An early Christmas gift for small scale developers!


In the last few weeks there have been some recent changes to planning policy regarding affordable housing provision which is said to remove red tape and encourage more house building. In news that will please small scale developers, housing sites of 10 units or less and which have a maximum combined floor-space of 1,000 square metres will no longer have to provide affordable housing and tariff style contributions for their development. For designated rural areas such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty a lower threshold of 5 units applies and the policy does not apply to rural exception sites.

This news has not come as a relief to all though. Rural housing and planning authorities believe that these changes will be ‘catastrophic’ for rural areas. Figures show that around two thirds of affordable houses in rural areas last year were built on small sites and the new change will put the affordable housing supply at risk.

Only time will tell if this will be the case!

Shrinking Houses?!

diagramIf you have ever thought that your family is being squeezed into smaller spaces, you’re certainly not the only one and a new report from the Post Office might offer an explanation!

The report based on research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors compared the average home being built today, with newly-built semi-detached houses in 1924. It found that family homes have almost halved in size in the last century, from an average size of 1647sq ft for a four bedroom house, to only 925sq ft for a three bedroom house, a difference of 722 sq ft. Many families now have to face the living in houses with children sharing bedrooms and little or no garden space, something I think we all would prefer not to face!

One current Northern Planners project, a proposed residential development in Knaresborough, has taken on board this issue and will aim to provide bigger, affordable homes, with plenty of garden space for families.

Keep an eye out on our projects page for details of this development!




Planning permission Granted!

Leeds city council have finally agreed to allow the change of Use of an old shop on Otley high street, to a new restaurant premises, with improvements to both the interior and exterior.

Congratulations to the team for another successful application.!



You should have asked permission…

Hobbit Home, Pembrokeshire


This sweet little hobbit house was built by a couple in the back garden of their parents’ home in Wales, using locally sourced materials, and with plenty of support from locals.

However, according to BBC news, after applying for retrospective planning permission, councillors have refused to save the property, saying that that it was “an unjustified development in open countryside contrary to planning policies” and that it does not follow the guidance in the Welsh government’s One Planet Development (OPD) policy.

Apparently the couple are going to appeal the decision on the grounds that the house has been built with a low impact on the environment.

As a fan of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ franchise, and a general love and support of everything green, I personally hope that this home survives ‘The Battle of the [Five] Councils’, putting an end to their  ‘Desolation’ and this very ‘Unexpected Journey’.


Shed of the Year, Cornwall


Mr. Meville-Smith’s little pixie house, made of recycled wood, has, according to reports, come under threat of demolition after he started using it as a holiday let without planning permission in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The finalist of the Channel 4’s ‘Shed of the Year’ competition claims he had no idea he would require planning permission for a shed.





In other ‘shed’ related news…

A hut in Georgeham, Devon, used by ‘Tarka the Otter’ author Henry Williamson has supposedly been granted Grade II listed status by English Heritage. Tarka the Otter, published 87 years ago, brought the Devon countryside to life through the eyes of an otter. English Heritage said the hut, which was used by Williamson while writing, had been listed because of its “historical interest”.


otter shed






Planning Gone Mad…

Here are our top five controversial installations in UK …

Number 5: Garden Gravestone, Gateshead.


Councillors approved this controversial development for 6 head stones in the front garden of a house in Gateshead. Not surprisingly there were a few complaints from local residents, and as a result, a fence was later erected around the features.

Number 4: Homehenge, Cornwall.



If only we were all a little more like this guy… Ed Prynn, truck driver turned Archdruid of Cornwall!

His self-built bungalow features 500 slate nameplates completely covering the walls, an underground re-birthing cavern by the back door and 21 giant standing stones in the garden. The stones were dug up during excavations for an airport in the Falkland Islands and now serve as a place for Falkland Veterans to pay their respects. In 1999 during the solar eclipse, reportedly,  CNN and 31 other TV crew camped outside waiting for him to part the clouds.


Number 3: Martin Rice,  The Belfast’s Elvis.


Anyone want to buy the house next door to this guy?…


2: The Big Pink Eye Building, Warrington.

pink eye

Second place has been awarded to Mick’s friend and client Tony Turk for his painting on the side of this Flour Mill in Warrington. Tony had originally hoped to paint a giant marine life mural on the side of the building but when the council tried to put a stop to it Mick stepped in and advised Tony that permission was not actually required for the painting, and as a result, he painted the pink eye as a statement to the council and its planning bureaucracy.

Number 1: The Headington Shark.


Of course we have given first place position to the house with a shark crashing through its roof! …. Just because, its a house with a shark crashing through its roof!!

The shark first appeared in 1986 and belongs to a local radio presenter who said “The shark was to express someone feeling totally impotent and ripping a hole in their roof out of a sense of impotence and anger and desperation… It is saying something about CND, nuclear power, Chernobyl and Nagasaki“.

Obviously Oxford City Council tried to have it taken down on the grounds that it had not been granted planning permission, but the locals liked the shark so the issue was taken to Central Government in 1992 where it was granted permission as “it did not result in harm to the visual amenity”.



… and finally, from our friends in the U.S.A …

We have the installation of a vent to the neighbour who complained about a blocked view, and a statute to the ex wife next door!

middle finger1   middle finger



Yorkshire’s 5 Greatest Landscapes

IV9ddTOIf you were one of the 3.5 billion audience members who managed to catch any of Le Tour De France, Grand Départ coverage on ITV over the weekend, you will surely have been blown away by the beautiful scenic Landscapes that Yorkshire had to offer to its many visitors who came to join the locals in spectating the World’s greatest bike race.

Here is a reminder of just some of the sites you may have seen, along with a selection of what else God’s Country has to offer;


1. Yorkshire Dales, National Park. The Dales are just one of three National Parks that belong to Yorkshire, and Le Tour De France liked the area so much that it visited twice in two days. The park boasts a distinctive character of undulating hills, gentle valleys, impressive moorlands and easily the finest limestone display in the UK.

For more info, Visit:











2. The North York Moors, National Park. The Moors are England’s largest SSSI. Here you can expect to find a vibrant, dramatic and diverse landscape, rich in heritage and wildlife. Its isolated upland area is vast and extremely distinctive in character producing striking panoramic views in all directions, including the ‘finest view in England’ at Sutton Bank.

Find out more: 

moors Photograph_of_Sutton_Bank_at_dusk 



Sutton Bank 




3. The Peak District, National Park. Designated as Britain’s first National Park, this district in South Yorkshire is known for its breath-taking landscapes, and its easy to see why this region is so well protected. The northern tip of the park was featured in the second stage of TDF, which involves one of the most iconic climbs in the country at Holme Moss.


Holme Moss


4. Yorkshire Wolds. The Wolds themselves are a countryside full of character, largely defined by its Chalk landscape, presenting gentle rolling hills.

The Wolds also feature some natural wonders including the Bempton Cliffs Nature Reserve with its white cliffs and charming puffins, and the wildlife paradise of Danes Dyke Beach.


5. Yorkshire’s Heritage Coast. Situated along the eastern edge of the National park, this coastline has been shaped by thousands of years of extreme weather, creating stunning rugged cliffs, white sandy beaches and sheer wooded valleys. The sandstone cliffs age back to the Jurassic period and are popular with fossil hunters. The area is largely protected, and therefore unspoilt and beautiful.























Harrogate’s New Local Plan


Next week will see the start of public hearing sessions to examine Harrogate’s new Local Plan. Northern Planners are representing a local landowner in the process with the objective of ensuring that their site gets a fair opportunity of being allocated for housing. This has involved challenging the Council’s approach to the plan’s production and the soundness of the methodologies employed. The hearings will be held at the Yorkshire Hotel, Prospect Place, Harrogate, HG1 1LA over 11 days:


  • Wednesday 23 April – Thursday 24 April

  • Tuesday 29 April – Thursday 1 May

  • Wednesday 7 May – Friday 9 May

  • Wednesday 28 May – Friday 30 May


Senior Planner at Northern Planners, Mick McLoughlin said “In a plan-led system, it’s vital that landowners get the professional planning advice needed to promote their sites effectively. Otherwise the door can easily close against them, reducing the future chances of gaining planning permission.”


Planning as “Applied Common Sense”*

The Showroom Cinema was the setting for a day’s session looking at ‘contention within planning’, ranging from consideration of the challenges associated with developing minerals, waste and major energy related infrastructure as well as the continuing relevance/value of Green Belt.

National Grid’s planning supremo, Hector Pearson kicked proceedings with a presentation on the planning regime for new electricity and gas networks. Hector outlined Grid’s portfolio of national projects, including the Yorkshire Carbon Capture and Storage proposal which will reuse former gas pipes to take CO2 out to redundant caverns under the North Sea from power stations like Drax. He explained the NSIP process for new projects including the role of National Policy Statements and the need for good public engagement.

This latter point was also mentioned by every other speaker during the course of the day. All extolled the virtues of meaningful engagement with affected communities although as Nabarro’s Rebecca Roffe noted, this isn’t possible if they deliberately decide not to play ball. Rebecca warned of the legal pitfalls that can derail projects including failure to comply with the Environmental Impact Assessment and Habitat Regulations.

According to West Somerset Council’s Chief Planner, Andrew Goodchild it isn’t always that clear what the Local Planning Authority’s role is in the NSIP process – certainly little reference was explicitly made to his Council’s Core Strategy or Local Impact Report by the Panel in their report on the Development Consent Order for the proposed Hinckley Point C Nuclear Powerstation, but the Authority did manage to secure over £200 million of community benefit from this £16 billion scheme, due for operational commissioning in 2023.

And it was securing sustainable community benefits, especially economic ones that Derbyshire’s Head of Planning, Rob Murfin saw as an important planning objective in such projects, rather than just avoidance of harm. For Rob, planners in the public sector need to facilitate fair, democratic and transparent decision-making so that all parties feel well-treated and properly engaged even if they don’t agree with the ‘binary’ outcome of this process of conflict resolution. Neither planners (nor developers) should be dismissive of local concerns – people ought to be given respect when they engage in planning issues. *After many years of practice Rob has concluded that good planning is simply the application of common sense.

Common sense didn’t seem to be evident in the drafting of certain historic Green Belt boundaries in South Yorkshire in the view of Paul Bedwell from Spawforth’s. Paul reviewed the history of Green Belt and asked if Green Belt is fit for purpose. He also outlined the recent case of Nick Boles ‘intervention’ into the Reigate and Banstead Local Plan Inspector’s recommendation for a Green Belt review, comparing this to recent events with the Leeds Core Strategy.

Paul’s Green Belt boundary howlers were in contrast with the care demonstrated by RPS in their recent work to extract stone from Burntwood Quarry in the Peak District National Park for the £27 restoration of nearby Chatsworth House. One delegate questioned whether Environmental Impact Assessment was needed for this relatively small project but Jonathan Standen from RPS explained the Estate’s desire to demonstrate high standards of environmental conduct and good community relations.

This emphasis on creating long term interaction and harmony with stakeholders was again echoed by the last speaker of the day, Simon Collingwood from communication and consultation experts Counter Context. He challenged the audience to consider how they would define a ‘good neighbour’ because this is the yardstick by which developers are generally judged.

Hats off to Sheffield Hallam University for organising a great day and to their Planning School Head, Karen Escott for steering us through a very stimulating agenda.

Intern chosen as a case study candidate for the Santander Internship Programme

DSCF1272Great news! Our current intern who has been working at Northern Planners for the past few months has been chosen as a case study candidate for the Santander Universities Internship Programme. Following a successful internship at Northern Planners Sophie was asked to provide a press release for the media team at Santander on her experiences working with us. Interested in the programme how the internship has benefitted us? see a copy of the press release in the link! Northern Planners Internship Case Study

Owls need better homes than York House

IMG_9626An unexpected recent event at our offices in Knaresborough prompted me to think about owls. We had a Tawny Owl Strix aluco fall down our chimney and end up bemused in a ground-floor office. After much gentle coaxing the animal was released unharmed. However, it highlighted the (low) potential risk of this happening elsewhere. The tawny Owl has a particular preference for nesting in ‘chimneys’, and the classic recommended nest box design for this species is called just that. These are normally strapped to the underside of a tree branch that is at an angle of approximately 45°. This stops too much rain getting in and allows both parent and young to scramble up to the top to get out.

At this time of year adults will be investigating possible nest sites and that is where our animal made a big mistake in dropping into our chimney expecting it to be relatively shallow and a good choice for nesting. Only to carry on falling to the hearth below.

Jackdaws are also likely species to use chimneys. If this becomes a persistent problem, then a bird guard should be fitted to the chimney pot to stop birds getting in.

owl house

Image from The Welsh Owl And Wildlife Sanctuary

Now (Feb/March) is the ideal time to set up any nest boxes or bat roost boxes you plan. Also, clean out any boxes you may have already. Most birds do not re-nest in a nest previously used by either themselves or another species. This reduces disease and parasite carry-over from one brood to the next.

Also, consider installing bird cams to your boxes to enjoy watching the animals if they use your boxes this year. You can buy ready prepared boxes or kits to install your own. Some are wired, but others can be installed up to 50m away and use wireless technology to show the images on your computer.

Give our breeding birds a bit more choice of housing this year and take care not to let birds drop in unannounced!

Barry Wright – Senior Ecologist – Northern Planners