The Liberal Democrats are the first major political party to have their annual party conference. They have announced a number of planning proposals:

Policy Notion for councils to provide cycling approved

A proposal to require local authorities to ‘provide for cyclists’ in the planning system has been approved by delegates. This has also called for the expansion of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund; integration of the cycle network (with rail and bus travel); and; the creation of high quality, segregated cycle routes.

Self-build planning guidance: A new proposal to double the number of self-build dwellings to 22,000 by 2023.

This guidance will oblige councils to establish demand for self-builds in their area; including a list of people who want to build their own home and who will be prioritised when new brownfield sites become available. The HCA will be required to re-evaluate its land holdings and identify sites for self-builds. A £65m incentive package will also be included to help self-build communities.

New use class for betting shops proposed

Betting shops currently falling within the same use as banks and building societies and local councils should be empowered to decide whether or not give approval to additional gambling venues. Moving betting shops into a new use class will allow local authorities to control the number of betting shops.

Review of the NPPF

Delegates have voted to review the NPPF with the intention of boosting the green economy as part of the vision for a zero carbon Britain. The NPPF promotes sustainable development, although the definition of this needs to be toughened up, as in reality the policy may not deliver a more sustainable future. This policy will also include the following pledges:

  • Reduce planning barriers by reforming planning policy
  • Review planning guidance to reflect the important role that water and trees have in countering the heat island effect in urban areas.
  • Require as a Department for Energy and Climate Change planning condition that new UK fossil fuelled power stations use their waste heat.

Affordable housing targets being missed

A recent study of the biggest cities in Britain has found that 60% of the biggest housing developments are missing the affordable housing targets (as set by the local authority). Only 33 out of 82 biggest housing developments in the planning system are meeting targets. Affordable housing targets are set by the local authority according to local circumstances such as; demand and supply, the cost of housing and wages. The Housing Minister said that, ‘New housing supply is at its highest level since 2008 with 334,000 new homes built in England, including 150,000 affordable homes’.

Conservation area consent applications to be phased out

From October, applicants will no longer need to apply for conservation area consent for demolition within a conservation area. Planning permission will instead be granted for demolition. This aims to reduce the duplication and overlapping of planning applications and the additional expense of them.

London Councils argue that 800,000 new homes are needed

The umbrella group ‘London Councils’ which represents the 33 boroughs, said that the capital is facing the most serious housing supply crisis since the Second World War. 250,000 homes are due to be built in the next decade although the population is due to increase by one million over the same period. The lack of housing supply will put London’s status as a global city at risk. This paper has been published to coincide with the party conference season and can be found here.

It proposes a number of ways to increase the supply such as by lifting the cap on the amount councils can borrow; supporting smaller builders to start construction; end land banking, and; promoting development near the tube network.

Student accommodation granted without complying with the affordable housing target

A mixed use development on the former Mulberry Business Park in Canada Water has been approved by Southwark Council for 770 student bedrooms, 33 affordable houses, a health centre, retail and office space. The level of affordable housing is well below the 35% target for student accommodation, but this was allowed as the viability report showed that the development cannot support anymore after providing a new health centre, retail and office space. The leader of the borough said this development will help meet the council’s aspiration to create a vibrant town centre for Canada Water and could help bring the new Kings College University campus to the area.

Extra work required to find Lichfield Council Local Plan sound

An Inspector has found Lichfield District Council’s Local Plan does not meet its own demand for housing as set out in the housing needs assessment. The Inspector has said that apart from the need to increase housing numbers, the key elements of the plan is sound. The council now has 6months to find a further 900 homes or more to be included within the plan period.

Ealing Council aiming to reduce empty houses

Ealing council has warned owners of long-term empty homes that their properties could be compulsorily purchased if they are not bought back into use in order to help reduce the boroughs housing shortage. The council is offering grants up to £30,000 to help bring properties up to habitable standards if they are rented on an ‘affordable basis’. This news follows after the council discovered that there are currently 500 dwellings which have been vacant for 6months or longer.

New £100m investment into Watford Shopping Centre

A developer has submitted plans to redevelop Charter Place and a refurbishment of Intu Watford which will provide new shops, a cinema, leisure complex, restaurants hub and new public square. This investment into Watford will transform the town centre further attracting people from the local region, whilst creating 1,125 new jobs and 500 temporary construction jobs. Construction is expected to start during 2015 and to be finished by 2017. This application follows the decision to create two new underground stations and extend the metropolitan line to the mainline train station earlier this year by Transport for London.

Doncaster Man starts jail term for flouting planning regulations

A 4 year planning dispute between Doncaster Council and Nigel Smith has ended with a 9-month jail term after he failed to comply with a high court order. The defendant has failed repeatedly to comply with planning regulations imposed on him by the council and any sentence other than imprisonment would ‘undermine the authority of the law’ the judge stated.