Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Appeal slices £300k off highway costs

MAZE Planning Solutions has helped reduce the cost of highway works demanded by Bolton Council for a business development to around £20,000 from £320,000 following the successful conclusion of an enforcement appeal in November.

The Westhoughton development is HQ to northwest demolition specialist Forshaw and asbestos contractor Malrod Insulations, who both built space for their own occupation.

The local authority had required road widening and junction improvements under a planning condition but the associated costs were significant, reaching an estimated £0.5 million at one stage.

Forshaw and Malrod were unable to reach a negotiated solution and Bolton Council took enforcement action when the highway works were not done.

The planning inspector, Peter Willows, accepted that the lesser works proposed by the appellants would deal adequately with HGV traffic associated with their developments, and concluded that the Council's preferred scheme was flawed in its rationale and the outcome it would achieve.

Specialist highway advice to Forshaw / Malrod for the appeal was provided by Alan Davies of DTPC Ltd, and legal support from Lewis Denton of Dyne Solicitors.
A copy of the appeal decision can be viewed here

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Parliamentary Ombudsman reports on MAZE case

A report by the Parliamentary Ombudsman analysing how the Planning Inspectorate dealt with a complaint made by MAZE Planning Solutions on behalf of a client has concluded that The Inspectorate's response was 'unfair and unjust'

The ombudsman investigated four cases where The Inspectorate had refused to compensate individuals or organisations for mistakes that had caused the parties to incur extra costs through no fault of their own.

In each of the four cases, The Inspectorate told those affected that it would not offer compensatory payments unless the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman recommended that it do so.

The Inspectorate took this hard line approach because it had taken the decision to abolished its ex-gratia payment scheme in March 2011 as a cost cutting measure designed to contribute towards the organisation's need to make overall savings of around £9 million per year.

The Ombudsman concluded that The Inspectorate's approach to remedying complaints in the absence of a formal scheme was not acceptable.
"The decision not to pay financial remedies without a recommendation from the Ombudsman meant that the Planning Inspectorate expected individual people, in most cases, to bear the costs of mistakes made by the Planning Inspectorate. That was unfair and unjust"
The inspectorate ended up paying compensation totalling more than £100,000 to the complainants - with almost half of that figure accounted for by MAZE Planning's complaint, which related to the handling of enforcement appeals for a motocross track in the Lancashire Green Belt.

In light of the four cases, the Ombudsman recommended, and The Inspectorate accepted, that it should revisit 14 further complaints where compensation had been refused solely as a result of the closure of the ex-gratia payment scheme.

As a result of the report The Inspectorate made further compensatory payments, apologised to the parties involved and said that it had reintroduced the ex-gratia payment scheme to enable financial redress to be provided in appropriate circumstances.

The Ombudsman's report, A false economy: investigations into how people are recompensed for government mistakes is available here

A copy of the case specific report issued to MAZE Planning's client can be made available to interested parties - please email your request to Andrew Watt

Friday, 12 October 2012

Housing Application at Rossendale United

MAZE Planning Solutions has submitted an outline planning application for housing development on the former Rossendale United ground at Dark Lane, Newchurch, on behalf of the owner, Rossendale United Holdings Ltd.  The application follows public consultation undertaken in the spring and proposes a development of 50 family homes, together with a commitment to provide a financial injection to sport and recreation facilities serving the local community in Newchurch.

Rossendale United ceased to be an active football club at the end of the 2009/2010 football season when it was expelled from the Vodkat League because funds were not available to cover the costs of a playing campaign.  Significant debts had built up and there was no way of balancing the books.

In January this year the club’s redundant Dark Lane ground in the Newchurch area of Rossendale was subjected to an arson attack that destroyed the main stand, drawing attention to the need to identify a long term use for the site.

Andrew Watt of MAZE Planning Solutions said:

“We are pleased to have now moved on to the formal planning application process.  It brings the prospect of sorting out the mess that now exists at Dark Lane nearer to a conclusion. 

The need to improve the supply of housing development opportunities in Rossendale Borough is self-evident.  The land at Dark Lane is well suited to help the Council achieve that objective.  It sits in the midst of established housing and residential use is the only realistic alternative for it.

We will work through the application process carefully with the officers at Rossendale over the coming weeks and are hopeful of securing their support and a planning permission early in the New Year.” 

 The proposed development layout can be viewed here.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Helping Barnardo's in Blackpool

MAZE Planning Solutions is pleased to have helped children's charity Barnardo's establish a new donation centre and shop in Blackpool.
MAZE secured planning permission with the support of officers at Blackpool Council in August to enable Barnardo's to occupy a 550 sq.m (6,000 sq.ft) vacant unit at Cherry Tree Retail Park, Blackpool, FY4 4PH.
The new use combines a 'front of house' retail space together with a larger area devoted  to receiving, sorting and redistributing donated goods to maintain a flow of stock for the charity's established network of stores in the Fylde coast area.
MAZE acted for the retail park owner, Laketime Holiday Ltd.  
Letting agent: Robert Pinkus & Co 
Landlord's legal adviser: Napthens Solicitors

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Planning Shake Up

Secretary of State Eric Pickles MP has outlined new measures today intended to give a shot in the arm to the development industry as Government searches for ways to heart-start the UK's stumbling economic performance. 

The reforms, which are proposed to be brought about swiftly to reduce planning delays, include:
  • Relaxing permitted development rights for extensions to homes, shops and commercial premises
  • Using the Planning Inspectorate to determine planning applications as a substitute for any local authorities with a track record of consistently poor performance.
  • Broadening the definition of schemes that will be determined centrally by the Planning Inspectorate, as nationally significant infrastructure projects, to include some commercial and business developments.
  • Speeding up the planning appeals process to help bring quicker decisions on commercial development projects in particular.
  • Extension by a further year of the October 2009 provisions, Greater Flexibility for Planning Permissions, which enable extensions to the time limits for implementing planning permissions.  Permissions granted on or before 01 October 2010 which remain alive can be renewed by a simplified procedure if they are in danger of lapsing.
  • Addressing the viability of developments that are tied to affordable housing contributions which, if reduced or removed, would help housing developments get started.  Local authorities are encouraged to deal with such matters positively and immediately, ahead of any legislative changes.
The Secretary of State's full statement can be viewed here

Gateshead Housing Application Submitted

MAZE Planning Solutions has submitted an outline planning application for development of 7 houses in the village of High Spen, Gateshead, on behalf of the owner, Northern Properties.

Maze first secured planning permission for development on the site in 2006.  The revised scheme provides an alternative form of housing to appeal to the current market and preserves an existing home on the site which was previously due to be sacrificed to the development scheme.

Click here for a 3D image of the proposed scheme

Interested purchasers can contact Stephen Smith at Ashley Smith Chartered Surveyors in Durham for further details.

Local Progress

Things are moving on swiftly at MAZE Planning projects close to our Bury office base.

Peel Industrial Estate, Bury

Andrew Connolly Demolition has made short work of removing Peel Mills, a large former textile mill. 

The contractor will soon move on to restoration of the site in readiness for future employment development by owners Industrious.

MAZE Planning Solutions obtained the demolition consent and has provided supported to other elements of the project.

Hilton House, Irwell Street, Bury

On the edge of the Bury town centre contractors have descended on Hilton House to transform the internal spaces ready for occupation by Indigo Contractor Services, a specialist healthcare provider.

The building will house private primary care medical facilities.

MAZE Planning secured planning permission for the change of use of the building after it was vacated by Bury Council. 



Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Planning Application Fees - Autumn Increase

Decentralisation Minister, Greg Clark has issued a written statement this afternoon, announcing an increase in planning application fees of 15%, which will take effect in the autumn.

Current fee rates were set in 2008 and the proposed increase is described by Clark a "one-off adjustment to up-rate fees in line with inflation".

The increase is intended to address a shortfall in fee income against the cost of processing applications, the balance of which Clark says, "has to be subsidised by ordinary council tax payers, who end up subsidising the planning process".

The announcement seems to have ended the possibility of Local Authorities being able to set their own planning application fee rates - that change to the present system was subject to consultation in November 2010, launched by Greg Clark.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Rossendale United - Planning Application Imminent

Coverage in this week's Lancashire Telegraph confirms that preparations for submission of a planning application for housing development on the former Rossendale United football ground are at an advanced stage.

MAZE Planning Solutions is leading the application process, following on from public consultation undertaken during the spring which sought feedback on the proposed 50 home development. 

Click here to read the Lancashire Telegraph Article.

The Importance of Proof

If, like Maze Planning, you are involved in making or determining 'prior approval' applications for development, the landscape has just changed.

The 'prior approval' process is most commonly used for telecoms masts and antennae, agricultural and forestry development, and before demolition of buildings, to give local planning authorities an opportunity to consider if the proposal is Permitted Development (ie not requiring an application for planning permission) and that the details of the particular scheme, such as those relating to siting and materials, are acceptable.

The requirement to seek 'prior approval' is matched by strict time limits which local authorities must adhere to when dealing with the submission.  If a local authority sends no notification within the specified time limit, then the prior approval process is deemed to have been satisfied and the development can go ahead in the form submitted.

A recent legal case has directed that a local authority must be able to prove that it sent a timely response if it is later to rely on that to query the development concerned.  In effect, nothing short of recorded delivery will do to ensure there is proof of both sending and subsequent receipt by the applicant.

The cases in Walsall and Dartford both concerned telecoms mast development, where the local authorities had come to the view that the proposed development was not Permitted Development, and should be rejected.  Letters to that effect were posted but the applicants later said they were never received, so they pressed ahead with the mast installations.  The judge concluded that the local authority notifications could not be deemed to have been properly served at the time of posting because it was key that the relevant information reached the applicant - the simple act of posting did not guarantee that outcome, and was refutable evidence.

Applicants are not going to actively pursue the receipt of timely prior approval decisions because it is to their advantage that the prescribed determination period passes without event, so the responsibility, and burden of proof for timely notification, rests firmly with the determining authority.

There are alternatives to recorded delivery notification - good old fax, if that line of communication is available, and email, so long as there's a follow up mechanism in place to ensure that the email is received by the correct person / organisation and acknowledged within the statutory time limit.  Rightly or wrongly, anything less robust can quite simply be denied by the Applicant. 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Malvern Retail Park Extension

The Malvern Gazette has reported details of MAZE Planning's application for extension of Malvern Shopping Park made on behalf of the owner Consolidated Property Group in April 2012.  The article reassures local readers that Malvern town centre is in good health, with few vacancies and typically fast turnaround of any space that does become available. 

The planning application proposes development of two additional units, extending the existing retail park by 252 square metres.  If approved the new units will have permission for dual use, allowing occupation for both retail and cafe/restaurant uses. A decision on the planning application is expected in early June.

Read the Malvern Gazette article here

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Industrious moves ahead with Peel Mills demolition

Specialist industrial and warehouse property owner Industrious, is to move ahead with demolition of the remaining former mill buildings at Peel Industrial Estate in the north west town of Bury. 

MAZE Planning Solutions Maze Planning Solutions secured approval to the demolition this week.

Demolition, being undertaken by Andrew Connolly Demolition, will make available a large area for future provision of modern industrial buildings, adding to those on the existing estate. 
Industrious owns and manages approximately 1250 industrial units and warehouses on 85 estates across the UK, totalling more than 7 million sq.ft.  Nolan Redshaw Chartered Surveyors is advising on lettings.  

Medical Practice Approved for Bury

Indigo Healthcare will be bringing its private primary health care services to Bury following approval earlier this week of its proposals to take occupation of Hilton House. The town centre building, located on Irwell Street next to Castle Leisure Centre, had been empty for several months following the departure of the Council's Children's Services team.

Indigo is relocating from the neighbouring borough of Rossendale and expects to create a number of new jobs when the practice is established in its new home.

MAZE Planning Solutions handled the planning application for change of use of the building, assisted by FuZED Architecture + Design.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Concert Events Approved at Globe Arena

Morecambe Football Club's plans for music concerts at its Globe Arena stadium have been approved today by Lancaster City Council's planning committee.

The permission comes after 9 months of negotiation and discussion led by MAZE Planning Solutions, required to overcome a wide range of concerns about noise, traffic and event management raised by the local authority, police and Lancashire County Council.

Morecambe FC will be allowed to hold three days of live music events each year, with the potential to attract up to 12,000 music fans each day. It's likely the event will take the form of a festival spanning 2 or 3 consecutive days during the closed football season so full use can be made of the stadium

Most Planning Committee Members were keen to enable an event to be held to capture tourism benefits for the resort, balancing that against the need to protect the amenity of local residents.  A temporary planning permission has been given, which allows the Football Club's commitment to good working practices for event management and noise control to be demonstrated.

MAZE led the planning process, assisted by the Manchester office of Hepworth Acoustics, which provided specialist noise modelling expertise.

Friday, 30 March 2012

MAZE in the north east

A successful week for MAZE Planning Solutions in the north east, assisting two established, growing businsses in their efforts to deliver sustainable services to the region:

Prior Approval granted on 27 March for a forestry road extension in Rowlands Gill, Gateshead, which builds on earlier forestry related approvals secured for WoodFuelBarn.com to help the business provide sustainable timber fuel to its growing customer base.

Planning permission granted for a bus depot on 29 March to enable Weardale Travel to establish a base in Consett, County Durham, for provision of bus and coach services, giving sustainable transport a boost in the region.

National Planning Policy Framework Published

The Government's overhaul of national planning policy was published on Tuesday.  A significant planning event.

The National Planning Policy Framework is effective immediately and a material consideration for planning decision makers.  Local authorities with approved Local Plans have 12 months from 27 March to ensure strategies and polices are consistent with the new national guidance.

Essential reading, click below to view:
The NPPF document
The Government's press release
The Ministerial Statement to Parliament

Thursday, 22 March 2012

It's at the Printers!

It's almost time to sit down and digest the new National Planning Policy Framework - the much hailed and abridged successor to the current, familiar clutch of Planning Policy Guidance notes (PPG) and Planning Policy Statements (PPS) that provide national guidance on a broad range of issues from noise, to economic development, enforcement and green belt. 

George Osborne MP says the document's good to go on Tuesday, 27 March. It will be published and become immediately effective from that day. A quick look at the consultation draft Framework published in July 2011 promises a document that will say:
  • planning authorities should plan positively for new development, and approve all individual proposals wherever possible. In particular they should approve proposals that accord with statutory plans without delay
  • planning permission should be granted where the development plan is “absent, silent, indeterminate, or where relevant policies are out of date
  • the primary objective of development management is to “foster the delivery of sustainable development, not to hinder or prevent development
  • local planning authorities should approach development management decisions positively, attach significant weight to the benefits of economic and housing growth, influence development proposals to achieve quality outcomes, and enable the delivery of sustainable development proposals

Not long to wait now for a document that Mr Osborne described in his Budget speech as "...the biggest reduction in business red tape ever undertaken....".  That's quite a bold promise.  It will certainly be interesting reading.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Rossendale United - Public Consultation

MAZE has launched a public consultation exercise to help shape development proposed at the former home of Rossendale United Football Club in the Newchurch area of Rossendale Borough.

Rossendale United ceased to be an active football club at the end of the 2009/10 season. Significant debts had amassed and the consequent inability to pay the day-to-day bills led to expulsion from the Vodkat League.

The Club's pitch and associated facilities at Dark Lane have become a target for vandalism and anti-social behaviour. On 15 January this year the main stand was devastated in an arson attack. 

It has become increasingly urgent and important to identify a positive future for the ground to prevent it becoming a serious blight on the local community, and to remove the risks and dangers of a repeat of the recent fire.

The consultation exercise seeks to do that by encouraging the local community and other interest groups to get involved.  The consultation was launched on 14 February and runs until the 7th March 2012.  It asks for feedback on a proposed family housing development of about 50 units, together with ideas for an associated 'sporting legacy'.

Further details: www.darklanedevelopments.co.uk