Urban Task Force Recommendations
Chaired by Lord Rogers of Riverside
1. Require local authorities to prepare a single strategy for the public realm and open space, dealing with provision, design, management, funding and maintenance.
2. Introduce a national programme to create comprehensive green pedestrian routes around and/or across each of our major towns and cities.
3. Revise planning and funding guidance to: a) Discourage local authorities from using ‘density’ and ‘over development’ as reasons for refusing planning permission.
4. Revise planning and funding guidance to: b) Create a planning presumption against excessively low density urban development.
5. Revise planning and funding guidance to: c) Provide advice on use of density standards, linked to design quality.
6. Introduce a mandatory double performance rating for houses combining a single environmental rating, and a single running cost rating, so that house-buyers know what they are getting for their money.
7. Make public funding and planning permissions for area regeneration schemes conditional upon the production of an integrated spatial masterplan, recognising that public finance may be required up front to pay for the masterplanning.
8. All significant area regeneration projects should be the subject of a design competition. Funds should be allocated in any regeneration funding allocation to meet the public costs of such competitions.
9. Develop and implement a national urban design framework, disseminating key design principles through land use planning and public funding guidance, and introducing a new series of best practice guidelines.
10. Building on the millennium communities initiative, undertake a series of government sponsored demonstration projects, adopting an integrated approach to design-led regeneration of different types of urban neighbourhood.
11. Establish local architecture centres in each of our major cities. There should be minimum network of 12 properly funded centres, fulfilling a mix of common objectives and local specialisms.
12. Place local transport plans on a statutory footing. They should include explicit targets for reducing car journeys, and increasing year on year the proportion of trips made on foot, bicycle and public transport.
13. Introduce home zones in partnership with local communities, based on a robust legal framework, using tested street designs, reduced speed limits and traffic-calming measures.
14. Make public funding and planning permissions for urban development and highway projects conditional on priority being given to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists.
15. Set targets for public transport within local transport plans that specify maximum walking distances to bus stops; targets on punctuality, use, reliability and frequency of services; and standards for availability of cycle storage facilities at stations and interchanges.
16. Extend a well-regulated franchise system for bus services to all English towns and cities if services have not improved substantially within five years.
17. Ensure every low-income housing estate is properly connected to the town and district centre by frequent, accessible and affordable public transport.
18. Commit a minimum 65% of transport public expenditure to projects which prioritise walking, cycling and public transport over the next ten years, increased from the current Government estimate of 55%.
19. Give priority to the public transport needs of regeneration areas within local transport plans and public funding decisions.
20. Allow Regional Development Agencies and other regeneration funding bodies to provide funding for transport measures that support their area regeneration objectives.
21. Set a maximum standard of one car parking space per dwelling for all new urban residential development.
22. Extend plans to tax workplace charging to all forms of private non-residential car parking provision.
23. Provide an above-inflation increase in central resources allocated to local authorities for managing and maintaining the urban environment in each of the next seven years.
24. Assign a strategic role to local authorities in ensuring management of the whole urban environment, with powers to ensure that other property owners, including public utilities and agencies, maintain their land and premises to an acceptable standard.
25. Establish single points of contact within local authorities, which have decision-making authority for the whole range of environmental services devolved to designated estates, neighbourhoods or town centres. In some cases, particularly social housing estates, this should include the appointment of super caretakers or wardens.
26. Place town improvement zones on a statutory footing, enabling local authorities to work with local businesses to establish jointly funded management arrangements for town centres and other commercial districts.
27. Pilot different models of neighbourhood management which give local people a stake in the decision-making process, relaxing regulations and guidelines to make it easier to establish devolved arrangements.
28. Make public bodies responsible for managing sites blighted by proposed major infrastructure schemes, even where they do not yet own the land. Local authorities should be empowered to take enforcement action if a responsible body reneges on its duties.
29. Strengthen enforcement powers and sanctions against individuals or organisations that breach regulations related to planning conditions, noise pollution, littering, fly-tipping and other forms of anti-social behaviour.
30. Use fines from criminal damage and community reparation to repair and maintain the local environment, according to local people’s stated priorities.
31. Review the performance indicators used by the Audit Commission as they measure standards of management of the urban environment, to produce a more comprehensive and better integrated set of measures.
32. Strengthen the New Commitment to Regeneration programme by combining government departments’ spending powers to deliver longer-term funding commitments for local authorities and their partners. Central government should be a signatory to local strategies where they accord with national and regional policy objectives.
33. Create designated urban priority areas, enabling local authorities and their partners in regeneration, including local people, to apply for special packages of powers and incentives to assist neighbourhood renewal.
34. Require regeneration programmes to include a ‘hand over’ strategy, agreed by the partners, as a condition of funding. The strategy should describe plans for continuity of staff and resources when the funding period is over.
35. Soften provisions requiring the ‘clawback’ by government of property sales and other receipts from regeneration programmes, so that a proportion can be re-invested in the long-term management of the area.
36. Make it easier for regeneration bodies to endow cash and assets to local trusts and community organisations.
37. Enable ‘arms-length’ urban regeneration companies to co-ordinate or deliver area regeneration projects.
38. Establish housing regeneration companies to undertake regeneration in areas where there is badly deteriorated and vacant stock.
39. Introduce special local authority area regeneration committees in urban priority areas, to enhance the quality and speed of decision-making.
40. Establish joint working between professional institutions, education providers and employers to develop a plan of action for improving the skills-base in urban development over the next five to seven years.
41. Develop a network of regional resource centres for urban development, promoting regional innovation and good practice, co-ordinating urban development training, and encouraging community involvement in the regeneration process.
42. Establish a five-year programme of international secondments – ‘Urban 2000’ with the aim that at least 2,000 professional staff and trainees benefit from exposure to best practice.
43. Produce detailed planning policy guidance to support the drive for an urban renaissance. This should be backed up by measures to ensure the policies are implemented in regional planning guidance, local development plans, and planning decisions, and enable the full involvement of local communities in the urban planning process.
44. Strengthen regional planning by enabling regional planning guidance to: a) Provide an integrated spatial framework for planning, economic development, housing and transport policies.
45. Strengthen regional planning by enabling regional planning guidance to: b) Steer development towards more effective use of urban land and buildings accessible by sustainable forms of transport.
46. Strengthen regional planning by enabling regional planning guidance to: c) Encourage the use of sub-regional plans to set overall requirements for providing housing on brownfield land and in recycled buildings.
47. Simplify local development plans with a stronger emphasis on strategy to create a more flexible basis for planning. The plans should avoid including detailed site-level policies.
48. Achieve comprehensive development plan coverage in England by the end of 2002. Where necessary, Government Regional Offices should work alongside under-performing local planning authorities to ensure the deadline is met.
49. Support a more streamlined planning process in urban priority areas by enabling the Secretary of State to take action against authorities that consistently fail to deliver planning permissions within a reasonable time period.
50. Require local planning authorities to conduct a review of all local rules, standards and procedures to consider whether they can be revised or removed to enhance urban development
51. Devolve detailed planning policies for neighbourhood regeneration, including urban priority areas into more flexible and targeted area plans, based upon the production of a spatial masterplan and the full participation of local people. The resulting policies and guidelines should take the form of strengthened supplementary planning guidance where necessary.
52. Review, at a regional level, the designations of employment sites in local development plans, taking into account economic needs, but avoiding over-provision, and accelerating the release of land for housing development.
53. Revise and relax national guidance on the use of planning agreements.
54. Establish a ‘fast-track’ independent arbitration process for the conclusion of Section 106 agreements, which can be triggered by either party after a set period, at their cost.
55. Replace the negotiation of planning gain for smaller urban development schemes, (for example, an end value of less than £1 million), with a standardised system of impact fees. The fees collected should be spent on local environmental improvements and community facilities that reflect the priorities of local people.
56. Review the mechanisms by which local planning authorities use planning gain to secure affordable ‘social’ housing to ensure that: a) Developers have less scope to buy their way out of obligations to provide mixed tenure neighbourhoods.
57. Review the mechanisms by which local planning authorities use planning gain to secure affordable ‘social’ housing to ensure that: b) Local authorities are not obliged to require social housing in contexts where there is already over-provision in that neighbourhood.
58. Enable more mixed income housing projects to proceed, including use of more challenging planning briefs and discounted equity stakes for low to middle income households in areas where property values are high.
59. Establish clear procedures under the proposed ‘plan, monitor and manage’ system for assessing future housing demand, to ensure the early correction of an emerging under-supply or over-supply of housing.
60. Oblige all local planning authorities to carry out regular urban capacity studies on a consistent basis, as part of their development plan-making process, where necessary working together across borough boundaries.
61. Formally adopt a sequential approach to the release of land and buildings for housing, supported by a system of regional and sub-regional reconciliation of housing needs and demand. Planning guidance should specify monitoring procedures for every local planning authority to apply.
62. Set ambitious targets for the proportion of new housing to be developed on recycled land in urban areas where housing demand is currently low.
63. Require local authorities to remove allocations of greenfield land for housing from development plans where the allocations are no longer consistent with planning policy objectives.
64. Retain the general presumption against development on designated Green Belt. Review whether there is a case for designating valuable urban green space in a similar way.
65. Provide information on the regeneration potential of land and building assets in future editions of the National Asset Register.
66. Introduce a statutory duty for public bodies and utilities with significant urban landholdings to release redundant land and buildings for regeneration. Regional planning bodies could monitor compliance with the new duty and whether targets for land release are being met.
67. Require organisations such as the Ministry of Defence and NHS Estates to negotiate the transfer of portfolios of development land to Regional Development Agencies and local authorities to secure locally determined regeneration objectives.
68. Consider options for reflecting the full environmental costs of new development through the use of economic instruments. Particular attention should be given to the feasibility of introducing a system of environmental impact fees through the planning system.
69. Prepare a scheme for taxing vacant land, which does not penalise genuine developers, but which deters owners holding onto land unnecessarily.
70. Strengthen and increase local authority powers of foreclosure and enforced sale to provide speedy mechanisms for dealing with abandoned and dilapidated sites or buildings.
71. Modify the general development order so that advertising, car parking and other low-grade temporary uses no longer have deemed planning permission on derelict and vacant land.
72. Allow local authorities and other public bodies flexibility to pay disturbance payments over and above market value in reaching negotiated settlements for the acquisition of land. They should also be able to make greater use of purchase options and deferred acquisition payments.
73. Create revolving funds for land assembly, so that public investment in the initial costs of site purchase can be off-set by a share of subsequent gains achieved through regeneration and disposal.
74. Streamline and consolidate compulsory purchase order (CPO) legislation. In the meantime, reinforce positive legal decisions on the powers of local authorities by amending the relevant Government guidance.
75. Assist the land assembly process in urban priority areas by removing the obligation for authorities to prove a specific and economically viable scheme when making compulsory purchase orders. They should, however, still be required to prove the potential for creating long-term development value in the site.
76. Allow an additional 10% above market value to be payable as compensation for the compulsory purchase of all properties. Payment of the extra compensation should be tapered according to a timetable to encourage early settlement.
77. Resolve conflicts and inconsistencies between the environmental regulation systems, covering contaminated land, water and waste at the first legislative opportunity. Site owners should only have one set of standards to work to when resolving problems of site contamination.
78. Establish an Environment Agency ‘one stop shop’ service for regulatory and licensing requirements, moving quickly to a position where a single regeneration licence is available covering all the regulatory requirements for cleaning up a site.
79. Give landowners greater assurances that the regulators are unlikely to take future action over contaminated sites once remediation schemes have been carried out to an agreed standard.
80. Establish a national framework for identifying, managing and communicating the risks that arise throughout the assessment, treatment and after-care of contaminated and previously contaminated sites.
81. Pilot standardised land condition statements, to provide more certainty and consistency in the management and sale of contaminated and previously contaminated land.
82. Launch a national campaign to ‘clean up our land.’ Targets should be set: a) for the net reduction of derelict land over the next 5, 10 and 15 years
83. Launch a national campaign to ‘clean up our land.’ Targets should be set: b) to bring all contaminated land back into beneficial use by 2030.
84. Enforce a regime of strict liability on site owners who add to the problem of contaminated land, drawing on Integrated Pollution Control and Integrated Pollution Prevention Control regulations.
85. Give local authorities a statutory duty to maintain an empty property strategy that sets clear targets for reducing levels of vacant stock. There should be firm commitments to take action against owners who refuse to sell their properties or restore them to beneficial use.
86. Allocate social housing by a more open system than just a strict need to be accommodated. In unpopular areas, available housing should be marketed to other groups, including low to middle income working households and students.
87. Introduce new measures to encourage the restoration and use of historic buildings left empty by their owners. These should include revised planning guidance (PPG15), inclusion of heritage issues in regional economic strategies, a review of building regulations and an end to the business rate exemptions on empty listed buildings.
88. Review and enhance the role of civic amenity societies in planning the re-use of historic buildings and in securing regeneration objectives.
89. Facilitate the conversion of more empty space over shops into flats by providing additional public assistance, including public equity stakes and business rate reductions.
90. Harmonise VAT rates at a zero rate in respect of new building, and conversions and refurbishments. If harmonisation can only be achieved at a 5% rate, then a significant part of the proceeds should be reinvested in urban regeneration.
91. Extend liability for full payment of Council Tax to all owners of empty homes. Where properties have been empty for over a year, the authority should have discretion to impose a higher charge.
92. Establish a ten-year national programme – The Renaissance Fund – to help repair our towns, whereby community groups and voluntary organisations can access the resources needed to tackle derelict buildings and other eyesores that are spoiling their neighbourhood.
93. Establish national public–private investment funds that can attract an additional £1 billion in private investment for area regeneration projects over the next three years. A minimum of 50% of the resources should be directed at residential portfolios.
94. Introduce regional regeneration investment companies and funds, to increase the amount of private finance flowing into the regeneration of all the English regions.
95. Pilot an estate renewal project and a more general area regeneration project through the private finance initiative.
96. Introduce a new financial instrument for attracting institutional investment into the residential private rented market.
97. Introduce a package of tax measures, providing incentives for developers, investors, small landlords, owner-occupiers and tenants to contribute to the regeneration of urban sites and buildings that would not otherwise be developed.
98. Include the objective of an urban renaissance in the terms of reference for the 2001 comprehensive spending review which will determine public expenditure priorities for the following three years.
99. Amend the Public Service Agreements set for government departments to include urban renaissance objectives. A single ‘urban renaissance public service agreement’ should be developed to operate across Whitehall following the 2001 spending review.
100. All significant public buildings should be subject to a design competition, adequately funded by the public purse.
101. Review the spending formula used to allocate central resources to local government so that it adequately reflects the financial needs of urban authorities in managing and maintaining their areas.
102. Extend Government commitments to capital finance allocations against local spending strategies so they go beyond the definite plans of the three Public Expenditure Survey years.
103. Independently review the funding allocations, policies and formulas for school buildings, to produce proposals for accommodating future increases in pupil numbers in high quality facilities in regenerating urban areas.
104. Allow local authorities to retain a proportion of additional revenue generated from council tax and business rates as a result of regeneration in designated urban priority areas. The retained resources should be recycled into the management and maintenance of the area.
105. Combine the single regeneration budget challenge fund and most of the land and property funding inherited from English Partnerships to create a single regional funding pot for area regeneration.
106. Give Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) the freedom to establish flexible area regeneration funding programmes over ten years or more, with a clear funding bank established for the full period.
107. RDAs should offer a ‘one-stop shop’ project appraisal service for applicants that cuts across requirements of individual funding programmes.
108. Commission an independent review of the National Lottery’s impact on urban regeneration, focusing on its potential distorting effects on priorities, and on how appraisal, monitoring and delivery can be better co-ordinated with other agencies.
109. Introduce a package of measures, including some debt cancellation, to enable local authorities with large social housing portfolios to transfer some or all of the stock to arms-length management organisations.
110. Restrict public subsidy for social housing developments of more than 25 homes to schemes where homes for rent are integrated with shared and full-ownership housing.
111. Increase the cost effectiveness of public support for housing renewal by private owners by using a mix of grants, loans, equity stakes and tax relief to encourage home improvements.