Planning matters blog | Lichfields

Planning matters

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

Historic Opportunities: How heritage-led regeneration can drive town centre change
Our historic high streets and town centres have been dominated for decades by retail uses, and while retailing is still an integral part of what they offer, the pressures facing traditional retail have resulted in the average vacancy rate nationally rising to just under 14%. This has left many high streets and town centres in need of regeneration and investment. Fortunately, they have huge potential for improvement, adaptation and reuse, and many benefit from heritage assets that can serve as focal points for regeneration.  Historically, high streets and town centres were places where communities would live, congregate, learn and work, not just shop. They were built to support a diverse range of uses and they are very well positioned to do the same in future if investments are made in restoration and reuse. Indeed, repurposing redundant floorspace offers exciting opportunities to rebalance what our high streets and town centres have to offer. It appears that things are about to come full circle as the high streets of the future, as envisaged by Government, are places where more people live and work and where community uses are more prominent, as was the case in the past. The Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda is primed to support this vision with significant amounts of funding, which could result in some of the most positive changes to our town centres seen in generations.  In July, Lichfields published ‘Moving on up?’, an Insight that reviewed the initiatives for levelling-up of town centres in the north of England. It analysed over 100 bids to three key funding streams aimed at achieving town centre regeneration, including the £3.6bn Towns Fund, the £1bn Future High Streets Fund (of which £95m is set aside for High Street Heritage Action Zones) and most recently the £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund. This revealed six key themes underpinning these bids; unsurprisingly heritage-led regeneration was one of them. To understand why there is such interest in heritage-led regeneration in our town centres, it is worth noting that almost half of buildings in retail use and 33% of office buildings were built before 1919. Many of these buildings have been neglected or poorly adapted in response to various cycles of economic and social change. The idea behind heritage-led regeneration is that targeted investment in the restoration and reuse of heritage assets can deliver wider economic and social benefits. This is not a new-fangled idea, but the way that heritage-led regeneration is being implemented has evolved over time and is now far more complex and multi-layered.  For many years there was a tendency to think that simply restoring historic buildings and providing new shopfronts and usable floorspace would be enough to deliver regeneration and attract new occupiers, despite there being little empirical evidence to support that assumption. Now, following studies into the effectiveness of heritage-led regeneration projects, such projects are increasingly based on clearer business and investment strategies and form an embedded part of wider programmes aimed at improving local economies through investment in infrastructure, new industries and technologies. Embedding heritage-led regeneration in this way can both harness heritage investment’s potential to inspire action and promote initiatives, as well ensure that it produces more effective, sustainable and long-lasting regeneration results. Heritage-led regeneration projects are also focused more than ever on reusing heritage assets in ambitious and creative ways to respond to changes in the way that people live, work and shop. For the high street, this means adapting historic buildings to respond to changes in retail and growing demand for leisure activities, creative and flexible workspaces, and housing in sustainable and accessible locations. It is also about bringing the history of places to the surface, engaging communities in heritage projects and enhancing places with the aim of attracting new businesses, visitors and residents.  The role of heritage-led regeneration in reimagining and repurposing our high streets for the future is reflected in the literature produced around the latest rounds of Government funding aimed at levelling-up towns across the country. Lichfields has been at the forefront of Government funding activity in the north of England, inputting into various Towns Fund bids. We were involved in preparing the Future High Streets Fund bid for Bishop Auckland and we are currently involved in supporting the development of several potential Levelling-Up Fund bids. We have also been appointed to develop business cases for schemes in Blyth, which have secured in principle funding from the Towns Fund. Bringing together our combined expertise in planning, heritage and economics, Lichfields is well placed to assist with high street and town centre regeneration in a variety of ways, including navigating the planning policies that cover heritage-related works, developing evidence-based investment strategies and business cases, and preparing Statements of Significance, Heritage Impact Assessments and Conservation Management Plans. Lichfields’ Insight, ‘Historic Opportunities’ aims to shed light on the environmental, economic and social contributions that heritage-led regeneration can make. It looks at how this is being achieved across the country in areas benefitting from the various funding streams designed to support the Government’s Levelling-Up agenda. 


A Licence to Refill: How fast-track pavement licences can help pubs and restaurants spring back from lockdown
Updated 22 July 2020 to reflect the Business and Planning Act 2020 It has been more than 100 days since pints were last pulled and restaurants were full. And as the country begins to ease out of lockdown and restarts the economy, ongoing social distancing measures require pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes to adapt, whilst indoor space remains restricted. But, businesses that adapt and take advantage of new legislation could thrive post-lockdown. Part of the Government’s solution for supporting the hospitality industry and promoting wider economic growth and recovery includes proposed new legislation for fast-tracked pavement licences - reducing the consultation period for pavement licence applications from 28 calendar days to 7 days (5 working days). This measure, included in the Business and Planning Act 2020, is now in force and offers a unique opportunity for pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes to expand their facilities and provide comfortable outdoor space for their customers without needing to wait for a planning permission. If businesses take this golden opportunity to go al-fresco this summer, the hospitality industry will be in a prime position to reap the rewards of pent up demand. No longer will we have to rely solely on takeaways, banana bread and supermarket beer. What exactly do the pavement licences allow? Government guidance explains that once a pavement licence is granted to an applicant by the local authority, the licence holder can place removable furniture over certain highways adjacent to the premises which the application was made for, for certain purposes. The process has been streamlined so that businesses can quickly secure these licences in time for summer 2020 and, where they are granted, these licences will remain in place for between 3-12 months (depending on the local authority’s decision), but not beyond September 2021. The new pavement licence legislation only applies in England and other regulatory frameworks also still apply, meaning venues will still require alcohol licences and will need to comply with the requirements for food businesses. The new licences will provide deemed planning permission for anything done by the licence-holder which would previously have required planning permission under Part 3 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. It will provide a quick and cheap route for cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars to secure a pavement licence more easily than ever before, enabling them to operate safely and at optimum capacity, while observing social distancing. How to make an application Part 1 of the Business and Planning Act provides that applications for the new pavement licences be available to pubs, bars or other drinking establishments, and for the sale of food or drink for consumption on or off the premises. The Bill also sets out what removable furniture is permitted, which includes: Counters or stalls for selling food or drink; Tables, counters or shelves on which food or drink can be placed; Chairs, benches or other forms of seating; and Umbrellas, barriers, heaters and other articles in connection with the outdoor consumption of food or drink. It is important that the furniture is removeable. It cannot be fixed and should be easily moved and stored away on an evening. Applications will need to specify the type of furniture being proposed, as well as the relevant highway, premises, days of the week and times of day that the pavement licence will cover. The applicant will also need to provide evidence of public liability insurance and the local authority may also request additional information and evidence including plans, lease documents, photos and specifications of the proposed furniture and details of how it will be arranged, but other information may also be required if the Local Authority deems it necessary. Fees will be set locally but will be capped at £100. If an applicant has already made an application for a pavement licence under the existing regime and wishes to substitute that application for a new application under the new rules, a fee would not be charged and the original application would be treated as withdrawn. Determining an application The local authority must publicise the application and allow representations for 7 days after the application is received. A notice of the application will have to be displayed on the premises so that it can be easily read by passing members of the public from outside the premises for 7 days. The local authority has a further 7 days to determine the application once the consultation period ends and will take in to account Government guidance, consider representations, consult the highway authority and any other relevant person deemed appropriate. If they fail to determine the application within 7 days, it will be deemed to have been granted. The authority can reject the application for some or all parts of highway specified and any or all purposes for which the application is made (i.e. it can decide the space that the licence will cover). The local authority can also attach conditions when granting a licence. These conditions could relate to public safety, amenity and access. Licences will automatically include a “no obstruction condition” and may require smoke-free areas to be defined. The needs of disabled persons in particular are to be taken into account when determining whether furniture put on the highway is an obstruction. The Local Authority may revoke a licence if the affected area of highway is later found not to be suitable, there is a risk to health and safety, anti-social behaviour is being or is at risk of being caused, or the highway is being obstructed. When can I make a pavement licence application? Immediately. Where can Lichfields help? Lichfields understands the urgency in supporting the recovery of the hospitality industry as the country eases out of lockdown and while social distancing measures remain in place. Throughout lockdown, our series of blogs ‘The High Street isn’t dead, long live the High Street’ have identified changes and emerging opportunities on the High Street, with the latest blog in the series looking specifically at repurposing the High Street for summer dining. Lichfields has also been closely monitoring the progress and development of the Business and Planning Act. We have reviewed the guidance and we are well placed to prepare and manage applications for new pavement licences on behalf of pub, bar, restaurant and café operators. We have good relationships with local authorities across the country and are ready to liaise with officers regarding the new procedures to achieve swift, positive outcomes.