Nutrient neutral - Working together to avoid planning delays

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A further 27 catchments across 42 local authorities now find themselves subject to nutrient neutrality requirements following a recent announcement from Natural England. Kevin Exley, a principal planner at Marrons Planning takes a look at what this means for councils and developers.

What are nutrient neutrality requirements?

The requirements mean that all developments in the affected catchment areas will have to demonstrate 'nutrient neutrality', meaning that the nutrients from all surface water runoff and wastewater generated by a development must be less than or equal to the nutrients generated by the existing land use.

While this is an expansion of the catchment areas and councils affected, this is not a recent issue. In 2010 many may recall that North West Leicestershire District Council were unable to determine many applications due to potential water quality impacts on the River Mease SAC.

Fast forward to the present day and this is an increasingly important issue being played out across many sensitive catchments in the England, including the 27 additional areas affecting 42 councils, announced earlier this month (March 2022).  This is, without doubt, a daunting issue for many council’s faced with this additional administrative burden of trying to protect some of our most sensitive rivers and environments.

For developers it could lead to greater uncertainty, especially in the short-term as regulatory bodies and councils seek to deal with the additional burdens and complexities (and there are many!) that will inevitably follow the Governments announcements.  It could mean finding mechanisms to ensure that additional foul water flows from your development do not lead to increased levels of nutrients in sensitive watercourses, but it will also clarify the need for council’s to prepare a Habitat Regulations Assessments for development within the catchment area of designated site (and for developers to provide technical support for more complex schemes) and could also increase the need for additional treatment trains within sustainable drainage schemes. 

How can these requirements be met?

Natural England is proposing to issue a National Generic Methodology (and the associated catchment calculators) to provide Local Planning Authorities with the tools to progress nutrient neutrality as a potential mitigation solution to enable development that would otherwise adversely affect the integrity of habitats sites to proceed. However the real challenge will be delivering the additional mitigation necessary to ensure no net increase in nutrients when a new development will generate higher levels of nutrient than the historic land use.

The River Mease Partnership is a great example of what can be achieved through meaningful collaboration. Ten years and two developer contribution schemes later, a partnership of local councils, the water company, the Environment Agency and Natural England, supported by some excellent work by the Trent Rivers Trust has, by and large, managed to find a way to mitigate the effects of new development and reduce nutrient levels in the River Mease SAC.  And whilst phosphate levels are falling, though remain too high, specific measures are being delivered by the partnership to ensure new development is, in effect nutrient neutral.  These measures are relatively low cost nature based solutions which are good news for developers and good news for the environment.

At first glance the changes being proposed by the government are daunting and it will inevitably have some short-term impacts on the development industry. It will take councils and other statutory agencies some time to work through the consequences of this announcement, though as demonstrated by the authorities in the Mease Catchment, nutrient neutrality doesn’t have to be a significant barrier to growth so long as councils, environmental bodies and developers take a positive and creative approach to protecting some of our most sensitive sites.

How can we help?

Marrons Planning has recently appointed Kevin Exley, who represented South Derbyshire District Council on both the River Mease Programme Board and River Mease Technical Working Group.  He has worked with a range of agencies to ensure development could continue to come forward despite the need to protect the Mease SAC.  During his time at South Derbyshire District Council he was largely responsible for ensuring that development schemes would not adversely affect the integrity of the SAC. As a result Kevin has gained an extensive understanding of the Habitat Regulations, nutrient neutrality and the issues facing small and large scale developments within the catchment of sensitive sites affected by nutrients. 

Get In Contact

If you have a site affected by nutrient neutrality issues contact Kevin Exley

Guides & Advice

National Design Code: What is 'beautiful'?

With new priorities for both the government and homeowners triggered by the pandemic, the planning sector has had to adapt. To meet these changes, the government has issued a 10-point plan to improve living standards, named the National Design Code. This forms part of the Planning Practice Guidance. It aims to help developers reach higher liveability standards and create 'beautiful' homes in thriving communities.

The Design Guide illustrates how well designed places that are beautiful, greener, enduring and successful can be achieved in practice. However, what does 'beautiful' really mean, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of this new code?

What is the National Design Code?

The National Design Code outlines 10 points for developers to follow when designing a home. The two main focuses are quality and sustainable building. However, it also highlights the need to keep properties in tune with local communities as well as create homes that meet peoples' evolving needs.

Each of the 10 principles shows what the government's goals are for properties in the coming years. They are:

 

  • Lifespan - Creating homes that are made to last.
  • Context - Enhancing the location and taking advantage of local characteristics.
  • Identity - Making every home attractive and distinctive.
  • Built form - Considering surroundings to create a coherent development.
  • Movement - Making accessibility a key feature.
  • Nature - Enhancing nature and green spaces.
  • Public spaces - Creating a place with the community at its heart, offering a range of social areas.
  • Uses - Mixed use of the land.
  • Homes and building - Building for tomorrow, with functionality and sustainability in mind.
  • Resources - Using resources efficiently to maximise their uses.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

The ambitious framework discusses 'beautiful' places. Beauty is, of course,  a subjective quality. However, according to the government's chief architect, a beautiful home will be one that perfectly addresses the 10-points outlined.

Beauty may be subjective, but quality is not. Perhaps using the Code as a base to design on will be the best use of the framework, giving projects direction without forcing designers to lose their flair.

What are the pros and cons?

The major pros of the proposed National Design Code include the emphasis on the role that local authorities and communities play in the design of places, and the clear framework that it provides to house designers.

On the other hand, the emphasis on local culture could be a difficult goal to achieve. Councils will have varying aspects they would like to focus on and different resources available, so it may be a challenge for developers to reach a finalised plan that ticks every box.

There's also the possibility that the framework could force developers to 'design by numbers', creating housing developments with little personality.

Although the National Design Code provides developers with a great foundation, it's important for designers to bear in mind that 'beauty' is subjective. However, by building on the 10 points and working closely with local authorities, developers will be able to achieve the results desired by both the government and homeowners.

Watch our free webinar, with an expert guest panel, on whether the proposed changes will make a positive impact.

Contact us

For any further information contact Richard Cooke or David Pendle in our dedicated planning consultancy team, Marrons Planning.

Our updated guide to recovery and resilience covers everything you need to navigate your business out of lockdown, unlock your potential and make way for a brighter future. Further advice in relation to COVID-19 can be found on our dedicated coronavirus resource hub.  

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND.

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Your updated guide to recovery and resilience in COVID-19

Your updated guide to recovery and resilience

As the UK takes its first steps to ease the current national restrictions and looks forward to an increase in economic activity and recovery it is vital that businesses are prepared in every aspect.

To support businesses and people navigate their way out of the last year and the current national restrictions, unlock their potential and drive for a brighter future, we have updated our guide to recovery and resilience.

From financial considerations, employees, leadership and premises, to supply chain implications, health and safety and protecting your private wealth, our guide highlights what organisations and individuals should consider when moving from survival to recovery to thrive.

Financial considerations

Whether a large corporate with a highly structured board, an SME or an owner-managed business, the financial viability of a business is key to its future success.   However, as the thoughts turn to the roadmap out of lockdown once again, and what the future may look like, businesses that have got through the last year should consider a range of measures to enable them to cope with what is likely be a recession for some industry sectors of the UK. Prudent business owners will be well aware of the predictions and while there will be a bounce back it may take some time for confidence and stability to return from customers and suppliers.

Your employees

Managing a workforce of any size can have its challenges, let alone one that is recovering from a global crisis. Many businesses will have furloughed employees or made the difficult decision to make a number of their workforce redundant. For those businesses that haven't, it's highly likely they will still face having to make difficult choices, albeit further down the line.

The knock-on effects of the COVID-19 outbreak have changed the way employers engage with and effectively manage, their employees. The processes, policies and guidelines that worked previously may no longer be fit for purpose for your business, or for your workforce, in the new working landscape. With the rollout of the COVID vaccine facilitating the gradual return of employees back into the physical workplace, this in itself will bring a host of new opportunities and challenges.

Buildings, workspaces and leases

As the world and economy move forward out of lockdown, owners and investors of real estate as well as occupying tenants will have to consider the adjustments they now need to make whilst the restrictions around social distancing continue.
They will need to find new ways of working and inevitably different ways to use their space over the coming months and, at the same time, consider how to manage the cost of premises in these changed circumstances.

Suppliers and supply chain

Many businesses have struggled to comply with their contractual obligations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and may have been forced to rethink their supply chains. A focus in recent years on minimising costs, reducing inventories and maximising asset utilisation has often resulted in a reduced ability to cope with disruption. Whilst the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in modern times, disruption to the global economy is an increasing risk, whether due to political events such as Brexit, US-China trade tensions, or climate change.

Private wealth, family businesses and family

The effects of COVID-19 will undoubtedly have a huge impact on our economy for years to come, with many businesses collapsing under the strain and the level of unemployment set to rise significantly. However, what is less widely reported on is the effect it is having and will continue to have, on families and personal wealth. We've already seen that the pandemic has led to an increase in people looking at how they may pass on their wealth to the next generation -and even more so for those that own family businesses.

Compliance - Health and safety

Employers have clear duties under existing health and safety legislation. Obligations to comply with health and safety at work, and to manage and control workplace risks, includes protecting workers and others from the risk of COVID-19 infection in the workplace. That duty is to do everything "reasonably practicable" to manage these risks. The onus of demonstrating that everything reasonably practicable has been done falls to the employer. The best way to demonstrate compliance with the law is usually to follow government and industry-led guidance wherever possible.

Leadership

Strong leadership is a cocktail of authenticity, collaboration, passion, compassion, and a great deal of bravery. We all know the best results occur when we are pushed out of our comfort zones and the ingredients are shaken up, and COVID-19 has done exactly that. With government guidance signalling the UK's route out of current national restrictions, the time for positive leadership is now. It's time to take control of what we can and create an environment with enough certainty where people can feel safe enough to flourish centre stage.

We are here to help

The team here at Shakespeare Martineau remain committed to supporting our clients and our communities throughout these challenging times, with

the depth of experience, collaborative ethos and the creative know-how to lead positively to the future.  We are able to offer advice and solutions on a range of subjects for life and business - from employment and general business matters, through to director's responsibilities, insolvency, restructuring, funding and disputes to issues affecting family businesses, personal wealth planning and family law. Do contact us on 03300 240 333

 

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Building for a Healthy Life: putting wellbeing at the forefront of housing

Building for a Healthy Life: putting wellbeing at the forefront of housing

Lockdown has highlighted that the UK housing crisis isn't purely about quantity, it's also about quality. A form of revolution is needed, with developers adding residents' wellbeing to their priority lists, as well as speed.

Luckily, the recent launch of 'Building for a Healthy Life' (BHL) could be the answer.

Read the Building for a Healthier life toolkit publication here.

The impact of unsuitable housing

Well-lit private spaces and nearby green areas are no longer added extras, they are necessities. For the many people who live in urban areas with limited access to these, the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, having stopped them from being able to escape their four walls.

Space saving is often the main focus for city developments, ensuring maximum capacity in a minimal area. However, this approach doesn't consider wellbeing and instead relies on residents being able to leave to meet their wider basic needs.

This one-size-fits all approach to the housing crisis is not an effective solution, and it's time to try something new.

What is Building for a Healthier Life (BHL)?

Backed by Homes England, BHL has been created to replace 'Building for Life 12' (Bfl 12). Simply put, the goal of these new guidelines is to encourage housing developers to weave health and wellbeing into their plans.

BHL's predecessor, BfL 12, was made up of 12 set questions designed to help assess the quality of housing schemes. Aspects such as facilities, tenure types and private spaces were covered, but many used it as a quick tick-box system, rather than truly considering how they could improve their sites.

However, BHL appears to have moved away from this question and answer process.

'How-to' guides for healthy spaces

The purpose of BHL is for architects and planners to submit evidence that shows exactly how wellbeing elements are to be implemented.

By providing visual aids that act as "how to" guides for healthy spaces, BHL enables developers to pick and choose the design cues that they feel would benefit their own housing schemes.

Wellbeing considerations

There is one thing that BHL has taken from BfL 12, and that is the idea of having 12 main considerations for developers. These have been split into three categories:

  • Integrated neighbourhoods;
  • Distinctive places; and
  • Streets for all.

Individual elements include 'homes for everyone', 'well defined streets and spaces' and 'green and blue infrastructure'.

Each element should be taken in context with the development, rather than followed as a checklist, to ensure the result will fully benefit all residents.

Building long-term housing is essential

In future, decision makers must ensure that wellbeing considerations are included in development plans wherever possible. Although speed is still necessary to tackle the housing crisis, homes built for the long-term must become part of the solution. Hopefully, BHL and the pandemic will lead to more developers building with health in mind.

Helping you to achieve the best outcome

If you're in the early stages of a development, we can help you to utilise the toolkit. Our team of specialist town and country planners will guide you through the process and work alongside you to demonstrate to the decision-maker why your scheme has been designed in a specific manner.

Contact us

For advice and support on how you can use BHL to your advantage, or any other planning query, contact Sachin Parmar  and Brian Mullin in our planning consultancy team Marrons Planning.

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND.

Our free legal helpline offers bespoke guidance on a range of subjects, from employment and general business matters through to director's responsibilities, insolvency, restructuring, funding and disputes. We also have a team of experts on hand for any queries on family and private matters too. Available from 10am-12pm Monday to Friday, call 0800 689 4064.

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Guide

Use Classes | Change of Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order

Use Classes | Change of Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order

Last week the government announced significant changes to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order, which could radically alter the appearance of towns and cities across the country.

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 proposes the amalgamation of a number of existing use classes into new wider use classes.

Our handy one-page guide outlines the changes to the use classes order in England.

This is significant because, in accordance with the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, planning permission is only required for a "material change of use" and as such, changes of use which fall within the same overarching use class will be permitted without the need for an express grant of planning permission.

What this will mean is that local planning authorities will not be able to control the changing nature of commercial buildings, with owners and occupiers having far greater flexibility in what they choose to do with their units.

Read our blog on how redundant commercial buildings can be repurposed into new homes without planning permission.

The broader categories will also potentially allow for greater subdivision of premises, with different users occupying the same space all operating under the umbrella of an overarching use class.

What are the changes?

The changes, which come in to force on 1 September 2020, will create two new uses classes:

  • Class E - commercial, business and service; and
  • Class F

    • Class F.1 (learning and non-residential institutions); and
    • Class F.2 (local community).

It also moves some uses that were previously covered by the use classes order (and which benefitted from certain permitted changes) into the list of uses which cannot be included in a specified class.

Class E will comprise the previous shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3) and offices (B1), together with uses such as gyms, nurseries and health centres (D1 and D2).

The new Learning and non-residential institutions class (F1) will include former D1 uses, which are more likely to involve buildings in wider public use such as school, libraries and art galleries.

Local community uses (Class F2) will include former D2 uses, which provide for group activities of a physical nature such as swimming pools, skating rinks and areas for outdoor sports.  It also includes smaller shops serving local communities.

Residential uses (Class C), general industrial (B2) and storage and distribution (B8) remain unchanged

The previous separate categories for drinking establishments (A4) and hot food takeaways (A5) are removed, and those uses will thereafter be classified as sui generis.  The same will also apply to cinemas, concert, dance and bingo halls (which were previously within class D2).

Transitional arrangements

As of 1 September, there will be some transitional arrangements in place to allow for the use of historic permitted changes, however, these will only be in place until 31 July 2021.  The same is true of relevant Article 4 directions.

Take action now

Our handy one-page guide sets out the planned changes to the use of classes from 1 September 2020. If you are looking at taking on, or converting, a building you should double check the new regulations, as it may be that the new proposals make it easier (or in some cases harder) to change the existing use.  Equally, when considering letting properties, landlords will want to have regard to the types of uses they are willing to accept in their buildings.

Contact us

For advice and support on how these changes may affect your developments, or any other legal planning query, contact Paul Wakefield in our planning team.

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND.

Our free legal helpline offers bespoke guidance on a range of subjects, from employment and general business matters through to director's responsibilities, insolvency, restructuring, funding and disputes. We also have a team of experts on hand for any queries on family and private matters too. Available from 10am-12pm Monday to Friday, call 0800 689 4064.

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Guides & Advice

New permitted development rights | Additional storeys can be built on top of existing blocks of flats

New permitted development rights | Additional storeys can be built on top of existing blocks of flats

From 1 August 2020, a new permitted development right is being introduced, allowing an additional one or two storeys to be constructed on top of existing blocks of flats.

This is alongside engineering operations, replacement or installation of additional plant, construction of safe access and egress and construction of ancillary facilities, where necessary.    

The 'upward extension' measure is being introduced with the aim of increasing housing delivery across the country in a bid to protect 'greenfield' land.  

What are permitted development rights? 

Permitted development rights allow you to make certain changes to a building without needing to apply for planning permission.  

Are there any restrictions? 

The permitted development right is limited in the buildings in which it can be applied to. The right will only apply to blocks of flats that: 

  • are detached; 
  • are at least 3 storeys in heightand 
  • were constructed between 1 July 1948 and 5 March 2018. 

It is important to note that the right does not apply to listed buildings, scheduled monuments or buildings within the curtilage of such. Nor does it apply to buildings within Conservation Areas, National Parks and the Broads, areas of outstanding natural beauty, or sites of special scientific interest.  

If buildings do fulfil all of the criteria above, then an 'upward extension' can be built under permitted development. There are, however, still restrictions on what can be built out.  

A full copy of the legislation can be found here. 

To summarise, the restrictions are as follows: 

  • The extension has to be constructed on the principal part of the building; 
  • The extension cannot exceed 30 metres in height;
  • The overall roof height of the extension cannot be more than seven metres higher than the highest part of the existing roof; and 
  • The internal ceiling height of each storey cannot exceed three metres, OR more than the floor to ceiling height of any of the existing storeys (whichever is the lesser height). 

Prior approval 

 An application for prior approval will have to be made to the Council, accompanied by comprehensive floor plans and elevations. Submitting these details will satisfy the council that the design of the proposals is acceptable, in addition to adequate light being achievable. The council will then have eight weeks to determine the prior approval application. 

Contact us

For advice and support on the new 'upward extension' permitted development rights, or any other planning query, contactBrian Mullin orLizzie Beresfordin our planning consultancy team,Marrons Planning. 

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND.

Our free legal helpline offers bespoke guidance on a range of subjects, from employment and general business matters through to director's responsibilities, insolvency, restructuring, funding and disputes. We also have a team of experts on hand for any queries on family and private matters too. Available from 10am-12pm Monday to Friday, call 0800 689 4064.

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COVID-19 - Permitted development rights

COVID-19 - Permitted development rights

Recent amendments have been made to planning legislation by the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Coronavirus) (England) (Amendment) Order 2020 No.412 to allow emergency development by a local authority or health service body. This came into force on 9 April 2020.

The legislation defines a 'health service body' to include NHS Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts. There are geographical, spatial and height restrictions where development is not permitted, but it otherwise allows NHS Trusts to undertake development for the purposes of preventing an emergency, reducing/controlling/mitigating the effects of an emergency or taking other action in connection with an emergency. For example, providing testing tents, new buildings and enlarging existing buildings in the Covid-19 crisis.

The right is subject to a condition that any operational development is removed and the land restored within 12 months from the permitted use ceasing.

A full copy of the legislation can be found here.

When do the permitted development rights not apply?

  • If any part of the development is on land, which is a military explosive storage area, a site of special scientific Interest (SSSI) or contains a scheduled monument.
  • If any part of the development would be carried out within five metres of any boundary of a dwellinghouse.
  • If any part of the new building is within ten metres of any boundary and the height exceeds six metres. The same height restrictions also apply to additions or enlargements to existing buildings.
  • If the heights of any new buildings exceed the height of the highest part of the roof of the original building, or a height of 18 metres, whichever is greater. The same height restrictions also apply to additions or enlargements to existing buildings - If any moveable structure, works, plant or machinery required temporarily are located in a position within ten metres of the curtilage of a dwellinghouse, or within five metres of the site boundary.

It is important to remember that any development close to the site boundary, or close to residential dwellings, will trigger the requirement for a planning application.

NHS Trusts should be made aware that the Local Planning Authority must be notified following commencement of any permitted development.

Contact us
For advice and support to carry out development for the purpose of tackling the COVID-19 crisis, or any other planning query, contact Brian Mullin or Sachin Parmar in our planning consultancy team, Marrons Planning.

Shakespeare Martineau has launched a free legal helpline offering bespoke guidance on a range of subjects from employment and general business matters, through to director's responsibilities, insolvency, restructuring, funding and disputes. We also have a team of experts on hand for any queries on family and private matters too. Available from 10am-12pm Monday to Friday, call 0800 689 4064.

General advice in relation to COVID-19 can be found on our dedicated coronavirus resource hub.

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