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Planning matters

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Under pressure: What does the new Standard Method mean for the West Midlands?
As many of you will be aware, the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework’s (2019) [NPPF] current standard method raised some practical issues for the delivery of housing across the West Midlands. Namely, in many local planning authorities [LPAs], the local housing need figure generated by the current method was lower than adopted Local Plan requirements, and in many instances suggested that these LPAs would be required to deliver fewer homes than had historically been built in those areas. Indeed, one of the main consequences of the current method was that – cumulatively – it would have only boosted the supply of housing by c.6% across the West Midlands region when compared to adopted plan requirements. The West Midland’s new standard method figures So, what are the implications of the Government’s proposed new method for the West Midlands? Lichfields has set out all the new LHN figures for all the West Midlands LPAs under the proposed new method, along with more detail in respect of the average delivery rates over the past three-years, as well as the current method’s figure for Birmingham & Coventry; and West Midlands (outside of Birmingham & Coventry). Importantly, nearly 90% of authorities across the West Midlands will see an increase in their LHN figure under the new proposed method. Conversely, four authorities would see a decrease in housing need, compared to the current method – those being Birmingham City, Sandwell, Walsall and Worcester. However, despite these decreases, cumulatively, the West Midlands region would be expected to deliver c.27,503 dpa, a significant 40% boost in the supply by compared to the current method, and a cumulative 25% boost on recent delivery levels across the region. Figure 1 shows how these needs are distributed spatially across the region when compared to the current method. In general, this shows that the new proposed method would particularly affect the more rural LPAs located around Birmingham, Coventry and Worcester. In particular, the impact is more acute along the southern edge of the region. Whilst, the level of increases varies across the region, a majority of authorities would see an increase between 0.1%-40% and 80.1%-120%. However, four authorities would see a dramatic increase in housing need, in excess of 120%. The significant rise in LHN figures across the region is largely a result of the proposed new methods increased emphasis on affordability. Indeed, the proposed new method removes the affordability ‘cap’ which and applies affordability uplifts based the change in the ratio over last 10 years, which has led to significantly higher levels of need across the West Midlands due to the worsening affordability. For a more detailed review of the proposed New Standard Method, click here. The sub-regional challenge Looking more specifically at the Birmingham and Black Country and Coventry-Warwickshire housing market areas [HMAs], the proposed new method will have some significant implications for plan-making over the next two to three years. 1. Greater Birmingham and Black Country The housing needs of the Greater Birmingham and Black Country HMA [GBBCHMA][1] has been the subject of considerable and complex debate, stretching back to the adoption of Birmingham’s Local Plan in 2017 and beyond. Indeed, the adoption of Birmingham’s Local Plan quantified Birmingham’s unmet need as c.37,900 dwellings up to 2031. In this context, Birmingham would see a 15% reduction in its housing needs when compared to the current method. Importantly, Birmingham’s new LHN figure would be higher than its adopted Local Plan requirement, and therefore, an element of unmet housing need will likely continue to persist. Similarly, the Black Country Authorities [BCAs] published the ‘Black Country Urban Capacity Review December 2019’, which identified an c.26,920 dwelling unmet need up to 2038. In this regard, the BCA’s annualised LHN would largely remain the same as under the current method – only -1.8% lower. This suggests that the BCAs emerging unmet housing need up to 2038 is likely to persist, and remain an issue for the GBBCHMA authorities to grapple with, alongside their own needs, through the current raft of Local Plan Reviews. More broadly, as with the regional trend, a majority of the GBBCHMA would see marked increases in the number of houses they should be planning for under the new proposed method. Whilst many of the GBBCHMA authorities have begun to progress Local Plan Reviews over the last two years, due to the current COVID-19 crisis delays to plan-making have been inevitable. The consequence of this being that many LPAs may now need to have regard to their new LHN figures as the reignite their plan-making activities, along with making further provisions for any unmet needs arising from the GBBCHMA. Either way the GBBCHMA authorities will collectively need to find land for c.4,186 more homes per year than are planned for in current Local Plans. 2. Coventry-Warwickshire Across the five authorities within Warwickshire which make up the Coventry-Warwickshire HMA,[2] LHN figures would significantly increase under the proposed new standard method. Indeed, in absolute terms, both Coventry and Stratford-on-Avon would see the most dramatic increases when compared to the current method. For Coventry, this would equate to a 118% increase when compared to the adopted Local Plan requirement, and would even exceed the c.2,120 dpa objectively assessed housing need [OAN] identified in its Strategic Housing Market Assessment[3] – which Coventry were unable to meet. Further still, it would dwarf the level of delivery in Coventry seen over the last three years, and will place further pressures on the surrounding Warwickshire LPAs to accommodate unmet housing needs from the City. Similarly, Stratford-on-Avon’s new LHN figure would be well over double its Local Plan requirement, which included an element of Coventry’s unmet housing needs. Whilst many LPA’s have recently adopted Plans, the practical implications of these new LHN figures may trigger a need for an early plan review. This is because the Planning Practice Guidance is clear that “there will be occasions where there are significant changes in circumstances which may mean it is necessary to review the relevant strategic policies earlier than the statutory minimum of 5 years.” It goes on to set out that housing need will be considered to have changed significantly where a plan has been adopted prior to the standard method being implemented on the basis of a number significantly below that generated using the standard method.[4] Consequently, some of the Coventry-Warwickshire LPAs may need to consider whether their Local Plan strategies will require a review, in advance of the statutory five year requirement[4], and wider White Paper reforms; with the exception of perhaps Nuneaton and Bedworth. The implications for plan-making The proposed new standard method will have some profound implications for plan making across the region, and will ultimately impact those LPAs who are currently in process of reviewing their Local Plans, which is largely the authorities within the GBBCHMA. However, even those LPAs that have recently adopted Local Plan may, as a result of the proposed new method, need to progress an early review of their Local Plans to ensure that their housing needs are met. That being said, it is the Government’s wider ‘Planning for the Future’ standard method reform, which clearly signals a shift to an approach which favours a ‘policy-on’ housing requirement, which is likely to be more profound for the region. Nevertheless, the significant increase in housing needs across the West Midlands will inevitably once again raise legitimate and cogent arguments about the availability of brownfield land and the need for Green Belt release, in order to ensure sufficient land is available to deliver the homes that are needed. Consequently, the debate around where such land is to be found, alongside how these needs can be distributed across the West Midlands HMAs, looks set to continue for at least a few more years.  [1] Comprising Birmingham, Bromsgrove, Cannock Chase, Dudley, Lichfield, North Warwickshire, Redditch, Sandwell, Stratford-on-Avon, Tamworth, Walsall and Wolverhampton; albeit, North Warwickshire and Stratford-on-Avon fall within the Coventry-Warwickshire HMA. [2] Comprising Rugby, Coventry, Warwick, North Warwickshire, Nuneaton and Bedworth and Stratford-on-Avon [3] The ‘Updated Assessment of Housing Need: Coventry-Warwickshire HMA (September 2015)’ [4] PPG ID: 61-062-20190315  


Residential knock down/re-build and upward extensions…and the need to take account of aerodromes?
During the month of August, a number of new permitted development rights (PDRs) will come into force, allowing the knock-down and rebuild as well as upward extension of certain existing buildings to create new dwellings. These new regulations are applicable within England. My colleagues Jennie Baker and Hannah Whitney have provided an overview of these changes. You can view their blogs here and here. The purpose of these new PDRs?  To potentially unlock and fast-track sites for growth. Some have gone as far as to say it will sweep away planning restriction and cut red tape. Like with most PDRs, there are limits to the rights – set out within the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (GPDO 2015) – prescribing when development is not permitted under the PDR. The limitations specific to these new PDRs seem straight forward at first and what you might expect…listed buildings, SSSIs, scheduled monument are all a no-go, for example. At the bottom of the list? Land within 3 kilometres of the perimeter of an aerodrome. On the surface, including land within close proximity to an aerodrome, as a limit, is perhaps not surprising. It makes sense. It’s all about aerodrome safeguarding and the need to protect both the airspace over and around an aerodrome from the effect of possible adverse development that may affect safe operation – and this is done by controlling the use of land. However, dig a little deeper and questions arise of what this could all mean in practice. Why 3km – doesn’t that seem a bit excessive? So, what’s the extent of an aerodrome’s perimeter? Where does the 3km start? What exactly is an aerodrome? Is that different to an airport? How many aerodromes are there within England? Why a 3km ‘no-go’ zone? A 3km ‘no-go’ zone might at first seem excessive. But in aerodrome safeguarding terms, it’s only one of the first layers of the onion. Aerodrome safeguarding seeks to safeguard land that can extend up to 15km out from the aerodrome (or up to 30km if the proposed development is a wind turbine). For those unlicensed aerodromes, this area may be reduced down to about 8km. There is also a 13km radius, surrounding aerodromes, to take account of potential for bird strike hazard. The 3km zone captures land that the aerodrome would be most sensitive to a change in environment – to name a few, for example: new development penetrating its protected airspace; use of certain materials that may distract a pilot or air traffic control (think large areas of glass façade creating glint and glare); or construction methods (demolition) that could create dust and affect aircraft engines. Also, of note, in some cases, if the PDRs do apply (that is, if the land in question is outside the 3km zone and is not subject to meeting any other limitations) a process of prior approval will still be required from the local planning authority (LPA). If the land falls within an established aerodrome safeguarding area (that’s the 15km zone mentioned above), the LPA will need to consult with the aerodrome operator and prior approval cannot be granted for development where the aerodrome operator has responded to consultation on the application indicating that that the development should not proceed. Defining an aerodrome’s perimeter The perimeter of an aerodrome can mean a number of things – it could be its operational/licence boundary, its ownership boundary, or its planning boundary – and it’s not uncommon for these three different boundaries to have different ‘redlines’ and be quite different in overall shape and extent. The GDPO 2015 (and its 2020 amends) does not provide clarity on which perimeter should be applied. To add to this confusion, the up-to 15km aerodrome safeguarding zone as mentioned above is measured in a different way again and commences (broadly speaking) from the perimeter of the runway strip. Confused yet? Identifying what is the applicable perimeter will need to be reviewed on an aerodrome case by case basis, which may require discussion with the relevant LPA and the aerodrome itself.  This introduces a level of uncertainty and is something that should be agreed as a first step. What exactly is an ‘aerodrome’? An ‘aerodrome’ is a general term and captures a multitude of aviation infrastructure, including airports, airfields, airstrips, and heliports. The GDPO 2015 first points to the definition within the Air Navigation Order 2016 (the ANO). This definition is broad. It can mean any land or water (or even rooftop!) used for the landing and departure of aircraft, and this can include aircraft capable of descending or climbing vertically. Under this definition, an aerodrome stops being an aerodrome if it has been abandoned and flight has not resumed. The GDPO 2015 (under section 2, Interpretation), however, adds to this definition with its own further interpretation – it considers an ‘aerodrome’ to be an ANO defined aerodrome which is:   (a) licensed under the ANO, (b) a Government aerodrome, (c) one at which the manufacture, repair or maintenance of aircraft is carried out by a person carrying on business as a manufacturer or repairer of aircraft, (d) one used by aircraft engaged in the public transport of passengers or cargo or in aerial work, or (e) one identified to the Civil Aviation Authority before 1st March 1986 for inclusion in the UK Aerodrome Index (that’s old-school aerodrome safeguarding, which use to dabble in the 3km metric before things shifted to the 8, 13, 15, or 30km zones that are used today). This definition does not exactly narrow things down. Potentially, this definition could capture around 400 sites within England alone, from the mega-hub airports right down to small unlicensed grass strips! That’s a lot of 3km ‘no-go’ zones… Figure 1 presents a potential extent of aerodrome sites across England. Some may be obvious (there are 82 licenced aerodromes in England) and others less so. Confirming whether an aerodrome falls within this GDPO 2015 definition of ‘aerodrome’ will require a review on a case by case basis What does this mean for the new PDRs…? To test this, we’ve looked at what a 3km no-go-zone could look like for land surrounding some of London’s aerodromes: Heathrow, Gatwick, London City and Battersea Heliport. Each image (Figure 2-5) presents a representative 3km zone. Ultimately, this highlights large areas of land where the new PDRs cannot be applied – reducing the opportunity to unlock and fast-track sites for growth. Get in touch if you’d like to understand more about the implications of this aerodrome limit on the new PDR instruments – we can help with confirming whether an aerodrome is in fact an ‘aerodrome’ as well as advice on the potential extent of the 3km no-go zone.