustainable development in the work of all Welsh public bodies.


Village green ruling

A High Court judge has decided that West Beach at Newhaven in East Sussex is not a village green. Mr. Justice Ouseley ruled it did not qualify because its use by local people for informal recreation was incompatible with its statutory use as a port by the owner, Newhaven Port and Properties Ltd.

Newhaven Town Council applied to East Sussex County Council for the 15 acres to be registered as a green when the owner erected fences and closed off the beach to the public in 2008. The council, after holding a public inquiry, agreed to register the green but the company challenged the decision in the High Court.

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society which advised Newhaven Town Council, said: ‘We are disappointed that this case appears to have been lost on a technicality. It was held that because the port authority had statutory authority to run a port here, this conflicts in law with the use of the land as a green. But there is no such conflict in practice, people have enjoyed this land for decades - and continue to do so despite the fencing which was erected to keep them out.”

Read the Newhaven Town Council report.


Skelmersdale makeover

Revised plans by developer St Modwen for the west Lancashire town of Skelmersdale have been published ahead of the start of a pre-planning consultation in April.

St Modwen was selected in 2007 by West Lancashire Council and English Partnerships to regenerate the centre of the 1960s new town north of Liverpool.

Initial proposals were for a major development valued at £350m with 500,000 sq ft of retail and leisure, along with offices and 1,150 residential units.

The significantly scaled-down plans envisage a £20m scheme involving a five-screen cinema complex, a 30,000 sq ft food store, other retail outlets, restaurants and improved public open space.


Council to use contingency funds

Sedgemoor District Council has voted to use its own contingency funds to support its participation in the formal examination of plans to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point and associated development.

This move came after members learned their request for further funding from the scheme's promoters, EDF Energy, had been met with an offer that did not cover all the council's anticipated costs. Requests to the Government and the body that will be carrying out the examination, the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), for financial assistance had been unsuccessful.

Councillors voted unanimously to use up to £250,000 of the council's contingency fund as well as carrying forward £45,000 from strategy and business budgets.

Read the Sedgemoor District Council news release.


Travellers’ sites petition

The House of Commons was presented with a petition from 1,000 residents of Bournemouth East who are objecting to the proposed development of three permanent travellers’ site at Strouden, Throop and Muscliff.


Turbine success

Environmental and town planning specialist Atmos Consulting has obtained planning consent from Derbyshire Dales District Council for a single wind turbine development on an industrial site near the Peak District National Park.

Read the Atmos Consulting news article.


Core strategy progress for North Somerset

A planning inspector has decided that North Somerset Council’s core strategy will meet the criteria for “soundness” providing a number of modifications are made.

These include an increase in the housing target from 13,400 to 14,000 units, a five-yearly review of the strategy and increased flexibility over the provision of affordable housing. The council is due to accept the changes and adopt the strategy next month.

Read the North Somerset Council report.


Wind farm win on appeal

An 18-turbine wind farm in Wigtownshire has been approved on appeal after being rejected by Dumfries and Galloway Council.

Developer Gamesa Energy UK successfully appealed against the decision about the scheme at Carscreugh Fell near Glenluce.

Councillors had refused the bid last April due to concerns about its landscape, visual and archaeological impact.


Meriden Gypsy site move

A group of Gypsies has agreed with Solihull Borough Council that they will leave a Green Belt location at Meriden which the families had developed as a site for eight caravans.

The agreement means the Gypsies will remain at the site for 12 months. It comes after a High Court judge rejected their legal challenge against a decision which ruled their development at Eaves Lane was illegal.

The borough council had refused to grant retrospective planning permission for the development, a stance upheld by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles on appeal.


York scheme delayed

A decision on York’s landmark community stadium project could be delayed for up to six months after the Highways Agency raised concerns over the impact of the proposed development on local roads.

The agency has issued a holding directive which means transport issues and factors affecting the local road network must be addressed before the £90m stadium and shopping development at Monks Cross can be approved.

Developers Oakgate (Monks Cross) Ltd want to build new John Lewis and Marks & Spencer stores and a 6,000-seater venue for York City FC and Rugby League side York City Knights.


Roger Milne

28 March 2012