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Designing the Urban Environment

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What the Task Force wants Recommendations across a series of key areas form the heart of the the Urban Task Force report, Towards an Urban Renaissance. Here, we highlight the proposed policies

Introduce a national urban design framework, disseminating key design principles through planning and funding guidelines, supported by a new series of best practice guidelines.

Undertake a series of government-sponsored demonstration projects, adopting an integrated approach to design-led regeneration of different types of urban neighbourhood.

Require local authorities to prepare a single strategy for their public realm and open space, dealing with provision, design, management, maintenance and funding.

Amend planning and funding guidance to improve the use of density standards and to prevent urban development proposals with densities too low to sustain a sustainable and viable mixed use environment, from gaining planning permission.

Introduce a mandatory double-performance rating for houses, combining an environmental and a running cost-rating, so house buyers know what level of building performance they are getting for their money.

Make public funding and planning permissions for area regeneration schemes conditional upon the production of an integrated spatial masterplan.

Establish local architecture centres in each of our major cities.

Making the connections

Introduce 'Home Zones' with tested street designs, lower speed limits and traffic-calming measures.

Place local transport plans on a statutory footing, with targets for reducing car journeys, and increasing year-on-year the proportion of trips made on foot, bicycle and public transport.

Commit at least 65 per cent of public transport expenditure to walking, cycling and public transport over the next ten years.

Extend a well-regulated franchise system for bus services to all English towns and cities if services have not improved substantially within five years.

Set a maximum standard of one-car parking space per dwelling for all new urban residential development.

Managing the Urban Environment

Assign a strategic role to local authorities in ensuring management of the whole urban environment, with powers to require other property owners to maintain their land and premises to an acceptable standard.

Provide an above-inflation increase in central resources allocated to local authorities to work with local businesses to establish jointly-funded management arrangements for town centres and other commercial districts.

Pilot different models of neighbourhood management, giving local people a stake in the decision-making process.

Strengthen enforcement powers and sanctions against individuals or organisations that breach regulations related to planning conditions, noise pollution, littering, fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour.

Delivering urban regeneration

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.

Strengthen the new commitment to regeneration between central and local government.

Enable urban regeneration companies and housing regeneration companies to co-ordinate or deliver area-regeneration projects.

Investing in skills and innovation

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.

Develop a network of regional resource centres for urban development, promoting innovation and good practice, co-ordinating urban development training, and encouraging community participation in the regeneration process.

Establish a five-year programme of international secondments, 'Urban 2000', with the aim that at least 2,000 professional staff and trainees benefit from the exposure to the best practice.

Planning for change

Produce dedicated planning policy guidance to support the drive for an urban renaissance.

Simplify local development plans with an emphasis on strategy to create a more flexible basis for planning. The plans should avoid including detailed, site-level policies.

Devolve detailed planning policies for neighbourhood regeneration into more flexible and targeted area plans, based upon the production of a spatial masterplan and the full participation of local people.

Review designations of employment sites in local development plans, accelerating the release of land no longer needed for employment purposes for housing development

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.

Replace the negotiation of 'planning gain' for smaller urban development schemes with a standardised system of impact fees.

Density and intensification

Revise planning and funding guidance to discourage local authorities from using 'density' and 'over-development' as reasons for refusing planning permission.

Create a planning assumption against excessively low-density urban development.

Provide advice on use of density standards linked to design quality.

Managing the land supply

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.

Oblige all local planning authorities to carry out regular urban capacity studies on a consistent basis, where necessary working together across borough boundaries.

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.

Introduce a statutory duty for public bodies and utilities with large urban landholdngs to release redundant land and buildings for regeneration.

Assist the land assembly process in Urban Priority Areas by removing the obligation for authorities to prove a specific and economically viable scheme in making compulsory purchase orders.

Cleaning up the land

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.

Establish an environment agency, a 'one-stop shop' service for regulatory and licensing requirements, moving quickly to a situation where a single regeneration license is available, covering all regulatory requirements for cleaning up a site.

Pilot standardised land condition statements, to provide more certainty and consistency in the management and sale of contaminated and previously contaminated land.

Launch a national campaign to 'clean up our land' with a target to bring all contaminated land back into beneficial use by 2030.

Recycling the buildings

Give local authorities a statutory duty to maintain an empty property strategy that sets clear targets for reducing levels of vacant stock.

Introduce new measures to encourage the restoration and the use of historic buildings left empty by their owners.

Facilitate the conversion of more empty space over shops into flats by providing public assistance, including public equity stakes and business rate reductions.

Harmonise vat rates at a zero rate in respect of new buildings, conversions and refurbishments. If harmonisation can only be achieved at a 5 per cent rate, then a significant part of the proceeds should be re-invested into urban regeneration.

Establish a 10-year national programme, The Renaissance Fund, to help repair towns, whereby community groups and voluntary organisations can access the resources needed to tackle derelict buildings and other eyesores that are spoiling their neighbourhood.

Making the investment

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.

Introduce a new financial instrument for attracting institutional investment into the residential private rented sector.

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.

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.

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.

Allow local authorities to retain a proportion of additional revenue generated from council tax and business rates as a result of regeneration is designated Urban Priority Areas. The retained resources should be recycled into the management and maintenance of the area.

Introduce a package of housing regeneration measures including debt cancellation to facilitate transfers of council housing stock to dedicated management organisations, and a mix of grants, loans, equity stakes and tax-relief to encourage private home improvements.

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