The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has announced a 2.9% reduction in English councils’ overall revenue available for the 2014/15 financial year. Planning departments are looking at a number of ways to respond to the budget reductions, such as; further deletion of posts, departmental restructuring and by increasing fees for pre-application advice. England’s largest council, Birmingham City, is proposing to introduce pre-application fees on major applications, as is the London Borough of Lewisham.

New Guidance released on the disposal of Allotments

Last year a legal challenge failed to stop the redevelopment of allotments for the new Watford Hospital site. As a result of this decision, the Government has published guidance on the disposal of allotments to clarify the strict conditions under which councils can dispose of them. Councils cannot dispose of statutory allotment land without the Secretary of State’s consent, based on the Allotments Act, 1925. This new guidance should provide clarity/help to councils when deciding whether to apply for consent for the disposal of allotment land and how these applications should be assessed. This guidance can be found here.

Colliers launches centenary debate on London, the ‘Kaleidoscope City’.

This year marks the centenary of Royal Town Planning Institute and Jonathan Manns (Associate Director in the London Planning team) has edited the book ‘Kaleidoscope City: Reflections on Planning and London’ to mark the occasion and stimulate debate. The collection comprises 25 essays from leading practitioners and theorists in both the private and public sector; such as Sir Peter Hall, Lord Richard Rogers, Stewart Murray and Liz Peace.  The collection was launched by Sir Edward Lister the London Deputy Mayor for Planning and has already received critical praise for the way in which it addresses the fundamental, and often emotive issues, affecting cities today, such as; “how should we balance economic growth with environmental protection?” and “how big is too big?”. The collection is available in eReader format on Amazon, IBooks and as a .pdf from Colliers International here.

Rates relief for small retail businesses

Following the announcement in the Autumn Statement, the Government has provided guidance on the funding relief it will provide for small retail properties.  Business rate relief of up to £1,000 for occupied retail properties with a rateable value of £50,000 or less will be available in each of the years 2014/15 and 2015/16.  These powers are discretionary, but where local councils use them their local share will be reimbursed by the Central Government.  The relief is available on properties which are wholly or mainly being used as shops, restaurants, cafes and drinking establishments.  These are defined to mean:

• Shops

 

• Charity Shops

 

• Opticians

 

• Post Office’s

 

• Furnishing shops / display rooms
(such as carpet shops, double glazing
and garage doors),

• Car / caravan showrooms

 

• Second hand car lots

• Markets

• Petrol stations

• Garden Centres

• Art Galleries (where art is for sale or hire)

• Hair and beauty services
(hairdressers, nail bars, beauty
salons, tanning shops etc)

• Show repairs / key cutting

• Travel agents

• Ticket offices (for theatre)

• Dry cleaners

• Launderette

• PC / TV / domestic appliance
repair

• Funeral Directors

• Photo processing

• DVD / Video rentals

• Tool hire

• Car hire

• Restaurants

• Take-away’s

• Sandwich shops

• Coffee shops

• Pubs

• Bars

 

 

This list is not intended to be exhaustive but is intended as a guide.  Local Councils should decide whether particular properties are similar in nature to those identified and if so whether they are eligible for relief.

It should be noted that other ‘high street’ uses including Class A2 uses (i.e. banks, building societies, bureau de change, betting shops, pawn brokers, estate agents, employment agencies) together with a range of medical services (eg vets, dentists, doctors etc) and professional services (eg solicitors, accountants, financial advisors etc) are not considered eligible for relief.

£1.7bn fund available for help develop affordable housing

The Government, through the Homes & Communities Agency, is inviting housing associations, councils and developers to bid for grant funding to help provide new affordable housing outside of London. There is £1.7bn available which aims to help contribute to the government’s target to build 165,000 new affordable homes between 2015-18. For more information and to apply for the funding please follow this link: www.homesandcommunities.co.uk/ourwork/affordable-homes-programme-2015-18

‘Click and Collect’ services expanding on the London Underground

At the end of last year Asda piloted a tube based ‘click-and-collect’ service which allowed customers to collect mail and parcels from lockers at underground stations. This scheme has proved very successful and Asda are now planning on rolling the service out to 62 stations. Waitrose is planning to become the first supermarket chain to install temperature-controlled lockers at stations where customers can scan their smartphone or credit card to open them; this will be installed in 6 stations, although the locations have yet to be confirmed. Tesco is also planning on introducing a click and collect service whereby customers can pick-up their shopping from refrigerated vans parked in station car parks at pre-designated slots.

Record number of skyscrapers planned for London

The New London Architecture (NLA) has published a report that shows there are more than 200 towers (at least 20 storeys high) which are under construction or planned in London. The NLA described the figures as pretty phenomenal, while English Heritage wants the Mayor to make it harder for such a large number of towers to be built to protect the historic skyline. As vacant/developable land supply becomes smaller one of the only options to meet housing demand is to build upwards.

Miami Vice relaunched In Newham

Working jointly with the Metropolitan Police, the London Borough of Newham has closed 37 brothels operating in the borough over the last 10 months. The joint exercise, known as ‘Operation Miami’, is targeting houses and flats being used by individual prostitutes.
Whilst it is apparently not illegal for an individual working alone to charge for sex in their home, the Council is arguing the activity requires planning permission for a change of use to a place of employment. Where a brothel is identified, the Council issues an Enforcement Notice and if the resident fails to comply, the council has the power to shutdown the brothel and prosecute a landlord for failing to comply with the notice.

Lancaster brick works reopens off the back of increased demand for bricks

Claughton Manor brick works was mothballed in 2009 due to lack of demand stemming from the recession. The current increase in residential builds has seen a surge in demand for bricks and construction materials, with orders growing at the fastest rate for 10 years. Housing Minister Kris Hopkins has hailed the impact of the Help to Buy scheme as reviving local businesses by creating jobs and the reopening of this facility as evidence of this.


LOCAL PLAN NEWS

Oxford City Council – Oxford Heritage Plan Quality Assessment is open for consultation and this can be found here. The council is asking for people’s views on the value and significance of the city’s heritage and this will form part of Oxford’s Heritage Plan.

Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead – the Preferred Options of the Borough Local Plan is open for consultation and this can be found here.