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Adams Hendry Planning & Built Environment News Round-Up - January 2020

The Adams Hendry News Round-Up highlights recent news and commentary relating to planning and the built environment.


This month’s round-up includes the key pledges from the Queen’s Speech and the links between ecology and mental health in our cities. Also articles featuring high-street funding and whether a Hampshire Hobbit-House is innovative design.


Nine Key Planning Pledges in the Queen’s Speech (Wilding. M - Planning Resource)

“A planning white paper will be published in the coming months. In a briefing note published alongside the Queen's Speech, the government said the white paper is intended to "make the planning process clearer, more accessible and more certain for all users, including homeowners and small businesses".” 

“Planning powers will be devolved to a new wave of elected mayors across England. The policy will be included in a forthcoming devolution white paper, the government said, outlining a "strategy for expanding the benefits of devolution across England, as well as putting more trust in local people to choose what is best for their communities". Promising "full devolution" across England...” 

“The government "is committed to building at least a million more homes over this Parliament". This target reiterates a promise in the Conservative election manifesto. The manifesto also said the party would continue to "progress towards our target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s"...” 

“The Environment Bill will return to Parliament. The bill was originally introduced to Parliament in the autumn but was withdrawn when the general election was called. Policies include a mandatory requirement for developers to secure an overall ten per cent biodiversity net gain in all new schemes...” 

“A National Infrastructure Strategy will be published alongside the government’s first Budget. The government said the strategy will set out plans for £100 billion of infrastructure investment and provide details on long-term plans for "all areas of economic infrastructure including transport, local growth, decarbonisation, digital infrastructure, infrastructure finance and delivery".”


Biodiversity and Our Brains: How Ecology and Mental Health go Together in our Cities (Myers. Z -The Conversation) 

“Mental health in our cities is an increasingly urgent issue. Rates of disorders such as anxiety and depression are high. Urban design and planning can promote mental health by refocusing on spaces we use in our everyday lives...” 

“Physical activity is still the mainstay of urban planning efforts to enable healthy behaviours. Mental well-being is then a hoped-for byproduct of opportunities for exercise and social interaction. 

Neuroscientific research and tools now allow us to examine more deeply some of the ways in which individuals experience spaces and natural elements. This knowledge can greatly add to, and shift, the priorities and direction of urban design and planning.” 

“A large body of research has compellingly shown that “nature” in its many forms and contexts can have direct benefits on mental health. Unfortunately, the extent and diversity of natural habitats in our cities are decreasing rapidly. Too often “nature” – by way of green space and “POS” (Public Open Space) – is still seen as something separate from other parts of our urban neighbourhoods. Regeneration efforts often focus on large green corridors. But even small patches of genuinely biodiverse nature can re-invite and sustain multitudes of plant and animal species” 

“Research shows us biodiverse nature has particular positive benefit for mental well-being. Multi-sensory elements such as bird or frog sounds or wildflower smells have well-documented beneficial effects on mental restoration...Beyond brain imaging of experiences in nature, there is growing and compelling evidence that contact with diverse microbiomes in the soil and air has a profound effect on depression and anxiety.” 

“These converging illustrations suggest biodiverse urban nature is a priority for promoting mental health. Our job as designers and planners is therefore to multiply opportunities to interact with these areas in tangible ways... This knowledge challenges the standardised planning of nature spaces and monocultured plantings in our cities. Neuroscience can therefore support urban designers and planners in allowing for more flexibility and authenticity of nature in urban areas.”

14 Areas to Receive Funding for High Streets (Edgar. L – The Planner) [requires subscription]

“The government has announced the first 14 of 20 pilot areas in England that will receive funding and tailored advice that aims to ‘rejuvenate’ town centres. The High Streets Task Force will work with the towns. The first 101 places that will benefit from up to £25 million each were named last summer. These next 14 towns are also part of the government’s £3.6 billion Towns Fund, which invests in towns and high streets.”

  • Salford - Swinton Town centre
  • Croydon - Thornton Heath
  • Staffordshire Moorlands - Cheadle
  • Rushmoor - Aldershot Town Centre
  • Birmingham - Stirchley
  • Hyndburn – Accrington Town Centre
  • South Lakeland - Kendal
  • Preston - Friargate
  • Coventry - Coventry City Centre
  • Hartlepool - Hartlepool Town Centre
  • Cheshire West and Chester - Ellesmere Port Town Centre
  • Sandwell - West Bromwich Town Centre
  • Knowsley - Huyton Town Centre
  • Manchester - Withington District Centre

“Central to the mission of this new government is levelling up towns and regions, ensuring prosperity and opportunity are available to everyone. Over the course of 2020, we will invest hundreds of millions into projects to transform our town centres and support bespoke plans to meet the needs of individual local communities.”


Funding Doubles for Residential Charge Points (Sharman. L – Local Gov)

“The funding for the installation of charge points will be doubled to £10m next year, providing 3,600 more charge points across the country.”

 “The Government has also announced plans to publish real-time information on where people can charge their electric car and which charge points are currently being used.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘We want to make electric cars the new normal, and ensuring drivers have convenient places to charge is key to that.”

“Cllr David Renard, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman, said: ‘The Government’s announcement will double funding for on-street residential charge points and is an important step forward.” ... “For councils to do more to improve air quality and tackle climate change, the Government needs to also look at all aspects of transport, including demand management, and the role of public transport, cycling and walking.’”


Appeal: Paragraph 79 ‘Hobbit House’ is Not Innovative (Moody. M – The Planner) [requires subscription]

“Plans for a partially subterranean semicircular ‘Hobbit house’ to the rear of an existing row of houses in Hampshire would be neither ‘isolated’ nor ‘innovative’, an inspector has ruled, criticising its ‘awkward’ appearance.”

“The appeal concerned an undeveloped area of open grassland to the rear of a row of detached homes in Burridge, a small village between Southampton and Fareham. The appellant sought permission to build a partially subterranean ‘Hobbit house’ on the site. The large semicircular single-storey building would sit around 1.5 metres below ground, with the excavated land used to form a metre-high bank to its rear. The inner walls of the building would be glazed, encircling an inner courtyard area that would feature a transplanted tree.”

“As well as failing to meet local policy criteria for development outside of settlement boundaries, [the inspector] noted, the site was also not “isolated” for the purposes of NPPF paragraph 79. Notwithstanding its location, the appellant argued that the scheme would accord with paragraph 79 through its “exceptional design”. [The Inspector] was not persuaded, noting that while the environmentally sustainable design approach the appellant had taken was “a positive aspect of the scheme”, it could not be considered innovative because “such techniques are commonly utilised elsewhere”.”


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Suzanne Pidgeon 01962 877414 | s.pidgeon@adamshendry.co.uk