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Novel Japanese Knotweed Treatment

Sun, Jan, 2019

Rootwave have devised a very different way of tacking invasive weeds.

While clearly not the answer in every case it will no doubt have its uses. If this is something from which you are suffering then perhaps this product which uses electricity to “boil weeds inside out from the root upwards” may be the answer.

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Japanese Knotweed infestation near the River Cray in Bexley

PFAS Concerns in Australia

Wed, Jan, 2019

In Australia a joint parliamentary committee has been investigating contamination from toxic firefighting chemicals which leached off defence bases and into soil and waterways. A Guardian article states that they have produced a report recommending the government “assist property owners and businesses in affected areas for demonstrated, quantifiable financial losses associated with PFAS contamination that has emanated from defence bases”.

states that they have produced a report recommending the government “assist property owners and businesses in affected areas for demonstrated, quantifiable financial losses associated with PFAS contamination that has emanated from defence bases”.

Is this something we should addressing in the UK?

Soil Guideline Value (SGV) for mercury withdrawn

Fri, Nov, 2018

The Environment Agency (EA) has withdrawn the Soil Guideline Value (SGV) for mercury and the associated supporting reports.  This follows discussions with Public Health England (PHE) about a revised opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). EFSA recommended an oral TDI for both these forms of mercury that are lower than the oral HCV used in the derivation of the SGV.

The EA advised “We are withdrawing our reports in light of this expert opinion.  We will not be updating them as the Environment Agency no longer undertakes work to derive new SGV or TOX reports, but we will continue to recommend that relevant public health bodies are consulted where industry has published or is developing alternative guideline criteria for mercury which would also include elemental mercury.”

The SGV Report, the TOX Report, and the Supporting Information Document for Mercury will remain available for historical reference on the Government and Environment Agency archives and on the CL:AIRE WALL

In 2012, EFSA published their scientific opinion on the public health risk from the presence of inorganic mercury and methylmercury in food.  The full report is available here: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/2985.

South East Property Expo

Sat, Oct, 2018

We had a great day at the South East Property Expo

and for anyone who did not manage to get along we have made a 30 second compilation of the action.

First Aid at Work

Mon, Oct, 2018

Congratulations to four members of staff, Davina, Daria, Jo and Deppie

on passing their three day First Aid at Work course and exam.

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An End to Unnecessary Pre-Commencement Conditions?

Thu, Aug, 2018

A necessary evil or an unnecessary evil, whatever your view, planning conditions are part and parcel of the challenges of development. From the 1st October, an update to the Town and Country Planning Act may help to ease the pain, it will make it mandatory for Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to liaise with applicants over the wording of pre-commencement conditions. Whilst it may not have gained as much publicity as the revised NPPF, this small legislative change is still a potentially significant shift in the operation of the planning process.

These changes mean that a LPA will be required to provide an applicant with the suggested pre-commencement conditions prior to determining an application. Applicants must be given at least 10 working days to provide a “substantive response”, only after this can an application be determined.

Potentially, great news for developers and applicants who will now hopefully be given a meaningful say in the drafting of pre-commencement conditions. Planning officers are only human like the rest of us and under pressure mistakes are sometimes made. This should stop drafting errors, duplicates or wrong conditions being imposed on planning consents that all result in delays to delivery. Contaminated land conditions, with their multiple stages seem particularly vulnerable to confusion as to what can reasonably be undertaken pre-commencement. It is also hoped that this will rationalise the pre-commencement conditions thereby saving time and money.

There are potential benefits for LPAs as it forces a review of standard pre-commencement conditions to ensure they are still; necessary, enforceable, precise and reasonable, it should also help to speed up decision making. LPAs will need to review their standard conditions and put procedures in place to ensure that applicants are given notice of proposed pre-commencement conditions in a timely manner.

These legislative changes will have to be factored into determination timeframes and it would be prudent of applicants to ask for conditions early (if possible) to avoid last minute delays. If you are an applicant or agent, it may be worthwhile contacting planning officers to confirm they are aware of this change to avoid any surprises.

We welcome this change, however, only time will tell whether this will become just another tick the box exercise or whether this will facilitate meaningful dialogue about the suitability of pre-commencement conditions, reduce the number of pre-commencement conditions and ultimately speed up delivery.

While the Government’s intention was to reduce the time lag between grant of planning permission and site start, will the law of unintended consequences mean that it will simply delay the issue of the planning permission?

A guide to small brownfield sites and land contamination

Fri, Aug, 2018

We have been please to both sponsor this guide and to take an active part in the steering group, guiding development of the guide,  described by CIRIA as “essential reading for anyone who doesn’t routinely develop brownfield sites, or for those who are up-scaling into small developments”.

Our hope is that this guide will help all those involved in smaller brownfield projects to make realistic appraisals of the risks and to the avoid the potential pitfalls of potentially contaminated sites. It is written in plain English to ensure it can be used by anyone, there are of course some technical words but for instance words like “pre-acquisition ” have been dropped in favour of “before you buy”.

The chapters deal with:

The Project Team

Before Buying a Small Brownfield Site

The Planning Application

Preparing for Building Works

Construction

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A flow chart picks out the key issues to be managed at each of the above stages.

There is a launch event on 4 October at CIRIA’s London office

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Contaminated Land Identified as Environmental Factor Most Likely to Cause Upset to a Housing Development

Sun, Jul, 2018

A recent survey by Development+Infrastructure identified contaminated land as the environmental factor most likely to cause upset to a housing development, followed by flood risk, more details here.

Once again it shows that the importance of taking advice at the earliest stage cannot be over stated. As my grandmother used to say, forewarned is forearmed.

Builders Shun Brownfield Sites to Dig up Green Belt – The Times 12 December 2017

Wed, Dec, 2017

An article in The Times declares that research by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) shows that sites with the capacity for nearly 200,000 homes are missing from the official Brownfield Registers. With limited resources local authorities tend to concentrate on the larger sites, meaning that this vital resource of smaller sites is overlooked.

We have extensive experience of providing advice on small sites and are on the steering group for the CIRIA small brownfield sites report, which is due to be published shortly with advice on developing small brownfield sites.

We provide comprehensive support to guide clients through the process of obtaining discharge of contaminated land planning conditions, if you are considering buying or developing a small brownfield site do not hesitate to call 020 8291 1354 or askgo@gosolve.co.uk.

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The London Plan; The Spatial Development Strategy for Greater London

Wed, Nov, 2017

The Mayor has published a draft for public consultation, about which he says “So this London Plan sets out a new way of doing things, something I am calling Good Growth.” If you have any comments the consultation period runs to 2 March 2018.

The report has quite a lot to say about housing and the use of brownfield sites.

Efficient Land Use

In a section titled “Making the best use of land” the report points out that “London’s population is set to grow from 8.9 million today to around 10.8 million by 2041… This rapid growth will bring many opportunities, but it will also lead to increasing and competing pressures on the use of space. To accommodate growth while protecting the Green Belt, and for this growth to happen in a way that improves the lives of existing and new Londoners, this Plan proposes more efficient uses of the city’s land.”

The report then develops the theme of more efficient land use:

“1.2.2 The key to achieving this will be taking a rounded approach to the way neighbourhoods operate… This will mean creating places of higher density in appropriate locations to get more out of limited land, encouraging a mix of land uses, and co-locating different uses to provide communities with a wider range of services and amenities.

1.2.3 The benefits of this approach are wide-ranging… High-density, mixed use places support the clustering effect of businesses known as ‘agglomeration’, maximising job opportunities… They are places where local amenities are within walking and cycling distance, and public transport options are available for longer trips, supporting good health, allowing strong communities to develop, and boosting the success of local businesses.

1.2.4 Making the best use of land means directing growth towards the most accessible and well-connected places, making the most efficient use of the existing and future public transport, walking and cycling networks…

1.2.5 All options for using the city’s land more effectively will need to be explored as London’s growth continues, including the redevelopment of brownfield sites and the intensification of existing places, including in outer London. New and enhanced transport links will play an important role in allowing this to happen, unlocking homes and jobs growth in new areas and ensuring that new developments are not planned around car use…

Policy GG2 Making the best use of land

To create high-density, mixed-use places that make the best use of land, those involved in planning and development must:

A Prioritise the development of Opportunity Areas, brownfield land, surplus public sector land, sites which are well-connected by existing or planned Tube and rail stations, sites within and on the edge of town centres, and small sites.

B Proactively explore the potential to intensify the use of land, including public land, to support additional homes and workspaces, promoting higher density development, particularly on sites that are well-connected by public transport, walking and cycling, applying a design–led approach.

C Understand what is valued about existing places and use this as a catalyst for growth and place-making, strengthening London’s distinct and varied character.

D Protect London’s open spaces, including the Green Belt, Metropolitan Open Land, designated nature conservation sites and local spaces, and promote the creation of new green infrastructure and urban greening.

E Plan for good local walking, cycling and public transport connections to support a strategic target of 80 per cent of all journeys using sustainable travel, enabling car-free lifestyles that allow an efficient use of land, as well as using new and enhanced public transport links to unlock growth.

F Maximise opportunities to use infrastructure assets for more than one purpose, to make the best use of land and support efficient maintenance…

Delivering the housing London needs

1.4.5 To meet the growing need, London must seek to deliver new homes through every available means. Reusing large brownfield sites will remain crucial, although vacant plots are now scarce, and the scale and complexity of large former industrial sites makes delivery slow. Small sites in a range of locations can be developed more quickly, and enable smaller builders to enter the market. Building more housing as part of the development of town centres will also be important, providing homes in well-connected places that will help to sustain local communities…

Increasing housing supply

Policy H1 urges that: boroughs should optimise the potential for housing delivery on all suitable and available brownfield sites through their Development Plans and planning decisions… Boroughs should proactively use brownfield registers and permission in principle to increase planning certainty for those wishing to build new homes…

Small Sites

Under Policy H2 Small sites the report says that: Boroughs should increase planning certainty on small sites by:

1) identifying and allocating appropriate small sites for residential development

2) listing these sites on their brownfield registers

3) granting permission in principle on specific sites or preparing local development orders…

Vacant building Credit

In section 4.9.1 there is a reminder that: “In 2014 the Government introduced a Vacant Building Credit (VBC), which applies to sites where a vacant building is brought back into any lawful use, or is demolished to be replaced by a new building. The VBC reduces the requirement for affordable housing contributions based on the amount of vacant floor space being brought back into use or redeveloped. This has significant implications for delivery of affordable housing in London where a high proportion of development is on brownfield land where there are existing buildings.”