The Government has announced that on the 6 April it will bring into force an amendment to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Development Management Procedure Order 2010 to improve the use and discharge of planning conditions. This is part of its reforms to cut the burden of unnecessary planning applications.

‘Right to Contest’ public land launched

As part of the Strategic Land Review the government has launched the ‘Right to Contest’ where communities and businesses will be able to submit an application challenging the use of public owned land (which is either vacant or occupied). A ‘rightmove-style’ search engine will soon be launched to allow users to access and locate all government owned property. The application will be considered by a committee of ministers from the Treasury, Cabinet Office and landholding department who will decide whether the site is surplus and could be put to better economic use. If the land is essential for operational use or if there are overriding reasons, it will not be released.

Significant sums of un-spent section 106 contributions revealed

A BBC investigation has found that councils in England are sitting on £1.5bn worth of unspent section 106 developer contributions, of which £421m has not been allocated to any schemes. Over the past 5 years £9.8m has been returned to developers due to not being spent within the required timeframe. Nick Boles commented that local people would be surprised to hear that councils are hoarding millions as councils had made these agreements with developers for the benefit of the community. The Chairman of the Local Government Association, Environment and Housing Board, defended this position by stating that the pulling together of funding was a complex process which could take time and it’s not surprising some money has yet to be spent.

Boles elucidates on the weight to be attached to emerging plans

During a debate in the House of Commons, Planning Minister Nick Boles explained that forthcoming technical guidance would include advice on the weight to be attached to emerging plans in the determination of planning applications. He indicated that in exceptional circumstances, a policy in an emerging plan can provide justification for a planning refusal but only where the draft plan has been submitted for examination and where the proposal is so substantial that it could completely undermine the plan. Similar considerations apply to a Neighbourhood Plan where it has entered the local authority publicity period or it has completed the consultation stage but had not gone on to the referendum or examination stages.

Local Plan found unsound

Aylesbury Vale District Council has been advised that its local plan was not sound because it has not complied with the duty to co-operate with neighbouring authorities. The Inspector concluded that there appeared to be minimal engagement with neighbours on the impact of housing provision. He stated there remained significant issues in terms of potential unmet needs from other authorities, particularly, Milton Keynes, and how this need could be accommodated in Aylesbury Vale.

The inspector also expressed concern about the level of housing provision proposed. The draft sought to provide an average of 675 new homes per year but the Government’s 2011-based interim household projections (April 2013) indicated an annual need for 961 houses. Whilst Aylesbury Vale expressed concerns about some of the assumptions in this assessment, the inspector concluded there was insufficient evidence to indicate they were inaccurate to the extent suggested.

Inspector finds housing shortfall in Wiltshire’s Core Strategy

The Inspector for the Wiltshire Core Strategy has issued his preliminary findings to the Council, outlining there is an insufficient housing land supply over the plan period.  The Council sought to provide 37,000 new homes, with the Inspector determining the requirement is actually in the range of 42-44,000, leaving the Council with a circa 7,000 unit shortfall. The Council have now confirmed that they are seeking to provide 5,000 additional dwellings and is reviewing its evidence base to establish how best to distribute the additional growth. The Inspector warned against the Councils reported focus on placing minimum housing targets for each community area 'at this stage' emphasising there is scope for a broader and more flexible approach to provide the additional housing supply.

Investment from EU Bank into Affordable Housing

The Housing Minister, Kris Hopkins has announced a £500m investment from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to help the UK deliver up to 4,300 new affordable houses. This funding will form part of the Government’s Affordable Housing Guarantees Program which secures private investment at more competitive rates for housing associations. So far only eight housing associations across the UK have been allocated funding. The EIB said it recognises the importance of long-term investment in the housing sector and is pleased to work with the UK Government through this new large scale program.

London Housing Delivery Update

Recent research has found that London has 300,000 homes in the planning pipeline but needs to construct 52,000 homes a year to cope with the predicted rise in population. This figure is 10,000 higher than the annual target set out by the Mayor. However the capital is currently only building around 20,000 homes annually. Only 7 London Boroughs have sufficient development stock in the pipeline to satisfy the increase in population. The London Boroughs with the highest (expected) housing surpluses are Hammersmith & Fulham, Greenwich, Newham, Kensington & Chelsea, and Wandsworth, while Enfield, Redbridge, Merton and Kingston have the biggest (predicted) shortfalls in housing.

London named as top Global City for Property Purchases

A survey of the members of The Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate has named London as the investors’ top global city for property purchases for the first time in 4 years. Other cities in the top 5 include, New York, San Francisco, Houston and Los Angles which shows that the US remains the primary location for foreign investment.

Further protection for Ministry of Sound nightclub

The developer behind the residential housing scheme adjacent the Ministry of Sound nightclub has agreed that a deed of easement is granted to the music group which will allow the club to continue to make the current levels of noise without the fear of noise complaints. This will offer further protection to the club and follows the very high level of acoustic protection agreed under the section 106 agreement. The owner of the nightclub said that this decision will set a precedent for how new housing and existing businesses can live together in London.

Update on Office to Residential permitted development rights

Over 2,250 prior approval applications were submitted to councils in the first 6 months of the new permitted development rights, which is substantially above the government’s estimate of 140 conversions per year. The top three councils for applications were Richmond (140), Camden (78) and Barnet (67). Nick Boles said that the planning reforms are getting surplus buildings back into use.

Increase in capacity at Luton Airport Announced

Luton Borough Council has recently approved plans which will lead to an increase in passenger numbers from 11.5million to 18million a year without a new runway being built. To enable this expansion the airport will:

• Expand, modernise and remodel the existing terminal building
• Dual the road from the Holiday Inn Roundabout to a newly configured road system in front of the Central Terminal Area;
• Build a new parallel taxiway to unlock capacity for an additional 6 million passengers a year from the existing runway;
• Build a new multi-storey car park.

The application could yet be called in by Eric Pickles for his determination. The local Labour MP, Gavin Shuker, said this is a great day for Luton and a much needed boost for our local economy.

Disused Vauxhall factory granted outline permission for regeneration

A 24 hectare former Vauxhall car factory in Luton has been granted outline planning permission for 625 homes, a supermarket, 4,000 sqm of retail space, 30,000 sqm of office space, a hotel, 16,000 sqm of industrial space and community facilities. The site will be rebranded as Napier Park and will be directly connected to Luton Parkway Station with connections to London and the north.

Outline permission granted for new Super Prison in Wrexham

Wrexham Council has granted an outline application by the Ministry of Justice for a new 2,000 inmate jail on a disused industrial estate despite the application being opposed by conservation groups. The council voted in favour due to the significant benefits it would bring, such as creating 760 jobs which will generate £23m a year to the local economy.

LOCAL PLAN NEWS

LB Kingston – Community Infrastructure Levy, draft Charging Schedule consultation is open until 21 February as is the Revised Planning Obligations SPD.

Dartford Borough Council – the Community Infrastructure Levy has been formally adopted and will come into effect on 1st April, more details can be found here.

South Gloucestershire Council – Policies, Sites & Places Plan: Call for Sites, requests that new sites are submitted to the council to be considered for development as part of the plan, more details can be found here.

Wiltshire Council - consultation is being undertaken on Wiltshire’s CIL Draft Charging Schedule between 13 January 2014 until 24 February 2014. More details can be found here:

RECLAIM UNSPENT S106 CONTRIBUTIONS

Colliers International can help reclaim unspent planning contributions. If you or your client has paid contributions which may not have been spent we can advise how to reclaim these from the relevant Council. For further information contact Adam Pyrke (020 7344 6544 / adam.pyrke@colliers.com).