Planning matters blog | Lichfields

Planning matters

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

Power to the (West Yorkshire) People!

Power to the (West Yorkshire) People!

Tabitha Howson & Adam Jackson 03 Apr 2020
After more than five years of debate, on the 13th March 2020 the proposed terms of…a £1.8bn devolution deal between the government and the local authorities of West Yorkshire[1] and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority were published. In line with devolution agreements for Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield Teesside and the West Midlands, the deal will devolve a range of powers and responsibilities to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, including new powers on housing and planning along with a new, directly elected West Yorkshire Mayor. This blog provides a summary of some of the key points in the Devolution Deal as well as lessons that can be taken from similar deals in neighbouring Mayoral Authority Areas. The Powers and Funding The planning and housing powers to be transferred to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority are in keeping with the powers for other established combined authorities, and include: The preparation of a statutory Spatial Development Strategy for West Yorkshire; Mayoral land assembly and compulsory purchase powers; The power to designate a Mayoral Development Area and to create Mayoral Development Corporations to support the delivery of housing on strategic sites; Eligibility to bid for a newly established Brownfield Housing Fund with a £400m envelope; and, The establishment of a Strategic Place Partnership with Homes England supplemented by £3.2m in government funding across 2020/21 and 2021/22 to support development of a pipeline of housing sites across the region; A significant funding package for specific projects has also been announced as part of the deal which includes: £317m to invest in public transport, cycling and walking through Transforming Cities Fund; £500,000 to support master-planning in Bradford City Centre to maximise regeneration opportunities from Northern Powerhouse Rail, and funding for the next stage of development of the Outline Business Case for Leeds station redevelopment; A £25m Heritage Fund towards the development of a ‘British Library North’ in Leeds and, A five-year integrated transport settlement starting in 2022/23 and exploring the case for West Yorkshire Mass Transit. British Library North A key part of the deal is the £25m Heritage Fund in recognition of West Yorkshire’s ambition for the conservation and re-use of heritage buildings. The fund will be provided by the Government to support the work of Leeds City Council with the British Library in establishing a potential ‘British Library North’. If successful, the move would also come as part of a wider plan to mark Leeds' year of cultural celebration in 2023. Leeds is already home to the British Library Depository, Archive and Reading Room at Boston Spa. The preferred location for the move has been identified as Temple Works in Temple. The Grade I listed building lies at the heart of proposals for the South Bank Leeds regeneration area. The building is controlled by CEG, and Lichfields has been working with CEG for a number of years on wider regeneration proposals at South Bank, including securing consent for a £350 million mixed-use development at Globe Road. Leeds City Council is now working with British Library and CEG to explore the future potential of the building and develop plans for the new library. Innovation District The aim for the Innovation District, located in Leeds City Centre, is to create a world-class hub for research, innovation and entrepreneurialism in priority sectors that delivers transformational economic growth for the City Region. The District is home to a number of world class teaching, medical and research institutions, including Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust, University of Leeds, Leeds Beckett University and Leeds Arts University. A notable inclusion is the Leeds General Infirmary and the recently approved £450 million ‘state of the art’ adults’ hospital and children’s hospital for which Lichfields helped secure planning permission last year. The devolution deal outlines that the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Government will establish a West Yorkshire Innovation network through the Connecting Innovation programme. This network will provide a dual-hub for the community of entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs within West Yorkshire. The hub will initially be secured through the presence of the NEXUS Innovation Centre at the University of Leeds and the Buckley Innovation Centre at the University of Huddersfield with further regional opportunities to be explored in the future. This network will bring together business support services from the Leeds Growth Hub, local Universities and Innovate UK. Lessons from Neighbours The devolution deal for West Yorkshire will see the combined authority join its northern neighbours, which have already agreed devolution deals and which have elected Metro Mayors (Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, Sheffield City Region and North of Tyne). Indeed, 7 of the 10 mayoral combined authorities (including West Yorkshire) in England are located in the north in a clear signal of the governments intent to shift control of investment funds and development powers to the ‘Northern Powerhouse’. Lichfields’ has a breadth of experience of working in these regions and has performed a key role in responding to the development of emerging Spatial Frameworks on behalf of clients. Through this experience we have identified a number of key issues which will need to be properly considered in the West Yorkshire Spatial Framework: The deal provides statutory plan making powers to produce a spatial development strategy for West Yorkshire. It will be interesting to see if West Yorkshire can avoid the delays in production of an agreed planning framework that has dogged Manchester, for example, whose spatial framework has seen several delays since preparation first began in 2014. There is a big focus on brownfield site release with £400m funding identified as part of the deal. Whilst this funding is welcomed to unlock difficult urban sites, there is a need to balance regeneration sites with the release of greenfield and even Green Belt sites where appropriate, to ensure that there is a steady delivery of land and reduce the risk of a delay should brownfield sites not be brought forward in time to meet identified needs. Greater Manchester has assumed that the entire Spatial Framework area is a single housing market area. However, sufficient evidence has not always been provided to justify the position and in some areas, a single HMA is not seen to accurately reflect the varying characteristics of different areas. This is no different for West Yorkshire which, as well as covering a large geographical area of some 2,000 sq.km, contains distinct and varied housing markets with significant contrasts in character and values. Finally, it is imperative that the West Yorkshire Spatial Framework is founded upon a consistent evidence base. It is inevitable that existing local authority evidence base documents will have adopted different approaches in reviewing baseline data and forecasting future needs, however there is a clear need for consistency when formulating the Regional Spatial Framework.    Conclusion The recently announced devolution deal will see a number of significant powers and funding transferred to West Yorkshire. The powers secured will give the combined authority greater flexibility to take decisions when addressing local concerns and needs. Lessons can be learned from deals in neighbouring authorities as well as the range of issues that would need to be considered in the West Yorkshire Spatial Framework. Careful thought is needed to ensure that there is a consistent evidence base when formulating the framework and ensuring that a flexible approach is taken when assessing the varying needs and characteristics across the region. However, without a doubt, the Devolution Deal presents a great opportunity for West Yorkshire to build on its strengths and unlock the area’s latent potential for well-planned economically sustainable growth.   [1] Comprising Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, and Wakefield Councils Image credit: Tim Green 

CONTINUE READING

A light at the end of the tunnel or stuck at the station?
Following the recent Tory election victory, where seats were secured in a number of traditional Labour strongholds, the Government's attention appears to have once again turned to the North.  As the Country awaits the March 2020 budget announcement, this blog looks at some of the potential benefits of proposed transport infrastructure provision in the north, and the implications for its delivery. One of the key issues in the North is inadequate transport connectivity which acts as a barrier to attracting investment.  This also means that firms cannot tap into the labour market and get the skilled workers they need.  A number of infrastructure initiatives are proposed to help address this issue including Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 and these initiatives have been carried forward into a range of strategies and transport plans. For example, the Transport for the North [TfN] Strategic Transport Plan sets a number of objectives to achieve a vison of “a thriving North of England, where world class transport supports sustainable economic growth, excellent quality of life and improved opportunities for all” [1] including increasing efficiency, reliability, integration, and resilience in the transport system. It seeks to realise the benefits of agglomeration and economic mass, in the North by providing faster, more efficient, reliable and sustainable journeys on the road and rail networks. Under the transformational growth scenario outlined in the plan, it notes that growth is expected in high and medium-skilled occupations (an increase of 35,300 and 1,600 jobs per annum by 2050, respectively). In addition, the Greater Manchester Strategy, which provides a framework for the Local Industrial Strategy, states that it will capitalise on the investment planned at Manchester Airport, including the arrival of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, to strengthen Greater Manchester as an internationally competitive employment location. It emphasises the importance of delivering this infrastructure in order for Greater Manchester to achieve economic growth and states[2]: “Given the decision to withdraw from the European Union, we need to focus on maximising our existing competitive advantages.  Greater Manchester has always been an outward looking city with a rich history of global trade and welcoming of diversity and talent. Remaining open, international and connected will be ever more important in the coming years. As the heart and driver of the Northern Powerhouse economy, we need to prepare for, and take advantage of, the transformational opportunities major infrastructure improvements, such as HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, will provide”. The Strategy notes that a skilled workforce is essential to deliver the key infrastructure projects on which prosperity depends. It emphasises the need to bring together policies and investments around housing and transport to create inclusive, sustainable, growth locations. To provide one example of the amount of employment which may be generated by these strategic infrastructure improvements, GMCA growth and reform plans [3] suggest that the HS2 hub at Piccadilly station has the potential to create 30,000 additional jobs in the immediate vicinity of the station. We are also seeing initiatives in the wider North West to help maximise the benefits of new infrastructure provision, such as the Crewe Hub Area Action Plan, which establishes a development framework to facilitate and manage development around a future HS2 station within the town. The proposals include a new commercial district, mixed use commercial and residential development within walking distance of the station, advanced digital infrastructure and vastly improved physical connectivity to the station, supported by environmental and social infrastructure. Development strategies suggest growth at Crewe of around 7,000 new homes and 37,00 new jobs by 2043 as part of this process. Source: The Potential of Northern Powerhouse Rail – Transport for the North However, there is a long way to go and those with experience of using the northern rail network will be familiar with delays, slow services, and poor carriage quality which have contributed to the Government’s recent decision to nationalise Northern Rail. This does however help create new possibilities for the future of services in the northern franchise area.    One of the key initiatives for ensuring that sub-regional connectivity is improved is Northern Powerhouse Rail.  This would offer much faster, more frequent and reliable rail links and open up new opportunities for people and businesses by linking the North’s six main cities. At the moment, fewer than 2 million people in the North can access four or more of the North’s largest economic centres within an hour. This would rise to 10 million once Northern Powerhouse Rail is delivered; transforming the job market and giving businesses access to skilled workers.  The Prime Minister recently gave his backing for the Leeds to Manchester route which would reduce travel time between the two cities from 50 minutes to less than 30.  Major upgrades to four stations, the electrification of lines and the installation of more railway tracks are part of a planned £2.9bn upgrade of the route.  Whilst this has been greeted with optimism from some, Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has questioned the focus on Transpennine connectivity over routes linking Liverpool and Manchester. The delivery of both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, in tandem, would arguably do most to achieve economic prosperity and continue to encourage investment in northern businesses.  However, it is still not certain whether either scheme will fully deliver.  The cost of HS2 in particular has been subject to criticism from some quarters recently, perhaps most vociferously from Lord Berkeley, the former deputy chair of the Oakervee Review into HS2, who, in his own review of the scheme has claimed the project costs are likely to soar to more than £108 billion.  This is almost double from the £56bn expected in 2015.  So, it is no surprise to learn that the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, requested more data before making a decision on the scheme.  There are currently various levels of commitment to each section of HS2 and the future of the whole network is uncertain. For example, the Rail Reform and High Speed Rail 2 (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill, which gives the powers to build and operate Phase 2a between Birmingham and Crewe, passed through the House of Commons and had completed Second Reading in the House of Lords before the dissolution of the previous Parliament, and was covered in the December 2019 Queen’s Speech. However, reference to Phase 2b, the eastern link of the route, connecting the East Midlands into Yorkshire, was absent in the Queen’s Speech and there have been media reports that Phase 2b could be dropped.  A decision on the future of HS2 is expected imminently.  The fate of other schemes has still also yet to be sealed.  For example, the proposed £560m ‘Northern Hub’ to increase capacity within a bottleneck at Manchester Piccadilly station, first announced by George Osborne in 2014, has yet to reach fruition. Over the coming weeks and when the Chancellor’s budget is revealed on 11th March it should hopefully become clearer whether there is a light at the end of the tunnel or whether we will still be stuck at the station. [1] Transport for the North Strategic Transport Plan, page 6[2] Our People, Our Place: The Greater Manchester Strategy §6.2[3] A Plan for Growth and Reform in Greater Manchester, March 2014

CONTINUE READING