Planning matters

Our award winning blog gives a fresh perspective on the latest trends in planning and development.

Planning for inward investment in a world of uncertainty
A fundamental role of planning is to provide land of the right type in the right location to balance the need for new development with the interests of local communities and the wider public. The key challenge though is to recognise current and emerging growth opportunities and ensure that local plans are sufficiently flexible to be able to accommodate the full spectrum of opportunities, from small scale extensions and change of use through to identifying strategic sites capable of accommodating inward investment from external sources.The recent chain of events triggered by the UK’s decision to leave the EU has placed a renewed focus on how localities position themselves for economic growth and ensuring that the various planning systems across the UK are ‘fit-for-purpose’ to secure future prosperity.Inward investment represents just one source of growth and development, yet it remains one of the more challenging to quantify and plan for, given its ‘footloose’ nature. The extent to which local areas can actively plan for – and successfully capture – inward investment can also vary considerably across the country.To explore how planning for inward investment works in local areas and how local partners can be more pro-active in securing these opportunities, NLP recently carried out a survey of local planning authorities (LPAs) and local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) across England. The key messages are presented in our new research report Invest to Grow and are summarised below: Growth begins at home: 88% of LPA and 100% of LEP respondents thought working with existing businesses and investors was a particularly effective way of supporting and encouraging inward investment in a local area, underlining the valuable role that domestic investors play in expanding their existing presence within the UK. ‘Oven-ready’ sites are crucial: The most significant barrier to attracting and securing inward investment comes from the various factors that hold up development, such as infrastructure costs required to make sites ‘oven ready’ for development - this was cited as a significant barrier by 83% of LPAs and 100% of LEPs. Planning can have a role to play in shaping the strategy and funding mechanisms required to help overcome these barriers and unlock development opportunities ready for investment. Clarity on inward investment strategies: Global competition for inward investment can be fierce and within the UK a handful of sectors are repeatedly being targeted by local areas, for example through the designation of Enterprise Zones and through allocated City Deal funding (see Figure below). This makes it increasingly important for local areas to develop their strategies around their indigenous sector strengths, clusters and ‘USPs’. Work together: A 4.good level of awareness exists amongst LPAs and LEPs of the strategy for inward investment in their area and supporting local growth, but a third of LEPs and 60% of LPAs thought there was room for more collaboration between their respective organisations on planning for inward investment. This suggests there is significant scope for more effective, joined-up working between partners. Drawing on best practice examples, we have identified a series of critical success factors that local partners could use to shape appropriate planning policy responses to inward investment opportunities in their area. This distils the opportunity into three broad typologies (described below) and provides a useful way of thinking about how the planning system can more pro-actively target and help capture inward investment within the overall ambit of planning for growth.‘Grow your own’ – the first typology - refers to companies that already have a UK base and have scope to expand their operations either in the same location and/or elsewhere across the country. Responding to this opportunity is all about taking the time to understand and nurture an existing business base, ensuring they have the support they need to become more embedded within a local economy and being responsive to expansion and development plans to ensure that their growth can be accommodated.    Source: NLP Analysis ‘Catch and steer’ – the second typology - describes firms that have already decided to bring their investment to the UK or a particular region and are exploring their location, site and premises options. Planning has a role to play here in establishing a clear and competitive sector offer, by providing planning certainty that key sites are available and deliverable, and contributing to making the economic case for public funding to unlock development opportunities.    Source: NLP Analysis ‘Footloose and free’ - the final typology - relates to firms that are not tied to any particular location or country but operate within a global marketplace. This arguably represents the most difficult opportunity to plan for, so maintaining a flexible and responsive planning system that anticipates (rather than accurately predicts) where opportunities might derive from is key, alongside promoting a positive message to the global marketplace that a local area is ‘open for business’. This will help an area to respond effectively if, or as and when the time comes.    Source: NLP Analysis Our research shows that planning for inward investment inevitably looks different in different places, but with the EU Referendum result already impacting on business decisions to invest and trade with the UK, it also indicates that the ability of local areas to make themselves attractive to inward investment - and the opportunities that this can bring - is now more important than ever.Download a copy of Invest to Grow here.

CONTINUE READING

The demand for homes that the economic success of the Oxford City region brings with it is a key issue across the Thames Valley. In 2015, Oxford City was among the top 5% least affordable locations in England excluding London.Whilst the need for housing arising in Oxford is clear, the rate of housing delivery has been poor, with Oxford City's own figures forecasting that just 206 dwellings will be completed in 2015/16.  In essence the City is constrained by tightly drawn boundaries, the Green Belt and other factors (including areas at risk of flooding).  The surrounding Oxfordshire Local Authorities have recognised these constraints and have spent the last two years, working alongside other stakeholders, to seek to accommodate Oxford City's “unmet need” elsewhere within the County.The requirement for this collaborative approach was recognised at an early date by all the Local Authorities as failure to comply with the “duty to co-operate” jeopardised the progression of each Authority’s Local Plan.  Cherwells Local Plan proceeded last year only on the proviso that it was revisited shortly after adoption to help meet Oxfords unmet need. More recently West Oxfordshires Local Plan didn’t get off the starting blocks pending, in part, clarification of their requirements to help cater for Oxford’s unmet need. OGB Process The Oxfordshire Growth Board comprising all Oxfordshire Authorities, working alongside Oxfordshire County Council, OXLEP and other stakeholders have sought a collaborative approach.  Following some early skirmishes on the capacity of Oxford City to accommodate development agreement was quickly established on a “working assumption” that the Authorities would collectively need to accommodate an additional 15,000 new homes in the period to 2031. Discussions on apportionment have taken longer (agreement was originally due 12 months ago) perhaps reflecting the political ramifications.  The exercise of seeking to apportion housing need arising in Oxford City could seek to reflect a number of factors including housing market areas, transport connections, migration flows, commuting patterns, environmental and other constraints and the sustainability of further development in / adjacent to existing settlements.The two authorities that have recently progressed draft local plans (Cherwell and South Oxfordshire) have assumed that the need would be split equally between the surrounding authorities. Figure 1: NPPF Constraints and Green Belt in OxfordshireFigure 2: Main Public Transport Nodes in Oxfordshire and Journey Times In truth the process of apportionment now proposed within the OGB report for next weeks meeting follows a less analytical approach.  Instead the Growth Board have sought to assess the availability and suitability of specific large sites (capable of accommodating 500 + homes) informed by a series of high level studies on Green Belt, Transport Capacity and Infrastructure capabilities, Education Provision and Habitats Assessments.   A number of sites were excluded from the analysis (including land at Carterton, Faringdon and Long Hanborough) on the basis of being “less directly related to the City” (pg 23).  The remaining sites were classified as “Red,” “Amber” or “Green” with the latter then aggregated to result in the recommended apportionment for each Local Authority Recommended Apportionment for unmet need from Oxford City Source : OGB September 2016 Committee Report (pg 7) Commentary Despite the 12 months delay in the original schedule the process to date has been relatively quick and the comprehensive solution sought should prevent a series of bilateral agreements being challenged or collapsing at Local Plan Inquiries.It is unusual for Local Authorities to have involvement in the identification of sites (and subsequent apportionment of housing allocations) within neighbouring authorities.  The OGB Committee Report for next weeks meeting hints at some of the tensions that have arisen through this process.  The initial list of sites for assessment were put forward by each district themselves or “the partners on their behalf” (pg 23).  The partially subjective nature of assessing all 36 sites, and the scope for disagreements, is reflected in the commentary on the Oxford Golf Club site.  This records that “there was not agreement within the Project Team on the score for this area.  The Rural districts consider that it could be judged to be green if considered on a consistent basis with other areas of search.  Oxford believes that it is not possible to mitigate the hydrology concerns that development would cause.”   The site is therefore “amber” recommended for further assessment but the potential 1,100 homes arising are not included in the recommended apportionment.The OGB will vote on the recommended apportionment next week.  All of the Authorities have been party to the assessment and conclusions and some have been preparing the ground in advance.  In July 2016 West Oxfordshire submitted an ‘Expression of Interest’ to central government to create a locally-led Garden Village to the north of Eynsham.  Land at Eynsham forms West Oxfordshires recommended apportionment in the OGB conclusions.Other Authorities may be less responsive to the OGB recommendations.  South Oxfordshire have long resisted proposals at Grenoble Road with Councillor John Cotton, leader of South Oxfordshire stating in February 2015 “we still believe Grenoble Road is the wrong solution” and it was excluded from the very recent (July 2016) iteration of the local plan.  It is however considered “reasonably sustainable” and forms a “green” site within the OGB analysis with it’s potential to accommodate 2,200 homes inflating South Oxfordshires apportionment to 4,950 dwellings (up from the 3,750 dwellings they proposed two months ago in the local plan).The OGB report is clear that whilst it will dictate apportionment across the County “the short list of areas of search that underpins it must be viewed as indicative” (pg 6) and this exercise “is not seeking to allocate or release sites” as “subsequent Local Plan work may bring forward other sites” (pg 32).  This recognises that competing sites remain open for consideration and the matter will be resolved through forthcoming local plans processes across the County.It goes without saying that housing development at this scale will bring economic benefits to these authorities. Recent research by NLP suggesting that the provision of a further 14,850 homes will result in: Around 1,800 FTE construction jobs with; An additional £371.4 million of resident expenditure within shops and services each year; Result in New Homes Bonus Payments equivalent to £148.9 million across the Local Authorities over a set six year period; and Provide additional Council Tax Revenues estimated to be equivalent to £26.2 million each year And so next Mondays meeting may provide some pieces of the jigsaw for meeting Oxfords unmet need but piecing the jigsaw together seems likely to go on for some time yet.  

CONTINUE READING