The last 12 months have been a busy time if you work in the development industry. Central Government has been keeping us on our toes with multiple publications and changes to the existing planning system, while also consulting on changes to the way the whole system might operate in the future.
The headline publication, Planning for the Future, the planning White Paper, set out radical changes to the system and put the development industry in a spin in August 2020. While the public consultation on this has closed and the Government considers its response, many local authorities are taking a cautious approach on their next steps for planning their areas, including publication of new local plans.
August 2020 saw multiple changes to the permitted development regulations, including the ability for upward extensions to existing dwellings and commercial buildings, plus for the demolition and re-build of commercial buildings without the need for full planning permission1.
Other changes to the Use Class Order are designed to allow more flexibility by creating a new commercial Use Class (Class E) which is likely to assist struggling high streets and fill some of the voids created by shop closures.
In February 2021, the Government published its long-awaited paper on its planned approach to developing the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. Entitled the ‘Oxford-Cambridge Arc Spatial Framework’, it will provide a joined-up approach to planning and transport planning across the region, providing a platform for investment backed by the established knowledge economy of which both Cranfield and the Open Universities form a key part.
It is designed to be an ambitious plan, to create jobs, be a driver for investments and to provide a plan for infrastructure across three counties, 17 local and six unitary authorities, plus the combined Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Authority.
For town planners, the Spatial Framework is a welcome return to spatial planning at a regional level, something that was scrapped by the Government administration in 2012 in a drive for localism. This framework will have a planning status that sits alongside both the National Planning Policy Framework but also as a transport plan, and will guide key planning decisions across the region.
Government have indicated that this framework will be unique as a policy tool because it will not be confined to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) but will guide development, and therefore we can assume funding, across all Whitehall departments and their agencies.
It is the intention that an Arc Growth Body will be established to unleash the area’s potential as a ‘global innovation powerhouse’ to promote the Arc internationally. The Arc currently provides over two million jobs and is home to 3.7 million people.
Milton Keynes is the fastest growing city in the country, and has long been identified as one of the best places in the UK to both weather the pandemic and lead out of a recession.
Milton Keynes has published its own ambitious strategy for the growth of the city. Currently confined to the borough boundaries, this sets out growth to 2050, and identifies a potential for an additional 30-35,000 new homes (in addition to those already planned for 2031) and increase in the population to 410,000. This is combined with an associated growth in jobs, new rapid transport system and growth in the green infrastructure that defined Milton Keynes.
Smith Jenkins Town Planning are based in Milton Keynes and are well-placed to assist on all types of development projects in the Arc region and beyond. With a team of 13 highly knowledgeable town planners, they have one of the largest development management focused teams in the Arc. Actively working across Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, the team are well versed in planning policy to deliver a wide range of schemes locally. Recent projects have included: the new combined school for Glebe Farm, Wavendon; Red Bull Racing Technology Campus, Tilbrook; advising landowners on South East Milton Keynes land allocation; and new Drive Thru Restaurants at Stadium MK.
In 2020, Jennifer Smith was recognised as one of the Women of Influence in the profession.
Since August, the team have been running the successful Planning HIT discussion group, bringing together planning professionals in the public and private sectors, landowners, and developers to discuss planning matters relevant to Milton Keynes. If you would like to take part, please contact Vickie Jeffries at Smith Jenkins, email Vickie@smithjenkins.co.uk
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1 Prior approval still needs to be sought for these types of developments