Eleanor Deeley, Deputy Managing Director of the Deeley Group, casts her eye over how the planning system is adjusting to life in lockdown
At a time when people have been panic buying shopping for toilet rolls, cutting their own hair and congregating for karaoke parties during the lockdown, it is refreshing – and indeed rare – to highlight the planning structure as a model of good sense.
Despite the tragic events which have crippled countries across the globe and robbed families of loved ones, other aspects of life have to try to operate as normal or at least adapt to the unique circumstances in which we find ourselves.
I think everyone has been pleasantly surprised, for example, how quickly people have adjusted to working from home and meeting virtually.
It would have been all too easy for development and construction to grind to a total halt. While many of the aspects of the profession have been rendered impossible through restrictions, the Government flexing planning regulations has allowed a great deal of work to continue when otherwise it would have been forced to cease.
The change has allowed more planning matters to be agreed under delegated powers which means that there continues to be a flow of applications being processed.
As with all aspects of business during the lockdown period, precise preparation and clear communication are vital in ensuring officers have as full a picture as possible allowing them to be comfortable they are able to make the right decisions.
The changes to planning regulations have also given council’s certain freedoms to decide the best ways to operate within guidelines.
Planning meetings can, for example, be held remotely with members logging in over the internet or on the telephone. The location of a meeting can now be defined digitally such as a web address or video conference call rather than a physical place.
As long as committee members, officers and applicants can hear and be heard then a meeting can go ahead. Contributions from the members of the public if they are allowed to speak can be registered in advantage.
I wonder how many times committees would like to have had a “mute facility” at their disposal in real meetings!
Public consultations are, by their very nature, far harder to carry out during lockdown yet the Local Government Association Planning Advisory Service has urged local authorities to press on employing social media, interactive maps and online information, and utilising virtual groups through channels such as Facebook.
These are still early days relative to public consultations and there are more formal and structured elements to the process which may not be able to be conducted remotely, and there is talk of guidance being flexed to make that possible should this situation continue.
There are elements which have proved trickier to overcome. Some smaller councils do not have it within their constitution to make decisions without a physical meeting while traffic counts – a key factor in planning applications and consents – are impossible to measure when we are restricted to essential journeys only.
Again, if lockdown continues then the system will have to adapt and research has shown that more than three quarters of councillors are behind the process continuing virtually until the crisis is behind us.
What this dreadful time has shown is that, when the pressure is on and needs must, the planning system, which at times seems massively inflexible, can be shaped and moulded to mutual benefit.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that spirit of understanding and mutual working continued long after this horrible period is over?
In our latest blog, Elaine Freeman, designer at top interiors specialists Open Door Interiors, discusses the inspiration behind the interior design for the Deeley Homes development, The Meadows at Pillerton Priors.
When we were first outlining the interior design for the show home, the first elements to consider were the location and the stunning surrounding countryside which plays a key role in making The Meadows so impressive.
The colours, textures and patterns we picked were designed to bring in certain aspects of the surrounding landscape into the rooms, with rich emerald greens used to achieve a contemporary yet classic look.
This is particularly true of the wallpaper featured in the study – the emerald green uses a stunning crocodile effect to create a sense of depth and texture to ensure the room comes with an atmosphere which is conducive to home working.
We have featured bold elements throughout the property, with striking brass touches and natural-wash woods to contrast with a more elegant feel in the entrance hall and staircase.
The natural colours of the wash-wood creates a real sense of bringing the countryside to the interior and, in pairing it with a smart edge to the finishing lines of the rooms, it creates a very classic look, with a more modern and up-to-date twist without it being a slave to fashion.
The properties feel very ‘on-trend’ with the use of funky, bold colours that create a strong impact and are weaved throughout the homes, even through to the guest bathroom and hallway.
One of my favourite aspects of our work at The Meadows is the use of fabric wallpaper, which is becoming more popular as a simple, yet effective, way to really make a statement when decorating.
The velvet wall fabric used here evokes a more natural look and creates a sense of elegance for the property, adding a slightly more feminine touch to the décor.
The homes at The Meadows are finished to a high specification, using the best local materials with views across the stunning open countryside, which to us, was an aspect of each home that we really wanted to emphasise in the design.
For more information on The Meadows, Pillerton Priors, visit: https://www.themeadowspillerton.co.uk/
Leading housing provider Stonewater has been working with construction and development firm Deeley Group and Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council to develop much-needed affordable housing as part of the town’s wider regeneration project.
Feather Lane is a brand-new development of 27 homes built in partnership with The Deeley Group, which has been at the forefront of regeneration in Bermuda over several decades – aiming to boost economic growth across the town.
The scheme, which has benefited from Homes England grant funding as a result of Stonewater’s strategic partnership with Guinness, consists of eight two-bedroom and eleven three-bedroom affordable rent homes, as well as four two-bedroom and four three-bedroom shared ownership homes.
The average home in Nuneaton is currently priced at around £176,284, which is more than seven times the typical local wage. However, shared ownership is a part-buy part-rent scheme offering an affordable route to home ownership for first time buyers and local people struggling to get a foot on the property ladder.
Matt Crucefix, Director of Development (West) at Stonewater, said: “We are absolutely clear on our vision of giving everyone the opportunity to have a place that they can call home at Stonewater and we are always striving to find opportunities to make that vision a reality. It has been a pleasure working with The Deeley Group to transform this site and not only meet local housing needs, but support Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council with improving the local economy.”
Peter Deeley, managing director at the Deeley Group, said: “We are thrilled to have worked in partnership with Stonewater and Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council to bring forward much needed affordable housing for the local community.
“Bermuda is an area which is very close to our hearts as a company as we have been working on the regeneration of this part of Nuneaton for decades and this is another welcome addition.”
Clare Golby, Councillor for Arbury at Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, said: “I was invited to the official opening of the housing scheme at Feather Lane and was really impressed with what has been delivered. Stonewater’s development is well thought-out, and the homes are all spacious and lovely. Most importantly, the residents we spoke to were very happy with their new homes. This development compliments the earlier phases of the Feather Lane estate too, so overall I was really pleased.”
Deeley Construction has been appointed by the University of Worcester as one of six building firms on its renewed medium construction related works and refurbishment framework.
The framework, an approved list of building contractors the University has chosen to work with, will run for the next 3 to 4 years and covers construction projects of various values, from simple refurbishments to larger redevelopment projects.
Martin Gallagher, Managing Director of Deeley Construction, said: “We are delighted to be included on this framework.
“Deeley Construction has an excellent track record of working in partnership with universities and other educational establishments on a range of projects so we are looking forward to delivering for the University of Worcester on this framework.”
A university spokesperson said: “The University of Worcester is delighted to include Deeley Construction on our framework, who will help us to deliver the University’s exciting projects for the future. We are always keen, where possible, to work with businesses in the region and have chosen companies whose excellence and expertise will be invaluable.”
Building work is underway on a new Extra Care Living scheme in Chipping Norton after a ground-breaking ceremony last week.
The new scheme on land on Rockhill Farm is being developed by Housing 21 in partnership with West Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council, and will provide 80 one and two bedroom apartments for affordable rent and shared ownership. The development will offer people over the age of 55 a range of services and facilities including a 24 hour on-site care team for those who need it, a residents’ lounge and guest room plus a café/bistro dining area and hair salon, which will both be available to the local community.
The Extra Care Living development, located off Russell Way, is being built by Deeley Construction and is currently anticipated for completion in August 2021. The first residents are expected to move into their new homes in September 2021.
Cllr Lawrie Stratford, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care & Public Health Oxfordshire County Council said: “It is fantastic to see work begin at what will be a great development for our people over 55, offering an excellent standard of accommodation. It will also be so much more than just a place to live; it is being set up with the vision of creating an active and engaged community to support the wellbeing of its residents. We at Oxfordshire County Council were delighted to support this project with the land and to work with our partners Housing 21 and West Oxfordshire District Council to make this collective vision become a reality.”
Cllr Jeff Haine, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning at West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “We are committed to ensuring enough affordable housing is built to meet the needs of local residents.
“We know there is a real demand for housing of this type in the District so it is fantastic to see this significant development getting off the ground.”
Lorraine Jenner, Head of Extra Care at Housing 21 said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council and West Oxfordshire District Council to provide the latest Extra Care scheme in Chipping Norton.
“Housing 21 is the leading provider of Extra Care across England, providing at least 10 percent of the country’s provision. We will be working closely with the local schools, older people’s groups and the social work teams in Chipping Norton to ensure a fully integrated and community feel to the scheme upon opening. This ceremony marks the beginning of a very exciting build journey in the area!”
Martin Gallagher, Managing Director of Deeley Construction, said: “We are delighted to be working with Housing 21 and the wider partnership on this much-needed new Extra Care scheme that will help to meet the needs of the local community, which is important to us as a Midlands company.
“We have delivered many schemes in the housing and care sector, but this is our first with Housing 21 and it has been great to be part of such a collaborative process.”
A haven for rough sleepers in Coventry city centre has thanked a group of local businesses for their support in creating a new kitchen to help them serve hot meals.
Steps For Change moved to the City Arcade at the end of 2019 and opens five days a week, offering a range of ‘one-stop-shop’ support to people from assistance in accessing benefits and housing through to a place to go from a hot coffee.
The centre is a partnership between The ARC and Coventry Salvation Army and they were supported by local businesses and individuals who gave their time and services for free to install the kitchen after Coventry City Council released the premises to the organisation.
Coventry Builders Charity, which funded the project, Howdens, Andy Llewellyn, Claddagh Electrical, DB Heating and The Deeley Group, all played their part and representatives went along to the centre to see how their work is helping local rough sleepers.
Sam Barker, from Steps For Change, said: “The old kitchen wasn’t really fit for purpose. We wanted to be able to serve hot meals to people and that just wouldn’t have been possible.
“The support we have had has been amazing and we want to thank everyone who donated their efforts in making this happen. We couldn’t have done it without their help.
“We moved here towards the end of last year from Broadgate and we are now open five days a week and offer a range of support to people who are sleeping rough locally and, in some cases, that’s offering a cup of coffee or a hot meal.
“For others, we can help them to access all of the support they need when it comes to housing or benefits and we work with a range of other service providers to join everything up.
“Having this fantastic, modern kitchen means we are able to offer hot food to people who come through our doors and that’s really important.”
Around 80 people use Steps For Change each week and the venue is always looking for donations of tea, coffee, sugar, biscuits and UHT milk.
Peter Deeley, managing director of the Deeley Group, brought together the businesses to supply and install the kitchen.
He said: “It’s a great testament to everyone involved for coming together and supporting this fantastic community cause.
“The kitchen looks great and I’d like to extend my own personal thank you to everyone who contributed.”
Pictured (left to right): Bob Hall (Coventry Builder’s Charity), Sam Barker (Steps For Change), Leigh Naylor (Howdens), Karen Gannon (Salvation Army), Jimmy Concannon (Claddagh Electrical), Peter Deeley (Deeley Group).