Celebrating 6 Years of Civic Voice

Civic Voice have issued a news release celebrating their 6th anniversary on April 17th highlighting some of the achievements and milestones since their establishment in 2010 and showing how Civic Voice are representing the civic movement in England

Civic Voice writes:
As we reach our 6th anniversary on April 17th, we believe that with the support of our members, we can continue to make the case that the views of civic societies should be heard.

Here are ten achievements that we want to share since we set up six years ago that demonstrate some of the ways we are representing the civic movement in England. read more…

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Opinion- Private housing growth slowing from planning delays

RICS have issued their latest UK Construction Market Survey, which shows that private housing is slowing; planning delays still seen to be a barrier to growth and RICS are calling on Councils to work together to create ‘emergency planners’ who can help address this issue.

RICS writes:
Despite the Government promising to deliver 200,000 new homes by 2020, our latest UK Construction Market Survey has revealed that growth in the private housing sector slowed down considerably during the first quarter of 2016.

On the surface, it might seem surprising that we are witnessing a slowdown in the construction sector just a few months after hearing the Chancellor’s ‘We Are The Builders’ speech, given the Government’s significant commitment to this sector. One might well ask why growth in private housing workloads is softening at a time when policy is firmly focussed on the creation of new starter homes. We have long held the view that starter homes cannot be the only solution. There is an issue around the availability of land on which new houses can be built, and we would like to see more being done to free up private brownfield sites.

Our survey tells us that planning delays are one of the biggest barriers to growth in the construction sector. We have recommended that councils work together to create a team of emergency planners who can parachute into boroughs that are experiencing significant delays, therefore reducing a major growth barrier.

That said, we cannot discount the climate of uncertainty caused by the forthcoming EU referendum. We know that a range of sectors have been affected by these issues as investors look to delay any decisions until a final outcome has been determined, and construction is no exception.

View the news release

View an RTPI response to this report

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Salford’s Urban Partnership Extended

A three year extension has been given to the Urban Vision programme in Salford.

Urban Vision writes:
Salford City Council has announced that Urban Vision, our award-winning joint venture between Salford City Council, Capita and Galiford Try, has been extended by three years to 2020. Urban Vision was formed in 2005 to provide technical services to the Council, efficiencies, improved capacity and capability, access to new markets, innovation and to grow and safeguard jobs.

The extension is worth up to £90m in total to the joint venture. To date Urban Vision has delivered significant costs savings and income generation initiatives including in excess of £12.5m secured over the last five years.

The extension will see Urban Vision continue to deliver all existing services to the Council and prioritising the needs of the fast growing city on a ‘Salford First’ principle. Services include property, regulatory planning, engineering infrastructure, and design and highway operations. Salford and the Greater Manchester area are currently undergoing a period of substantial regeneration and growth, and the partnership will play a key role in supporting the Council through this process.

The partnership extension provides a platform for the further growth of Urban Vision’s services into both the Council and new and existing clients UK-wide. The partnership currently delivers services to over 240 clients across both the public and private sectors and will continue to deliver additional revenue for Salford City Council, allowing it to invest in and protect frontline services.

Jim Taylor, Salford’s City Director, said: ‘Urban Vision has been a valuable partner since we first formed the alliance. The partnership extension will provide further efficiency gains and more savings for the Council, without affecting service quality and performance. Working with our joint venture partners, we are committed to supporting the unprecedented growth within the city through the continued provision of excellent services on a ‘Salford First’ principle.’

Andy Parker, Capita’s Chief Executive, said: ‘When Urban Vision was founded it was the first joint venture of its kind in the UK. Over the last ten years it has delivered some fantastic outcomes for the Council. This extension gives us the opportunity to build on that success – we look forward to three more years of excellent service delivery and close working with our joint venture partners.  Capita’s breadth of experience in local government means it is ideally positioned to meet the needs of councils across the Northern Powerhouse and rest of the UK. These needs are increasingly being driven by a ‘place-based’ agenda, ensuring that services create new opportunities around the development of the local economy, land, assets and skills. Urban Vision has already begun to incorporate elements of this agenda into its work in Salford and Greater Manchester, and this extension will allow us to put ‘place’ at the heart of everything the partnership does.’

Urban Vision news

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Devolution Deals- NAO report

The National Audit Office (NAO) has issued a report which calls for greater clarity on devolution deals, as the arrangements are untested (noting that housing and planning form part of the policy areas covered). 

The National Audit Office (NAO) writes:
Devolution deals to devolve power from central government to local areas in England offer opportunities to stimulate economic growth and reform public services for local users, but the arrangements are untested and government could do more to provide confidence that these deals will achieve the benefits intended, according to the National Audit Office.

Over the last 18 months, 10 devolution deals have been agreed, outlining the transfer of powers, funding and accountability for policies and functions previously undertaken by central government, in Greater Manchester, Cornwall, Sheffield City Region; the North East; Tees Valley; Liverpool City Region; the West Midlands, East Anglia; Greater Lincolnshire; and the West of England. They are the latest in a range of initiatives and programmes designed to support localism and decentralisation.

HM Treasury and the Cities and Local Growth Unit are responsible for managing the negotiation, agreement and implementation of devolution deals on behalf of central government as a whole. All of the deals include an agreement on devolved responsibility for substantial aspects of transport, business support and further education. Other policy areas included in some of the deals are housing and planning, employment support and health and social care.

The government has announced new additional investment funding of £246.5 million a year alongside the devolution deals announced so far. Over time, the government intends to combine this funding with a number of other funding streams into a ‘single pot’ to enable more local control over investment decisions, and has announced £2.86 billion of initial allocations over 5 years for the first 6 mayoral devolution deals.

Central government’s management approach to brokering devolution deals is designed to support its policy of localism. The government considers that devolution proposals should be led by local areas, and that central government’s role should be to respond to these proposals. As a result, the government has decided not to set out a clear statement of what it is trying to achieve through devolution deals.

According to the NAO, however, there are significant accountability implications arising from the deals which central government and local areas will need to develop and clarify. These include the details of how and when powers will be transferred to mayors and how they will be balanced against national parliamentary accountability. The deals agreed so far involve increasingly complex administrative and governance configurations.

And as devolution deals are new and experimental, good management and accountability both depend on appropriate and proportionate measures to understand their impact.

To improve the chances of success, and provide local areas and the public with greater clarity over the progression of devolution deals, central government should clarify the core purposes of devolution deals as well as who will be responsible and accountable for devolved services and functions, and should ensure it identifies and takes account of risks to devolution deals that arise from ongoing challenges to the financial sustainability of local public services.

View the press release

View the LGA response to the report

View an LGA guide to devolution


The report includes 10 main highlights, as follows:

  • All Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies
  • Civic Voice Design Awards
  • Civic Survey
  • Griff Rhys Jones
  •  History of the Movement
  • Heritage Open Days
  • Manifesto: Localism for Real
  • Civic Awards and Marsh Awards
  • Sandys Lecture
  • Future plans


To read the full news release visit http://www.civicvoice.org.uk/news/civic-voice-6-years-on//

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London’s Wellington Arch sculptures conserved

Sculptures at London’s Wellington Arch (Quadriga) are being cleaned and repaired by English Heritage. 

English Heritage writes:
The sculpture on top of Wellington Arch is being cleaned, repaired and re-waxed as part of a conservation programme in partnership with Cif. 

The sculpture on top of the Wellington Arch is called Quadriga. Designed by Adrian Jones, a former army veterinary captain who specialised in animal figures, it was added to the arch in 1912 and is Europe’s largest bronze sculpture. It depicts four horses representing the forces of chaos and war being calmed by the angel of peace.

Over the last century weather, air pollution and bird droppings have taken their toll on the masterpiece. Conservators have cleaned the sculpture of years of dirt, grease and grime, as well as treating corrosion, flaws, cracks and rain damage. The next phase of the project is to apply several coats of clear wax to protect the sculpture in the future.

Kate Mavor, English Heritage’s Chief Executive, said: ‘We’re giving one of London’s most dramatic sculptures the tender loving care it deserves. Our conservation work will mean that people can enjoy this great work of art for years to come.’

Wellington Arch is one of London’s best-known landmarks. Built in 1825-7 to commemorate the Duke of Wellington’s victories over Napoleon, it originally stood directly south of Piccadilly, facing the Hyde Park Screen. A controversial statue of the Duke was placed on top of the arch in 1846 but this was taken down in the 1880s when the arch was moved to allow for road widening.

The arch was moved to its present location in 1960-62 in another attempt to relieve traffic congestion. Today it houses exhibitions on the story of the arch and the Battle of Waterloo, which will remain open to the public during the conservation work.

The arch has been under English Heritage’s care since 1999. The conservation of the Quadriga sculpture is the first project in the ‘Making England Shine’ programme which is supported by Cif and will help to conserve and restore historic places to their former glory.

Olivier Juglair, Cif Global Head of Marketing said: ‘Cif’s social purpose is to restore the beauty of the man-made world. When things are cleaned to reveal their original beauty, they have a positive impact on the people around them; so we’re always looking for people and organisations that share our values to help us do it. Like Cif, English Heritage is restoring the nation’s most-loved buildings and landmarks for us all to enjoy!’

View the news release and photographs of the work

IHBC newsblogs on sculpture

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Arts Council England- Arts Impact Fund

Members who work with organisations who have a focus on arts and culture within England will be interested to learn of the first awards under the Arts Impact Fund, one of the awards includes a property related scheme for artists in London and another to assist with property improvements in a theatre in Lichfield. 

Arts Council England writes:
A national dance agency, an amateur dramatics group, and an artists’ studio space are the first three organisations to receive investment from the £7million Arts Impact Fund. 

We are hugely pleased to announce these first recipients of loans from the Arts Impact Fund. We know that social investment has proved to be successful in other sectors, such as health and energy, and we hope this unique fund can further demonstrate the role of different kinds of finance to strengthen the resilience of arts organisations.  Helen Goulden, executive director at Nesta and on behalf of the Arts Impact Fund

The Arts Impact Fund brings together public, private and philanthropic investment from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Nesta, with support from Arts Council England and additional funding from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.. It is the first to offer loan finance specifically to arts and cultural organisations across England for capital and non-capital projects that show a combination of social, artistic and financial return.

The Arts Impact Fund demonstrates demand for new and innovative sources of funding from organisations and follows publication of the government’s Culture White Paper, which observed that social investment can help grow the sector’s resilience and sustainability.

The first Arts Impact Fund investees are:

  • South East Dance – £350,000: The Brighton based dance agency will use the loan to bridge fundraising and allow work to start on its new hub The Dance Space. The new building will provide a rental income from its studio and office space, reducing the need for public funding and supporting its work with local artists and community development programme.
  • Titchfield Festival Theatre – £150,000: Run by volunteers the theatre group will use the funding to repair and improve the functionality of one of its two venues to grow its rental income and allow it to install solar panels. Excess energy will be sold back to the grid. The improvements will support the group’s theatre education programme and free ticketing to local schools.
  • Bow Arts Trust – £600,000: A London based organisation providing affordable studio space for artists and education programmes in local schools will use a loan from the Fund to purchase and develop property on its own balance sheet. The committee approved the offer of a credit facility to Bow Arts, allowing the organisation to approach property development opportunities with financing already in place.

The three organisations will document their artistic, social and financial impact quarterly for the duration of their loans, with the Fund sharing the findings from all of the investees. As a demonstration fund, there is the potential for the model to be scaled or replicated in other sectors.

The Arts Impact Fund is giving organisations the opportunity to show how social investment can have a positive impact on the sector.  The environment in which arts and cultural organisations are operating is changing and business models need to adapt to reflect this.  As part of our work to increase the resilience of art and culture in England, we want to support organisations in exploring alternative sources of non-grant income and this is an important step in the right direction. Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England

More than 60 organisations have already applied for the Fund, spanning theatre, visual arts and music among others sectors. The Arts Impact Fund hopes to support a total of 20-30 organisations and application enquiries are invited via the website – www.artsimpactfund.co.uk. Organisations can apply for an unsecured loan ranging from £150,000 – £600,000 with an interest rate of between 4 and 7 per cent.

View the press release

Find out more about the Arts Impact Fund and the investees at www.artsimpactfund.co.uk

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RTPI: Call for Entries: Wales’ Best Place

The RTPI in Wales has issued a call for entries into Wales’ Best Places awards, so why not nominate a historic area? 

The RTPI writes:
Are you proud of the place where you were born, live or work? Do you think it has the potential to win one of our coveted 10 Wales’ Best Places awards and perhaps even be crowned the overall winner?

Wales’ Best Places is a competition designed to celebrate some of our most attractive and inspiring places. It was established to mark the centenary of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), the professional body for the UK’s planning professionals, with competitions planned to be held throughout the UK, following the first, in Scotland, which ran very successfully, followed by England last year.

Your best place in Wales could be a natural landscape, a historic town or village, a national park or a shopping area. It might be a vibrant and diverse community you are especially proud of, a special place within a city, a stunning cultural quarter or neighbourhood. You could nominate an area that has undergone significant regeneration and has been transformed by that process. Your nomination could be a place that has changed over time to meet the needs of its communities. There is no single definition of a ‘best place.’ We are leaving that up to you. A wind swept moorland, a secret cove, a business district: all could qualify. We want your suggestions.

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and its members have been working with communities for a century to help create great places for people. Each place nominated will also be judged against how it was shaped, protected or improved by planners and the planning system.

View the press release and information on how to nominate

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Reminder – IHBC members with benefits: BLF’s ‘Hot Lime’ reductions, Ecclefechan, 28-9 April!

BLF_webpageThe IHBC is supporting the two-day workshop, ‘Hot Lime’ being organised by the Building Limes Forum (BLF), hosted by the Dumfries Historic Buildings Trust on 28-9 April at Ecclefechan, near Dumfries, with limited bursaries also available and BLF member rates also being made available to IHBC members courtesy of the BLF. 

For more background see:

IHBC members with benefits: Reduced rates at BLF’s ‘Hot Lime’ workshop, Ecclefechan, 28-9 April!

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2018 to be the European Year of Cultural Heritage

Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport has publicly announced that the European Commission will propose to the EU Council and the European Parliament that 2018 will be the European Year of Cultural Heritage, in an address to the European Culture Forum in Brussels on 19 April.

View the speech 

View background information on the European Year of Cultural Heritage

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Supreme Court challenge by Councils to prevent developers ‘riding roughshod’ over over councils’ development policies’

Cheshire East Council and Suffolk Coastal District Council are launching a Supreme Court legal challenge ‘to prevent developers ‘riding roughshod’ over over councils’ development policies’. 

Cheshire East Council writes:
Cheshire East is to seek a Supreme Court ruling in a bid to protect local planning powers and prevent developers ‘riding roughshod’ over councils’ development policies.

Cheshire East Council Cabinet is spearheading a landmark ‘leave to appeal’ to the highest court in the land to challenge a Court of Appeal ruling which undermines the scope and force of council planning policies to shape development.

The aim is to maintain the significance of Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans in determining applications for development even where a Council cannot show it has the required five-years’ deliverable housing land supply identified.  The Council’s decision follows a reversal in the Court of Appeal of Cheshire East’s earlier court success that had overturned a planning inspector’s decision to grant developer Richborough Estates permission to build 146 houses at Moorfields, in Willaston.

Councillor Ainsley Arnold, Cheshire East Cabinet member for housing and planning, said: ‘We have thought about this long and hard and it is not something we do lightly. However, this court decision is too important to be allowed to go unchallenged. It is clear to us it would have deeply detrimental implications for councils across the country and their powers to protect local communities from unplanned and unsustainable development. We are a Council that puts its residents first and believe this action is necessary to protect local people, their communities and our beautiful Cheshire East countryside. Otherwise, developers will be able to ride roughshod over locally-decided development policies.’

Cheshire East’s Supreme Court legal challenge is a joint action with Suffolk Coastal District Council, which was also affected by the same High Court ruling regarding the weight, scope and force attached to council planning policies. If the two authorities are granted leave to appeal, against the court’s interpretation of paragraph 49* of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the case will likely be heard by the Supreme Court in London later this summer.

View the press release

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England’s ‘pointless’ signage to go, as LPAs gain new powers

Members who work with transport departments in highways and roads around conservation areas will be interested to learn of new powers which have just been brought in by the Department of Transport; Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) now have the right to remove unnecessary signage and reduce clutter (a move which has long been recommended by Historic England and its predecessor English Heritage in the ‘Streets for All’ guidance).

The Department of Transport writes:
New powers to tear down pointless road signs that are an eyesore and distract drivers will be given to councils next week (22 April 2016).  The number of signs on our roads, more than doubled from 2.45 million in England in 1993 to an estimated 4.57 million in 2013.  Now simpler rules are being brought in to give town halls the power to take down unnecessary signs and for the first time, signs that say ‘new’ layout ahead will have ‘remove by dates’ on the back so they are not needlessly left in place for years.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: Road signs should only be installed on our roads when they are essential. Our common-sense reforms will help get rid of pointless signs that are an eyesore and distract drivers.  These new rules will also save £30 million in taxpayers’ cash by 2020, leaving drivers with just the signs they need to travel safely.

The department has appointed Sir Alan Duncan MP to lead a task force that is looking at removing pointless signs – and this crackdown will pave the way for wider changes.  Too many signs look ugly and stop drivers seeing only essential messages. Cutting the number and size of signs will help reduce unnecessary eyesores for all road users and local residents.

Councils are responsible for signs on their local roads and are expected to save £30 million in running costs by 2020 as a result of the simpler new sign rules.  Fewer signs also need to be lit than before, which will save energy costs and light pollution. Safety signs must still be lit, for example – stop signs or signs for low bridges.

New roundabout and layout signs are sometimes left up for years – and they should be taken down within 3 months. They will now have ‘remove by’ dates on the back, so residents know when they should go and can hold their local authorities to account.

In other reforms being brought in:

  • the requirement for both a sign and a road marking has been removed in some cases – for example, a mandatory cycle lane or ‘permit holders only’ parking bay now only need to be shown with a road marking
  • only 1 sign now needs be installed to show the start of a traffic restriction such as no entry, or no left-turn if it’s safe
  • the requirement to place repeat speed limit signs has been removed – now councils can make their own decisions on how many speed limit signs are needed so that drivers know what limits apply
  • after successful trials, councils can now install new eye-level cycle traffic lights to make busy junctions easier and safer for cyclists
  • smaller sizes are now available for signs such as those aimed only at walkers and cyclists to avoid cluttering roads needlessly

View the press release

View Historic England ‘Streets for All’ information

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‘Open Doors’ for building sites: 13-18 June – UK’s best building sites open to visitors!

Between Monday 13 and Saturday 18 June some of the most prestigious building sites around the UK will be opening their doors for behind the scenes educational visits as part of a nationwide initiative to showcase construction careers, including some involving the conversion of buildings, repairs to historic buildings and new build developments. 

CITB writes:
CITB and Build UK are joining forces for a week of exclusive, behind-the-scenes events at some of the UK’s best building sites.

Open Doors gives access to dozens of construction projects to inspire people to choose a career in construction and take the next steps to progress into the industry.

From future architects, bricklayers and civil engineers to potential front-of-house sales managers, visitors of all ages and skill sets can get on site at Open Doors events between Monday 13 and Saturday 18 June.

Projects that will be opening their doors include London’s Design Museum, a Proton Beam Therapy Centre in Manchester, a children’s hospital in Edinburgh and a state-of-the-art school and sports facility in south Wales. Once on site, visitors will find out exactly what it takes to create the iconic buildings of the future. They will then be encouraged to find out more about construction at the industry’s careers website – Go Construct. 

Suzannah Nichol, Build UK Chief Executive, said: ‘The construction industry is in a war for talent so we are delighted to be running Open Doors in partnership with CITB.  It’s an exciting chance for anyone seeking a future career, a new challenge, or a change of direction to see first-hand what construction has to offer.  We look forward to welcoming people of all ages onto our member sites in June.’ 

Lorraine Gregory, CITB Partnerships Manager, said: ‘Open Doors is an excellent way of inspiring people to consider a career in construction. And it’s a key part of how CITB is supporting the construction industry through Go Construct. Over 230,000 new construction jobs will be created across Britain by 2020 and this is a great way to showcase some of them. Potential new entrants will get an exclusive opportunity to see first-hand what it’s like to work in the industry and what a rewarding career construction can be.’

View the press release and information on how to book

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Enforcement news- Snowdonia National Park

The Daily Post has reported on the case of a cottage which has been the subject of enforcement notices following redevelopment works which were considered to differ from approved plans, potentially damaging the character of the National Park.

View the Daily Post Article– ‘Snowdonia cottage owner ordered to undo unauthorised changes to 19th century property’

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Mayor of London unveils replica of Palmyra’s Triumphal Arch

A temporary structure was on display in Trafalgar Square in London for World Heritage Week which formed a 3D printed scan of Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph. 

The Mayor of London Press Office writes:
Come to see a reproduction of Palmyra’s Triumphal Arch standing proud in Trafalgar Square. This important Roman ceremonial arch, which stood in the ancient Syrian city, was sadly destroyed last year.

The large-scale installation is presented by the Institute for Digital Archaeology as part of World Heritage Week 2016.

The project will show how new technology can be used to help preserve ancient culture. When 3D printing is combined with laser machining techniques, the results are amazing. It’s a great way to recreate objects and structures of the ancient world, bringing them to life for the wider public to see.

As well as the arch, there will be exhibitions and workshops to explore the importance of these artefacts and what they mean to people and society.

View the news item

View a BBC news article on the unveiling

View a short video of the unveiling

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61% of MP’s believe planning fees should increase

A poll carried out for the British Property Federation (BPF) concludes that the majority of MP’s think that fees for planning services should increase.

The British Property Federation (BPF) writes:
Results of a poll released today have shown that the majority of MPs believe that fees for planning applications should increase. 

The ComRes poll, commissioned by the British Property Federation (BPF), shows that three in five (61%) MPs broadly agree that fees should increase, with around half (47%) saying that they should increase with stronger guarantees on planning performance. The results reveal cross-party support for an increase in fees, with two thirds of Labour (65%) and three in five Conservative (61%) MPs supporting the idea.

The results show that Parliamentarians recognise that there is a problem, alongside the property industry and local authorities. The BPF and GL Hearn’s 2015 Annual Planning Survey revealed that 55% of local planning authorities perceived under-resourcing to be a significant challenge, and that approximately two thirds (65%) of applicants are happy to pay more to shorten waiting times.

The government has taken some steps to address this problem, proposing to allow local authorities to outsource the processing of planning applications and to reward well-performing local authorities by allowing them to increase planning fees by an inflationary increase, but the BPF has warned that these steps will not go far enough.

Responding to a government consultation on the technical planning changes set out in the Housing & Planning Bill, that closes today, the BPF has welcomed the government’s recognition of the fact that local authorities ‘are struggling to provide the service required by applicants’, but cautions that the measures suggested will not be enough to plug the skills gap.  

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, commented: ‘The public and private sectors have both been very clear about the need for more resourcing in local authority planning departments, and we now know that there is political understanding of this issue as well. We are supportive of the small steps that government is taking to address this, but are not holding out hope for any great impact. Some local authority planning departments are simply short staffed, putting those who remain under enormous strain. Outsourcing the processing of planning applications is likely to relieve this burden to an extent, but it is not going to solve the chronic shortage of skills and resource that is the true problem.’

View the press release

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DCLG issues new PD rights booklet

The new edition of a booklet explaining permitted development (PD) rights for householders in England has been published this week by DCLG.

DCLG writes:
Permitted development rights allow householders to improve and extend their homes without the need to apply for planning permission where that would be out of proportion with the impact of works carried out.

This technical guidance has been produced to help homeowners understand how they can exercise their rights to carry out development while protecting the interests of their neighbours and the wider environment. It is designed to be used by anyone who wants to understand more about the detailed rules on householder permitted development and the terms used in those rules.

View the news release and booklet

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