Mind The Hedge

Here at Northern Planners, we are always on the look-out to ensure our clients don’t get into hot water whilst progressing their developments, even when they have a valid planning permission.

Sometimes this is due to issues around discharging planning conditions but sometimes it can result from the requirements of other planning-related legislation.

One such area of law is dealing with the protection of hedgerows. Under special regulations removal of certain hedgerows is prohibited with specific separate approval. Also, removal of hedgerows generally may conflict with nature conservation legislation at particular times of the year.

Last year, Persimmon Homes PLC ran into trouble for removing a hedgerow on Penny Pot Lane, Harrogate next to their housing development. They were fined £34,000 and also ordered to pay £9,468 in costs after Harrogate Borough Council took them to the Leeds Magistrates Court.

Now it is the turn of developers of the new housing site at Manse Farm, Knaresborough (see plan). They recently started work on the site by removing hedgerows, leading to nearby residents contacting Harrogate Borough Council with concerns that the hedge removal was potentially destroying nesting bird sites.

Northern Planners have recently had to advise clients in Bickerton about the implications of mature hedges on their development site. In this case, any potential issues have been avoided.

If you need any help with hedges in relation to your planning matters, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

‘Shape of Pond’

And now for a non-Yorkshire-based item ….

It isn’t just ordinary folk that have planning problems. For the last 2 years or so, popstar Ed Sheeran has been having issues with his local council, South Suffolk Coastal District Council, culminating in recent enforcement investigations that have been picked up by the national media.

The issues are associated with a pond that Ed developed on arable farmland he owns near Denninington in East Anglia without first seeking planning permission. Consequently, Mr Sheeran submitted a retrospective application for the pond, which gained planning permission in January 2017 for ‘wildlife’ purposes.

However, local people have apparently been claiming that the singer has been using the pond for swimming, leading to the Council having to carry out its own enquiries.

The upshot is that the planning authority have concluded that it does not appear to them at least that the pond is being used for anything other than its authorised use despite its kidney-shaped ‘swimming’ pool layout, the diving board -looking ‘jetty’ and the two sets of convenient ‘maintenance’ access stepping stone steps! The nearby bathing-hut style ‘equipment’ sheds have similarly caused them no worries. We will leave it to you to make your own mind up as to whether this pool lends itself to swimming or not and whether its design should or shouldn’t have been approved.

We contacted the Council and they said:

As a result of the concerns raised, Suffolk Coastal’s Planning Enforcement Team visited the premises. There was no evidence that it is not a wildlife
pond, as plants are growing in and around it, or that the planning condi ons had been broken. We will con nue to monitor the situa on. If anyone has any evidence that these ponds have been used for another purpose, they should provide this informa on to the Suffolk Coastal District
Council Planning Enforcement Team via email at: d.c.enforcement@eastsuffolk.gov.uk or the informa on can be reported online at: h p://www.eastsuffolk.gov.uk/planning/planning-enforcement/

If, like Ed, you have fallen foul of the planning rules, don’t panic – just get in touch with us as soon as you can. In these types of case, our advice is aimed at giving you peace of mind.  Northern Planners often help clients who have inadvertently undertaken works that require planning permission. In no small part, this scenario is the result of the complicated system of planning rules that we all now face.  Guiding you through that maze and extricating people out of planning difficulties is part of our expertise.

We wish Ed all the best with his wildlife pond going forward, especially on hot Summer days 😉

Food, Glorious ‘Food’ ! ? ! (and clothes, and multiplex, and …)

Plans for new ‘agri-park’, near Knaresborough, to be submitted June 2019

Being a Yorkshire consultancy of several years standing, we are well aware of the ebb and flow of local planning policy and ‘culture’, and perhaps this has never been as dramatic as in Harrogate District where our North Yorkshire office is based.

Once upon a time the Council’s mission seemed to be to refuse as much development as possible no matter what its merits. But, having made a complete mess of its Local Plan process a few years ago, the Council has been on the back foot, facing mounting development pressure, increasingly out of date local policies and a dwindling land supply.

In these circumstances, a more ‘open door’ approach to growth has emerged – so much so, that recently the Council has been writing to applicants for planning permission telling them that they now have too much development land in the pipeline and would everyone mind a temporary moratorium on decisions!

Against this background, it is unsurprisingly that mega-projects are coming forward that would have been unthinkable even 5 years ago.

One such scheme is the Eataly ‘food-agri park’ proposal announced at the Cannes International Property Conference in March.

Details are scant at the moment. What we do know, however, is that the project will be similar to the company’s existing food and leisure attraction in London, and is proposed on a yet-to-be-announced site covering 188 hectares of land somewhere next to the A1 motorway and will involve 160,000 square metres of commercial, leisure and retail space. A planning application is also promised for submission in June.

Will the ‘food agri-park’ simply resemble a very large out-of-town shopping centre? Or will it be something more innovative?

Will it blend seamlessly in to the local landscape or stick out like the sore thumb of the Allerton Park incinerator?

Will Harrogate planners embrace the proposals or lie down and let this steamroller of a project crush them into the dust?

Only time will tell but our future is in their hands!

A couple of years ago Northern Planners helped local Parish Councils in Leeds district defeat an ill-conceived proposal of a similar scale to turn Thorpe Arch Trading Estate into a ‘new settlement.’  We will wait to see if local people seek our help on the Eataly scheme or welcome it with open arms. Watch this space for further updates.


West Yorkshire Doughnut House fails to meet Inspector’s Tastes

Here at Northern Planners we are often asked by clients how they can gain planning permission for a new build  house in the countryside when they don’t have an agricultural or other rural business need to be located in an isolated location.

In these types of case, we explain about the so-called ‘Gummer Clause’ in national policy, that allows for house designs of ‘exceptional quality’ (now enshrined in paragraph 79 of the latest February 2019 National Planning Policy Framework). We have had success ourselves using this clause last year on a scheme near Malton.

However, it is not a straight forward route and is paved with many pitfalls/difficulties for the uninitiated, especially when the local countryside has special value/planning attributes.

One recent project that sadly fell foul of planning requirements on Appeal was for a doughnut shaped in Hipperholme near Norwood Green in Calderdale.

Government Inspector Wayne Johnson found that despite the project recycling brownfield land, the site being sustainable in transport terms, the Council lacking a 5 year housing land supply and the design demonstrating a high standard of architecture supported by positive observations by the independent design review body (Integreat Plus), other factors weighed against a grant of permission mainly associated with harm to the openness of the Green Belt.

If you have an ambition to develop a new build house in the open countryside of North, West or East Yorkshire, Northern Planners are here to help.

Images copyright of One 17, Huddersfield available publicly at https://www.calderdale.gov.uk/v2/residents/environment-planning-and-building/planning/search-and-comment-planning-applications

If you go down to the woods…

The Hunting Archer Sculpture


Over the past 12 months, NP has been assisting the Woodland Trust with the first stages of a major investment programme for its flagship attraction, Skipton Woods, in North Yorkshire.

Nestling in the shadow of the historic Skipton Castle, the ancient woodland site of Skipton Woods is one of only 2 Visit England-accredited ‘Destination Woods’ in the North of England, reflecting its popularity with both local people and tourists from further afield.


Given this strategic importance, the Trust is planning a series of projects to enhance the Woods appeal to visitors and better reveal its history, landscape and other characteristics.

So far NP has helped secure planning permission for new public art sculpture installations and access improvement works.




Northern Planners is proud to count the Woodland Trust amongst its environmental charity clients (we also for example undertake work for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)

We wish them  all the best for their plans in 2019.

You Snooze, you Lose !

The Bar land site, east Knaresborough

Northern Planners empathise with Knaresborough residents, following the recent decision by Harrogate Borough Council to grant outline planning permission for 175 houses to the east of the town off Bar Lane. Local people have been shocked by the approval seeing it as an unwarranted intrusion into the landscape setting of Knaresborough.

In granting the scheme this month, however, the Council’s Planning Committee struggled to find any planning justification for resisting the scheme given the lack of an up to date Local Plan for the Borough and the barely adequate housing land supply available locally.

It is most unfortunate that 15 years on from the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act and 18 years on from the adoption of the last comprehensive Local Plan, the district does not have a modern policy framework at local level to guide critical development decisions that have public backing.

Without investment in Local Plans that have had proper public engagement and support, Councils can’t be surprised that their electorate may be angry when applications are approved that seem to breach established principles and threaten cherished environments.

Harrogate Borough Council’s  failure to produce a competent Local Plan in recent times has left it vulnerable to proposals of this type, which although bringing some benefits, are seen by many as being simply imposed on places due to a crisis situation and the ‘power’ of national planning diktat.

As the Americans say: you snooze, you lose. When the Council do get round to having a new Plan in place, there is a real danger that in a majority of the borough’s communities, that document will not be leading the development process – it will simply be recording what has already happened by default.

Converting the High Street

Last month’s Budget contained some interesting planning nuggets. One related to the Government’s desire to bolster the nation’s High Streets. It appears that Mrs May and her Planning Minister James Brokenshire will be looking soon to introduce additional planning freedoms for vacant shops and commercial property to change use to housing by modernising the Use Classes Order. Northern Planners will be keeping an eye on this one as it will potentially have benefits for our clients, especially in town centres like Knaresborough where under used parts of the High Street certainly need rationalisation through conversion to much-needed residential accommodation.

The Government also used the Budget to endorse the findings of Sir Oliver Letwin’s report on build out rates for housing. He has concluded that large housebuilders are not engaged in systematic speculative land-banking and that new planning initiatives are required to ensure that where local authorities allocate sites of 1,500 houses or more, a greater variety of housing ‘product’ is encouraged and infrastructure is provided to deliver development. Here in Harrogate District, the Council’s decision to promote a new settlement means that Sir Letwin’s recommendations will be read with close interest.

“We just have a few conditions…..”

This month sees the introduction of the long awaited requirement for councils (and inspectors) to consult applicants on proposed pre-commencement planning conditions before simply imposing them on permissions as has been the custom for many years. Anyone who has had such a condition placed on their consent will know the frustration that this type of condition can have if poorly thought out. They can frustrate and delay development unnecessarily. They can also lead to legal confusion if they are just ignored. So care has also been needed in their use. Time will see how the new consultation arrangements work out in practice. Let’s hope we see an improvement. Unfortunately, that said, it has also come to our attention that a few councils up and down the land have started to use the revised National Planning Policy Framework to shorten the standard time set out in conditions for starting your development. A number are using paragraph 76 to justify a reduction in the normal implementation period for planning permission for single house plots. This is a worrying situation. Such permissions are frequently hard won. Northern Planners are often closely involved in scrutinising the need for/wording of conditions and their successful challenge and discharge. Let us know if we can help you.

Building Breakthrough for Bickerton

Northern Planners is delighted to report that at the tail end of last month we secured permission for a major housing development in Bickerton village for our clients Noble Homes.

This 21 home proposal was contrary to the emerging new Local Plan which has not identified the settlement for general housing growth.

Practice Manager, Amy Naylor commented as follows on the victory:

‘This is a great result for our clients against many odds. It shows the need for developers and their planning advisers to weigh up the timing of their schemes to maximise the potential for consent. The development includes much needed affordable homes as well as a new village shop and will help support the local bus service as well as facilities in nearby communities. The contribution to local housing land supply plus these other benefits has tilted the planning balance in favour of the scheme at a time when the new Local Plan was still open to change.’

We mentioned in our last blog that Harrogate’s new Local Plan has now been submitted for Government examination/approval. Time may well be running out now for proposals like Bickerton to gain permission if they do not, as the face of things, fit with its provisions.

Northern Planners are always able to assess the chances of permission in these circumstances.

As Amy notes:

‘Planning success is often a question of good timing. When the planets align, circumstances may well favour a result that would otherwise be impossible. Pushing at an opening door with good planning arguments and evidence can make all the difference.’

Testing Times Ahead for Harrogate’s New Planning Blueprint

The end of last month saw Harrogate Borough Council formally submit its new Local Plan offering to central government for scrutiny.

The Plan will be subject to an Examination by an independent Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The Inspector will be looking at the Plan’s policies and proposals to assess whether they are sound against a set of nationally-set tests.

The Plan contains ideas for the future development and growth of the District.

If it survives the Examination, the adopted version will supersede the collection of various existing documents that form the Borough’s legal Development Plan, some of which date back to the early 2000s and which were originally formulated in the mid-1990s!

So an up to date, overdue planning vision for Harrogate might be in prospect, not immediately but at least within the next 12 months.

The Council’s official submission documents will be available for inspection at most local libraries from Friday 7th September or online www.harrogate.gov.uk/localplansubmission.

If you need advice on these or how a proposal you have might be affected by this latest stage of the Local Plan process, please don’t hesitate to contact us here at Northern Planners.