Category Archives: Best Practice


Latest GDPO amendments to Agricultural Permitted Development Rights


On Monday 5th March 2018, the Housing Minister, Dominic Raab announced changes to Permitted Development Rights which enable flexibility for rural sites to be converted from three to up to five family homes (Class Use C3) to better meet local housing need without the need to apply for Planning Permission.  You can read his statement here.

Amendments to the General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) were approved by Parliament on 12th March 2018 and have come into force today, 6th April 2018.

The amendments allow buildings which currently are/were in ‘active agricultural use’ on or before 20th March 2013 to be redeveloped for up to 5 dwellings. This will allow for the following:

  • Up to 3 larger homes within a maximum of 465 sq. m. (5005.2sqf)
  • Up to 5 smaller homes, each no larger than 100 sq. m. (1076.4sqf)
  • Combination of both above options – no more than 5 homes (no more than 3 being larger homes).

The permitted floor area has marginally increased from 450 sqm (4,843 sqft) to 465sqm (5005.2sqf). As set out above, the provisions can be combined to provide up to 5 dwellings per agricultural unit subject to the floor space limitations, with no more than 3 dwellings as larger dwellings.

Permitted Development Rights are subject to obtaining approval from the LPA first. This means that you must notify the relevant LPA and submit a prior approval application before starting any work. If the Council do not issue a decision within the time frame of 56 days, then development can begin.

It must be noted that permitted development rights are generally more restricted in the following designated areas:

  • Conservation Area
  • National Park
  • Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or
  • The Norfolk or Suffolk Broads

The following criteria will need to be met before a development can be considered as permitted development:

  • Buildings must have been used solely for agricultural use on or before 20 March 2013.
  • The new rights are not afforded to those who have used PD rights to build or extend buildings since 20 March 2013.

Please note that once the new PD rights have been exercised, there will be no opportunity to construct or extend an agricultural building for a period of 10 years.

Urbanissta welcome these amendments to the legislation, though its not a silver bullet, are hopeful that these changes will boost the number of homes created through the conversions of agricultural buildings which will assist in meeting local housing needs across the country.

The explanatory memorandum can be read here.

The amendments to the Legislation can be read here.

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The GDPR and planning applications


In 2015 a Council breached the Data Protection Act (DPA) when it published the information in planning application documents which it made publicly available online.

The Council was fined £150,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The ICO is an independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

When the ICO did an investigation, they found that on the 16th July 2015, the Council received a written statement in support of a householder’s planning application for proposed works in a green belt.

The statement contained sensitive personal data relating to a static traveller family who had been living on the site for many years. In particular, it referred to the family’s disability requirements, including mental health issues, the names of all the family members, their ages and the location of their home.

The Council published the statement in full on its online planning portal later that day.

The ICO investigation found that this was due to failings in data protection procedures and training. An inexperienced Council officer did not notice the personal information in the statement, and there was no procedure in place for a second person to check it before the personal data was inadvertently published online.

The information was only removed on the 4th September 2015 when the concerns came to light.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

If the same data breach was to happen after the 25th May of this year, the Council could have faced a fine of £17,000,000!

There is a new data protection law coming into force and anyone who handles data about ‘people’ has to be compliant.

Currently, the maximum fine the ICO can issue is £0.5m. After this May, larger fines of up to £17m (€20m) or 4% of global turnover will be allowed, enabling the ICO to respond in a proportionate manner to the most serious data breaches.

The GDPR is based on a set of common-sense principles:

  • A “right to be forgotten”: When an individual no longer wants her/his data to be processed and provided that there are no legitimate grounds for retaining it, the data will be deleted. This is about protecting the privacy of individuals, not about erasing past events or restricting freedom of the press
  • Easier access to your data: Individuals will have more information on how their data is processed and this information should be available in a clear and understandable way. A right to data portability will make it easier for individuals to transmit personal data between service providers
  • The right to know when your data has been hacked: Companies and organisations must notify the national supervisory authority of data breaches which put individuals at risk and communicate to the data subject all high-risk breaches as soon as possible so that users can take appropriate measures
  • Data protection by design and by default:‘Data protection by design’ and ‘Data protection by default’ is now essential elements in EU data protection rules. Data protection safeguards will be built into products and services from the earliest stage of development, and privacy-friendly default settings will be the norm – for example on social networks or mobile apps
  • Stronger enforcement of the rules: Data protection authorities will be able to fine companies who do not comply with EU rules up to 4% of their global annual turnover or £17,000,000 – whichever is more

If you are an organization that handles data about people, you should note the following…
Identify where you or your company are storing data, for example:

  • Your website
  • Telesales – do you store names and numbers for your agents to call?
  • Direct mail – do you have completed order forms stored away with contact details?
  • Customer service departments – calls taken from potential customers and those recorded details
  • Personal contact with people – the exchange of business cards from a tradeshow or exhibition

Prepare yourself and your staff, make them well aware of the changes that are coming.

  • Make sure that they understand the principles of good data protection and that they don’t write down details of people on a piece of paper that could go astray, end up in the bin or taken home on computers or memory sticks where information could get stolen
  • Evaluate your environment and how you document personal data – where did it come from, who have you shared it with?
  • How will you audit the data? Review current policy notices and put a plan in place – procedures and timescales
  • Be compliant, review your practices and make sure that, to the best of your ability, you look after the data as if it were your own
  • Make sure your organisation’s privacy policy of how you handle data is compliant with the new rules and is up to date
  • Decide how you will be able to prove that your data is secured safely and how to seek consent moving forwards.

Do you need a Data Officer?
A data protection officer (DPO) is an enterprise security leadership role required by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Data protection officers are responsible for overseeing data protection strategy and implementation to ensure compliance with GDPR requirements. A DPO would be recommended for any organization that processes or stores large amounts of personal data, whether for employees, individuals outside the organization, or both. Seek advice as to whether your company should employ a DPO.

The GDPR is a very hot topic at the moment and we will be keeping you up to date with any developments.
Read more about the ICO and the GDPR  















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The Urbanissta Legal Beagle is on the case (Dec’17)


Legal Beagle

Welcome to the Urbanissta Legal Beagle’s case law reviews – we’re tracking the decisions on proposed developments to see what precedents have been set in recent judgments and decisions that might be useful to you, day to day.

We provide a summary of recent decisions for your reference below and via the links, or you can download the full decision letters should you wish. Remember to keep an eye out for further iterations, in the weeks to come.

1. Car showroom replaced to provide office spaces and 142 residential unit – Harlow

Appeal Ref: APP/N1540/W/17/3172421

Appeal Decision Date: 26th September 2017

Appellant: Hollybrook (Harlow) Limited

Respondent: Harlow District Council

 The appeal is made under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 against the decision of Harlow District Council (“the Council”) to refuse planning permission.


An appeal was made by Hollybrook (Harlow) Limited against the non-determination of a planning application for demolition of existing motor dealership buildings and replacement with a development comprising 142 residential units, 1,155 sq.m. of office floorspace (within class B1) and 161 car parking spaces”.

In allowing the appeal and granting permission the Inspector gave consideration to the three main issues.

  • Effect on employment space
  • Whether the scheme make adequate provision for affordable housing
  • Effect on pedestrian and highway safety

Employment space

The site was previously used for car sales, servicing and repairs – however at the time of the appeal was largely vacant. The proposal sought to provide 1,155sq.m of offices as well as 142 residential units. The inspector acknowledged that the site benefits from extant planning permission for redevelopment of the site to provide a replacement car showroom with servicing and repair facilities, along with 102 residential units. The appeal proposal sought more residential units, however, the inspector concluded that the offices proposed would generate more employment than the car showroom – as such, the scheme would not contribute to the loss of employment space.

Affordable housing

Policy H5 suggests that the council use 30% affordable housing as a baseline for negotiations – this is increased to 33% in the Affordable Housing Supplementary document. Expert advice concluded that a provision of 8.5% affordable housing was appropriate level of affordable housing on the site. The inspector concluded that as there was a substantial need of affordable housing in Harlow, this weighed in favour of the development.

Pedestrian and highway safety

The site was considered a safe environment based on the accident records. In terms of parking, 142 parking spaces were proposed for the residential units, with offices provided with 19 spaces. The Council considered this to fall short of their requirements. The inspector, however, concluded that as the scheme is located closer to the town centre, parking requirements differ and the quantity of parking would not lead to inconsiderate parking and harm to pedestrian/highway safety.


The Inspector concluded that the proposal would form sustainable development and the appeal should succeed as the development not result in the loss of employment space; the proposals offer much needed affordable housing in the area, and the quantity of parking would not lead to inconsiderate parking and harm to pedestrian/highway safety.

On the basis of the above, the appeal was allowed.
Download the decision here.


2. Development allowed after inspector reduced affordable housing from 40% to 20% after assessing viability – Skipton

Appeal Ref: APP/C2708/W/16/ 3150511

Appeal Decision Date: 29th September 2017

Appellant: Skipton Properties Ltd

Respondent: Craven District Council

The appeal is made under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 against the decision of Craven District Council (“the Council”) to refuse planning permission.


An appeal was made by Skipton Properties Ltd against the non-determination of a planning application for “residential development of 93 dwellings – amendments to layout and alteration of house types on plots 4 to 58 and 62 to 99 (pursuant to outline approval 63/2010/11062 and reserved matters approval 63/2013/13350) without complying with a condition attached to planning permission Ref 63/2015/15726, dated 11th August 2015.”

In allowing the appeal and granting permission the Inspector gave consideration to the following main issues.

  • Whether a condition requiring affordable housing (AH) on site would meet the statutory tests set out in the NPPF
  • Whether the scheme make adequate provision for affordable housing

Timeline background

The timeline and background of the appeal is explained below:

2012: Outline permission was granted for 103 dwellings.

2013: Reserved matters permission pursuant to outline for 103 units (41 AH units) was secured.

March 2015: MMA to vary the house types for the first 10 dwellings approved.

March 2015: Application sought to revise the house types for the remaining 93 dwellings was approved subject to a number of conditions.

October 2015: Application refused.

Nov 2015: An application to vary Condition 2 (40% AH provision) to reduce the amount of affordable housing on site to 20%.

April 2016: Application to vary condition 2 was refused.

The appeal was originally submitted on the basis that a 40% AH requirement was unviable and that provision should instead be made at 20%.  Following the quashing of the SPD the appellant has also advanced the argument that in the absence of adopted development plan policies seeking AH, a requirement for AH cannot be justified.  It is also claimed that the condition is unenforceable.

Affordable Housing

A requirement of 40% was imposed on the original outline permission, handed down from the RSS.  The current scheme has a full and separate permission which was granted in part due to the fallback provided by the previous approval10, which was subject to an affordable housing requirement. In this regard, despite the passage of time, I accept the Council’s view that the provision of affordable housing was a benefit which in part justified granting permission for a development which was contrary to the development plan, and that the absence of AH should be considered as a disbenefit which is a material consideration in any assessment of the proposal.


It was concluded that the provision of AH would not prevent the implementation of the scheme and would not alter the number of units provided.  “There are therefore no benefits to attribute from the alternative provision of market housing. It follows that the harm arising from the proposal would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits in this case.” The inspector decided that subject to S106 agreements to provide for public open space and affordable housing at 20% the appeal be allowed in accordance with conditions.

On the basis of the above, the appeal was allowed.

Download the decision here.


3. Land at Middlesgate Road, West Frampton – Boston

Appeal Ref: APP/Z2505/W/17/3170198

Appeal Decision Date: 25th October 2017

Appellant: Larkfleet Ltd t/a Allison Homes

Respondent: Boston Borough Council

 The appeal is made under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 against the decision of Boston Borough Council (“the Council”) to refuse planning permission.


An appeal was made by Larkfleet Ltd t/a Allison Homes against the non-determination of a planning application for “The development proposed is the erection of up to 215 dwellings including access off Middlegate Road West, public open space and drainage infrastructure.”

In allowing the appeal and granting permission the Inspector gave consideration to the following main issues.

  • Whether the principle of development outside the settlement boundary would be acceptable
  • The effect on landscape character and the visual amenity
  • Whether the Council can demonstrate a 5-year supply of housing land

Principle of development

The site falls in the open countryside just outside of the settlement boundary of Kirton. Policy CO1 of the Boston Local Plan 1999 (BLP) restricts development in the countryside unless it is supported by other policies within the development. It was accepted by both parties that there are no policies to support development in the countryside. It was accepted that the development proposals conflict with Policy CO1.

Landscape character and visual amenity

Policy G1 and G2 of the BLP 1999 set out a criterion which all development proposals should be assessed against. The inspector considered that the proposals could not be assessed against G1 as details such as density, scale etc would be dealt with as reserved matters. Policy G2 prohibits development which has significant adverse impacts on existing landscape, wildlife and vegetation sources.

The impact on the landscape was considered a material issue in this appeal and the council argued that the proposal would not follow any existing boundary and would cut across two fields – this would not respect the character of the existing landscape.

As the development would be concentrated around existing settlements and near main roads, the inspector considered that the development would be an extension of the existing urban area. With appropriate planting to the eastern side of the boundary and the break in development to the eastern side of the A16, it was concluded that there would be no coalescence. The proposal, however, was seen to reduce views from the Stump from Middlegate Road West which was seen to cause harm by restricting views of the important landscape feature.

The inspector concluded that the proposal would not substantially harm the general character of the area or adversely impact upon the existing landscape.  However, although there would be some adverse impacts on the landscape and the character of the area, these would not be so significant that the development would breach the respective thresholds of acceptability. In terms of visual impact, the Inspector considered the proposal to cause significant harm in terms of the loss of open views.


The Council could not demonstrate a five year supply of housing land. The Council argued that they had a 3.4 years supply whilst the appellant suggested that it is in the region of 1.61 years. The Inspector agreed with the Appellant and decided that the Council had less than 3.4 year supply.


In concluding the appeal and granting permission, the Inspector stated:

“Bringing all the above together in the final balance, I consider that the adverse environmental impacts I have identified would not significantly or demonstrably outweigh the social and economic benefits, in particular, the significant contribution to the shortfall of housing in the area.  Even if the housing shortfall was at the level the Council suggests, the adverse impacts of the proposal would not, in my judgment, outweigh the benefits.  The proposal, therefore, constitutes sustainable development as defined in the Framework. The factors above provide the material considerations to grant planning permission other than in accordance with the development plan.”

On the basis of the above, the appeal was allowed.

Download the decision here.


4. Land north of Loperwood Lane, Calmore – Totton

Appeal Ref: APP/B1740/W/16/3164266

Appeal Decision Date: 29th September 2017

Appellant: Howard Sharp & Partners LLP

Respondent: New Forest District Council

 The appeal is made under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 against the decision of Boston Borough Council (“the Council”) to refuse planning permission.


An appeal was made by Howard Sharp & Partners LLP against the non-determination of a planning application for “up to 80 dwellings; open space; drainage”

In allowing the appeal and granting permission the Inspector gave consideration to the following main issue.

  • Development outside settlement boundary

Principle of development

The Site is situated on the northern edge of Totton screened by hedgerows and mature trees, some of which are protected by TPO. As the Site falls outside of the settlement boundary and within the countryside, the proposal conflicts with policy DM20 of the New Forest District Local Plan Part 2 Sites and Development Management (adopted 2014) (the ‘Local Plan part 2’), which resist development in the countryside.


The appeal was considered in the light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Suffolk Coastal DC v Hopkins Homes Ltd and SSCLG, Richborough Estates Partnership LLP and SSCLG v Cheshire East BC [2017] UKSC 37 where the policies do not amount to policies for the supply of housing and restricted development. It was further acknowledged that the council could not demonstrate a 5-year land supply, as such the ‘tilted balance’ set out in the second part of the Framework’s paragraph 14 was engaged.

It was considered that although the proposal would conflict with relevant Local Plan policies, however, “it would not result in adverse effects that would be sufficient to significantly and demonstrably outweigh the scheme’s clear benefits – notably the provision of much-needed housing, including affordable housing”.

On the basis of the above, the Inspector deemed the appeal proposal as sustainable development in the terms of the Framework.

In light of the above, the appeal was allowed.

Download the decision here.


5. Out of date settlement boundary policies given limited weight for restricting development – Hampshire

 Appeal Ref: APP/N1730/W/17/3167135

Appeal Decision Date: 06th October 2017

Appellant: Berkeley Strategic Land Limited

Respondent: Hart District Council

 The appeal is made under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 against the decision of Hart District Council (“the Council”) to refuse planning permission.


An appeal was made by Berkeley Strategic Land Limited against the non-determination of a planning application for “outline application for up to 423 residential dwellings and a community facility.  Associated vehicular, pedestrian and cycle access, drainage and landscape works, including the provision of public open space and sports pitches.”

In allowing the appeal and granting permission the Inspector gave consideration to the following main issues.

  • The effect of the proposed development on the Local Gap between Fleet, Church Crookham and Crookham Village and impact on the setting of the countryside
  • Highway safety
  • Whether there are any material consideration which would justify development being determined other than in accordance with the development plan

Local Gap

The eastern side of the appeal site falls within a defined local gap between Fleet and Crookham Village. This is contrary to Policy CON21 whereby the policy makes clear that development which leads to coalescence of or has a detrimental impact on the identity of neighbouring settlements will be resisted.

The inspector concluded that as the development would only occupy one-third of the local gap and the remaining area between Netherhouse Copse and Crookham Village will be undeveloped – there would be no direct coalescence of the settlements. In terms of identity, Crookham derives its identity from being a settlement of rural character and appearance, largely surrounded by open agricultural land which differs from Fleet, as such, Crookham Village would not lose its distinctive character. It was decided that there would be no conflict with policy CON21.

Character and Setting

In terms of the effect on the character and setting of a settlement, it was acknowledged that the development would impact its immediate surroundings and views from further afield. Landscape mitigation was suggested as a means to soften the negative impacts. It was concluded that the impact would be localised and limited and therefore would not have a serious adverse effect on the character or setting. It was however decided that there would be a conflict with policy CON23 due to the adverse impact on the amenity and recreational value of local footpaths which would seriously detract from those qualities.

Highway Safety

The enquiry concluded that the main issue was surrounding the design of the proposed access arrangements rather than whether safe access could be achieved; namely visibility sight lines and roundabout size. The inspector agreed with the Appellant in that the Site could be accessed appropriately in terms of highway safety and would not conflict with Policy T14 of the LP or Policy T15.


The Inspector referred to the Suffolk Coastal Case. It was noted that “the weight to be given to restrictive policies can be reduced where they are derived from settlement boundaries that in turn reflect out-of-date housing requirements”. In light of this case, the inspector concluded that Policy RUR2 is dependent upon the out-of-date settlement boundaries of RUR1 and as such carried limited weight. Policy CON21 was given moderate weight and CON22 was considered to conflict with the hierarchical approach of paragraph 113 of the Framework and the valued landscape approach of paragraph 109.  Paragraph 14 of the Framework was engaged – the benefits were seen to outweigh the adverse impacts.

In light of the above, the appeal was allowed.

Download the decision here.

Permission granted as council could only demonstrate 1.9 years supply of housing.


6. Land off Burndell Road, Yapton – West Sussex

Appeal Ref: APP/C3810/V/16/3158261

Appeal Decision Date: 13th October 2017

Appellant: Gleeson Developments

Respondent: Arun District Council

The appeal is made under section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 the application was referred to the SoS.


An application was made by Gleeson Developments Limited  application for “the development of up to 108 residential dwellings, vehicular access from Burndell Road, public open space, ancillary works and associated infrastructure, in accordance with application ref: Y/19/16/OUT, dated 7th March 2016.”

In granting permission the Inspector gave consideration to the following main issues.

  • Housing land supply
  • The weight attaching to development plan policies
  • The impact of the proposal

Housing Land Supply

The Council failed to meet the five-year supply of deliverable housing sites. It was agreed between the parties that there has been a persistent undersupply of housing and a 20% buffer should be applied. The inspector considered the shortfall to be significant with only 1.9 years supply of deliverable housing sites at best.

Development Plan

The Inspector considered the proposal to conflict with “LP policies GEN2 and GEN3, which deal with the settlement boundary and countryside protection respectively and would also conflict with YNP policies H1 and BB1, which deal with housing requirement and built-up area boundary respectively.” As established above, the council cannot demonstrate a 5-year land supply and therefore, these policies were seen to carry limited weight.


It was accepted that there were no Landscape or design concerns about the proposal, the site is not identified as being an important gap between Yapton and Ford and there Grade II listed building would not be adversely affected. The Inspector concluded that “overall with regard to the environmental dimension of sustainability on the basis of these conclusions, there would be a neutral effect.” Socially, the proposal would provide substantial benefit and bring with it the economic benefits of construction jobs and construction-related activity. These benefits outweigh the adverse impacts.

In light of the above, permission was granted.

Download the decision here.


7. Out of date local plan policies lead to appeal being allowed – Gloucesterhshire

 Appeal Ref: APP/P1615/A/14/2218921RD

Appeal Decision Date: 07th November 2017


Respondent: Forest of Dean District Council

The appeal was made under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 against the decision of Forest of Dean Council (“the Council”) to refuse planning permission with a call in from the Secretary of State.


The application was refused by the Forest of Dean Council in January 2014 and during the appeal, it was called in by the Secretary of State on November 18th 2014. The secretary of State disagreed with the recommendation of the planning inspector and dismissed the application in December 2015. The Secretary of State’s decision was challenged in the High Court and was subsequently quashed. The appeal has therefore been re-determined by the Secretary of State, following a re-opened inquiry. The secretary of state agreed with the Inspector to allow the appeal and grant planning permission for “delivery of up to 200 dwellings, including up to 20 serviced self-build plots and up to 37 retirement apartments, community building (up to 2,000 sq. ft.) comprising flexible A1/D2 ancillary space and new public open space”.

In allowing the appeal and granting permission the Inspector gave consideration to the following issues:

  • Material considerations
  • Valued landscapes
  • The effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the area
  • Traffic conditions travel by car and highway safety
  • Benefits and delivery

Material considerations

The Inspector and Secretary of State agreed that whilst the development would be in conflict with a number of Core Strategy policies, and in conflict with the Neighbourhood Plan when read as a whole, the lack of a housing land supply, which was noted as less than 3 years, rendered those relevant policies in the Core Strategy and Neighbourhood Plan as out of date.

Valued landscape

The site was not regarded as a valued landscape.

The effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the area

The arrangement of the site was recognised as minimising the impact on the character of the area, both by containment and by scale. While the physical characteristics of the site would be transformed, such change would not cause significant harm to the key characteristics of the Allaston Ridge Landscape Character Area and the character of the area as a whole. The visual amenity of the rights of way would suffer significant harm, by the closer presence of buildings, by being set within managed grounds, and through the material diminution of views, however, this was given moderate weight.

Traffic conditions – travel by car and highway safety

The location of the development was recognised as a sustainable location for housing growth and no evidence was provided to suggest a site to deliver the additional housing numbers that the district requires. The harm to traffic conditions and harm to air quality also carried limited weight.

Benefits and delivery

The development of the site would make a contribution to the supply of housing. The pressing need for the delivery of new homes, and in particular those which would be affordable, would continue to provide strong justification for the development of the appeal site. The Secretary of State identified that there was nothing of material substance relating to delivery which would justify the refusal of planning permission.


The Secretary of State agreed with the Inspector that local plan policies were out of date and were afforded limited weight. Having regard to material considerations, the harm to the character and appearance of the area, with particular reference to the loss of open countryside and the amenity of public footpaths carried moderate weight. The harm to traffic conditions carried limited weight as car usage was identified as neutral. The provision of the diverse mix of homes carries significant weight along with the provision of a new community building and employment during the construction stage carry moderate weight. The adverse impacts of the proposal did not significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.

For the reasons above, the Appeal was allowed and outline permission was granted.

Download the decision here.


8. Recovered appeal granted permission as the proposal was considered a very special circumstance – St.Albans

Appeal Ref: APP/B1930/W/15/3051164

Appeal Decision Date: 17th November 2017

Appellant: Oaklands College and Taylor Wimpey North Thames

Respondent: St Albans City and District Council

The appeal was made under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 against the decision of Forest of Dean Council (“the Council”) to refuse planning permission with a call in from the Secretary of State.


The application was refused by St Albans City and District Council in September 2013. The appeal was recovered by the Secretary of State on July 10th 2015. The Secretary of State agreed with the Inspectors recommendation to allow the appeal and grant planning permission for “comprehensive redevelopment to provide new and refurbished college buildings, enabling residential development of 348 dwellings, car parking, associated access and landscaping, including the demolition of existing buildings”.

The application was subject of EIA.

In allowing the appeal and granting permission the main issues considered by the Inspector and Secretary of State were:

  • Green Belt considerations
  • The effect on the character and appearance of the area
  • The effect on the protected trees in Beaumont Wood
  • Educational benefits
  • Enhancement of beneficial Green Belt uses
  • Housing delivery
  • The effect on heritage assets
  • The effect on the Sandpit Lane area – traffic, flooding and Rights of Way

Green Belt considerations

The site being located within the Green Belt was recognised as inappropriate which is harmful by definition. Development in the Gren Belt should not be approved except in very special circumstances. Significant weight was attributed to the harm caused by the proposed development.

The effect on the character and appearance of the area

Limited weight was given to the character and appearance of the area as the beneficial effect of the college development in landscape terms goes some way towards balancing the harm caused by the residential development. Overall the combined proposal would cause some limited harm to the character and appearance of the area.

The effect on the protected trees in Beaumont Wood

It was recognised that Beaumont Wood contributes to the visual amenity of the area and is a resource worthy of protection. The development would not harm protected trees.

Educational benefits

The delivery of high-quality education was recognised as a national and local priority and the quality of the educational offer at the College was not in dispute. The Inspector reported that many of the existing buildings are of very poor quality and are wholly unsuited to the provision of the high standard of education which the College continues to provide. The improvements to the college would only be funded through the residential development and the Council did not put forward any educational or viability evidence to suggest that development on a smaller scale could properly meet the needs of the College and its students.

Enhancement of beneficial Green Belt uses

The proposed development carries with it a number of benefits for uses and facilities within the Green Belt which were agreed by the parties as material considerations in favour of the proposal as set out in the Statement of Common Ground and afforded moderate weight.

 Housing Delivery

The benefits arising from the provision of market and affordable housing was a matter of common ground and the council’s land supply was most recently noted as 3.72 years. There was disagreement between the secretary and the Inspector regarding the policies for Green Belt development being out of date. The Secretary of State recognised that given that the Council could not demonstrate a five year supply of deliverable housing, and the contribution the proposal would make to meet the significant shortfall, Local Plan policies directly relating to the supply of housing must be deemed as out of date. The weight to be attached to the provision of affordable housing was afforded significant weight.

The effect on heritage assets

The removal of unsympathetic extensions to the Mansion House, along with the intention to improve the setting of the other historic features of the campus, was recognised as a benefit in heritage terms. The scale of the overall scheme and the undesignated status of the Mansion House suggested limited weight be attached to heritage matters.

The effect on the Sandpit Lane area – traffic, flooding and Rights of Way

The concern expressed by residents concerning increased level of traffic along Sandpit Lane was recognised, however, there was no objection from the highway authority and there was no detailed evidence from any other party to suggest any negative impacts. The matter was therefore neutral in the planning balance. There was no technical evidence to counter the appellants evidence on the matter of drainage. The provision of a new footpath was also at an early stage and did not weigh against the proposal.

Planning balance and overall conclusion

The Secretary of State agreed with the Inspector that the scheme was not in accordance with the Development Plan in relation to Green Belt and settlement policies. However, there were material considerations which indicated the proposal should be determined other than in accordance with the development plan. These included the limited harm to the character and appearance of the area and the delivery of significant improvements to the college. In light of the lack of a five year housing land supply, the proposed market and affordable housing was also identified as a significant benefit (IR 252) that carried significant weight in favour of the proposal.

Overall, the Secretary of State agreed with the Inspector that the considerations outweighed the harm to the Green Belt, justifying the proposal on the basis of very special circumstances. He, therefore, concluded that the adverse impacts of the proposed development would not significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits. The appeal was allowed, and planning permission granted.

Download the decision here.


9. Permission granted for a mixed use development in an unsustainable location – Leicestershire

 Appeal Ref: APP/Y2430/W/16/3150720

Appeal Decision Date: 17th November 2017

Appellant: Brooksby Melton College

Respondent: Melton Borough Council

The appeal was made under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 against the decision of Forest of Dean Council (“the Council”) to refuse planning permission with a call in from the Secretary of State.


The application was refused by Melton Borough Council for “mixed use redevelopment of the disused education/agricultural complex at the Spinney, Brooksby for residential development (up to 70 dwellings), B1 development (up to 850 sq.m) and village shop 100 sq.m(A1) with means of access.”

In allowing the appeal and granting permission the main issues considered were:

  • Whether the proposed development would provide a suitable site for housing, having regard to the proximity of services and the benefits of the proposal


The site constitutes previously developed land and lies 7 miles to the south west of Melton Mowbray and comprises a number of derelict buildings and a grade II listed building. The inspector acknowledged that the Site falls within the countryside with reasonable bus service, however, it is likely that most residents would use private transport for their day to day needs, as such the location was deemed unsustainable. The appellant proposed highway works as part of the scheme which included relocation of the bus stop and the installation of a pelican crossing. The appellants also proposed a village shop, however, the inspector raised doubts in respect of its long-term usage.

The Inspector referred to a previous scheme submitted by the Appellant which is located in a sustainable location and provides 21 affordable homes. The inspector states that “The King Street scheme in its current guise could only go ahead in tandem with the appeal site scheme due to the funding that the proposed scheme would provide”. When considering the Melton Theatre, the Appellant expressed that although it brings cultural benefits, there is a financial strain in subsiding the theatre and without investment, the theatre would close in the future.

The appellant’s evidence confirmed that as part of the, up to £2.1 million would be invested into the theatre to bring it up to modern day standard along with allowing the college to fund restoration works to grade II* listed building. The inspector noted that the Melton Local Plan 1999 is out of date and the tilted balance of NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) paragraph 14 was engaged. He concluded that although the scheme is in an unsustainable location, “the adverse impacts of the proposal would not significantly and demonstrably outweigh the wide range of benefits of the proposal when assessed against the policies in the Framework as a whole”. The appeal was therefore allowed.

Planning balance and overall conclusion

The Inspector considered the case to present an unparalleled set of circumstances, “which although resulting in a development in a location which would not normally be ideal, presents a unique range of benefits which would benefit the Borough as a whole”.  It was considered that the benefits significantly and demonstrably outweighed the adverse impacts. As such the appeal was allowed and planning permission was granted.

Download the decision here.

The Legal Beagle will be back soon with more valuable information and analytics…

Any questions? Ask our Legal Beagle – fetching facts and sitting down to analyse and advise.
Or do you have an industry related topic you would be interested in reading about on our site? If so, contact us today.

Catch up with our latest news and views from the team at Urbanissta.

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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.
Read more

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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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