All posts tagged demolition

Some readers may recall that we reported back in March of this year our success at appeal in having the decision by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council to refuse outline planning permission for a development of 4 houses within the grounds of a care home in Redmarshall over-turned and permission granted. We have now secured outline planning permission for the redevelopment of the care home itself to provide up to 6 houses. Although the application was submitted in outline with all matters reserved, the indicative layout showed the development being integrated with the previous permission for 4 houses. The Council had previously resisted any further residential development within Redmarshall on the basis that they believed Redmarshall to be an unsustainable village. We had successfully argued at appeal, the Inspector accepting our arguments entirely, that their reasoning was flawed and that for a host of reasons the village should be regarded as a sustainable settlement where new housing development could be accommodated. We were delighted that Stockton’s planners dealt with the second application much more favourably, granting permission under delegated powers in a timely fashion. Our client will now advertise the entire site as a development opportunity for up to 10 houses. If you have a housing development in mind and would like some professional planning consultancy assistance, whether or not sustainability might be an issue, we are only a phone call or an e-mail away.
Durham Planning Committee voted unanimously today to support the demolition of St Anne’s School, next to the cricket ground in Bishop Auckland. The scheme involves 18 new houses on the site. Prism Planning led the team that were behind the scheme which was described as a bitter-sweet moment by a member of the committee. Bitter because the town was losing an old building which had been part of the town heritage for many years but sweet because it was going to be replaced by a new set of quality buildings made from materials salvaged from the old structure. The owner had bought the buildings after they were severely damaged by an arson attack. He wanted to convert the existing structure but this proved to be financially un-viable. The scheme approved had been carefully worked up by Prism and the design team over many months of close partnership working with the Council. It was supported by the local councillors, the Town Council and the local Cricket Club who abut the site. It’s not very often that a planning committee commend you for a scheme that involves losing an old building in a Conservation Area but the fact that they did is testament to all of the hard work we put into the proving it was the only way forward, as well as having an excellent scheme to go back on the site. Work can now start on relocating bats from the site, subject to the separate go-ahead from Natural England.

We wrote back in April about the impacts of an EU ruling which effectively includes demolition in the definition of development used to over-arch the EIA statute. Now if that all sounds like gobbledygook to you don’t worry, we’re going to explain… This places significant hurdles in front of the UK’s faltering construction industry, which already wrestles with an abundance of red tape.

…But what is EIA you ask?

It is a Directive which has been placed upon the UK through European Law. It requires a detailed assessment of the effects of appropriate development projects on the environment prior to development consent being granted. Quite importantly, the requirement to undergo an EIA, or an assessment into if an EIA is necessary is not discretionary for certain ‘types’ of development. If you are unsure on this point, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. The team at Prism is here to help!

The resulting document aims to ensure that the decision maker for a project makes a proper judgement in the full knowledge of any likely significant effects on the environment.

The task of undergoing an EIA is extremely procedural with a number of ‘hoops to be jumped through’ in order to satisfy the regulations. The most frequently referred to are Screening and Scoping. Screening is the process of determining if an EIA is necessary for an application and considers Schedule 1, 2 and 3 of the regulations. Scoping follows the screening in determining what needs to be included in the baseline assessment and analysis of the findings.

…and how is that Changing?

Prospective applicants can formally request the Local Planning Authority to undertake a Screening and Scoping opinion. The answers which result from such a request are fundamental and can, ultimately, undermine the work which follows if not completed correctly or to a satisfied standard. This change comes through the increasing threat of objectors mounting Judicial reviews.

On this point, the message is simple – to avoid the chance of Judicial Review quashing otherwise sound planning permissions, you must ensure that the evidence base on which a decision is given is sound, even if this has come from the Planning Authority themselves.

The second change shows its head through significant amount of case law developing on EIA. These developments have prompted Communities and Local Governments to undergo a consolidation of the EIA regulations 1999 along with some ‘tweaks’ to the statute. The consultation (which has now closed) can be found here.

These updated regulations are due late June early July (2011) but within the tweaks are some alarmingly profound changes to the thresholds of developments appearing in Schedule 2, within which Screening must be sought.

The proposed changes include:

  1. When submitting an application change/extend an existing development, the thresholds will be applied to the development as a whole once modified.
  2. Any change to a Schedule 1 development will be subject to its own EIA independently of whether the development is included in Schedule 1, 2 or 3.
  3. If an EIA Screening decision comes back negative (ie. Screening is not required) then the correct justification must be given, just as if the screening was required.
  4. If an application has been awarded outline permission but the EIA covers all the aspects of any matters reserved. It will no longer be necessary to re-consult on that same EIA.
  5. Changes to the threshold levels for wind farms to require EIA for the installation of more than 2 turbines; or where the total height of any turbine (including the rotor blade) exceeds 18 metres in height.
  6. New development categories to be added to Schedule 1 and 2 as required through the recent EIA Directive 2009/31/EC

For many years now we have had a system of controls over the demolition of buildings. In very simple terms, if demolition of a house has been proposed, the Council have had to give a ‘prior approval’ to the demolition although in nearly all other cases we have been able to simply get on with demolition of other building.

This has been quite handy over the last couple of years as business rates have started to bite on empty industrial buildings. Its been quite a boom time for the demolition sector as a result.

There has however just been a new Court of Appeal decision that will seemingly lead to far reaching changes to our current ability to ‘wack and drop’ unused commercial buildings. In a new landmark ruling the Court has said that before undertaking demolitions, it must be determined whether the demolition would have a significant environmental impact and if necessary an Environmental Impact Assessment must be produced and signed off by the Council. This means that demolition contractors and owners of buildings due for demolition will no longer enjoy the freedom to simply ‘get on with the job’ in hand.

The ruling will not only result in some demolitions requiring EIA but will also result in most other demolitions having to go through a formal notification process with the LPA.

A significant amount of red tape and potential delay has just been introduced into what was previously a fairly straightforward and simple process. Admittedly this red tape hasn’t been introduced by the Government –they are the victims of it as much as the demolition contractors and we await their reaction to what will surely be an unwelcome bit of news. However it certainly isn’t going to help the recovery of the property sector which is still lagging way behind the rest of the economic sectors and needs every boost it can possibly get.

To avoid getting into hot water, anyone thinking about demolitions would be well advised to seek specialist advice from a suitable planning consultant –such as Prism!