Looking forward to 2015

First of all – a Happy New Year to you all; may it bring you good health and rewarding challenges. I have picked my words carefully as I have been considering the possible changes in the planning system that we are likely to see in 2015 and are we all in for some challenges.

We await with interest the outcome of the DEFRA consultation on whether the local planning authorities will be the approving body for Sustainable Drainage Systems on new development and in April the statutory functions of English Heritage will pass to the new ‘Historic England’.

Garden City

House building remains a priority for the government; they estimate that 232,000 dwellings are needed each year but up to the end of September

2014 the annual total was only 117,070. Clearly more house building is on the agenda. The ‘Garden City’ is frequently  on the lips of politicians but are they prepared to allow more land-take? We had a client who wanted the ‘Garden City’ style so we measured road widths and garden frontages in Welwyn Garden City. The tree lined roads with grass verges and houses set back behind tall hedges all took developable area and reduced housing densities significantly. Lovely as the Garden Cities are we need to find new ways of making our residential areas the green environment so many crave.
The Infrastructure Bill 2014 – 2015 is making its way through Parliament. Measures in the Bill refine the existing process for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs); these require a Development Consent Order (DCO) approved by the Secretary of State with advice from planning inspectors. A DCO automatically removes the need to obtain several consents that would otherwise be required, including planning permission and compulsory purchase orders thus speeding up the approval process. The door is already open for major construction projects and this Bill is intended to streamline the process.
Also included in the Infrastructure Bill is the proposal for the ‘deemed discharge’ of some planning conditions if the local planning authority has not responded to a submission within a specific time.   There are exceptions to this so please do not rush into implementation without checking first.

Measures for invasive non-native species in the UK, including Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam and Giant Hogweed are also addressed in the Bill, interestingly from an economic viewpoint. The Research Paper states that ‘the economic impact of invasive non-native species in the UK has recently been estimated as a minimum of £1.8 billion per annum which includes £1 billion to the agriculture and horticulture sectors and over £200m to the construction, development and infrastructure sectors. Early eradication is critical to tackling invasive non-native species – for example, it is estimated that the early eradication of the invasive aquatic plant water primrose would cost £73,000 compared to £242 million if the plant became fully established as it has in France and Belgium.’

Giant Hogweed

Well good luck with that one. We had a site with Australian Swamp Stonecrop (7th on the Environment Agency’s top ten ‘most wanted’ invasive species in the UK list) and the only herbicide that killed it was banned by, you guessed it, the Environment Agency.

From the large to the small scale our work remains as interesting and challenging as ever. I hope you all had a good rest over the Christmas break as it looks as if busy times are ahead.

 

Defra SuDS consultation: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/water/delivering-sustainable-drainage-systems

English Heritage and Historic England: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/who-we-are/english-heritage-is-changing/

Garden Cities: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-offers-support-for-locally-led-garden-cities

Infrastructure Bill 2014 – 2015: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2014-15/infrastructure.html

Invasive species: https://www.gov.uk/japanese-knotweed-giant-hogweed-and-other-invasive-plants

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