All posts tagged localism

A long running saga relating to housebuilding in Ingleby Barwick has been brought to an end today with a government appointed planning Inspector allowing the development of 200 homes on farm land at Ingleby Barwick, close to the controversial new Free School.

Darlington based Prism Planning represented the landowner and farmer of the land, Ian Snowdon at a public inquiry in March of this year and it has taken the Planning Inspector nearly 9 months to decide that the scheme was acceptable. The inspector found for the appellant on all counts, noting “The social and economic benefits of the new housing would be very significant indeed and would make an important contribution to the Borough’s housing supply. The scheme would include a useful and much needed contribution to the stock of affordable housing in Stockton-on-Tees.”

He went on to note that “The site forms part of a wide area south of Ingleby Barwick as far as Low Lane that is being comprehensively redeveloped to provide much needed housing and other facilities. The appeal result comes at a time when there is a significant national focus on the need for new houses to be built with significant concerns that not enough housing is being built. A new Housing white paper is promised by the government just next month.

Responding to the decision, Steve Barker of Prism Planning, who gave evidence at the inquiry said; “Stockton have recognised that they haven’t been able to demonstrate a 5 year housing supply for some time now and the debates over development in this corner of Ingleby have used up a lot of time and resources for landowners and the Council alike. I hope that now this final decision has been made all parties can start to move forward positively and work in partnership to make things happen on the ground. A lot of time has been spent arguing when we could have been focusing on improving the area and meeting our housing and leisure needs.” It is likely that a detailed application for reserved matters will now be submitted to the Council in 2017.
Hot food takeaway applications can be contentious and applications to extend open hours more so. Applications become more difficult when the planning history of the premises is one of the original application being refused by the Council but allowed on appeal and then subsequent applications to allow opening on Sundays and Bank Holidays (prohibited by the condition imposed by the planning appeal decision) being refused and the refusal upheld at appeal. That was the scenario we faced but with a carefully presented case we were able to convince the planning officer to recommend that the permitted opening hours be extended to allow opening on Sundays and Bank Holidays. First hurdle successfully negotiated but due to the number of objections received the application was reported to Stockton’s Planning Committee yesterday afternoon (15th June). Rod Hepplewhite of Prism Planning attended the meeting and spoke in support of the application, advising the Committee that national planning policy, as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework of 2012, had shifted significantly with the government advising that greater emphasis should be placed on economic considerations. He further advised that since the previous decisions pre-dated the NPPF, they could and should be set aside and there was good reason to approve the application. Members of the Planning Committee clearly listened carefully to the case put forward by Prism Planning and the Council’s planning officer as to why extended opening hours should be allowed in this instance and approved the application unanimously apart from one abstention. Another success achieved for a client by Prism Planning through a carefully prepared and present case. Indeed, we at Prism Planning see ourselves as the North East’s planning problem solvers. A successful outcome is not always possible but when presented with a proposal we will give an honest summation of the prospects of success we foresee. If you think we could assist you with a planning issue, we’re only a phone call or an e-mail away.
Hambleton Planning Committee unanimously voted to grant planning permission for up to 40 dwellings on Land to the Rear of Long Street, Thirsk, bringing to an end a 35 year saga concerning the development history of the site. The site, which is laid to grass and located adjacent to Thirsk Community Primary School, had once been allocated for recreational development. However the funds for its development never materialised and a Local Plan Inspector required the recreational allocation to be struck out of the Local Plan unless it could be properly funded. Members of the Planning Committee recognised that the long term future of the site now lies with residential development and were happy to grant Prism Planning an outline consent for up to 40 dwellings on the site as a way of bringing the site back into beneficial use. The site is probably one of the most sustainable housing sites ever to come forward in Thirsk in recent years, lying just at the back of Long Street and within convenient walking distance to the town centre. The permission was granted subject to a Section 106 Agreement being completed relating to the provision of affordable housing and financial contributions towards public open space. In granting the planning permission, members recognised that Prism Planning and its partner consultants had worked hard at canvassing the views of local residents and responding to the positive criticism that had come forward. Members are looking forward to seeing the reserved matters application in due course so the hunt is now on for a development partner interesting in taking the site forward.

Today has been a quiet day in the office, a time for reflection on the meaning of life and the National Planning Policy Framework that has just appeared yesterday. Yesterday we faced a barrage of phone calls from anxious clients wanting to know how they were affected by the new proposals and whether it really was the developers charter as some wilder parts of the media had suggested.

Mr A, who owns a field in the middle of nowhere in particular was most disappointed that he didn’t have his golden ticket for his new house but for other clients the position seems less clear.

On the one hand we are told that the guidance takes immediate effect and that decision makers should apply its principles straightaway. Yet buried in the back of the document, hidden in the annex is the statement that for 12months from the date of publication, decision makers may continue to give full weight to their old LDF policies, even when they conflict with the new NPPF, provided the ‘old’ policies stem from no later than 2004. 

A number of us who have struggled with the absurdities of ‘One App’ validation requirements will perhaps take heart from the idea that validation lists should be frequently reviewed and that LPA’s should only request information that is relevant, necessary and material to the application. I wonder if that means I don’t have to procure the Air Quality Report sought for a proposed leisure development built just above the high tide mark up the coast from here?

I was pleased to see the continued reference to LPA’s looking for ‘solutions rather than problems’ and the continued emphasis on approval of sustainable developments wherever possible. However from past experience I shudder to think how we are going to get to grips with measuring  and assessing sustainability.

There is interesting and positive clarity on the greater emphasis given to assessing viability and it is interesting to note the reference to mitigation taking into account the need for competitive returns to a willing landowner and willing developer. Now all we need to do is to work out how to use the HCA’s assessment tool and we have got it cracked!

I was also struck by the new definition of Veteran Tree defined because of its great age, size or condition.  This got me thinking to the prospect of a Veteran Planner defined because of its age and circumference…..I certainly think I qualify on both fronts!

I’m sure that as I continue to plough through the guidance there will be more interesting nuggets of new information to delight and frustrate us in equal measure so I’ll keep you all posted with my thoughts.

The long awaited National Planing Policy Framework has been published. You can view the document here, or check back soon for detailed analysis.

Hartlepool Borough Council has published the last draft of its Core Strategy which will shape the future of planning in the Borough.

The Core Strategy sets out the main planning framework for the Borough for the next 15 years and has been drawn up following extensive public consultation over the past two years.

Consultation on the draft will run for the last time, from Monday 13th February to Monday 26th March. If you have any comments to make, or want to know more about the impact of the documents on you, get in touch with us today.

The headlines of the documents include:

  1. Allowing up to 5,400 new homes to be built over the next 15 years.
  2. Achieving this growth within the existing urban area as well as through a major new residential development to the south-west of the town and a smaller, limited area of new housing at Upper Warren.
  3. Earmarking Wynyard for further executive housing and prestigious business development and Elwick and Hart for small scale housing schemes.
  4. The creation of green spaces across the borough, including in Golden Flatts and in the new residential development in the south-west and the retention of the green areas which give a strategic gap between the town and Hart and Greatham.
  5. Promoting tourism and leisure developments, particularly at the marina, Seaton Carew and on the Headland.
  6. Policies to protect and enhance the town centre area and to support the creation of an innovation and skills quarter.
  7. Promoting the port, Oakesway Industrial Estate and the Southern Business Zone for business, recognising the town’s three new Enterprise Zones and safeguarding land for a new nuclear power station.

Following the conclusion of consultations, the draft Core Strategy will be examined at a public hearing by a Government Planning Inspector, ensuring that the document is realistic in its aims, the Inspector will also consider any comments made during the final consultation.

As the festive break fast approaches, we are winding down in the office, recognising that there aren’t many of our colleagues in Local Government who want to get stuck into debates about the merits of our applications until they come back refreshed in the New Year. It’s a fair point and its got me wondering what 2012 has in store for us on the planning front.

As I pen this note, the headlines have been running with stories about the possibilities of the UK credit rating being downgraded for the first time in memory at the same time as the cross party MPs on the Local Government Select committee are expressing concern over the prominence being given to economic development in the National Planning Policy Guidance note. I can’t help but wonder about the different directions the planning system gets pulled in and whether we really are ready to face up to the realities of the current malaise in the construction sector.

The next year is clearly going to be an interesting one in the planning world with everyone waiting anxiously for April and the final form of the NPPF. On a personal note, I think putting more emphasis back onto brown field sites ahead of greenfield would be no bad thing, provided we recognise the challenges in land values and costs of tackling our brownfield sites.  Restoring the pre-eminence of brownfield over green is common sense in policy terms, provided we recognise that not all brownfield sites can be brought forward in the current economic climate. There I go giving undue prominence to economic considerations, contrary to the select committees concerns.

However it doesn’t matter what preferences a pressure group/lobby interest/planning authority might express –if it won’t work commercially, it simply won’t happen! This is the new world we all have to adjust to and the days of long S106 backed shopping lists of ‘good causes’ are well and truly gone.

It will also be interesting to see how the Localism Act beds down with us all and I await the first referendum on a planning matter with great interest. Mr Osborne’s continued reforms of the planning system are also of great interest and many commentators wonder just when we might have a period of stability in the planning system.  Whilst I would like the system to have a chance of bedding down, if he would just decide to take the inequities and inefficiencies out of the current validation system, I along with many other planners on this side of the fence would give him a huge ‘Thank you!’ for a job well done.

All the very best to everyone for 2012.


In a written ministerial statement, Planning Minister Greg Clark has put a timescale on publication of the final version of the NPPF framework, with the Government aiming to put it out by 31st March 2012. The minister has strongly defended the planned changes to the framework, which see 1,300 pages of planning guidance distilled into 52, saying in a written response to criticism: “Our reforms aim to strengthen local decision making and reinforce the importance of local plans.” Meanwhile the Daily Telegraph has set about on its ‘hands off our land’ campaign and has quizzed Local Government and Planning minister Bob Neill. Mr Neill told the Telegraph in this article: “By the end of the year we will be in a very different place. We are genuinely prepared to listen to sensible improvements that have been made. He added: “It was never intended to be a charter for inappropriate development in the countryside.” Now local councils, planners and developers wait with baited breath and differing ideals to see what exactly this “very different place” will look like, and if it will get the UK building again. Forward thinking Prism MD Steve Barker has expressed his sense of relief at having a date set, but says he still has doubts: “It’s very welcome news that a reasonably short timescale has been put in place to get the NPPF out in the wider world. Given the extent of problems with the construction sector and record lows in house building, it’s clear that it’s going to take a lot of determined effort by public and private sectors for the country to begin to build again. My fervent hope is that councils don’t think they have to wait until April to begin to respond to the challenges we so clearly face.” Outside of the NIMBY brigade in the Telegraph, no credible developers have ever thought the NPPF was a charter to concrete the countryside with insensitive new development. However there is evidence that some officers in local councils are hoping that the guidance will be radically revised and they won’t have to change their attitudes. It’s clear from the Minister [Clark] that such dinosaurs need to be made extinct!” As the Telegraph article states, an 18 month “transition period” is among changes being considered by the Government, giving councils more time to draw up local development plans. “Or perhaps it will give those local councils who do not wish to change their attitude more time to stall action and hold back adoption of the new NPPF.” Steve added. We’ll be sure to keep you posted with news from this heated debate as it unfolds.

Prism Planning has been very busy recently testing out the principles of the Localism Agenda. It is quite clear that once the Localism Bill becomes statute the general public will potentially have a strong mandate to shape their communities through the planning system.

Private developers have been quite cautious of these proposals. It has been argued that some conservative (note the little ‘c’) thinkers will simply become Nimby’s to the extreme – we at Prism have a much more positive outlook on the Bill, and recent jobs have only strengthened our views; let’s look at two which illustrate our point:

We have been involved in a residential scheme in the Haxby Road area of York. The project for affordable housing on the site of a former Co-operative Dairy created quite a stir locally. The Planning Officers recommended the scheme for approval, but during the Committee politics took its course and permission was refused.

During the Appeal it was quite clear that there were no hard and fast planning issues which meant that the scheme should be refused. The Inspector agreed with us and permission was subsequently granted with a partial award of costs.

The second case was closer to home, in Darlington where we are based, and was to a certain extent, a mirror image of that of Haxby Road. It involved the refurbishment of an existing Georgian house, through the development of two subservient homes within its large residential curtilage.

The Council in this case were against the proposals for reasons of conservation and planning policy. However following extensive consultation with local people it became increasingly obvious that the public were in support of the scheme and wanted the application to be approved. Once the day of Planning Committee came around, an army of supporters (and one or two objectors) made their presence known and the officers’ recommendation was overturned by the committee.

The point which I am trying to make is a simple one, the Localism Bill is not a “Nimby’s Charter”. The Bill will not give the public the ability to impose a negative planning agenda. Recent Ministerial Statements have argued that planning needs to be for growth and sustainability and just at these two cases show; if the public want to make a real positive impact through the planning system, they can!