What do you need from Your Council’s Planning Website?

This month Northern Planners was asked for its views on what policy content we find useful to access on local planning authority websites. The survey is being carried out by the Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM), who work on public sector IT issues. This year’s survey is focussed on Local Plan information investigating how easy it is to find key documents on different Council websites, whether they are engaging, interactive, useful etc.. This is what we think would be useful to find on the first page of your local Council’s planning website:

  • What the legal Development Plan for their patch actually is (name, adoption date)
  • Whether any saved policies from an old Local Plan have been appraised to determine their consistency with the National Planning Policy Framework
  • What stage exactly any emerging Local Plan is at (in real time)
  • Whether the Council has a 5 year housing land supply (with a link to the survey/audit)
  • Whether the Council has a Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (with a postcode search facility/link to a simple over view map)
  • What Article 4 Directions are in place locally
  • A simple GIS Planning Sensitivities Map with all the key designations on it (Green Belt, AONB, SSSIs, Conservation Areas, World Heritage Sites etc.) searchable by postcode

All these items would save people a great deal of time and focus on what are key issues for most users.

Halving the Affordable Housing Requirement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each month we take a look at a recent significant local appeal decision to see what can be learnt and potentially applied to other cases. This time it is the turn of a 103-home scheme at Moorview Way in Skipton.

Inspector Anne Jordon thought that a developer’s profit level of between 18% and 19% would be sustainable in this case and that in relation to viability the development would be capable of sustaining the delivery of 40% affordable housing on site. However, she concluded that the Council’s demands for a 40% element of affordable housing could not be supported because there was no Local Plan policy to back it up. It didn’t help the Council either that their Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPD) document “Negotiating Affordable Housing Contributions August 2016”, had been the subject of a legal challenge and had been quashed by the High Court. Inspector Jordon accepted the developer’s unilateral offer of 20% affordable housing instead.

Another Tool for Better Planning – Greenspace mapping

 

The Ordnance Survey made some useful planning information freely available recently in the form of its ‘Open Greenspace’ dataset. This data includes all accessible leisure and recreational spaces in Britain’s towns and countryside, including golf courses, parks, playspaces, allotments, etc.. Such information is valuable for helping assess the sustainability of development locations.

 

Needless to say Northern Planners have added this information to its in-house Geographical Information System (GIS) which we use to evaluate the planning sensitivities/attributes of potential sites.

 

Our Landscape Architect and GIS Expert, Kate Weller said:

‘This is a great addition to our planning knowledge base for appraising the assets and liabilities of different sites. Our GIS system is a powerful resource to quickly and cost-effectively assess if development would be sustainable, and therefore likely to obtain planning permission. GIS data is a fundamental input to all our clients’ projects.’

Past the Duchy

Past the Duchy, on the left hand side…an insight into the Cornwall Road refusal

Sometimes consent isn’t forthcoming but even so, the decision itself can be helpful in other respects. Take for example last month’s refusal of a 165 house scheme at Cornwall Road, Harrogate, on countryside land west of the Duchy Estate (not one of ours). In his Decision Letter to the Appellants of 6th September, the Duchy of Lancaster (i.e. Her Royal Highness the Queen of the UK etc.), the Inspector Mr Keith Manning provided useful commentary on the out-of-date nature of the Borough Council’s Development Plan policies and the current housing land supply position across the District. He noted that:

‘the Council cannot currently demonstrate a five year supply of deliverable housing sites and that the supply in fact stands at around 4 years’

‘It is also common ground that the development limits shown in the Local Plan are out-of-date and “carry no weight”.’

‘It is a matter of fact that planning permissions for housing on greenfield sites outside these limits have been variously granted by the Council at first instance and on appeal’

‘Policy C2 of the Local Plan simply seeks to protect landscape character and taken literally would be prohibitive of development unless restoration of the landscape, where necessary, were a consequence. Insofar as it could be construed as somewhat absolute in effect it is not entirely consistent with the Framework and merits reduced weight accordingly.’ (‘Framework’ being the National Planning Policy Framework.)

‘There is a pressing need to release land for housing, to which I of course accord substantial weight. The social consequences of an inadequate housing supply, especially of affordable housing, are of particular concern.’

‘The emerging Harrogate Local Plan is at an early stage of preparation and it is common ground that it is therefore of limited weight.’

Northern Planners have advanced these points in relation to schemes we have been involved, in and around the District’s settlements e.g. at Scotton where we have consistently had success in gaining planning permission for clients for housing outside the traditional development limits.

 

A Fair Settlement?

A fair settlement? An insight into the Thorpe Arch Trading Estate settlement proposal

It will be interesting to see the outcome of another major scheme that is currently at appeal, this time at Thorpe Arch Trading Estate (TATE), Wetherby. The Public Inquiry for a new village in this location was suspended this month and will reopen in November. Northern Planners initially advised the local Parish Council on its position with respect to the Planning Application. The Inquiry into the redevelopment of this former World War II Ordnance Factory site has been wide ranging looking at housing land supply, contamination, heritage, biodiversity, design, transport and viability issues. A new settlement at TATE would certainly change the geography of this part of Leeds City Council’s patch. Not everyone locally welcomes that!

 

Weighing it all up

As with all planning judgments, the Inspector at the TATE Inquiry will have to see if the benefits of the proposed development outweigh its disbenefits (or costs). It is interesting to see that, leading Think Tank, the Institute for Government, last month published new research into the technique of formal cost benefit analysis as applied to large infrastructure projects like HS2 and Hinckley Point. The Institute’s report, ‘How to Value Infrastructure: Improving Cost Benefit Analysis’ notes the over optimism of many cost forecasts and the tendency of public sector projects to overrun by millions of pounds. It also notes the unwillingness of project promoters to undertake post development evaluations of whether or not things turn out as rosy as predicted. Well worth a look!

 

National Planning Changes Consultation

Also out last month, for consultation is the Government’s proposals for how Council’s should calculate local need for different types of housing, getting Councils to cooperate properly with each other when making Local Plans, improving the use of Section 106 planning agreements and allowing better performing Councils to increase their Planning Application Fees. On planning agreements the Government’s proposal is that the National Planning Policy Framework will be amended to clarify that where policy requirements have been tested for their viability in a Local Plan, the issue should not usually need to be tested again at the planning application stage. A possible 20% increase in Planning Application Fees is being mooted for Councils that deliver the homes that their areas need. The consultation is seeking views on the detailed criteria on how this should be judged. The deadline for views on ‘Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places’ ends on 9th November.

‘Champing’ and ‘Glamping’

‘Champing’ and ‘Glamping’ – spotlight on a different type of Church Service and Bijou Beds for Beverley

‘Champing’ is the practice of using redundant churches for camping. The Churches Conservation Trust promotes the use of certain of its churches in this way from March to September. Visitors are issued with a Checklist that advises them on what is and isn’t allowed in order to ensure as low an impact as possible on these important heritage assets whilst allowing guests to enjoy their charm as an unusual place to stay. However, as reported recently in the Daily Telegraph and the Christian Today website, champing is changing. Moves are apparently afoot to place things on a more sophisticated footing. Instead of expecting paying tourists to squeeze a sleeping bag in between the pews, Ruth Knight from the Church of England has announced that churches whether redundant or in regular use, may be kitted out in future with special, luxury glamping pods. The first candidate for installation of such a luxurious pod is St. Michael’s Church at Dulas in Herefordshire, a Grade 2 Listed Building. Both Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent were required for this novel scheme which includes insertion of a bedroom cabin with flue and kitchen within the church’s interior space and provision of car parking/access improvements outside. Giving the go ahead, the enlightened Planning Officer, Mr Matt Tompkins said:

The scheme has been developed in a way that is largely reversible so its impact on the historic structure will be minimal although it will of course radically change the quality and the character of the internal space. The insertion of a pod is supported given its ability to retain the character of the internal space with minimal intrusion into its fabric. On this basis, the development proposal is not considered to give rise to heritage harm. In this instance, the application affects a Grade II listed building, a Local Wildlife Site, an unregistered park and garden and the wider rural landscape. However, in each instance, I have concluded that the development proposal is detailed as to avoid detrimental harm to these environmental assets. Otherwise, it is accepted that the use of the church for holiday accommodation would inherently give rise to a economic benefit to the rural area.’

Last month the East Riding of Yorkshire Council granted planning permission for one of our client’s proposals for an upmarket glamping site near Beverley. Working with Salt Architects, Northern Planners put together a Planning Application for a well-sited and well-designed rural tourism site on the outskirts of Molescroft that makes the most of an attractive countryside location forming part of a working farm actively diversifying into new sectors, including visitor accommodation. Our Beverley Office Manager, Gemma Owston said:

‘It’s a great little scheme that we have been able to put together with the Client and Architect, though not without its challenges. After a Defra grant award, we had to come up with a strategy that we hoped would deliver a positive planning decision before Christmas. Our knowledge of local planning policy and related information has been key in addressing potential issues with flood risk and ensuring a focused and cost-effective approach to information requirements. This high quality glamping development proposal means bijou beds for Beverley.’

 

Our Recent Successes

From the Planning ‘Oscars’ in Hullywood

 Firstly to this year’s regional planning awards presided over by the Yorkshire Branch of the Royal Town Planning Institute, in Hull on 14th September. Our Senior Planner colleague, David Hickling was mentioned in despatches for his professional contribution to the Cottingham Neighbourhood Plan. He worked alongside Integreat Plus to put together the Plan which received a commendation from the Judging Panel. The Judges said:

This is a high quality and comprehensive Neighbourhood Plan, containing an impressive amount of professional input, including a Design Guide, and Development Principles for allocated sites, and it is clear that significant efforts have been expended in consulting with, and ensuring participation by, local people. This process has resulted in an outstanding example of neighbourhood planning, in which the content can be shown to have been derived from local needs and aspirations.  It should be regarded as a level to which other neighbourhood plans should aspire.’

David, is delighted to have helped mould the community’s ideas into viable planning proposals. Modest as ever, he commented thus on his accolade:

‘It’s great for our efforts to be acknowledged in this way. Good plans make for good planning decisions on applications and ensure new development is sustainable and embraced by local people. This award from our peers is a hallmark of quality planning advice.’

 We are also currently working with Integreat Plus to assist residents of Oxenhope, Bradford with their emerging Neighbourhood Plan. They are obviously in good hands!

 

Local Industrial Estate to host National Research Project

Also, last month Northern Planners have won permission for premises at Copgrove Industrial Estate, nearby Knaresborough to be used to test a new breed of electricity pylons. The project is part of a major, Ofgem-funded initiative to improve the look of these structures and reduce their impact on the environment. The new designs will be based on monopoles rather than the traditional lattice-type pylons.

 

Our Senior Planner, Amy Naylor led the work and had this to say:

‘This project will change the future appearance of powerlines and better protect the British landscape. We have worked closely with Harrogate Borough Council to address all the key issues for the development at Copgrove and we are delighted to have securing the consent.’

Selby Council is looking for development sites!

Selby District Council is looking for local landowners and developers to put forward land/buildings suitable for future development.

The period for putting forward your sites runs from the beginning of October until late November.

Northern Planners are well-placed to promote our clients’ sites as part of this exercise. With experienced Policy Planners in our team, we know the Council’s preferred selection criteria and are able to use our planning skills to ensure a good match.

 

Helen Gregory, the Council’s Planning Policy Manager has told us ‘this is the last opportunity to suggest new sites’ before the Plan is finalised.

 

Get in touch today to see how we can advance the development potential of your assets in Selby’s Local Plan process.

Knaresborough’s Neighbourhood Development Plan

This week Knaresborough Town Council published a draft version of the new Neighborhood Development Plan.

If this plan is adopted it will become a legal document which will be consulted for all planning applications until 2035. 

The next seven weeks are designated as a formal public consultation period. This is an opportunity for all members of the community to have a say on the future of Knaresborough.

If you would like to drop into one of these local consultation sessions, the dates (along with the proposal document) can be found using the link below:

http://www.knaresboroughtowncouncil.gov.uk/Core/Knaresborough-TC/Pages/Neighbourhood_Development_Plan_2.aspx

We have also posted this useful flowchart illustrating the next steps in the Neighbourhood Planning process following consultation.