28 Feb 2019
Article originally featured in North East England Chamber of Commerce.
As a profession, town planning plays a crucial role in identifying what development is needed and where, to meet the needs of both local communities and the economy. Key to this is a Local Plan, which should set out a framework for the future development of an area. At a time of increasing economic uncertainty, Local Plans offer an opportunity to establish a strong and long-term vision for new jobs and housing in regions like the North East. A Local Plan should provide certainty for communities, businesses and investors.
Despite these obvious benefits, the latest research undertaken by Lichfields shows that, since the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012, only half of all local planning authorities have adopted a Local Plan. From its outset, the NPPF 2012 was expected to entail a ‘simpler, swifter’ planning system, with clear guidance on plan-making, a strong focus on the plan-led system, and a commitment to meeting the nation’s housing need. And yet after six years, and the publication of an updated NPPF in 2018, just half of all authorities benefit from a post-NPPF 2012 strategic plan. Indeed, as at 31 December 2018 almost a quarter of authorities we studied still have plans under examination, and 22% of authorities are yet to even submit a post-NPPF 2012 Local Plan.
This is reflective of the picture in the North East – a region which stands to benefit more than most from a strategic and planned approach to development. Of the 12 North Eastern local planning authorities (encompassing those Council areas from Teesside to Northumberland), seven (58%) currently benefit from a post-NPPF 2012 local plan. Of the five authorities yet to adopt an up-to-date plan, Durham and Northumberland cover a significant proportion of the overall region and, to some extent, have been hampered by the complexity of their transition to unitary authorities in 2009. With the exception of Darlington, the other four authorities also all incorporate Green Belt designations which can act to constrain development.
To meet its manifesto ambition of building 300,000 homes annually by the mid 2020s, the Government is committed to increasing the supply of housing through a plan-led system.
Alongside other recent changes to national planning policy, the Government has also now introduced a statutory requirement to review, and if necessary update, the strategic policies of Local Plans every five years – or sooner subject to changes in local circumstances. This leaves over half of all authorities nationally needing to review their plans within the next two years. Again this has potential implications for the North East. Of the seven authorities which currently have up-to-date Local Plans, both Newcastle and Gateshead are required to review their plans in 1-2 years, and Middlesbrough within the next 12 months.
Given the inconsistent plan progress under the NPPF 2012, the Government’s new reforms are clearly much needed to meet its housebuilding and plan-making goals. However, these increased expectations that plans will be kept up-to-date also brings challenges and higher workloads for local planning authorities.
Whilst the preparation of a Local Plan must be led by a local planning authority, the process should ultimately be a joint endeavour in collaboration with local communities, developers, landowners and businesses. As the pressure mounts, let’s hope the North East can rise to the challenge and help to secure the investment our region needs.
If you have any queries about Local Plan progress in your area, or wish to explore opportunities to promote your development through the plan-preparation process, please contact Robert Dibden.
Durham’s Local Plan is currently subject to consultation until 08 March 2019, and Northumberland’s until 13 March 2019.
21 Jun 2018
Anticipation is building in the North East ahead of the opening of the UK’s biggest cultural event of 2018. Starting on Friday 22 June, NewcastleGateshead will host the Great Exhibition of the North, a three month celebration of the North of England’s contribution to art and science across the world.
The Great Exhibition is intended to showcase the talents of the North, both past and present, through a series of exhibits, live performances, new artworks and experiences. It forms part of the Government’s wider Northern Powerhouse agenda and is arguably the most tangible contribution to date.
The cityscape of NewcastleGateshead will provide the physical backdrop to an event which is hoped to mark the next step forward for the City’s regeneration. Starting with the opening evening’s celebration, NewcastleGateshead’s Quayside will provide the stunning setting for the Exhibition’s showcase installation; a spectacular water sculpture which will see 30 rocket jets project vertical columns of water between 25m and 50m into the air right in the middle of the River Tyne. The sculpture is inspired by another of the North East’s cultural icons, the Angel of the North in Gateshead, and mimics the Angel’s 75m wingspan.
Situated between the famous Millennium and Tyne Bridges, it should certainly be a dramatic display the like of which has never before been seen on the River. Lichfields are delighted to have prepared and managed the planning applications required to install the sculpture, which in planning terms occupies a highly sensitive location bounded by Newcastle’s Central Conservation Area to the north, and Gateshead’s Bridges Conservation Area to the south west. A number of listed buildings are also situated in close proximity to the application site, including the Tyne Bridge. Working with both Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council, Lichfields prepared a robust assessment of the installation’s potential impact upon these heritage assets, and also worked with several consultees in order to mitigate against any possible ecological impacts. This resulted in the rapid granting of both planning applications within just six weeks of submission.
Aside from the opening evening, the Great Exhibition includes a number of other art installations and events which will be in place until September. These include the return of Stephenson’s Rocket to the Great North Museum in Newcastle, a week-long festival of northern music at Sage Gateshead, and a summit to showcase Northern business innovation.
In addition, Lichfields also obtained three separate Scheduled Monument Consents for the installation of ‘Whistle’, a temporary art installation comprising a series of replica steam locomotive whistles tracing the route of Newcastle’s ancient town walls. This installation is intended to highlight the centuries of development of Newcastle as a great northern city. The whistles will be triggered once a day at precisely 1pm and are exact replicas of the distinctive bell whistles unique to North Eastern railway locomotives; recalling the role of Newcastle in the development of railways and locomotive engineering.
As planners we couldn’t be more aware of the positive contribution events such as the Great Exhibition can have in terms of cultural and economic regeneration. Think, for example, of Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2008 and the impetus this clearly provided for development in that City . NewcastleGateshead itself has a proud heritage of these kind of major cultural events, going back all the way to Gateshead’s Garden Festival in the summer of 1990 and the contribution this made to the remediation and clearance of land which has subsequently been developed to provide innovative housing and recreational schemes.
In purely economic terms, the Great Exhibition itself is this time expected to reach an audience of three million people during 2018, with up to 600,000 additional overnight visitors, and to bring in up to £56 million to the area’s economy.
At Lichfields we are thrilled to have played our part in assisting with preparations for the Great Exhibition, and we would urge anyone to make a visit to NewcastleGateshead this summer to experience for yourself all that the North East can offer.
You can find out more about the Great Exhibition of the North here.