More Pickles on places: Suffolk solar approved; Cornish blocked

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has changed his stance and approved planning permission for Lark Energy’s proposed 24 megawatt solar farm on Ellough Airfield in Suffolk originally refused by Waveney District Council and initially blocked by him.

The scheme, originally a 30MW array, was refused by Pickles against the advice of the inspector who held the recovered appeal hearing.

However, a subsequent High Court ruling quashed the Secretary of State’s decision and a second inquiry took place.

In the meantime, the solar developer obtained planning permission from the local planning authority for a 14MW solar farm on the northern part of the former airfield. That scheme is currently operating.

This time round the Secretary of State agreed with the inspector that the benefits of the scheme outweighed the limited adverse impact on the settings of nearby listed buildings and the local landscape.

His decision letter said: ‘The significant benefits of the proposal outweigh the limited harm to the character and appearance of the countryside.’

In a separate move, Pickles has dismissed an appeal over a 6.2MW solar farm proposed for a site at St Erth, near Hayle in Cornwall. The scheme had been refused by Cornwall Council. The inspector who held the recovered appeal also recommended refusal.

Pickles agreed with the inspector that the impact of the scheme on nearby homes would be so ‘visually oppressive and overbearing’ that the dwellings would become unattractive places to live in.

Suffolk case details

Cornish case details

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Community right of appeal championed by new alliance

The National Association of Local Councils, CPRE and Civic Voice have teamed up to call for political parties to include the community right of appeal within their manifestos.

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) writes:
A new powerful alliance of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and Civic Voice has called on all political parties to make a firm manifesto commitment to introduce a community right of appeal into the planning system.

The alliance believes that all political parties should support local ambitions by introducing a limited community right of appeal in areas where a development is non-compliant with a neighbourhood plan or local plan. Currently parish councils and other community groups have the power to produce neighbourhood plans, but no scope to stop developers overriding this by putting in speculative planning applications for approval by the district council. Budget cuts within local authorities mean that they are under increasing pressure to allow large developments, even when these are not in line with the community’s aspirations for the future of its area.

The call was made on 14 March 2014 at the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference where the three organisations have joined together with Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham Martin Horwood aMP to hold a debate on the benefits of such a right.

Martin Horwood said: ‘the introduction of a Community Right of Appeal could be triggered when a high threshold of community opposition was reached. Grounds for appeal could include insufficient infrastructure, non-compliance with government guidance and non-compliance with a local neighbourhood plan. We can all think of examples across Cheltenham when this right could have been used and there must be thousands across the Country.’

CPRE chief executive, Shaun Spiers said: ‘The planning system needs to be rebalanced to give communities the right to stand up to bullying developers and appeal against planning decisions which ignore local or neighbourhood plans. The grounds on which developers can appeal should be restricted and a limited community right of appeal introduced. The vast majority of planning applications would be unaffected by such measures, but they would provide important safeguards to ensure communities can resist unsustainable development proposals.’

Freddie Gick, chair of Civic Voice said: ‘At present, the only recourse for the public against poor planning decisions is judicial review. A right of appeal would give local people a real opportunity to have a say and would rebalance the planning system and help deliver true localism.’

NALC chairman, Cllr Ken Browse said: ‘The voice of local people through the local (town and parish) councils should always be at the heart of planning. To some extent this is being achieved through the statutory neighbourhood plan. But communities via local councils feel that their planning demands are being ignored and there is still the potential for developers to try and ride roughshod against the neighbourhood plan. So a ‘right of appeal’ would stop this planning injustice.’

The three organisations have published their own individual manifestos and are each calling for a community right of appeal within them.

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DCLG: Planning condition and consultation reforms

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has published its responses to recent consultations on the use of planning conditions, the consent process for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs) and changes to statutory consultee arrangements.

Planning Portal writes:
As a result DCLG, has decided to amend secondary legislation so it can introduce an additional requirement for local authorities to justify the use of pre-commencement planning conditions. It has also confirmed it will reduce the time limit for fee refunds in respect of confirmation of compliance with planning conditions from 12 to eight weeks.

However, it has decided for the time being not to go-head with its proposal to require councils to share draft planning conditions with applicants before deciding major planning applications.

Under the regime for NSIPs developers can ask the Government to make a single development consent order (DCO) for large infrastructure projects, removing the requirement to obtain other planning authorisations.

Under changes just announced applicants will have the choice to include in any DCO consents which involve discharges for works purposes and trade effluents without first obtaining agreement from the relevant consenting bodies.

Similar provision would be made for obtaining European protected species licences for the construction phase of NSIPs, DCLG said. This would take place ‘early in the next Parliament, when a suitable legislative vehicle is identified’.

The department said that the streamlining of consents for flood defences, water abstraction, water impoundment and ground water investigation would follow ‘between 2015 and 2017’. It has not yet decided whether these consents would form part of the DCO process or the environmental permit regime.

In addition, DCLG has now agreed changes to statutory consultee arrangements in respect of lead local flood authorities in respect of major planning applications with surface water drainage implications.

In addition, it has agreed the removal or alteration of a number of statutory consultation requirements affecting the Environment Agency.

The department has also signaled it plans to go-ahead with moves to make water companies statutory consultees in respect of shale oil and gas developments. This includes fracking.

See the response

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20th Century Society Churches database

The 20th Century society has launched a new database of churches, with photographs and historical information in a project grant aided by Historic England.

View information on the project 

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IEA calls for green belt reform

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think tank have responded to recent Government announcements regarding housebuilding by calling for further changes to planning legislation

The IEA writes:
Mark Littlewood, Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said ‘Constraining housebuilding through artificial boundaries such as green belt restrictions is a key reason why house prices in the UK are very high and new homes increasingly small. Yet again, instead of reforming planning for all, politicians are trying to plan where new homes should be built and micro-manage the damage caused by existing regulations which hamper private sector housebuilding. Ultimately people, not governments, need to decide where homes should be built.

The potential gains from planning liberalisation are well documented: lower housing costs, a reduced cost of many goods and services, a better functioning labour market, and higher productivity and wages. It’s high time our politicians showed an appetite for taking on the vested interests opposed to reform.’

View the IEA news release

IHBC newsblogs on housing

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THA Giving to Heritage Success

The Heritage Alliance reports that its successful ‘Giving to heritage’ programme has trained over 350 organisations to date, and 18 new events are now available to book.

The Heritage Alliance writes:
A total of 36 workshops on 10 different fundraising subjects have been held across the country. Together with the 11 consultancy and support days, this means that no less than 350 different heritage organisations have attended at least one training event. It is also good to see so many heritage organisations coming to multiple events, which is strongly encouraged. Feedback has been very positive, and it is encouraging to see some fundraising successes coming through already.

Our mentoring scheme was over-subscribed and we had some excellent applications. The chosen applicants have been informed and the scheme starts at the end of March.

There are still some places available on the remaining workshops:

  • 24th March: London, Stephens House and Gardens, ‘Audience Analysis and Marketing your Organisation’
  • 27th April: Norwich Castle, ‘Corporate Partnerships’
  • 30th April: Lancaster Friends Meeting House, ‘Fundraising in the Community’

.…and there are also places available on the last consultancy and support day, 24 March

View information on the programme 

The Heritage Alliance website

IHBC newsblogs on funding

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John Darlington new Executive Director at WMF Britain

World Monuments Fund (WMF) Britain has announced the appointment of John Darlington as Executive Director.

John Darlington joins from the National Trust where he was Regional Director, North West of England. In this position John championed a diverse portfolio of high profile projects at places ranging from mansions such as Dunham Massey, Lyme Park and Little Moreton Hall, to the mountains and countryside of the Lake District, creating partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders including the local communities.

John is passionate about conserving and protecting historically important heritage for the benefit of all. With a special interest in medieval monasteries and castles, John is also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries as well as a Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists.

Pierre Valentin, Chairman of WMF Britain, said ‘John Darlington brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to WMFB as the organisation celebrates its 50 anniversary. We look forward to continuing to support iconic buildings under John’s leadership.’

John said ‘I’m absolutely delighted to be joining World Monuments Fund Britain. Our cultural heritage is not only a critical part of who we are today but also of our future. I am looking forward to working with the Trustees, the team and partners to build on WMFB’s successes and to continue to grow our reach, relevance and impact for generations to come.’

John will assume his position in June 2015.

For additional information please contact WMFB Project and Publicity Officer Sophie Buchanan on 0207 251 8142 or email sophie@wmf.org.uk

For more on the World Monuments Fund Britain see www.wmf.org.uk

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IHBC’s 2015 Gus Astley Student Award reminder: £500 cash!

IHBC GASA Award Ceremony

GASA Award Ceremony

The UK’s most inclusive award for taught coursework relating to the past and future of valued places – The Institute of Historic Building Conservation’s (IHBC) 2015 Annual Gus Astley Student Award – is still open for submissions, with a closing date of 31 July 2015 and offering the chance of a cash award of £500 as well as places at the IHBC’s Annual School in 2016!

IHBC Chair Mike Brown said: ‘The award is one of the highlights of the IHBC’s calendar, and we are always delighted to welcome the winner to our Annual School, as well as those commended runners up of course!  Indeed the winners from the 2014 award have been especially fortunate as they’ll have the chance to join us next June in Norwich where we’ll explore the ‘Conservation and the diversity of place’.  Their contributions to this challenging topic will be especially welcome’.

IHBC Director Seán O’Reilly said: ‘Lecturers, trainers and educators on UK’s taught courses should be sure to circulate this news across their student and training networks, and remember that relevant disciplines range from history, heritage skills and management, to planning, regeneration and design.’

IHBC Education Secretary David McDonald said: ‘It’s great that the IHBC can continue to develop this award in a way that reflects the efforts of the applicants as well as their tutors and course leaders.  It’s a great honour for all involved, and a real privilege to see all that great work being properly celebrated.’

‘And do note too just how inclusive our Award is: you don’t have to be a member of the IHBC to enter, and all you need do is submit, digitally, relevant coursework that you think does credit to you and your course.  It could not be easier to participate.’

IHBC Education Vice Chair and Gus Astley Fund trustee Bob Kindred MBE said: ‘With its inter-disciplinary standing and international cachet, alongside the incredibly high standard of so much of the work by the students, it is great to be able to offer real incentives and awards to those hard-working students, learners and career-changers that will be at the heart of our discipline in the future.’

For a chance to win a £500 cash prize, applicants should submit digital versions of work assessed on taught courses that end in July 2014 or 2015.  Free places at the IHBC’s Annual School, valued at around £500, are also offered to the winner and any commended entrants so they can receive their prizes in person at the IHBC’s School Dinner in June of each year.

Eligible course work may cover any aspect of places, buildings, features or areas that relates to the past or future of the built and historic environment.  Entries may cover history, heritage site management and planning, new architecture or investigative research. There are no restrictions on discipline, type of taught coursework, group numbers or age. The only requirements for eligibility are that the entry should represent a relevant and quality submission assessed as part of a UK taught course and that it be completed in the academic years ending in July 2014 or 2015.

The entry (or an appropriate digital record of the entry if it is not in a digitised format) must be submitted using the IHBC’s online procedures from the Award’s website.

Should the entry be selected for an award by the judge, the IHBC will require authentication by the relevant tutor.

The IHBC Award website gives full details on the process and terms of the award, including how to submit digitally in accordance with our guidelines which may be downloaded from HERE

Download Awards flyer

IHBC newsblogs on the Gus Astley Student Award

IHBC’s 2014 School, attended by the winner of the 2013 Award

See more about our 2015 IHBC Annual School

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DCLG: Digital remedy for a healthy high street

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has said that, according to a new report, ‘Digital High Street Report 2020’ High Streets could make billions of pounds in additional revenue and increase footfall by making more of the latest digital technology.

DCLG writes:
High streets could make billions of pounds in additional revenue and increase footfall by making more of the latest digital technology available to small shopkeepers, a new report by industry leaders has found.

The Digital High Street Report 2020 found that local businesses and independent traders are missing a trick by not keeping up with the digitally savvy modern shopper and using more free and low cost digital technologies.

The independent report – initiated by government and the Future High Streets Forum – proposes the creation of a new high street ‘laboratory’ which would provide a one-stop-shop where small shopkeepers, businesses and communities can get advice on what they need to do to get digital.

A number of other recommendations have been made that could support town centres to be more thriving places people want to visit, work and shop in by the report’s author.

John Walden, chief executive of Home Retail Group, which owns Argos, and Future High Streets Forum member has made proposals that include:

  • the first UK High Street Digital Health Index, an interactive benchmark to assess the digital health of towns and councils across key measures including infrastructure, basic digital skills, high street attraction and digital engagement
  • plans for town centre infrastructure and connectivity for 2020 and beyond, including broadband, mobile and WiFi
  • a High Street Digital Laboratory to provide ready to use digital tools, dedicated digital skills training, as well as a network of digital apprenticeships for every UK town centre
  • a goal to eliminate the gap in basic digital skills by 2020 for individuals, small businesses and charities

High Streets Minister Penny Mordaunt welcomed the report and said the laboratory could be invaluable in continuing the reinvigoration of shopping streets and help small businesses make the most of their potential.

It has potential to help them expand their reach and drive people to the high street and help them compete with big businesses and is an idea worth looking at more closely.

Independent experts will now be appointed to advise on how the ‘Digital Laboratory’ and the ‘High Street Digital Health Index’ could give small traders the training, advice and skills they need to compete and to provide advice to communities on the infrastructure they need in place.

High Streets Minister Penny Mordaunt said: ‘High streets contribute billions of pounds to the economy and we know digital is the way forward so it is vitally important traders and town centres keep up with the way people shop if they are to continue to thrive.  The new digital laboratory is one idea that could ensure small businesses have the tools and skills they need to compete with the big players. We want to future proof our high streets so they can remain at the heart the community for decades to come.’

Minister for the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey said: ‘I welcome the work of the Digital High Street Board and the leadership of John Walden in compiling this report. There is no doubting the importance of thriving high streets to the economic health of towns and villages throughout the UK. I am convinced technology can play a part in helping make high streets more relevant and accessible in today’s and future modern high streets.  This report is an important contribution to considering how best to ensure a bright future for the UK’s fast changing high streets.’

John Walden, Chief Executive of Home Retail Group, and Chairman of The Digital High Streets Advisory Board, said: ‘The digital revolution is arguably the most disruptive factor affecting our communities, but its effects are not often considered central to high street revitalisation. Many members of UK town centres are struggling to keep up with consumers in terms of their digital capabilities, and given the pace of digital growth many towns lack sufficient infrastructure and basic digital skills. I believe that the business-oriented Board has provided recommendations that, taken together, can restore our high streets to vibrancy in a digital future, into 2020 and beyond.’

Director of Google UK Peter Fitzgerald said: ‘Today, the vast majority of UK shoppers research online before they buy from a store. This means that every business is a digital business because every consumer is a digital consumer. We hope that this report will be a first step towards improving digital access and expertise among small businesses and help them grow faster and reach more customers.’

The government is committed to supporting high streets as part of its long-term economic plan and has provided local shops and businesses with a billion pound package of investment. It also backed the hugely popular Great British High Street competition that saw towns and villages across the UK battling it out for the coveted title of best high street.

A renewed focus on our high streets has led to a revival in many areas across the UK with latest figures showing that year-on-year average weekly retail sales increased by 4.8% in January.

This was the 23rd consecutive month of retail sales growth and the longest period of sustained year-on-year growth since May 2008. In addition, overall vacancy rates are now at their lowest level since 2010, and reoccupation rates for the high street are much higher, at 70%, than they are for shopping centres or retail parks.

A new online action pack is the latest in a line of government-backed initiatives to revive our high streets, including targeted business rate discounts, sensible planning changes and action that reins in over-zealous parking practices.

Read the report

Online action pack

UK Gov article

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Housing appeal dismissed for landscape impact

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has dismissed an appeal by Gladman Developments over a 94—home scheme proposed for a field in community use in open countryside on the edge of Faringdon in Oxfordshire refused by the Vale of the White Horse District Council.

Planning Portal writes:
The inspector who held the appeal, recovered because of its impact on the emerging Faringdon Neighbourhood Plan, had recommended the appeal should be allowed.

The appeal site was in open countryside across a prominent hillside which Pickles acknowledged was ‘a valued landscape’ and as such ought to be protected according to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The Communities Secretary also gave ‘moderate weight’ to the harm the development would cause to the amenity value of the field, which he was satisfied was ‘a valued open community space’ and the subject of a separate application to the county council as a town green.

Unlike the inspector, Pickles gave ‘little weight’ to policies in the emerging neighbourhood plan that identified the site as ‘local green space’ and would restrict development outside the current town boundary because he noted the final detail of the plan was unresolved as an independent examiner had published a report after the appeal inquiry ended recommending those policies were deleted from the neighbourhood plan which was not yet the subject of a referendum.

Pickles agreed with the inspector that the lack of a demonstrable five-year supply of housing land in the district added ‘significant weight’ in favour of allowing the appeal and that the provision of 40 per cent affordable housing was ‘a significant benefit’.

However he dismissed the appeal after concluding that ‘the adverse impacts in regard to landscape and amenities, together, would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against the policies in the NPPF taken as a whole’.

Access the decision letter

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EH launches survey on direct publications

English Heritage directly publishes a diverse range of paid and free publications used by heritage professionals, academics and interested members of the public.

These include Heritage Counts, Conservation Bulletin, Designation Yearbook, Heritage at Risk Register and guides to EH properties.

The survey asks for questions on these, and how in the future you would like access them (electronic download, paper copy, web page etc.), and how they can be improved.

English Heritage is using the survey to make decisions about the future direction of its publications.

Access the survey 

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Ordnance Survey: send across your heritage photos!

Ordnance Survey (OS) has launched a National Map Cover Photo competition, offering the chance to put your photo on their local area maps.

Ordnance Survey is looking to update the covers on more than 600 different OS maps, which are seen, bought and collected by millions of people nationwide. Winners will also get a year’s free subscription to its online map service and the best overall entry will win a family holiday in the UK.

Junior entrants have the chance to get their photo on one of the OS tour maps as well as the opportunity to win an Apple Ipad Mini for the overall best entry.

Once your photos have been entered into the competition, the public will have the opportunity to vote for their favourite.

For more information and to enter a photo, see the Ordnance Survey website

See the OS article on how OS maps can be used for urban exploration

For the OS see https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk

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PINs advice note on development consent regime

The Planning Inspectorate has issued a replacement advice note 2 which sets out ‘the role of local authorities in the development consent process’.

The PINs note discourages local authorities carrying out their own consultation on forthcoming applications, so as not to confuse the consultees, and suggests developing Supplementary Planning Guidance for larger nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs).

The advice sets out when a second Statement of Community Consultation might be advisable.

Local authorities are warned that the pre-application and examination stages won’t be structured around their committee cycles and they will have to have appropriate schemes of delegation in place.

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