Category Archives: Best Practice


EIA Regulations are changing – What does this mean for you?


environmental impact assessment

The role of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (EIA) and how is it changing?

The core role of EIA is to maintain a level of environmental protection established within the current EIA Directive. The main aim is to drive effective EIA across the EU through three themes:

Harmonisation, efficiency and quality.
The EIA directive has been amended and codified a number of times since 1988. Several changes were made before adapting to the current Directive in 2014 which is required to be transposed by Member States on or before 16 May 2017.

The revised Directive introduces the need for EIAs to be produced by ‘competent experts’. The Directive does not however provide a definition for the term. It is for the LPA to decide whether the expert is competent or not.

Future screening requests require more specific information. At present, the information required is minimal, only requiring a plan, description of development and any other such information the developer wishes to provide.
Future screening requests now require the following:
• A plan
• Description of development
• Development proposal
• Sensitivities of proposed location
• Aspects of the environment likely to be significantly affected
• Description of likely significant effects from a list of species
• Any other information the developer wishes to include including mitigation
This can be considered as a ‘mini EIA’ at the screening stage as the results from other assessments, mitigation measures and avoidance measures are considered in this process. The 21-day time scale for receiving a screening opinion has been retained – the option to extend up to 90 days may be agreed in writing.

The proposal for mandatory scoping was not implemented. A scoping opinion can be requested from the LPA, the EIA will need to be based on the response given. The Directive does not clarify at what stage an EIA is required or how much information should be provided to support the request.
A broader scope of issues to be considered under the new regulations:
• Impacts on biodiversity, climate change, and landscape
• Vulnerability to accidents and disasters
The provision of additional information will require local authorities to have the relevant expertise to assess the information provided and decide if the information is sufficient early on in the process. This imposes an additional burden on the role of the LPA.

Consultation time frame
Increased time frame from 21 to 30 days to consult and comment on any environmental information.
• What will changes to the screening and scoping requirements mean to you?
Developers and LPAs are likely to face practical consequences as there will be an inevitable delay in securing planning permission for an EIA development and furthermore, increased costs. The following will be enshrined in statute and an increased burden is imposed on both the LPA and developer: the need to submit a screening report, mitigation may be considered by the LPA, ES must be based on the scoping opinion and considered during determination. It has been argued that the changes are minimal and the impacts of the new regulations are minor.
• How is mitigation to be viewed in the new process?
There appears to more emphasis placed on mitigation particularly in the early stages. Mitigation will need to be imbedded into the design if to be taken into account in the screening process. Furthermore, the progress of mitigation will be monitored from screening through to ES and implementation to ensure that there are no breaches and no significant adverse effects. Developments which do not comply with the Directives will be subject to enforcement and monitoring action.
• How do planning consultancies need to adapt?
There is also a burden on consultancies to advise clients very early on about engaging an appropriate team who can assist in ‘designing out’ any impacts and appointing a competent expert to provide an ES. Greater input will also be required at the screening stage and someone must be appointed to monitor the commitments to mitigation to avoid breaches and enforcement action. Furthermore, clients must be advised about the transitional arrangements which are as follows:

Screened prior to 16 May 2017 – existing EIA Regulations apply
Screened on or after 16 May 2017 – New EIA Regulations apply

Scoping request and ES pre 16 May 2017 – existing EIA Regulations apply
Scoping request and ES on or after May 2017 – New EIA Regulations apply

What legal challenges might arise from the amended regulations?

• Screening and scoping challenges
• JR of screening opinion and timing of challenge
• Enforcement action for failing to commit to mitigation measures

Relevant reading:
The Amending Environmental Impact Assessment

We have a thorough understanding of the EIA, if you have any questions relating to this or any of our other articles, contact us today.

Introducing ‘The girl on the Tube’. A Planner’s insight into the changing landscape of London.
I’m the girl on the Tube, no stranger to the fast-paced life of London and I take the underground every day to and from work.
I rise up from the tunnels of bustling business people and enthusiastic tourists and step out into the streets of London. Sensibly putting comfort and practically before fashion, wearing my well-worn trainers instead of 6-inch stilettos.
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‘Step into my office’ with Jo Hanslip – coffee and a White Paper


I’m sitting in my office in a comfy chair with a pretty comprehensive 104-page Housing White Paper in front of me. Two coffees and a muffin later – I finish the last page of the document that was finally released on the 7th February!

I was interested and slightly disheartened to see a raft of additional supplementary documents also for review, including:

As such I knew I had quite a lot more reading to go!

All of that information was a lot to take in and a lot to sift through. So, I have decided to pass on a few thoughts in relation to the White Paper and what it means for us planners and developers. I’m going to follow this up with what I hope is an insightful summary of some of the supporting technical documents.

If you don’t have the time to read all the essential documents listed – call me. I will give you a quick synopsis and fill you in on the need to know aspects!

I do sense changing times in the media and political rhetoric in relation to the emphasis placed upon the need for additional housing, especially in a post – Brexit era where the construction industry has the potentially significant role to play in supporting the UK economy going forwards – if it was not already important! This is especially true if the recent Budget is anything to go by! As such the principals underpinning the White Paper can only be welcomed. The question will be the timescales and scale in which the ideas and initiatives proposed take to become reality.

We note that there are significant proposals to review the NPPF and Regulations as well as several consultations proposed, such as:

  • Amendments to the tests of ‘soundness’
  • Consideration given to the standardisation of the methodology for calculating land supply
  • Clarification of the presumption in favour of sustainable development
  • A 5-year review of Local Plans
  • Variation to General Disposal Consent, allowing LPAs to dispose of land without SoS approval
  • Power of direction to require Local Authorities to work together and revisions to the HM Land Registry
  • Revised definition of affordable housing

As so often is the case, ‘the proof will be in the pudding’ as to how such measures are brought into force and the period over which debate and discussion takes place on matters which so often, result in highly politicised discussion at a local level. We must hope that the Government’s intention to deliver on its promise is a strong, and implementation is effective.

There is scope for optimism if the Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell’s recent comments at a speech to the CPRE on the 20th February noting that the links between the CPRE and the department rightly, remained strong, and noting that highlighting that CPRE’s input had been taken on board, issues such as: the protection of the green belt, opposition to speculative development and its insistence on community involvement in planning and design.
Importantly however, he then indicated that whilst the Department had listened to CPRE’s concerns, and adopted many of its ideas, the Department now asked the CPRE to reciprocate with ‘positive and practical support for new homes built in the right places’.
He continued stating that the DCLG ‘counted the CPRE as a friend, because friends could occasionally disagree, they could also have honest conversations and Britain urgently needed to have an honest conversation about housing because the lack of affordable homes was one of the greatest barriers to progress the country faced’.

He indicated that there was a growing consensus about the need to build more homes. This emphasis on the need for delivery of housing and clear political pressure on the CPRE will I am sure not change the CPRE’s position greatly, but I am convinced will show the political focus on housing delivery, might just change the degree of regard had to ‘NIMBY” lobby….

Finally, if you had not read enough already, or perhaps just want to pick up some CPD points, we have summarised three of the more significant consultation documents for your review. We have created 3 summaries on the following consultation documents:

1. Build to Rent – download PDF: Document 5
2. CIL (this is 3 documents) – download 3x PDF: Document 1 | Document 2 | Document 3
3. Starter Homes – download PDF: Document 7

In addition, there are three other documents that we don’t need to summarise but simply provide reference to and offer the link to download the material.

  • Neighbourhood Planning – download PDF: Document 7
  • Rural planning Review Call for evidence – download here: Document 8
  • NPP consultation – download here: Document 6

Summary 1: Build to Rent Consultation 

A consultation paper on Planning and Affordable Housing for Build to Rent was published alongside the White Paper and seeks to make a positive contribution to affordable housing by promoting “family friendly” tenancies of 3 years and longer. The government now intends to revise the NPPF to explicitly make reference to this form of housing so that Local Authorities can consider them when developing local plans.

What are the benefits of Build to Rent housing?

  • Boost housing supply
  • Speed of bringing housing units to the market
  • Quality and choice in the PRS
  • Investment appetite

What are the potential barriers?

  • Policy uncertainty
  • Teething issues
  • Marginal financial viability and unpredictability of planning outcomes

What are the key proposals and considerations?

  • Build to Rent has not yet been formally defined. There are currently ongoing discussions on the size, tenancy length, management and ownership and typology. Although there have been suggestions for the government to include a covenant in relation to the minimum renting period, the government however, is not minded to include a minimum covenant period in the definition
  • The government has introduced a “claw-back” agreement should a developer switch out of the Private Rented Sector and into other tenures. The arrangement would enable developers or owners to change use at any stage provided they make an appropriate contribution towards affordable housing provision in the area
  • The paper seeks views on Affordable Private Rent, a new form of affordable housing, in place of other forms of affordable housing on Build to Rent schemes. There is a proposal that Affordable Private Rent requirement should be set at 20% of a site, with the minimum discount being 20% of market rent in perpetuity
  • Determination of eligibility and nomination criteria for Affordable Private Rent (APR) to negotiation will be decided between developers and LPAs
  • The following suggestions have been proposed, however the paper notes that the government has no plan to consult, or to implement them:
    • Permission in Principle in favour of Build to Rent schemes meeting certain characteristics
    • Presumption in favour of Build to Rent schemes meeting certain characteristics
    • Permitted Development Rights for Build to Rent schemes meeting certain characteristics
    • Creation of a restrictive zone or specific planning use class for Build to Rent

Summary: 2 A New Approach To Developer Contributions

A report by the CIL review team, submitted October 2016.

The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) review group was established by the former Communities Secretary, Greg Clark and the former Minister of Housing and Planning, Brandon Lewis MP, in November 2015.

The purpose of the review was to:

“Assess the extent to which CIL does or can provide an effective mechanism for funding infrastructure, and to recommend changes that would improve its operation in support of the Government’s wider housing and growth objectives.”

The CIL Review Group were specifically requested to look at:

  • The relationship between CIL and Section 106 in the delivery of infrastructure, including the role of the regulation 123 list and the restriction on pooling planning obligations
  • The impact of CIL on development viability, including any disproportionate impact on particular types or scales of development
  • The exemptions and reliefs from CIL
  • The administrative arrangements and governance associated with charging, collecting and spending CIL
  • The ability of CIL to fund and deliver infrastructure in a timely and transparent way
  • The impact of the neighbourhood portion on local communities’ receptiveness to development
  • The geographical scale at which CIL is collected and charged

The CIL Review details the progress by LPA’s in preparing CIL:

CIL Report October 2016


CIL (this is 3 documents) – download 3x PDF: Document 1 | Document 2 | Document 3

Source: A new approach to developer contributions October 2016

In March 2015 the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) commissioned research into the value, impact and delivery of CIL from the Three Dragons consultancy in conjunction with the University of Reading. The investigation covered five broad areas:

  1. Implementing and operating CIL: The extent to which the levy is simpler and quicker to operate than individually- negotiated Section 106 agreements.
  2. The value of CIL: How much money is being raised and what it is being spent on (or intended to be spent on).
  3. Who is paying CIL: The types of development that are paying the levy.
  4. The neighbourhood portion of CIL: How much money is being passed on to local communities and how the ‘neighbourhood portion’ of CIL is being administered.
  5. The impact of CIL on development viability: What, if any, impact it is having on development viability.

Key Recommendations of The CIL Review Group:

  • Government should replace the Community Infrastructure Levy with a hybrid system of a broad and low level Local Infrastructure Tariff (LIT) and Section 106 for larger developments
  • Combined Authorities should be enabled to set up an additional Mayoral type Strategic Infrastructure Tariff (SIT)

The Local Infrastructure Tariff (LIT)

  • The setting of the LIT should be linked to the Local Plan process wherever possible and should feed into local and ‘bigger than local’ infrastructure plans
  • The LIT should be calculated using a national formula based on local market value set at a rate of £ per square metre
  • They recommend that the LIT should continue to apply to ‘development’ as defined in the existing CIL regulations
  • Further work by government to devise a LIT formula for commercial development that ties it to the residential rate but which does not exceed it
  • There should be a cost of collection cut-off below which local authorities do not have to collect a LIT
  • The LIT should be charged on gross development
  • There should be no (or very few) exemptions to the LIT
  • If needed in the new LIT regime, the process for exemptions and reliefs should be simplified
  • Agricultural buildings should be covered by the LIT but that local authorities should be encouraged to include this type of structure in its low or zero rated bands
  • The examination process should be replaced by a simple mechanism to address any representations on coverage or quantum of the LIT rates
  • The requirement for a Regulation 123 list should be removed and spending of the LIT should be reported through the Authorities’ Monitoring Report
  • Other options should be explored that would enable local authorities to forward fund infrastructure provision

‘Lit LIT’ and section Section 106

  • Small developments (10 units or less) should pay only the LIT and no other obligations, unless exceptional circumstances apply
  • Large/strategic developments local authorities should be able to negotiate additional and specific Section 106 arrangements and that these should be subject to strengthened Regulation 122 tests
  • The pooling restrictions set out in Regulation 123 should be removed
  • Standardised Section 106 obligations should be subjected to particular scrutiny to ensure they meet the Regulation 122 tests and that the NPPG in this area should be strengthened
  • Local authorities should be given the flexibility to offset the LIT against Section 106 and other requirements for their larger/strategic developments
  • Larger developments developers should be able to make infrastructure provision in kind, and if appropriate, the LIT contribution should be able to be delivered by way of in kind provision
  • Further measures are introduced to standardise and streamline the Section 106 process
  • Proposed heads of terms for Section 106 agreements be submitted with planning applications and that local authorities be given clear guidance on the publication requirements for Section 106 agreement

The Strategic Infrastructure Tariff (SIT)

  • Provision is made for Combined Authorities to agree the imposition of a low level ‘Mayoral’ type Strategic Infrastructure Tariff to be imposed across the Combined Authority area
  • Strategic Infrastructure Tariff should be restricted for use on a small number of major projects that will benefit the wider area
  • Further consideration is given to enabling Combined Authorities to use the Strategic Infrastructure Tariff funding as a mechanism for raising additional finance

Specific Supporting Proposals

  • Close integration between local plan-making and planning for LIT/Section 106 contributions so that the latter can properly inform infrastructure funding provision
  • Local authorities engage with delivery and funding bodies as part of their plan-making and infrastructure planning to consider ways of closing the inevitable local infrastructure finding gap
  • Government should incentivise more meaningful cooperation between local authorities over Housing Market Areas/Functional Economic Areas
  • Local authorities provide annual Infrastructure Delivery Plan updates as part of their Authorities’ Monitoring Reports
  • Closer integration at both the Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plan making stages between the local authorities and the community to ensure agreement over how the neighbourhood share of LIT is allocated
  • Local authorities work closely with both parishes and neighbourhoods over the actual spending of any neighbourhood allocation of LIT to ensure that the delivery of infrastructure is supported and best value obtained
  • Government should consider how environmental mitigation for small sites can be addressed as part of reforms to streamline Section 106
  • A new set of consolidated and simplified regulations be drafted
  • Government considers amendments to the regulations as an interim measure to address the most immediate issues arising from CIL
  • LIT should be a mandatory charge except where it would bring in insufficient funds to justify the cost of collection
  • Government allows for sufficient transitional arrangements to be put in place. 2020 would appear to be a sensible date for transition to be completed

Summary 3: Government Responses Toto The Consultation On Starter Homes Regulations

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 provides a statutory framework for the delivery of starter homes. The government technical consultation on starter homes regulations took place between 23rd March to 30thJune 2016. The consultation dealt with post-sales letting and resale restrictions, the starter homes requirement and exemptions, monitoring arrangements and transitional provisions.

Starter homes are one form or affordable housing available to 23-40 year olds with a discount of at least 20% below market value. The max cost for a starter home is £250,000 outside London and £450,000 in London.

In response to the questions asked and the responses received:

  • Government will restrict the sale and sub-letting of starter homes following initial sale and will set out its plans in regulations. The restricted period will be 15 years and the detailed operation of the restricted period will be set out in the regulationsRegulations. Mortgage requirements will also be incorporated into the regulationsRegulations
  • On the matter of age 40 and eligibility for purchase of a starter home, there will be no cap on age if one purchaser is under 40 years old and both are first-time buyers
  • Government will exempt injured military services personnel and those whose partner has died in service from the age restriction
  • Government are consulting on the intention to make clear through the NPPF that starter homes should be available to households with an income of less than £80,000 (£90,000 for London)
  • The government have removed the statutory requirement for starter homes on all sites, given that 78% of respondents preferred the requirement be set at a local level.  The duty of councils to promote starter homes will be triggered through section 4 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016
  • The proposed exemptions, transitional provisions and commuted sums will no longer be required
  • Local authorities will have the option to set out starter homes monitoring through the AMR

In response to concerns regarding market distortion, the government believes that the steps it is taking around the repayment taper will help to address the risks of market distortion. They also believe that allowing more local flexibility will also reduce the likelihood of market distortion.

Phew… that’s it for now, it’s time to step out of my office and into the sunshine!

In conclusion…

There is a new urgency to government policy. Homelessness is rising fast and a whole generation finds itself priced out with eye-watering rents that are crippling finances. Levels of home ownership have been falling sharply since 2003 – to only 51%, no wonder the government is anxious!  All before have failed, for the same fundamental reason – for decades now we have been unable to address, or even understand, the role of land in the economy.

I’m always happy to discuss the topics that we have covered so far and if you haven’t stepped into my office before, here are my most recent articles:

Hello 2017! Read more…

The East of England planning capacity. Read more…

Need planning advice? Contact us.

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From Start to Finish: How quickly do large-scale housing sites deliver?


Largescale Housing Developments - how quickly do they deliver?


This is a vital read for those affected by the trials and tribulations of planning permissions and development.

‘From Start to Finish’ is a new report written by Nathaniel Lichfield – an expert in planning, design and economics. The report examines delivery of large-scale housing schemes.

We read the report from start to finish with great interest to us and of great importance to our clients.  

Here are the 5 key findings from that report…

  1. More land should be released if more homes were to be built. Confidence in delivery through the planning system relied on ambitious and robust local plans. Where plans were not forthcoming there should be a fall-back mechanism to release land for development when required.

2. Planned housing trajectories. These should be realistic, accounting and responding to lapse rates, lead-in times and sensible build rates. Allocating more sites rather than less and a sensible approach to evidence and justification were needed.

3. Spatial strategies should reflect that building homes were a complex and risky business. Stronger local markets had higher annual delivery rates and although large sites could deliver more homes per year over a longer time period, they also had longer lead-in times. To secure short-term immediate boosts a good mix of smaller sites was needed.

4. Plans should reflect that, where viable, the affordable housing supported higher rates of delivery. Trajectories should differentiate expected rates of delivery. Some areas will want to consider spatial strategies that favour sites with greater prospects of affordable or other types of housing delivery.

5. Large-scale brownfield sites delivered more slowly than greenfield and the very largest had very long planning approval periods.Self-evidently, many brownfield sites also faced barriers to implementation that meant they did not get promoted in the first place. In most locations outside the biggest cities, a good mix of types of site was required.

And now, the answer to that question is…

How quickly do large-scale housing sites deliver?

In figures, according to Nathaniel Lichfield:

  • 70 large sites were assessed
  • 9 years was the average lead in time for large sites prior to the submission of the first planning application
  • 1 years was the average planning approval period of schemes of 2000+ dwellings. The average for all large sites was c. 5 years
  • 161 was the average annual build for a scheme of 2000+ dwellings
  • 321 was the highest average annual build rate of the schemes assessed, but the site has only delivered for three years
  • 40% is an approximate increase in the annual build rates for large sites delivering 30%+ affordable housing compared to those delivering 10% to 19%
  • 50% more homes per annum are delivered on average on large greenfield sites than large brownfield sites

Expanding on that, in the report were 2 key questions:

1. what were the realistic lead-in times for large-scale housing developments?

2.  Once the scheme began to deliver, what was a realistic annual build rate?

A desk-based investigation of the lead-in times and build-out rates on 70 strategic housing sites of 500+ homes were contrasted with 83 “small sites” of 50 – 499 homes to look at trends in lead-in times and build rates at varying scales.

Lapse rates: Interestingly, bearing in mind the current focus on unimplemented planning permissions, it includes an analysis of lapse rates, noting that DCLG had identified a 30%-40% gap between granted permissions and starts on site. Nathaniel Lichfield said it was not realistic to assume 100% of planning permission granted in any given location would deliver homes.

Planning permissions could lapse because:

1.  The landowner could not get the price he wanted for the site.

2.  The developer could not secure finance or meet the terms of an option.

3.  The development was not considered to be financially worthwhile.

4.  Pre-commencement conditions took longer than anticipated to discharge.

5.  Supply chain constraints hindered a start.

6.  An alternative permission was sought after approval, perhaps when a housebuilder sought to implement a scheme when the first permission had been secured by a land promoter.

The housebuilder’s model:  Return on Capital Employed (ROCE) – incentivised a quick return on capital after a site was acquired, building and selling homes as quickly as possible, at sales values consistent with the price paid for the land. There was little incentive to hoard land with permission.

The LGA’s identification of 400-500,000 units of ‘unimplemented’ permissions, even if accurate, was equivalent to two years pipeline supply. The data was significantly overstated unimplemented permissions because it referred to units on sites where either the entire site was not been fully developed or the planning permission had lapsed – a stock-flow analysis where outflow (homes built) was ignored. Insofar as ‘landbanking’ existed, it was in London. Read more in the report here.

Delivery of large-scale sites:  One allocation of several thousand homes could (at least on paper) mean a significant proportion of the housing requirement in a district had been met but their scale, complexity and sometimes up-front infrastructure costs meant they were not always easy to kick-start. There was also a need to be realistic about the speed of delivery with housing land supply gaps opening up as a result of over-optimism. Read more in the report here.

Lead-in Times: Larger sites generally took longer to complete the planning application and lead-in processes than smaller sites because they gave rise to complex planning issues (the principle of development and the detail of implementation). There was rarely a way to short-circuit planning.

Commencement could be accelerated if a coherent first phase could be ‘carved-out’ and implementation fast- tracked through a focused first phase planning application, together consideration of the wider scheme through a Local Plan or wider outline application.
On average, after receiving permission, smaller sites took longer to deliver their first dwelling than the largest sites (1.7-1.8 years compared to 0.8 years for sites on 2,000+ units). Read more in the report here.

Build out rates: There was a positive correlation between the strength of the market (as measured by residential land values) and the average annual build rates achieved. The annual average build-rate for the largest sites (of 2,000 or more units) was c.161 dwellings per annum; delivery increased for larger schemes, reflecting the higher number of sales outlets possible on large sites but was not a straight line relationship: on average, a site of 2,000 units would not deliver four times as fast as a 500 unit site because of the limit to the number of sales outlets and overall market absorption rates.  For the duration of the development period, the average annual build rate was 239 dwellings.  Read more in the report here.

Brownfield/greenfield: Brownfield and greenfield sites came forward at broadly similar rates, although at the smaller end of the scale, there was some ‘bonus’ in speed of decisions for previously-developed land. For the largest sites (of 2,000+ units) an extended time period (3.6 years longer) was suggested compared to the equivalent greenfield sites, once started, large-scale greenfield sites delivered homes, on average, 50% quicker.

Read the full report here. 




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‘Step into my office’ – with Jo Hanslip


This week Jo talks about…

“The East of England Planning Capacity and the Management of Planning Resources.”

I was not surprised to read that an East of England and National LGA review (sponsored by St. Albans City & District Council, my own home town) had concluded that the region was significantly lacking in skills and planning capacity required to deliver much needed housing.

Day-to-day experience suggests that there is a significant shortfall of dedicated and suitably skilled Planning Officers. During this most recent summer period, we experienced a substantial number of projects within local authority areas across the South East and East of England with high housing delivery targets had just one member of full-time planning staff working.
For the best part of a month where planning determinations or condition discharge submissions were pending, all work simply ground to a halt for what seemed like an inordinate period of time. Planning Officers took (often deserved) leave, but due to the serious lack of capacity within the respective authorities, there was no one available to pick up the slack and so files just remained dormant for 4 -6 weeks.

This comes at a time where the requirement for consistent delivery of much needed housing and maintenance of a buoyant housing market has never been so important, to ensure the adequate resourcing of planning departments in the East of England – and elsewhere in the Country…

Not only are such periods of inaction exasperating, but they are also detrimental to our fragile economy.

The East of England/LGA review highlighted:

• A serious lack of capacity
• An aging workforce – which presents us with an even more concerning picture with no proper succession planning arrangement being put in place
• High turnover of staff – in one Local Authority (I won’t mention) we had 4 different Case Officers during pre-app (which was not extensive, circa 3 – 4 months) and we were on the 4th Officer before we had even submitted the application!

Whilst the review emphasises that planning graduates are an essential solution to the problem, I would of course concur, in part, that graduates can and will need to play a role in rebalancing the system. However my concern is that there appears to be a serious lack of experienced and dedicated Officers who have the gravitas to effectively work with the private sector to deliver complex and challenging schemes in an effective and efficient manner. Without people of calibre in more senior positions in local authorities, I fear the system may creak more than it already does going forwards…

I’m not suggesting that we all move from the private sector to the public sector to alleviate the burden, but it does strike me that job opportunities, experience, remuneration and retention of more senior Officers is crucially important so that we get the service that we need and demand.

I also wonder whether in authorities such as St. Albans – who lack both development management and policy staff, whether a greater interchange between Officers working across planning disciplines might also be encouraged. To ensure a greater breadth of skill sets, create a more dynamic workforce, ensure a better response to workload pressures in either aspect of the planning department and also serve to better excite and involve planning professionals.

We watch in anticipation to see how planning resources are a managed in the East of England and beyond…

Find out more about St. Albans in our recent blog post, ‘An Examination of Local Planning’ where there is a very insightful case study – ‘St. Albans is in Chaos’.


Urbanissta Ltd was established in January 2011 by Jo Hanslip who set the Company up having spent the previous 87 years working as a Senior Director for Redrow Homes Plc. She previously worked for the House Builders Federation (HBF), Babtie and various Local Authorities across England. Jo has been a member of RTPI since 1998.

Further reading: East Of England LGA Action Plan 2016/17

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The Heathrow Expansion


Heathrow airport runway expansion Urbanissta

The government approved a third runway at Heathrow Airport. Will the plans take off or be grounded?

Heathrow’s third runway could be operational by 2026, creating £60 billion of economic benefits across a 60 year period.

However, there is turbulence and controversy on the radar as the Heathrow expansion heats up!

The Heathrow expansion plan has been something of a hot topic recently particularly now that it has been given the nod by Theresa May. We have decided to use this post as a runway to look at how this will affect us and what to expect in the near future.

Let’s check-in to the expansion plan.

The plan consists of a 3,500m runway which is said to be the first full-length runway to be built in the south-east of the UK since the Second World War. The costs involved are estimated to be a staggering £18.6 bn. You can view the proposed plan here:

The big debate is on and for the people in the political and legal control tower, there’s an awful lot to think about.

There is a legally binding obligation for the UK to meet air pollution and climate change targets to protect public health and safety. Heathrow emits 50% of the UK’s aviation emissions. That amounts to 6% of the UK’s overall carbon contribution. With a third runway this will significantly increase by 2050 which in turn will hamper the UK’s efforts in tackling climate change.

Heathrow insist that their plans are compatible with the target and it has been argued that Heathrow’s plan “doesn’t force a choice between the environment and the economy – it will deliver for both”.

The government have stated that the decision to approve the plan is central to the economic growth of Britain – does this mean that the have placed more value upon the economic aspect of the development and completely neglected the law and the health risks imposed on Londoners?  Well, Gatwick seem to think so. Gatwick have argued that the Heathrow expansion is illegal as it is already in breach of the EU Air Quality regulations and will contribute to prolonged breaches. It therefore undermines the current law and the decision to back the proposal is “unlawful”.

Is the economic case overstated or are the environmental concerns overplayed? This is the burning question.

So, how will we be affected? Are we in for a bumpy flight if we take off?

We predict uncomfortable air pockets… Here are the negatives if a third runway is built.

Heathrow is situated in a dense urban area and therefore millions of people will be affected by the expansion.

  • Air pollution – Greater London Authority (GLA) report suggested Heathrow would breach the EU regulations on levels of Nitrous Oxide if a third runway was built. The law was put in place to protect the health and safety of the public
  • Noise pollution – Noise is already a major problem. There have been 84,000 noise complaints since January 2016!

Areas such as Richmond, Teddington and Twickenham will suffer from noise pollution. It is noted by Richmond that “Richmond upon Thames is already subjected to over 50 decibels of noise, the level the World Health Organisation considers to be problematic, and the extra runway and flights would ensure that this increased even further”

  • Destruction of communities – The entire village of Sipson is likely to be destroyed as a result of the expansion. This includes 700 houses and hundreds of acres of greenbelt land. It is estimated that approximately 10,000 people will need to be moved, the largest forced removal in over 100 years 
  • Climate change – Heathrow is one of the UK’s largest contributors of climate change. Research shows that 220,000 flights will emit more carbon than Kenya’s 40 million citizens do in a year. Many Climate Change activists have argued that the UK’s target of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 now looks unrealistic. Will the rest of the economy have to make up the shortfall with extra cuts to carbon emissions? We are yet to find out

It could be the flight of a lifetime if the plans go ahead for the third runway. What’s the positives?

  • Heathrow needs more capacity – London is growing and we need to meet the needs now and for the future. Given that Heathrow runs at nearly 100% capacity, it is not feasible to continue as is if air travel doubles in a generation
  • Economic boost including more job opportunities – Chris Grayling, transport secretary, said: “A new runway at Heathrow will improve connectivity in the UK itself and crucially boost our connections with the rest of the world, supporting exports, trade and job opportunities…”

Richard Blyth, head of policy, RTPI, said: “Our overriding concern is that investment in new airport capacity should provide an opportunity not only to meet demands for air travel, but also to solve other pressing needs that London and the South-East face, notably land for affordable housing and additional transport capacity 

  • A potential to build zero carbon homes in place of existing buildings

Here comes the drinks trolley to help steady the nerves and soften the blow – the mitigation…

  • The airport has also pledged to provide over £700 million for noise insulation for residential properties, proposed to use quieter air crafts and made a vow to ban night flights. The question is when could it happen.

Is this going to be long haul or short haul – what should we expect now?

We can expect legal challenges from Gatwick, Green Party, Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Windsor and Maidenhead. Do keep in mind that in 2010 the expansion was successfully overturned – how does this plan differ from the 2010 plan? Given that this plan is significantly bigger, it is likely to fail the same legal tests. Is it going to take time? There could be long delays but there is also a possibility of an early landing.

Watch the UK government in the House of Commons approve a third runway for Heathrow airport, read more here.

Boris Johnson who has contested the proposal since day one vowed to lay in front of the bulldozers than let the construction go ahead – we wonder if he will retract this statement! Watch an interview with Boris where he talks about his opinion on the Heathrow Expansion. Read more here.

We will do a return flight on this topic. Watch this space!

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