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Adams Hendry Planning & Built Environment News Round-Up - 3rd October 2018

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


This week’s round-up includes an update from the housing minister on the new ONS population projections, the proposed consultation on a new permitted development right, and a story on the ‘flood’ of new phone boxes in London.


Malthouse: Population uncertainty ‘not excuse to take foot off pedal’ (Place North West)

“The housing minister has described figures released by the Office for National Statistics which reduced population projections and housing targets as “very weird”, and said the Government was undertaking “urgent work” to look at the issue in order to release further guidance.

In July, population projections released by the ONS showed a slower rate of growth nationally than expected. These then had a knock-on impact on the Sub National Housing Figures announced last week, which saw the number of homes supposedly needed across the country also reduced.

Speaking to Place North West, Kit Malthouse, minister for housing, said the ONS had revealed “weird results”.

“We are taking an urgent look at these figures, because there are various issues with how they’ve been calculated, one of which being the period they’ve used to project from being one of slow growth. For instance Cambridge, a very high growth area, has been told it needs no more homes, which is ridiculous.

“The Government will be releasing guidance around this and we absolutely don’t want people to take their foot off the [housing delivery] accelerator.”


Brokenshire to consult on upwards extensions PD right (The Planner - Requires Log-in)

“The government is to consult on a new permitted development right to allow property owners to extend certain buildings upwards as part of new measures announced yesterday at the Conservative Party conference.

The announcements, which also include clearer guidance for communities when land is needed for new towns, and more flexibility for local authorities to dispose of surplus land to accommodate new homes, appear in a statement timed to follow the speech made yesterday by the Secretary of State for Housing and Local Communities.

Speaking in Birmingham, James Brokenshire reiterated the government’s aspiration of seeing 300,000 homes a year being built, calling the newly announced measures “further plans to speed up the planning system”. The government will introduce “more flexibility to extend upwards on existing blocks of flats, shops and offices making better use of space by increasing housing density.”

Brokenshire spoke of the need “to be smarter on how we use land and the space available… prioritising brownfield but also looking at land that’s already been built on.”

The proposals subsequently published include plans to "permit people to build up on existing buildings rather than build out to use more precious land and give councils greater powers to deliver the garden communities of the future".”

Habitats Directive: what mitigation can be taken into account?
 (Local Government Lawyer)

“In April 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued a controversial decision in the case of People Over Wind, Peter Sweetman v Coillte Teoranta (C-323/17). The ruling confirmed that proposed mitigation measures cannot be taken into account for the purposes of screening under the UK Habitats Regulations, which give effect to the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC).

A further ruling by the ECJ in July clarified the distinction between mitigatory and compensatory measures and when in the assessment process under the Habitats Directive each should be considered (Grace v An Bord Pleanala (C-164/17)).

A more recent UK High Court ruling in August (R (on the application of Langton) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Natural England [2018] EWHC 2190 Admin) confirmed that conditions on badger cull licences were not mitigation measures and therefore could be taken into account for the purposes of habitats screening.

Some commentators have pointed out that the Sweetman ruling will discourage developers from considering mitigation measures at an early stage, since this will now be dealt with at a later stage following appropriate assessment. In practice, developers may end up attempting to design mitigation measures in such a way that they also have another purpose within the scheme to enable them to be considered as an “integral” part of a development proposal rather than purely as measures designed for the purpose of avoiding or reducing an effect on a European site.

Interestingly, on 15 August 2018, in the case of Langton, the High Court ruled that conditions on badger cull licences preventing badger culling near a Special Protection Area or at certain times of year should not be classed as mitigation measures as described in the Sweetman ruling.

The judge ruled that these licence conditions were properly characterised as “integral features of the project” and could therefore be relied on for the purposes of habitats screening. His reasoning was that it would be "contrary to common sense for Natural England to assume that culling would take place at times and places where the applicants did not propose to do so” because of the conditions on the licence (paras 155-157). This is hopefully a sign that a pragmatic approach to the issue will be taken by the domestic courts in future.


Further clarification on the definition of ‘mitigation measures’ by the ECJ would be helpful.”


On Crowded London Streets, Councils Fight a Flood of Phone Boxes (The New York Times)

“The British telephone box is not dead yet. In parts of central London, a box stands sentinel every 100 feet — and if phone companies got their way, they’d plant one every 50 feet.

But these are not the red cast-iron cubicles that for generations were emblems of Britain. Instead, critics say, they are eyesores, covered in digital ad screens and capable of being turned into surveillance posts.

Worst of all, perhaps, some are being imported from New York.

The result is a battle over Britain’s public space, waged between local city planners and telecommunications firms. The most contentious fight is in Westminster, in the heart of London, where new phone kiosks are being squished between construction barriers and bus stops on crowded streets.

The classic red booths, with domed roofs and molded royal crowns, were rendered obsolete by the rise of mobile phones. Yet, phone companies never relinquished their rights to the sidewalk. Under British rules that have effectively been in place since before the iPhone existed, phone boxes are still considered vital infrastructure, and companies with proper licenses can keep building them so long as local councils cannot credibly object to the particular site or design.

And so the phone companies set about to put up a new kind of booth: two-sided digital displays with internet connectivity and touch-screen maps that flash craft beer and credit card ads — and also have a phone attached.

“A lot of them are advertising totems with a telephone handset on it,” said John Walker, the director of planning for Westminster City Council. “They’re just a blot on the landscape.”

Some councils are being flooded with phone box proposals at numbers 900 percent higher than a few years ago, according to an association of councils in England and Wales. Companies have submitted proposals for 300 new and replacement kiosks in the last two years in Westminster alone, where the boxes already stand six to a block on a stretch of busy Edgware Road…”


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