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New Eastern Villages the Future for Swindon

24/01/2020

The New Eastern Villages is one of the largest developments in the UK currently. It will see the delivery of around 8,000 needed new homes in the area and nationally. The NEV will also be providing new schools for that area and the wider Swindon population, areas of employment, numerous sports facilities and other community facilities.

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£100m National Road Fund Release

08/10/2019

The Department for Transport gave the official go ahead last month with a number of road schemes. The schemes are set to receive a portion of £100m Government funding from the National Roads Fund.

The Department for Transport revealed that four schemes have been approved for this first phasing of funding. £31m for the Preston western distributor, £25.5m for the Stubbington bypass, £22.5m for the White Hart junction and £22.9m for the Wichelstowe southern access project in Swindon. The projects have been approved for construction to begin under local bids.

The £22.5m funding for White Hart junction will see a necessary upgrade of the intersection between the A419 and A420 which will benefit the exiting users of the network and forthcoming development at the New Eastern Villages.

Further road schemes are set to benefit from the Government’s National Road Fund across the UK in further phases coming forward.

Image:Shutterstock

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£3.6 billion new Town Funds

10/09/2019

On the 6th September 2019 Local Government Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP announced which towns will benefit from the £3.6 billion Towns Fund to build prosperous futures. It is intended that Towns across England will work with the government through this fund to develop innovative regeneration plans. Communities, businesses and local leaders will now join forces to propose plans to transform these town’s economic growth prospects with attention on improved transport, broadband connectivity (5G infrastructure), skills and culture.

The government will next publish a prospectus to guide towns through the process and set eligibility criteria for funding to be unlocked.

Swindon has been named as one of the many Towns to benefit. A full list of places can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5d722667e5274a09881c0c58/list-of-100-places.pdf

Read full Government press release here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/100-places-to-benefit-from-new-towns-fund.

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Swindon’s Local Plan Review

30/08/2019

The current Local Plan Swindon have in place is the key planning document providing the strategy for the area to deliver growth up to the year 2026. Under Government guidance local plans or policies are to be reviewed and assess whether they need updating at least once every 5 years.

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£72m Key Infrastructure

09/07/2019

Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet meet on Wednesday 10th July to approve necessary road infrastructure upgrades in Swindon costing £72+ million.

Major highway improvements and upgrades are due to take place October 2019. The road network upgrades are part of the vital infrastructure required for the 8,000+ homes set to be built East of the A419 at the allocated site of the New Eastern Villages (NEV).

The NEV is one of the largest greenfield developments in the UK consisting of 8,000+ homes, new primary/secondary schools, employment hubs, sports facilities, health facilities and utility/road infrastructure.

The first improvement scheme is proposed to take place at the White Hart junction this October. This will see the construction of a new northbound slip road from the roundabout on to the A4119 which has been needed regardless of the new housing coming forward at the NEV.

To find out more about the infrastructure coming forward visit Swindon Borough Council’s website here: https://www.swindon.gov.uk/news/article/261/essential_road_upgrades_will_start_in_october_to_enable_8000-home_development_to_go_ahead

Image: Google Maps

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5G Infrastructure

26/06/2019

A new era of 5G networks is upon us with the start of the infrastructure being put in across the UK this year. It is the latest stage in mobile technology and is essential in the communication of connecting buildings, transport networks and utilities of smart cities. May saw the beginning of this new period after the technology was switched on in six UK cities with EE leading the way.

Gareth Elliott, Head of Policy and Communications at Mobile UK released the following statement earlier in May:

“In the coming years, it is expected the way people interact with apps, mobile content and online services will change dramatically. Connectivity today is focused primarily on the smartphone, but the future will see more and more devices connected to one another. From the connected smart home to the connected car, or the autonomous factory to remote surgery, the way people, places and machines communicate will be vastly different. However, for this to happen, mobile operators need to be able to build and deploy their networks.”

There are also currently security questions around allowing firms form other countries such as Chinese firm Huawei to build 5G networks and infrastructure; but a different question is also in the background before we get to the stage of who is putting the infrastructure in. How has/is the UK planning system preparing for 5G infrastructure?

Local authorities are and always have been extremely instrumental in working with the private sector to ensure the planning and implementation of infrastructure projects such as the UK mobile network can be achieved. UK Mobile have said the following on the role Councils will play:

“How local authorities interpret planning laws and street works rules, and how they design local economic strategies has a bearing on how efficiently mobile infrastructure can be deployed. In short, councils influence the cost of mobile infrastructure and the speed with which it is built.”

Just 28 per cent of local plans make detailed reference to mobile connectivity. Mobile UK found that the majority of local authorities, 87 per cent, have yet to audit their assets, whether that is land, buildings or other infrastructure, for suitability for this digital kit required.

The report commissioned by Mobile UK showed 74 per cent of local authorities had not applied for funding to improve connectivity and only 10 per cent of council economic strategies offer a clear view of how mobile connectivity is crucial to future economic outcomes.

5G being rolled out across the UK is a huge infrastructure project which we need to ensure is planned correctly in order to minimise wastage of resource (cost) and time. It is essential in the development of the UK.

Read the full report by Mobile UK here: http://www.mobileuk.org/central-role-for-councils-in-5g-future.html

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Biodiversity Net Gain

30/05/2019

The Chancellor confirmed in the Spring Statement the UK government will mandate biodiversity net gain within the coming Environment Bill. Following consultation by Defra (Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs) The UK Government on the 13th March 2019 confirmed that all new developments must ensure that they not only preserve the current biodiversity but show an overall increase in it. What does this mean for future developments?

A net gain in biodiversity will require developers to ensure that any habitats for wildlife that are impacted on site are improved through enhancement and left in a demonstrably superior state post development. The current ecological studies that are required for planning are still needed with the assessment of the types of habitats and the conditions recorded. The planning applications will then need to demonstrate how the biodiversity is going to be improved post development, examples of some of the methods being put forward are through the creation of green corridors, more tree planting etc.

The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management published the following statement: “Quite simply, a policy of no net loss has not worked and we need to do something different if we are to make any progress towards reaching our biodiversity targets.” Naturally if developments are unable to show no net loss when an environment is changing to an urban form rather than refine the process or look at the short fall in the method of measurement of the biodiversity the answer is to seek a net gain instead and require more from what is currently a failing process.

The planning system and developers have an important role in ensuring the sustainability of our built environments but the process as a whole needs to be refined if it is to achieve the biodiversity targets and not just become another tick box within the current planning system. If the UK is to see a positive move in future urban expansions, better designed areas and a net gain in biodiversity then the burdens on sites as a whole paying for infrastructure elsewhere or other forms of tax need to be lessened.

Image: Shutterstock

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The Housing Delivery Test

23/04/2019

The Housing Delivery Test was published earlier this year showing that 33% of Councils are under delivering with their housing supply.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) set out a timeframe for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to publish the results of the UK’s first Housing Delivery Test in November 2018, then every November yearly after.

The Housing Delivery Test takes into account the number of homes required within the Councils control from the period of 2015-2018 and compares this to the number of homes delivered over that period. In order for a Council to pass the delivery test they must deliver 95% of the assessed need. The Councils that delivered 85-95% must then produce an action plan in accordance with national planning guidance to establish why they are under delivering and how they plan to address this. Councils that only delivered 25-85% of their housing need must identify a buffer of 20% more land to show they will achieve the set out housing.

Although 77% of Councils demonstrated they had delivered their housing need for the period 2015-2018 they still have a potential problem with their five year housing supply and delivering the homes the UK so desperately needs.

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UK Construction Output

15/04/2019

The latest measures of output by the construction industry was released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this month. Construction output increased by 0.4% in the month-on-month all work series in February 2019. In the month-on-month series, there was a 1.1% increase in all new work, while all repair and maintenance fell by 1.0% in February 2019.

Read the full report here: https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/constructionindustry/bulletins/constructionoutputingreatbritain/february2019

Image: ONS

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The Future of House Building

12/04/2019

With the housing numbers within the UK not being met is there a new quicker method of building housing. The UK could be entering a new era of prefab or ‘modular construction’ house building.

Modular construction has some controversy surrounding it though with one side arguing that it produces a lower quality product whilst the other promises higher standards than traditional methods claiming they will be more energy efficient. One thing is for certain with a modular home building factory announced last month in Cheshire aiming to produce 2,000 homes a year we will see modular homes across the UK.

Modern construction methods shouldn’t be discounted from the house building process but they should be incorporated with proven traditional methods to ensure the UK’s home maintain the high standards we have become accustomed to. The industry should strive to continually innovate from the design stage right through to construction and ultimately completion.

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The Rosewell Review

27/02/2019

The Rosewell review points to outdated administrative processes and poor IT infrastructure stating that planning appeal decisions should be actioned quicker with five months easily being shaved off from majority of cases.

An independent review of planning appeal inquiries was set in motion June 2018 with the findings being released at the end of 2018. On 19 December 2018 Bridget Rosewell submitted her independent report on planning appeal inquiries to the Secretary of State.  The report summarises the findings of the review and makes 22 recommendations on how the planning appeal inquiry process can be improved and decisions made more quickly.

Amongst the whole report there is one statement that stands out above the rest:

“Inquiries, like all processes, rely on having the right people to undertake…”

It is critical that with the digital upgrading of the planning system, technological advances and the stream lining of current planning process that we ensure the individuals working within the system are capable and competent. There needs to be more accountability for the individuals involved with planning applications reaching this point especially when they are being overturned and granted permission. The tools and processes being used can be changed and upgraded time and time again but if the individuals using them do not adapt with these changes then the system will remain flawed.  

The full report is available here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/777822/Independent_Review_of_Planning_Appeal_Inquiries_Exec_Summary.pdf

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