Energy SPD – the CovSoc Response

In November the City Council launched a consultation on three news Supplementary Planning Documents (known colloqually as SPDs). Although the consultation period has now ended, you can still see the draft documents on the Planning Consultation pages of the Council website.

This is the Coventry Society response to the consultation on the draft Energy SPD.

Thank you for consulting us on this Supplementary Planning Document.

In our view the policy associated with this SPD is particularly weak, requiring nothing more than compliance with the Building Regs “as a minimum”. As developments are required to meet the Building Regs anyway, it is clear that the policy lacks ambition.


Having said that, the Society feels that the SPD makes a positive contribution to the aim of creating sustainable development in the city. The SPD sets out the requirement for meeting both the requirements of the policy but also, perhaps more importantly, other legislation and Government policy and it includes a very comprehensive description of current standards, certifications etc.

The Society welcomes and supports this draft Supplementary Planning Document.

Coventry Society January 2022

The Coventry Society is dedicating its March meeting to climate change and energy. We hope that you will be able to join us on Monday 14th March.

Open Space SPD – The CovSoc Response

In November the City Council launched a consultation on three news Supplementary Planning Documents (known colloqually as SPDs). Although the consultation period has now ended, you can still see the draft documents on the Planning Consultation pages of the Council website.

This is the response of the Coventry Society to the consultation on the Open Space SPD.

This is a fairly standard document but which needs some rejigging – and extra information – if it is to do what it says in the first paragraph of the Executive Summary.

For example :

1. the Sections 6 and 7 (Open Spaces and the Water Environment and Biodiversity and Green Infrastructure) look like add ons and are not well incorporated in the document since there are no references to these sections in the Executive Summary or the Overview.

2. There is a reference to the improvement to archaeology in the first paragraph of the Executive Summary but no further reference elsewhere in the document as to how green spaces can help retain or protect archaeology. How is this then a Summary? If archeology is not considered important then why reference it at all?

It is welcome that the document displays a policy integration with the Councils 2019 Green Space Strategy and takes the definitions, typology and hierarchy of green space from it. However, the document seems to ignore other Council policy documents referenced in the text (e.g. Urban Forestry Strategy, Playing Pitch Strategy ) and yet which are held to be ‘material planning considerations when assessing proposals’. The significance of these Strategies need demonstrating.

The document is prosaic – it doesn’t seek to raise the significance of green and open spaces. From our perspective open spaces are a key part of placemaking and in ensuring places are distinctive, beautiful, inclusive, greener, healthier and more resilent to climate change. They support twenty-minute neighbourhoods with access to open space and places to play.

Executive Summary

Third para needs an addition at end ‘or in the city centre inside the Ring Road’, in order to properly reflect the wording in para 4.15 (p14)

Overview

Para 1.3 needs to start ‘Well planned and maintained open spaces can…’ as ‘It’ can be taken to refer to the foregoing para referencing new development

Para 1.4 First sentence is contentious and unnecessary.

This Overview needs to link to S6 (notably SUDS and the need for additional water storage in greenspaces (6.32) and S7 (esp 7.4 and the introduction to 7.6).

Benefits of Green and Open Spaces

A number of the paragraphs focus on the Marmot Review and its important outcomes. Bringing this section up to date – and further emphasing the importance of open spaces – needs to refer to the realisation, through the current Covid-19 pandemic, of the importance of opportunities to connect with nature and enjoy play and recreation in natural settings. Looking forward, open spaces are important in helping tackle the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis.

We would wish to see a greater recognition of the importance of green and open spaces. Open spaces are a key part of placemaking and in ensuring places are distinctive, beautiful, inclusive, greener, healthier and more resilent to climate change. They support twenty-minute neighbourhoods with acces to open space and places to play.

Para 1.15 need to separate out ‘Alleviation of flood risks’ from ‘Instilling unique character to areas and providing local identities’. An additional benefit which should be added is ‘supporting early years developoment and education’.

Local Policy

In 2.8 is there a LP policy on footpaths and bridleways? The importance of these features to access green and open space is scarcely acknowledged, and there is no reference to ensuring their retention or developoment in association with creating new green and open spaces.

While the document references (later) standards from the Green Space Strategy are there no standards or policies that can be derived from the Urban Forestry Strategy or Playing Pitch strategy? If not then why are they mentioned here?

Green Space and Open Space definitions and recommendations

Sections 3.6-3.8 focus on equipped play areas. They ignore the guidance from Fields in Trust on playing pitches and outdoor sports. Why? Surely such provision could and should be made in relation to larger development sites?

3.8 is fundamentally wrong. Fields in Trust guidance is for the distances of playgrounds from residential properties to be a maximum not a minimum! How far have young parents to take their children to play?!

The Planning Process : how development must contribute

Para 4.15 refers to exceptional circumstances where off-site contributions are needed. These are not set out clearly, however. Derived from the rest of the document, they appear to be

– site is too small (4th para of Summary and 4.11)

– demonstrable surplus of existing open space in a locality (4th para of Summary only?)

– development inside the Ring Road ( this para).

This para needs to be expanded to reflect the circumstances that are regarded as exceptional.

Para 4.16 is under heading Securing Delivery. This should be the first para in the next section ‘Implementation’.

Implementation

Para 5.3 introduces a key requirement for developers i.e. POS must be completed to the Councils reasonable satisfaction before 50% of houses are occupied on site. This is signifcant information for developers. It surely needs a justification and a reference in the Executive Summary.

Sections 6 and 7 appear standalone and appear to have come from external sources. They are not at all well integrated into the document. If they are to be taken seriously by developers in their development proposals then they need to be referenced in the Executive Summary and the Overview. See earlier comments. 

Coventry Society

Affordable Housing SPD – The CovSoc response

In November the City Council launched a consultation on three news Supplementary Planning Documents (known colloqually as SPDs). Although the consultation period has now ended, you can still see the draft documents on the Planning Consultation pages of the Council website.

This is the Society’s response to the draft Affordable Housing SPD.

The Coventry Society welcomes the document’s:

  • emphasis on ensuring that there is a mix, and choice, of tenures across the city rather than particular types of tenancy being concentrated in certain areas, and that the different types of tenancy should be integrated into new developments.
  • links with the aspirations and objectives of the Council’s Housing and Homeless Strategy 2014 and the Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2015 (but note comment on the latter below).
  • concern with meeting residents’ need and with build quality, including energy efficiency, environmental friendliness and internal living space requirements.
  • recognition of advanced methods of construction.
  • acknowledgement of non-traditional forms of provision such as co-living, self-build and community-led housing (but note comment below).

We do, however, have a number of reservations and criticisms of the document and its shortcomings, particularly in the light of the alarming statistic that in four years only half the target number of affordable homes in the plan have ‘benefited from planning permission, were being constructed or had been delivered’. This is a shocking situation, which we are not at all convinced will be remedied by the measures outlined in the document, given its generally complacent, unimaginative, ‘business as usual’, ‘more of the same’ approach.

We are concerned that the viability argument – often highly questionable or entirely spurious – will continue to lead to the City Council being outmanoeuvred in its negotiations with developers. The example of City Centre South, with, thus far, its total absence of affordable housing, vividly illustrates the point. We would like to see this ‘get-out’ tightened up considerably and subject to much greater transparency.

We are aware that there has been considerable recent public debate about the validity of the SHMA. The Society shares some of the doubts that have been raised about it, including the significance of social, economic and demographic changes such as:

  • the failure of the exceptionally large population growth, which was assumed when the plan was drawn up, to materialise;
  • a growth in the student population and the concomitant expansion of bespoke student accommodation with its associated effects on land cost and availability, pressure on local services and amenities, etc;
  • a growth in Coventry’s migrant populations, with their specific needs;
  • a growing realisation of the ramifications of an ageing population, whose needs should be reflected in the delivery of new housing, a point emphasised in the recent white paper People at the Heart of Care: adult social care reform, itself arguably underplaying the consequences of an ageing population on housing delivery (see for example https://housingevidence.ac.uk/housing-and-the-social-care-white-paper-a-credibility-gap/.
  • The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the growth of ‘working at home’.

We are surprised that, despite recognising that non-traditional forms of provision such as co-living, self-build and community-led housing have a part to play, co-living has been so thoroughly dismissed in the document, for reasons that we find flimsy and unconvincing.

Given the continued sluggish delivery of affordable housing we are also surprised that the City Council proposes to continue with the same restricted list of rather samey Registered Providers.

Our overall verdict on the guidance is that it presents laudable aims and objectives but leaves us with serious doubts that its implementation will give the desired results. If that proves to be the case it will have failed the people of Coventry.

In view of these reservations, we suggest that

  • The emerging and changing needs (and numbers) of Coventry’s population are monitored closely and reflected in flexible and regularly reviewed planning guidance.
  • The provision of affordable housing is opened up to a much wider set of providers, to encourage innovation, competition and an increase in the number of delivery channels. New providers should be encouraged, not just because of the additional homes they will provide but because their schemes will be exemplars and challengers to the existing players. This should include community organisations and charities, in partnership with registered providers where appropriate. Starley Housing Co-operative, which partners with Greensquare Accord, is a good example of what can be achieved. So is Earlsdon Park Village, which is also an exemplar of how housing and social care can be brought together.
  • These new challenger providers should include the City Council itself. Throughout the UK, local authorities in a similar position to Coventry’s – a shortfall in the delivery of housing, in particular affordable housing, by traditional developers – have found ways to enter the field themselves. See for example
    https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/oct/28/meet-the-councils-quietly-building-a-housing-revolution
    and
    https://www.rtpi.org.uk/research/2017/june/local-authority-direct-provision-of-housing-i/
  • The viability regime for developers is toughened up. It is clear that developers are too quick to reach for this escape route in the cause of profit maximisation and scheme simplification. It is too easy for developers to negotiate their way out of their social obligations with the help of high-powered consultants. The replacement options – section 106 agreements, the provision of affordable housing on another site, the payment of a commuted sum – are often inadequate.
  • Non-traditional forms of provision are actively encouraged, including by the creation of a support and advice function within the City Council.

Coventry Society 18/1/22

Crafty Coventry

Creative Lives are teaming up with Heritage Crafts for a programme of events and on-air coverage of crafts in Coventry, to coincide with Coventry City of Culture.

The initiative is funded in part by Coventry City Council. From January until March there will be a series of craft workshops and on-air content focusing on how “making” has defined the city in the past and continues to do so today; from the wool and leather trades, through ribbon making, and watchmaking, through to car and bicycle making.

Coventry is a city steeped in craft skill, and that legacy continues to this day with these skills and many more. They will be using this opportunity to celebrate the role that “making” plays in keeping us healthy, happy and engaged with the material and social world around us, and its contribution to local distinctiveness and place.

There will be a big flagship event on 26 March at Drapers Hall combining influential and inspiring talks, demonstrations of craft skills and opportunities for you to take part.

As part of this project there are to be a series of workshops where people can try their hand at a range of crafts

If you are curious to try your hand at some heritage crafts, you’re in luck! They will be hosting a series of craft workshops in different venues across Coventry. Participation is FREE and open to everyone in Coventry (check eligibility requirements when registering):

Weaving workshop: 17 February (10.30am – 12.30pm)

Ghanaian Waist Beads workshop: 23 February (1pm – 3pm)

Gold Embroidery workshop with Hanny Newton: 10 March (3pm – 5.30pm)

Leather craft workshop with Nigel Armitage: 15 March (2.30pm – 5.30pm)

You can find out more about the workshops here.

Heritage Crafts is also inviting people of Coventry and the surrounding area to tell them about stories of “making” in their families, whether that was in the city’s past, or from other places in the world their families might originate from.

Did your ancestor or family member work in one of Coventry’s iconic industries such as ribbon weaving or car manufacture? Or perhaps they worked from home in a ‘cottage industry’ or as an independent artisan working in a workshop? Perhaps you are involved in “making” of some sort and this activity you share with your family member or ancestor gives you an insight into their life, or makes you feel closer to them in a way that just hearing or reading about them might not?

Some of the best stories will feature on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio as well as being showcased at a special event at Draper’s Hall in Coventry on Saturday 26 March 2022.

If you have a story to tell, please let Daniel know at daniel@heritagecrafts.org.uk. You can also contact him if you’d like to get involved in any other way.

Gigafactory gets green light

Last week the proposed battery manufacturing Gigafactory on Coventry Airport was given the green light by both Coventry City Council and Warwick District Council.

Outline Planning applications were approved in principle by the Planning Committees of both Councils at separate meetings last week. Outline planning permission will be formally issued once the associated legal agreement has been signed and government has been consulted. This is expected in March 2022. There remains a possibility that the Government will “call in” the application.

There were a large number of objections to the project from surrounding Parish Councils, residents, countryside organisations, companies based at the airport and airport supporting organisations. The All Party Parliamentary Group for General Aviation complained that the airport owner is already removing navigational equipment from the airport and that there is an existing shortfall of airport capacity in the West Midlands. The nearest airport which could pick up the lost trade is Wellesbourne, which is also under threat.

It is claimed that the Gigafactory which will result in £2.5bn investment, creating up to 6,000 new highly skilled jobs directly alongside thousands more in the wider supply chain in Coventry, Warwickshire and the surrounding region.

It is hoped that the factory will be production ready from 2025. The 530,000sqm facility will manufacture high-tech lithium-ion batteries for the global automotive and energy storage industries. The Gigafactory will have capacity to deliver up to 60GWh by the end of the decade. It will also recycle used batteries in what is described as a “cradle-to-cradle” approach.

Mike Murray, Project Director commented, “This is an important milestone for the West Midlands Gigafactory. With outline planning permission supported, the site has everything in place that future investors, likely to be drawn from the global battery industry, need for a state-of-the-art Gigafactory. Thanks to this decision, we are now in strong position to progress our discussions with the global automotive and energy storage industries.

“Located at the heart of the UK’s automotive industry, the Gigafactory is closer to almost every car manufacturing plant in the UK than any of the other proposed or Gigafactories under construction making it an ideal location for global battery manufacturers.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “This is another crucial step forward in bringing our plans for a West Midlands Gigafactory to life.

“Not only will a Gigafactory support the future of our region’s automotive sector, creating thousands of new jobs, but it will also help protect our planet from the climate change emergency. It truly would be a game-changer, and I am delighted both Warwick District Council and Coventry City Council have recognised this and backed our vision.”

Powered by 100% renewable energy, plans for the Gigafactory include one of the UK’s largest rooftop arrays of photovoltaic panels to harness solar power to operate the factory. The site includes facilities to store any excess solar energy for use when its needed.

The Gigafactory will adopt a Net Zero transport and logistics strategy with excellent access to the UK’s motorway network as well as electrified road and rail options saving seven million miles of HGV traffic on roads annually.

West Midlands Gigafactory is a public-private joint venture between Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport Ltd. It has support from an alliance of West Midlands industrial groups, local government and academic institutions.

There is still no identified investor for the project, but it is hoped that having planning permission will increase the chance of finding an investor with deep pockets. Other regions of the country are also “bidding” to host the Gigafactory. It is understood that if the Gigafactory does not go ahead, the site will be used for large scale warehousing and the airport will close anyway.