The Revised National Planning Policy Framework: More of the Same?

The Revised National Planning Policy Framework: More of the Same?

It doesn’t happen very often, but for those involved in the planning world, this week marks the publication of the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Since 2012, the NPPF has formed the Country’s national policy which is used to guide strategic planning and assess planning applications. The revised document promises big – the draft document was clear that the housing crises could no longer be ignored:

“…a comprehensive approach for planners, developers and councils to build more homes, more quickly and in the places where people want to live.”

Secretary of State Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP

We are however disappointed to see the watering down of the small sites requirement, which was expected to require at least 20% of a Local Planning Authority’s housing requirement to be identified on smaller sites of 0.5 hectare or less. These sites being brought to the front line in strategic plans and site allocations, would be important, like larger sites, in providing for local housing needs. There are many more smaller sites, they can be constructed quickly and usually require less infrastructure.  

What has transpired with the publication of the revised NPPF, is the size has increased to 1 hectare and the requirement for there to be 20%, has dropped to 10%. It looks like the owners of small sites will need to continue to pursue the planning application route to realise the potential of land and buildings. More windfall and gone is the opportunity for smaller parcels of land to be potentially allocated for development, in a way that proposal maps have not previously considered.

We can see the relief on the face of some cash strapped Council’s, and understandably so, but why, if we are serious about tackling the housing crises, are we not properly resourcing local planning authorities?

Six years have passed since the rationalised national policy emerged and as with many things, time will tell as to whether it delivers on its promises. We sense a missed opportunity, although the NPPF has much to offer such as the housing delivery test and its emphasis on design.

Avoiding Costs at Appeal

There is only one thing worse than losing a planning appeal, and that is having costs awarded against you. The outcome of an appeal doesn’t automatically result in a costs award, it requires a party to have behaved unreasonably and for the other party to have incurred wasted expense.

In one recent case in Devon, a costs award was made against the Appellant to pay the Council’s costs, which is quite a rare occurrence. After reading on, it transpired that the Appellant had failed to supply the Council with information requested part way through considering a planning application. This can be frustrating yes, but in this instance, it appeared a straightforward request that should have been picked up in validation. Fast forward, and the application was refused, an appeal dismissed, and the Appellant was on the wrong side of a costs award.

“I therefore find that unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary and wasted expense in the appeal process has been demonstrated and that a full award of costs is justified.”

It is important to have the right professional planning advice, during an application and at appeal. If you have a costs application made against you, it is vital to put forward a robust defence to prevent appeal becoming even more costly.

Inspire Planning Solutions have a 100% perfect record of success on costs application. We have won costs against both a London Borough and a West Midlands Council in just the last few weeks alone, as they were both found to have behaved unreasonably.

If you have had a bad planning experience with a Council, please contact us for advice and guidance on your possible next steps.

New Primary School Planning Application – Crawley, West Sussex

We have recently submitted a detailed planning application in Broadfield, Crawley, for a new primary school and nursery with a capacity for 180 pupils aged 2-11. The applicant is seeking to establish a primary education facility (an independent faith school), including nursery/early years provision with an ancillary Community Café plus a book store with an educational shop.

We were appointed to manage the submission of the application and provide Planning Consultancy services, liaising closely with our project partners, Blackstone Architects and DTPC Transport Consultants, in the preparation of the scheme. This approach was used to ensure that we had the right specialisms and expertise resulting in the submission of a favourable development proposal.

The development will result in the regeneration of a prominent site, in addition to addressing the aspirations of the local resident community by providing an additional quality primary education facility. This will be a high-quality development featuring undercroft parking with a public square incorporating a water feature. The design has taken into consideration the context of the site, as well as ensuring that there would be no unacceptable impacts on local amenities or on the highway network.

We are looking forward to working closely with Crawley Council and managing the application throughout the entire planning process and beyond!

Inspire Planning Solutions Ltd is an established Chartered Town Planning Consultancy providing wide-ranging assistance for planning applications and appeals.

For any planning advice and support please contact us by calling 0161 428 0445 or by email info@inspireplanning.co.uk

Building in the Green Belt

Whenever building in the Green Belt is mentioned, visions of vast housing estates comes to mind, where there once was fields. However, careful consideration during the planning phase and working within the framework of current planning legislation, can result in an appropriate and sustainable development that benefits the local community.

Inspire Planning Solutions Ltd has recently secured planning permission in a designated Green Belt area for the erection of a new dwelling in Chorley, Lancashire.

This particular scheme involves the demolition of the existing single storey stables and storage buildings and the redevelopment of the site for a detached dwelling. As the site had already been identified as ‘brownfield’, due to the stabling of horses rather than agriculture, redevelopment was a viable option.

We were approached by the Architect, Blue Chip Architecture who had been asked to look at the re-design of a previous approval on the site for a new house. The client was looking for a distinctive property with a contemporary design, which included features such as a glazed front gable and with a reconfigured internal layout to provide a more modern open plan form of living, to take full advantage of the site’s rural aspect adjacent to open countryside.

In presenting a carefully crafted argument and referring to the disparate nature of the existing structures, we were able to demonstrate that the proposal, despite the increase in size, would result in a more compact form of development, and would not “have a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt” as required by the National Planning Policy Framework (Paragraph 89).

The application received support from the Planning Officer and our client is now looking forward to building their dream home!

If you are looking to maximise the potential of a site, it’s important to present an effective planning case – Green Belt designation does not necessarily mean your planning application will be refused.

For development advice and support please contact us by calling 0161 428 0445 or by email info@inspireplanning.co.uk

Another Planning Success – Chelmsford, Essex

Inspire Planning Solutions Ltd has secured planning permission for an attractive development of 9 apartments in Chelmsford, Essex, which involves the demolition of a large dwelling house, being replaced by a 3 storey new build scheme.

Through a close working relationship with the Council, we provided project management and planning consultancy services, which were instrumental in guiding this scheme through to a positive outcome. This compromised a number of pre-application discussions, careful research to formulate a planning argument, and responsiveness to consultee feedback during the planning process.

The application received support from members of the local community with one person commenting that: “these flats will give the opportunity to people like me to get on the housing ladder”, demonstrating that the demand for housing, when combined with a well thought out development can get the backing from wide-ranging stakeholders.

Our Planning Consultant, Thomas Konarski, commented on the success adding, “underused sites in the urban areas can be turned into opportunities with the right vision and team“.

For residential development advice and support please contact us by calling 0161 428 0445 or by email info@inspireplanning.co.uk

2017 Budget – a raft of potential planning changes

 

After much hype and predictions on what the Chancellor would do to kick start the next housing phase, it turned out to be yet another budget with the inevitable announcements on planning.

As expected, there was more of the usual, such as extending permitted development rights, but, the announcement on the demolition of commercial buildings and replacement with housing was an unusual departure from the current Permitted Development rights. Inevitably, there will have to be additional safeguards in place and also some form of a prior approval process for this to be successful. But will this proposal like many others before it become dumbed down?

Those of us who were looking for more radical reforms will have to be patient. There were some new ideas, such as a new form of ‘exception’ site (housing being built for first time buyers), but we’ll have to wait to see further details before we pass judgement on that one!

The de-allocation of sites from local plans looks interesting: at present, changes in land designation are at the behest of Local Authorities and their timetable for updating and producing new plans. If enacted, this change could result in greater flexibility where sites are not always materialising for their intended use.

We see some good ideas in the budget but are the proposals likely to deliver the 300,000 new homes a year the government has set out? Don’t forget we are still awaiting the construction of the 200,000 starter homes promised in the 2014 budget!

Will the Chancellor’s proposals and ideas help build the houses we desperately need or should he have gone much further with more radical reforms and legislation?

The only thing we can safely prediction is that there will be many more consultations in the coming weeks and months.

Colne Feasibility Study

Across many urban areas of Northern England, the relics of our industrial past can be seen – large textile mills, many of which are disused and derelict. In the right hands and with a little imagination, these properties can be turned into exciting spaces for business start-ups, retail outlets, art studios and conference facilities.

Inspire Planning Solutions Ltd have been working on a feasibility study to turn one large disused mill into an art and exhibition space. One stumbling block to the proposed development was the planning policy for such buildings set by the Local Council. They saw the possibility of the mill still being used under the umbrella of protected employment.

Inspire Planning Solutions provided technical reports that demonstrated any protected employment policies that were in place are now no longer valid for these types of buildings and it was time to open up the building for further uses. The number of jobs that would be created and the support the development would offer to the Council’s economic development strategy were also highlighted and will pave the way for an exciting new use!

Housing Crisis – one possible solution

Whilst browsing through my July issue of The Planner, I came across a rather refreshing article – an interview with Brian Berry, the Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), who represents thousands of small-medium sized (SME) UK construction firms.

The article asks the question, are small builders the answer to our housing crisis?

With the release in February of the latest housing white paper, the Government has finally realised that a way to ease our housing crisis is to use more SME builders. If implemented, this one change to the system of allocating a range of sites including small parcels of land would go some way in addressing our housing problems.

The FMB agrees with the white paper and believes small and medium sized house builders can make a much bigger contribution to the building of new homes if smaller plots of land were made available to the smaller construction firms.

Today, many local authority house plans (outside of National Parks,) allocate larger sites which are far beyond the reach of our smaller building firms and which only larger firms can take on due to the large costs in development. Smaller land allocation plots and less ‘red tape’ will help SME builders plug the gap to try and meet our ever-growing need for additional housing.

Is there a catch to this proposed change in strategy…YES! Anyone involved in the preparation of local plans will testify to the lengthy, resource intensive process of evidence gathering, consultation and assessment of sites. Local authority planning departments need properly resourcing – not only front-line development management handling planning applications, but also planning policy teams producing strategic plans that are workable, realistic and achievable. Investment in more personnel is also a critical part in this complex jigsaw – even more if there are many (smaller) sites to consider.

To answer the question are SME builders the answer to our housing crisis? We, at Inspire Planning Solutions Ltd, agree with Brian Berry and the FMB – release more appropriate sized plots of land and more people will achieve their dream of having their own property.