Sunday, 13 December 2009

Morecambe in the Media

Progress on site at Morecambe Football Club's new Westgate Stadium featured on the BBC's Football League Show yesterday (12 December). The Club is investing £12M in the new facility, guided by planning advice from MAZE, provided over the last 3 years.

With steel work going up, development of the 6000 capacity stadium is starting to take shape, just as the team's efforts on the field push them into the play-off zone. In footballing terms there's a long way to go until the end of the season, but even the slightest whiff of a chance at competing for League One status coinciding with a move to Westgate is creating a real buzz at the Club, and here at MAZE.

Take a look for yourself on BBC iPlayer (starts at 59 minutes)

Friday, 25 September 2009

Developers to be offered extended consents

Place North West - 24 September 2009, 14:50

The Government's Chief Planner, Steve Quartermaine, has confirmed special arrangements will come into play on 1 October for extending existing planning permissions.

The measure is being introduced to try and help the development industry keep the prospect of stalled development schemes alive through the continuing challenges of the recession.

From 1 October application forms will be available on the Planning Portal website for those wishing to extend the life of exiting permissions. The provisions apply to all planning permissions, but the permission must be alive and unimplemented on 1 October to qualify for consideration.

The provisions also extend to separate consents given for works relating to listed buildings and conservation areas, but only if there's a corresponding planning permission which is being extended at the same time.

There's a fee of £500 for applications to extend the time limit for implementation of major developments, a nominal fee of £50 for householder development, and £170 for anything else.

Andrew Watt, partner at MAZE Planning Solutions, based in Bury, commented "The introduction of these provisions should bring a measure of relief to developers and landowners working hard to keep the prospects of a development alive. Many will have invested a great deal of time and money in securing permission in the first place, only to be rewarded by a falling demand for space and viability calculations that no longer stack up. The provisions could be particularly critical to landowners and developers for whom it is vital to maintain the book value of assets in order to satisfy lenders and keep within banking covenants."

"One word of caution - there's a twist for those with permissions that are due to expire within the first few weeks after 1 October - whilst the desired application fee levels have been identified by DCLG, the corresponding application fee regulations can only be changed by Parliament."

"As matters stand at present DCLG think that may not happen until eight or ten weeks after 1 October. In the meantime the existing fee regime stands - and that means paying a full application fee for a time extension, as if the proposal were a new application. For a major development that could run to tens of thousands of pounds."

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

An Appealing Month

Appeals have been flavour of the month at MAZE during September. We've just concluded the submission of evidence for two appeals. Both are to follow the written representations route which, in the case of an Enforcement Notice appeal for Morecambe Football Club, was forced by the Planning Inspectorate, contrary to the Appellant's request for the matter to be dealt with by Hearing. This recently introduced power enabling the Inspectorate to determine the route of appeals could well prove to be a controversial one where differences of opinion arise in more significant cases, or where an appellant feels the only way they can effectively take a planning authority to task is in person.

Morecambe FC had a modest disagreement with the Lancaster City Council over the presence of a temporary portable building which houses the Club's merchandise store at its Christie Park ground. The Club has experienced significant growth in its commercial and community activities since being promoted to the Football League in 2007 and has outgrown limited accommodation at Christie Park. Relief is on the way in the form of the new stadium complex at Westgate in Morecambe, where construction work is well underway. The Inspector has been asked to grant permission for the building until the new stadium is ready in June next year, or extend the compliance date of the Notice to cover the same period.

In Liverpool 3 years of negotiation and a 2 failed applications turned briefly positive when an officer recommendation for approval was secured for development of 24 apartments on a vacant former motor trade site in the City's Housing Market Renewal Area. The relief was short lived as progress was halted abruptly by a Planning Committee decision to unanimously overturn the recommendation and refuse permission in June. Committee appeared to be influenced more by the passionate pleas of neighbours and ward councillors than the facts of the case. An appeal was the inevitable outcome.

Both cases should be determined before the end of the year.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

MAZE Welcomes Leo Group Ltd

MAZE Planning Solutions is pleased to announce a growing working relationship with Halifax-based Leo Group Ltd, a forward-looking recycling business. The company specialises in the collection and processing of animal by-products, industrial and commercial waste. It recently announced the formation of a new business, FOOD2ENERGY, and an intention to pursue other waste-to-energy generation initiatives.

Leo Group is keen to establish positive working relationships with local authorities and play an active part in meeting the objectives of local waste strategies and sustainable energy generation.

MAZE is working with Leo Group to consider short and long-term development issues at locations in Penrith, Braintree Glenrothes, Bradford and Halifax.

Christmas, Wrapped Up............ in July

Christmas 2008 has finally been wrapped up, in July, for Bolton Christmas Trees, with a bit of help from MAZE Planning Solutions.

The annual sale of real trees from a site in Kearsley, Bolton attracted the Council's attention during the festive season. An absence of planning permission led to formal enforcement action and several subsequent months of distinctly unseasonal discussions.

MAZE appealed the enforcement notice, put together a dossier of documents that persuaded the Council to withdraw the notice and halt the appeal, and then successfully pursued a Lawful Development Certificate application to make sure that Christmas 2009 and beyond can pass with a bit less fuss and bother, at least for Kearsley's Christmas tree devotees.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Conservatory Conserving

MAZE Planning has successfully challenged an Enforcement Notice served on a family who had constructed a domestic conservatory thinking it had the benefit of Permitted Development rights.

MAZE helped the family, living close to the firm's Bury base, to implement a strategy of positive engagement with the local authority, which saw a planning application for retention of much of the conservatory approved in advance of the Enforcement Appeal Hearing.

The Inspector concluded that whilst the 5.1 metres structure built by the Appellant was much longer that a 3.0 metres advisory figure contained in a policy guidance note adopted by the local authority, there was no adverse impact on the amenity of neighbours. The Inspector endorsed the Apellant's case that planning permission should be granted to enable the whole conservatory to be retained, as built.

The appeal, was dealt with by Hearing on 16 June 2009 and the decision issued on 03 July.

[PINS Appeal Reference APP/T4210/C/08/2090649]

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Groundbreaking Day for Morecambe FC

Morecambe FC has commenced work on the site of the Club's new stadium at Westgate, keeping the Shrimps on target to take occupation of their new home in time for commencement of the 2010/11 football season.

It's almost 2 years since MAZE Planning first became involved and 14 months since the formal application for planning permission was submitted to Lancaster City Council.

MFC's Brian Fagan, who is overseeing the construction process, commented personally on MAZE Planning's continued input to the project:

"Thanks for giving this so much attention over a long period of time. Thanks also for your concentrated efforts over the last few weeks which have enabled us to get on site and start the construction process. I have visited the site and it is very pleasing to see the first remodelling taking place"

The commencement of site preparation works at Westgate tops a ground breaking week for the Football Club, which won the accolade of producing 'the best pie in football' after 22 year old football foodie Tom Dickinson visited all 92 football league grounds during the current season on a marathon munch-quest. Tom's travels will provide material for his forthcoming football pastry guide, '92 Pies'. Thanks for keeping it real Tom!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Northern Powerhouse Economies Get Pilot 'City Region' Status

Alistair Darling's 2009 Budget was always going to be a headline grabbing affair given the parlous state of the economy, but with increasingly tangible signs of stabilisation in the financial and property markets the Chancellor's announcement that Greater Manchester and Leeds will be allowed to pursue pilot 'city-region' arrangements seems like a shred of good news. The proposed changes have the potential to deliver a significant boost to regional confidence and the ability of the two northern powerhouse economies to respond more flexibly to opportunities to attract inward investment as the conditions for recovery take shape.

The elected regions will gain more power over planning, housing, transport, regeneration, employment and skills programmes and will be expected to integrate work across local authority boundaries.

Over the next few months the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) will begin the preparation of the 'Greater Manchester Strategic Plan' which will set out agreed regional priorities aimed at creating condition to accelerate growth. The pilot will be overseen by government ministers.

Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Bristol, Luton and Sheffield are understood to have just missed out on the pilot scheme after bids from around England were submitted in March. Liverpool has commenced work on its bid for City Region status and is widely anticipated as being likely to secure Government support during the next round of announcements.

Andrew Watt
MAZE Planning Solutions

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

National Planning Policy Overhaul Announced

A major overhaul of planning guidance issued by Central Government will be issued for consultation shortly, according to a Communities and Local Government (CLG) press release today, 25th March.

The press release, aimed at publicising the Government's response to MP Matthew Taylor's recent assessment of how land use planning can meet the needs for affordable housing and viable businesses in rural areas, focuses on the problems associated with high rural house prices. Hidden away in the 'Notes to Editors' CLG announces an immediate intention to draw together several existing policy guidance documents into a single planning policy statement (PPS), entitled 'Planning For Prosperity':

"In its final form, this PPS will replace Planning Policy Guidance Note 4: Industrial, commercial development and small firms (PPG4, 1992), Planning Policy Guidance Note 5: Simplified Planning Zones (PPG5, 1992), Planning Policy Statement 6: Planning for town centres (PPS6, 2005), Planning Policy Statement 7: Sustainable development in rural areas (PPS7) (as far as it relates to economic development) and paragraphs 53, 54 and Annex D of Planning Policy Guidance Note 13: Transport. This will be published for consultation shortly"

MAZE Planning Solutions Partner, Andrew Watt, comments on this significant change to the planning policy regime:
“The Government has for some time expressed a commitment to producing shorter, punchier statements of national planning guidance. There’s a lot of material to squeeze into the proposed Prosperity PPS when you look at the range of topics covered. Inevitably that will mean there’s a need for supporting documents and practice statements. Without them the scope for interpretation of the new PPS will be too great. The Government had proposed practice guidance to accompany emerging revisions to PPS6 (Town Centres) the publication of which was imminent until this latest announcement from CLG. My fear, which I expect will be echoed elsewhere in the industry, is that the Government’s track record of delivering on promises of supporting guidance for PPG’s and PPS’s is patchy at best. The wholesale change now proposed to policy guidance really must mark the point where Government recognises the importance of issuing any proposed accompanying guidance for consultation at the same time as the text of the principal PPS.”

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Tesco 'Competion Test' Victory enables New Retail Planning Guidance to Move Forward

Tesco has successfully challenged the lawfulness of the proposed introduction of a ‘competition test’ which it the retailer said threatened to complicate the consideration of planning applications for large foodstores.

The aim of the competition test was to ensure that local planning authorities withheld planning permission for the construction or expansion of a large grocery store if there was already a high level of local concentration of large grocery stores, and the retailer applying for permission had (or would have had) a substantial part of the market. The Office of Fair Trading would be expected to provide advice to local planning authorities on whether a particular retailer has passed or failed the competition test. Applications would pass the test if within an area defined by reference to a 10-minute drive-time of the development site:
- the grocery retailer that would operate the new store was a new entrant to that area; or
- the total number of “fascias” in that area was four or more; or
- the total number of fascias in that area was three or fewer but the relevant grocery retailer would operate less than 60% of groceries sales area (including the proposed new development).

Tesco submitted that the Commission’s April 2008 recommendation failed to take proper account of all relevant considerations which ought to have formed part of its assessment. The Tribunal unanimously concluded that the Commission failed properly to consider certain matters which were relevant to its recommendation that the competition test be imposed as part of a package of remedies to address the adverse effect on competition that its investigations had identified. The Commission’s failures were sufficient to cast doubt on the robustness of its recommendations.

The decision will come as blow to Asda, Waitrose and M&S who, together with The Association of Convenience Stores, directly supported the Competition Commission in its efforts to defend the Tesco legal challenge.

The effects of the challenge had spilled over into the Government’s proposed revision of retail planning policy contained in Planning Policy Statement 6, Planning For Town Centres (March 2005). Somewhat controversially, the Government published proposed revisions to PPS6 in July 2008 without any reference to the proposed competition test because of the ongoing Tesco appeal case. Responses to the consultation exercise were summarised by Government in February this year. The consultation exercise teased out 368 responses in all, 190 of which provided a detailed critique. 17 retailers were moved to respond and there was an organised lobby which produced 178 identical submissions collectively calling for greater regulation of the grocery sector orchestrated by anti Tesco campaign group 'Tescopoly'.

A strong theme of the responses to PPS6's revision was criticism of the lack of detail relating to proposed Practice Guidance which is to accompany the policy statement.
"The absence of practice guidance setting out how the policy should be interpreted makes it difficult to comment on policy proposals. Guidance is crucial to the effective and consistent implementation of the proposed changes"

The consultation responses document lacks any indication of how and when the proposed revisions to PPS6 will be advanced or if the call for practice guidance to be published for consultation alongside draft PPPS will be heeded. Enquiries made of the Department for Communities and Local Government today however indicate that the final version of PPS6 will be published later in the spring of this year and will be accompanied, at the same time, by the promised practice guidance. There will be no further public consultation of either document.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Sainsbury's Acquires Morecambe Stadium

Christie Park, the current home of Morecambe Football Club (MFC), has been sold to supermarket company Sainsbury's in a deal that will enable work to begin on the club's new 6,800-capacity stadium at Westgate

MAZE Planning Solutions is a key adviser to the project, working with MFC to advance the new stadium development.

MFC chair, Peter McGuigan, said:
"The new stadium will provide an opportunity for the club to raise fresh revenue streams which would be impossible to achieve at Christie Park and should therefore ensure the financial viability of Morecambe Football Club."

"The sale of Christie Park to Sainsbury's is great news for us and the local community since it allows us to not only build a fantastic future for the club, but also to provide much needed community sport facilities."

Work will start on the new stadium in April 2009, and it is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2010-11 football season. Christie Park will be handed over to Sainsbury's in July 2010.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Big Yes for Big Sheds in Bradford

Proposals for a major employment development in the City of Bradford were crystallised by the grant of planning permission on 19 February. The City Council signed off the 26,000sqm mixed employment scheme with a unanimous 'yes' vote following a 10-month application period.

The scheme makes provision for large-scale warehousing and industrial premises, together with smaller general industrial starter units and office accommodation west of the City at Thornton.

The development includes the provision of a new footway, street lighting, bus stops, public seating and a diverted public footpath.

MAZE Plannning has advised the scheme's promotor since November 2007 and will continue to provide support to enable an early start on site to be made, together with fellow consultants Pickles Architects, Bryan G Hall (transportation) and Morgan Associates (legals).