Planning matters

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

BIDs mean Business (Improvement Districts)
Last week I attended the National BID Conference 2018, hosted by the British BIDs network, where delegates engaged in a lively debate on the key issues facing Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) across the country, and how places need to evolve to survive. It seems timely therefore to reflect on the growth of UK BIDs in recent years, and the opportunities they present for those working in planning and economic development. Originating in North America, Business Improvement Districts are partnerships between local authorities and local businesses whereby businesses within a defined area or ‘district’ pay a levy to local authorities. The levy income allows members to benefit from shared services such as street management, security and investment in green infrastructure which can often be under-resourced within conventional local authority budgets. According to there are currently 305 BIDs operating in the UK and Ireland, a figure which has tripled since 2010. The map below shows that BIDs are mostly concentrated within large cities and major town centres, a reflection of the fact that BIDs are commonly town centre- It also shows that BIDs tend to be most common in parts of London, the South East and Midlands. The Capital now accommodates some 50 BIDs, with a particular concentration of town centre-focused BIDs in central London, and some industrial BIDs in Outer London Boroughs. London-based BIDs generate some of the highest levy incomes, for example, London’s New West End Company generated levy payments of over £3.8 million last year. Given these potential annual levy incomes, BIDs are being increasingly recognised as key drivers of growth and regeneration for town centres. Beyond the traditional ‘basket and bins’ approach of providing flower baskets and waste management, BIDs are now turning their attention to a wider range of place-making interventions. For instance, Lichfields has been working with the Manor Royal BID in Crawley to assess the Business District’s economic impact as well as advising on how Manor Royal can retain its competitive position as a premier business location following a successful ballot renewal in March this year. This includes provision of facilities, wider promotion, enhancements to the public realm and continued efforts by the Manor Royal BID to represent and co-ordinate activities across the Business District. Our final report and set of recommendations can be read here. Whilst BIDs have continued to grow both in number and economic contribution, this year’s national survey of BIDs identified two emerging challenges of particular relevance to the development sector: the changing nature of retail, and the nature of engagement with the planning system. Besides the large-scale shifts from ‘bricks to clicks’ (a trend towards shopping online rather than in store), BIDs are also experiencing challenges from everyday activities such as safety, security and falling business rates arising from increased vacancy in town centres. To help tackle these issues, the Autumn Budget announced a £675 million Future High Streets Fund, and a High Street Taskforce which will be deployed to help local areas respond to their unique challenges. BIDs will likely play a critical role. It is also clear that planning remains a central issue for BIDs, with just over 20% of BIDs reporting some involvement with Neighbourhood Planning, indicating much greater scope for involvement. Many BIDs have also strongly lobbied for their local authority to implement Article 4 Directions to prevent the ongoing erosion of office space in town centres, particularly where this has negatively affected the day-time economy and town centre footfall. These issues could be resolved by working more closely with local planners, urban designers and developers and by demonstrating the tangible impact and contribution generated by the BID business community for the local economy. BIDs have grown quickly in a relatively short period of time, and it is clear that they are here to stay. As an increasingly significant player in local economic growth and town centre revitalisation, they will become an increasingly important stakeholder within planning and economic development; after all, BIDs mean business.  

CONTINUE READING

Leeds General Infirmary - a suitable case for treatment?
Redeveloping one of the UK’s most renowned hospital sites was always going to be challenging, especially when the entirety of the historic core, including subsequent monstrosities from the 1960s, are all Grade I listed. But this was the task which faced Lichfields when Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust asked us to advise on the redevelopment scheme for Leeds General Infirmary. Leeds General Infirmary was first listed at Grade I on 8 October 1970 - and rightly so. The original hospital was constructed on Great George Street in 1864-8 to designs by the prolific and celebrated architect George Gilbert Scott and was one of the earliest large-scale ‘pavilion plan’ hospitals in the UK. Modelled on the Lariboisière Hospital in Paris, Florence Nightingale, amongst others, is cited as having contributed to its design. South elevation of Leeds General Infirmary showing pavilion wings by George Gilbert Scott and George Corson A common issue with buildings that were listed a long time ago, such as the Infirmary, is that what exactly is and is not listed can be difficult to determine. Early list entries are not accompanied by a map showing the boundary of the listed building and often the descriptions are very brief. Legally there are further complications to add to the mix. According to the relevant legislation all buildings and structures that are attached to the listed building or any detached buildings within the curtilage (a complex idea which has generated many legal bills) that pre-date 1948 are covered by the listing. What this meant for Leeds General Infirmary was that, regardless of its architectural or historic interest, every building or extension within the historic core could be seen and treated as though it were Grade I listed. This is a designation which is wildly inappropriate for the majority of the site and would severely stifle any opportunities for demolition or alteration. Just think of all the listed building consent applications we would need to produce! But why shouldn’t all of it be listed? - As with most hospital buildings, the Infirmary has been extended and altered incrementally over the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries to meet the growing and changing demands of the city. Scott’s original hospital features a palatial Gothic Revival style exterior and innovative form which reflected the latest medical theory and practice at that time: its five long ward wings connected via a central core allowed for cross ventilation and inhibited the airborne spread of infectious diseases. George Corson facilitated the hospital’s first phase of expansion, adding a sixth pavilion wing, grand Outpatients’ Hall and mortuary (1892) which closely imitated Scott’s ornate Gothic Revival style. Later additions saw the introduction of the King Edward VII Memorial Building (1918), the Brotherton Wing (1940) and Wellcome and Martin Wings (1961), as well as various Nurses’ Homes, to name a few. In recent years the historic core has seen even more subdivision and infill and what we see today is an agglomeration of buildings and extensions that are unattractive and conceal many parts of Scott’s and Corson’s early designs. In order to address this issue, Lichfields advised the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to apply for a Listing Enhancement through Historic England’s Enhanced Advisory Service. This was recently introduced following the 2013 amendment to Section 1(5) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 which has allowed new list entries to determine the full extent of protection through listing (removing the issue of curtilage and attachment) and to identify on a statutory basis, features of a listed building which do not contribute to its special interest. Following this advice, we put together the application which included our own Heritage Assessment of the Leeds General Infirmary site, identifying how it has changed and developed over time, the significance of its various constitutive parts and how they contribute to the significance of the complex as a whole. Our submission included a detailed phasing plan and a plan illustrating what we believed should be the extent of the Grade I designation, as well as areas that we considered should be designated at lower grades: and it’s fair to say we gave it a serious nip and tuck! – focussing the designation around the most notable 19th century elements of the Infirmary and excluding all of the remaining buildings within the historic core. Plan illustrating the main architectural phases of the Infirmary’s historic core The outcome was enormously successful. Historic England endorsed our assessment and the list entry has been updated accordingly. The Grade I designation now focuses solely on George Gilbert Scott’s original Infirmary and George Corson’s additional pavilion wing. Corson's Outpatients' Department is listed under a separate designation at Grade II and the remainder of the site is unlisted. This has given the Trust the much-needed clarification that they were hoping for, smoothing the path to redevelopment of the hospital and its historic core. With these revised listings, discussions regarding heritage impact can be far more focused and there is now a much clearer opportunity for exploring redevelopment approaches which are both flexible and sensitive to the historic buildings. The video below shows the current redevelopment scheme brought to life. This illustrates the level of transformation that Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS can hope to achieve and, more broadly, the positive outcome of engaging with heritage professionals as early in the design process as possible. Lichfields is delighted to be part of this exciting and important scheme, one that will help to achieve a transformation of patient healthcare within Leeds, as well as regenerating such an important historic site in the city centre. More information on future redevelopment at Leeds General Infirmary can be found on the Trust’s website.

CONTINUE READING