Team celebrates three promotions

Urban designer Jon Reynolds and planners Jack Higson and Harvey Wingfield are all celebrating promotions this week.

Jon has been promoted to Associate Director. He has been with tor&co since 2022 and is a chartered landscape architect as well as an urban designer. He has been working on masterplanning and urban design projects, ranging from large UK strategic schemes, through to smaller residential developments.

Jack and Harvey are now Senior Planners and have made significant contributions to the team since joining in 2021. Jack is a key member of our team working with Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden and has been involved in achieving a number of recent planning consents, whilst Harvey has played a pivotal role in securing permission for a substantial 19,000m2 extension to DS Smith plc’s packaging facility in Fordham, East Cambridgeshire.

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tor&co planning, landscape and heritage evidence secures success for Blenheim Estate

An appeal on behalf of Blenheim Estate against West Oxfordshire DC’s refusal of a hybrid application for new housing on an allocated site in Woodstock has been allowed, together with a partial costs award.

Represented by Sarah Reid KC and presenting tor&co’s planning, landscape and heritage evidence, the team were able to demonstrate that the proposal presents a high quality and well-integrated extension of the town, creating a safe and connected community.      

The Inspector agreed that any harm to the setting of the Blenheim Palace World Heritage Site and RPG was minor in magnitude, that the effect on the landscape character and setting of Woodstock would be no greater than minor adverse and that these harms were far outweighed by the substantial benefit of delivering 180 market, affordable and custom build new homes.  

The Inspector also acknowledged the benefits of an operationally carbon net zero development, with large areas of public open space and significant biodiversity net gain.

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George Wood and Imogen Wall join tor&co

A further two team members have recently joined tor&co. 

George, a recently qualified Part II Architectural Assistant, has previously worked with Allford Hall Monaghan Morris Architects in London. He is looking forward to bringing some fresh thought to the team and growing his knowledge and experience by working on a range of exciting design-led projects.

Imogen joins as a Graduate Planner, having recently completed an MSc in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Birmingham. She is assisting the senior team on several residential and mixed-use schemes, including many with complex heritage constraints. 

Both George and Imogen will be based in the Bournemouth office, working on projects throughout the UK.

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tor&co welcomes Alex Harwood to heritage team

As we continue to grow the heritage team at tor&co, Alex joins us as a heritage consultant, having previously worked as a Conservation Officer for Dorset Council. She is delighted to be able to continue her work facilitating development whilst preserving and enhancing the historic environment. Alex provides heritage assessments for a diverse range of projects at each stage of the planning process. Working with the rest of the highly-qualified and able team, Alex will continue to develop her skills and widen her experience in providing advice on schemes involving heritage above and below ground.

Alex will be based out of our Bournemouth office and will be working on tor&co projects across the UK.

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New appointments: tor&co further expands London planning team.

tor&co is pleased to add a further two new members of staff to our London Planning Team: Gemma Kjaer and Nia Powys.

Gemma joins as a Planner, having recently moved from Sydney, Australia, where she previously worked at GYDE Consulting. She is thrilled that her new role will allow her to continue developing her experience in working on residential/mixed-use development that is aimed at delivering sustainable outcomes for both communities and the environment.

Nia also joins as a Planner, having previously worked in Savills London Planning Team. She is passionate about creating inclusive and sustainable places, and hopes to use and continue to develop her experience in working on residential, social infrastructure, and Green Belt projects within the team.

Nia and Gemma will be based out of our Heddon Street London office and will be working on tor&co projects across the UK.

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tor&co is delighted to announce the appointment of a new Technical Director, Gardiner Hanson

Gardiner has recently joined tor&co as a Technical Director within our London Planning Team, bringing with him over 9 years’ experience primarily advising on high-profile and complex projects within London and across the southeast. His passion for town planning focuses on his belief that strategic planning and good design can deliver sustainable and vibrant communities, importantly aligning with the tor&co vision to create places we can be proud of, and mission to deliver good growth. 

Gardiner has an extensive track record with assisting both private and public sector clients to achieve positive outcomes across residential, mixed-use, office, hotel, industrial, renewable and strategic infrastructure sectors. His specialisms include mixed-use regeneration, employment, tall buildings, EIA development, Green Belt, and heritage constrained development. 

Gardiner’s technical skillset and positive attitude has always allowed him to effectively lead multi-disciplinary teams throughout the planning process and lead on preparing early-stage planning appraisals and strategies, promoting land and strategic policy reform via the local plan process, preparing and managing planning applications and appeals, undertaking strategic community and political engagement, preparing CIL strategies and negotiating S.106 agreements. 

In coming to tor&co he joins an inter-disciplinary team, where his skills, quality of work and positive, solution driven, approach complements and reinforces the team. Prior to joining tor&co, Gardiner has held roles at Avison Young, Turnberry and within the public sector in Canada. 

Upon joining tor&co in August 2023, Greg Smith, Head of London Planning, said:

“We are very excited to announce Gardiner has joined tor&co’s growing London Planning Team as a Technical Director. 

He has a demonstrable track-record of delivering positive results on behalf of his clients across London and the southeast and across a wide-range of sectors. Gardiner brings great energy and enthusiasm to every project he is involved with and his can-do attitude alongside his wide-ranging experience will undoubtedly benefit the range of services and advice we can offer our clients moving forward. 

He will be working alongside myself and the tor&co Board Director team to deliver continued sustainable growth for the business, and in particular our strategy around growing our expanding London team offering.”

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Listed building consent granted for Bournemouth and Poole College

Planning and listed building consent has been granted for the demolition of several existing poor quality structures and the erection of a major new building – together with the laying out of a new greenspace – at the Bournemouth and Poole College, Lansdowne campus, Bournemouth.

tor&co provided planning and heritage services and submitted the planning and listed building consent applications. The scheme has been designed by Kier Construction’s project design team in close consultation with the Department for Education, Bournemouth and Poole College and BCP Council.

The layout, scale, massing and appearance of the new block has been strongly influenced by the need to respect and enhance the setting of the heritage assets of the site. It was considered by the planning case officer that the less than substantial harm to the heritage assets was “significantly” outweighed by the public benefits stemming from the scheme. These comprise an enhanced educational offer in a highly sustainable town centre location and the ongoing preservation of listed buildings.

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Grand Union Brent

Win at the Brent Design Awards

We are delighted that Phase 1 of Grand Union in Brent won the Mixed-Use category at the inaugural #BrentDesignAwards  recognising good design across the Borough. The whole team at tor&co worked on the scheme to deliver the detailed planning approval for St George as part of the wider outline masterplan.

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New Director Appointment

We are really pleased to announce that Bridget Pearce became a Board Director of tor&co on 1 April. Bridget has been with the company for over 20 years. During that time she has contributed significantly to the Company’s success, and continues to be our client lead for some of tor&co’s most important and prestigious clients. Her appointment to the Board is the first under the EOT and represents her commitment to the practice, to our approach, structure and colleagues. 

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Community Engagement key to Planning Success in North Cheam

We have assisted Home Group to obtain a resolution to grant planning permission from Sutton Council for a mixed-use redevelopment on the former Victoria House site, in North Cheam.
 
The scheme will deliver 74 homes (market, shared ownership and rented with 35.6% affordable) plus three flexible commercial/community units and improved public realm. This will provide much needed new homes locally and help to reinvigorate the district centre.
 
tor&co planning began assisting Home Group in 2014 and has helped them to redesign and promote the scheme through the planning system, with extensive community engagement with officers, local councillors and resident associations, including two design panel reviews. The local resident association had a key input into the design and development, leading them to speak in support of the scheme at committee.

Image courtesy Stockwool Architects

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tor&co: Sustainable Travel Week 2022

Towards the end of 2022, tor&co held its first ‘Sustainable Travel week.’ The event was an opportunity for the company to promote sustainable travel modes, encourage staff to make positive changes to the way that they travel to work, and to highlight the great many employees who already travel in a sustainable fashion. 

The scheme was a resounding success, with 31 staff from across the tor&co London, Birmingham and Bournemouth Offices taking part, travelling to work by walking, cycling, car sharing and various methods of public transport. One of the Planning Directors in our Bournemouth office even e-scooted into work!

The survey conducted at the end of the week demonstrated that over 50% of those that took part in the initiative travelled into the office via a sustainable transport method every day that they came into the office that week. The top most utilised forms of sustainable transport during the week were train / tube (24%), car sharing (20%) and cycling (18%). 

Many of our team already ensure their commute is a sustainable one, with a large proportion of staff regularly commuting by such modes. However, the week and feedback received helped to highlight what more the company can do to assist staff in making the choice to travel sustainably in future.

The Director leading the scheme, Richard Burton said: “The tor&co Board were very pleased to see the level of participation from our team in this event, which is one step in tor&co ’s journey to reach our Net Zero goal. We look forward to making further progress in helping people to travel sustainably with a further sustainable travel event, which will take place in March.”

Following on from this successful event, the March event will be a sustainable travel month, which we hope will build on the successes of the sustainable travel week, encourage habit building and help staff to think more carefully about the mode of travel they use on their commute to work. 

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tor&co Expand Heritage Team with new Associate Director

We are delighted to welcome Dr James Weir to our team as Associate Director in Heritage.

James has 18 years’ experience working across Britain in the public and private heritage sectors, having worked on a wide range of heritage projects spanning industry sectors and for a wide range of clients and stakeholders, from private individuals to historic estates. He is passionate about the historic environment, both in ensuring its sympathetic conservation and in successfully integrating high-quality modern design and development.

His specialisms include integrating heritage into strategic planning, such as in site allocations, estate masterplans, Local Plans/SPDs, and Neighbourhood Plans; analysis and interpretation of historic buildings and landscapes; and utilising assessments of the significance and setting of heritage assets to identify scope for change.

Before joining tor&co, James worked for Dorset Council as a Senior Conservation Officer, where his responsibilities included the provision of heritage content for the Local Plan, and assessing heritage impacts of major planning applications for residential/commercial, renewables and minerals/waste.

tor&co’s Technical Director of Heritage, John Trehy, said “We are pleased that someone so qualified in architectural heritage with recent conservation officer experience has joined our growing heritage team at tor&co. His particular skills and experience will bring an extra dimension to the services we can offer our clients.”

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Government delivers for Christmas – but will it deliver more homes?

Well, the government has at least kept one promise this year…the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) consultation has been published before Christmas! Firstly, the consultation period runs until 2nd March 2023, so there is adequate time to consider the 58 questions once you are back in the swing of things at the start of the new year.
 
That said, there is a sense of urgency from this government to implement these changes (we can all take a guess why) with an intention to adopt the proposed indicative policy wording ‘immediately, subject to the results of this consultation’, in Spring 2023 so that policy changes can take effect as soon as possible.
 
Many of the proposed changes will not come as a surprise if you have been keeping up with the news of late. Here is the general direction of travel, for now (expect further updates following the Levelling up Bill & wider changes to the planning system):
 
1.  Seeking to emphasise that housing need should only be met, through plan making, if it can be achieved in a sustainable way, including:

   a.  changing the soundness test to remove meeting need ‘as a minimum’ to ‘so far as possible’

b.  removing the requirement to meet need in the Green Belt

c.  placing emphasis on ‘beautiful’ buildings and local character, with pressure to take forward local design codes

d.  making the standard methodology Local Housing Need (LHN) figures advisory, and enabling some consideration of previous over-delivery. Note needs for retirement housing, housing-with-care and care homes all need to be established

2.  Removing the ‘justified’ soundness test, which had included testing of reasonable alternatives. This will not apply to plans that have reached at least pre-submission consultation stage (or reach that stage within 3 months of the policy being adopted).

3.  Plans must still demonstrate a 5-year Housing Land Supply (HLS), but the plan will only be ‘out of date’ by virtue of HLS shortfall if the housing requirement is more than 5-years old and even then, if the requirement has been reviewed and needs updating – see footnote 9 (although this is not entirely clear when cross-referencing new para 75 & footnote 44). Transitional arrangements (re only requiring demonstration of 4-years HLS) apply to plans that have been submitted or subject to Reg 18 or 19 consultation provided those plans included a policy map and allocations to meet need.

4.  Reducing pressure to meet need through speculative applications, where there is an up to date plan and by removing the buffer from the HLS, also amending the consequences of the Housing Delivery Test (HDT) if sufficient permissions have been granted (HDT will now measure homes delivered and permissions granted). Note also that the Local Housing Need (LHN) ‘uplift’ authorities must meet the uplift within the Local Planning Authority (LPA) area – with an emphasis on the use of previously developed land – unless in so doing there is conflict with the NPPF & legal obligations – Duty to Co-operate does remain for now (Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) changes could have alignment policy instead).

5.  Providing greater protection to neighbourhood plans – aligning the period that they stay up to date for with local plans i.e. 5 years, and during this five year period removing the HLS and HDT test.

Currently there are no draft National Development Management Policies. These are expected to be consulted upon from Spring 2023 and will be in a separate document to the NPPF. They intend to broadly cover existing policies aimed at decision-making already provided within the NPPF, selective new additions to reflect new national priorities (for example net zero policies) and selective new additions to close ‘gaps’ where existing national policy is silent on planning considerations that regularly affect decision-making across the country.

Of note, there are new measures proposed to encourage developers to build out as soon as possible, including publishing data to highlight developer build out rates, requiring an explanation of how they propose to increase the diversity of housing tenures to maximise absorption rates; and include delivery rates as a material consideration in decision-making. There will be “a separate consultation on proposals to introduce a financial penalty against developers who are building out too slowly”. Once again, it is the private developers who are being made the scapegoats for the housing crisis.

Make no mistake, these are proposed changes of great significance which if adopted, will have lasting impact on the way the planning system currently functions. We expect that LPAs with draft local plans out for consultation or at examination will likely pause or withdraw them so they can reconsider their housing needs, particularly in cases which propose green belt release, which will cause more delays to plans being adopted and the delivery of new housing. On the face of it, it appears that the likely affect is that housing delivery will stagnate and decline as a result of these changes.

If you would like to discuss the proposed planning reforms in more detail and in the context of any of your land interests, we would be happy to assist so please do get in touch.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas.

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tor&co secures planning permission on Green Belt land to the south of Billericay

tor&co has secured another planning permission for Gleeson Land. This time in relation to a 200-dwelling proposal, including 72 affordable units, on land to the south of Billericay in the Basildon Green Belt.

We had been working very closely with the Council to develop a well-designed scheme for the site, which had been an emerging allocation in their draft Local Plan. On this basis we submitted an outline planning application to run concurrently with the adoption of the draft Plan. However early in 2022, during the applications determination period, the draft Plan was withdrawn by Members.

Despite all technical issues being agreed with officers, leaving the principle of development within the Green Belt as the only outstanding issue, we appealed to the Inspectorate based on non-determination of the application.

The resulting six-day Public Inquiry took place in September / October 2022 with the decision issued on the 9 December 2022.

tor&co were able to prove that the Borough’s housing land supply was 1.76 years, whilst the councils supply assertion was reduced to 1.89 years at the appeal due to our evidence. The Inspector acknowledged the persistent shortfall in delivery and that due to the Council’s recent decision to withdraw the emerging Local Plan the poor delivery would continue for the short to medium term. It was agreed that the proposal would bring forward the delivery of much needed affordable units, significantly more than the Council’s upper required range, with tor&co proving that only 2% of the 5-year completions within the Borough were affordable.

The Inspector also acknowledged the character and appearance of the site and its surroundings, including the proposal’s moderate harm to openness and limited harm to other green purposes. However, the Inspector accepted our case in every aspect and concluded that we had successfully demonstrated very special circumstances and that these clearly outweighed any harm identified by reason of inappropriateness to the Green Belt.

Consequently, very special circumstance existed to justify allowing the appeal. The decision will help deliver much needed market and affordable housing in the Borough.

For more information on the appeal see here to view the Decision Notice.

Images courtesy Richards Urban Design

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Re-use and adaptation proposed for Bournemouth’s former Beales store

tor&co has submitted a full planning application for the alteration and re-use of a vacant town centre department store.


The building is a local landmark in the heart of the town that has been empty since the closure of Beales in March 2020. A fresh approach to building function and use is proposed to avoid it becoming redundant.

Commercial, business and service use is proposed at ground level with windows and doors opening onto the street to create interest and activity. Residential apartments are proposed at upper levels, with balconies and landscaped roof terrace areas to provide private amenity space.

The proposals involve the retention of the main existing building structure and its adaptation and retrofitting to accommodate new uses. The replacement of the existing building façade enables the building to meet modern requirements and standards, including enhanced energy performance.

The application is set to be determined in 2023.

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