The Housing White Paper 2017 – out now!

 

Part 1: Fixing our broken housing market

The Housing White Paper was presented to Parliament yesterday (7th February 2017) by the Secretary of State for communities and local government, Sajid Javid.

We know that you are probably aware that it has been released, but we thought that we would provide you with a 4 part summary of the White Paper.

Today, we bring you part: 1 of 4.

The document, ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ published yesterday, presented a clear vision as to how the government can tackle the housing crisis.

Let’s be totally honest, we have a housing market that is broken in so many ways.

However, the UK have been presented with a plan, a direction, a solution and given us hope whilst we also negotiate our exit from, and a new partnership with, the European Union. Our government want to give the future generation affordable measures so they can rent homes, own homes and the UK can flourish as a country.  This can only be welcomed!

In the much-anticipated White Paper, the Prime Minister Theresa May began her foreword by acknowledging the challenges that the government face…

  • The broken housing market is one of the greatest barriers to progress in Britain today
  • Whether renting or buying, housing is increasingly unaffordable
  • The average house costs almost eight times the average earnings
  • In total, more than 2.2 million working households with below-average incomes spend a third or more of their disposable income on housing
  • We need to build many more houses, of the type people want to live in, in the places they want to live
  • More land is required for homes where people want to live
  • Up-to-date plans need to be in place
  • Ensure that homes are built quickly once planning permissions are granted
  • We’re giving councils and developers the tools they need to build more swiftly
  • We will encourage housing associations and local authorities to build more
  • Improving safeguards in the private rented sector, and doing more to prevent homelessness and to help households currently priced out of the market
  • By building the homes Britain needs and giving those renting a fairer deal

The foreword from the Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP was straight to the point…

“This country doesn’t have enough homes. That’s not a personal opinion or a political calculation. It’s a simple statement of fact. For decades, the pace of house building has been sluggish at best. As a result, the number of new homes has not kept pace with our growing population.”

According to the Secretary of State, the White Paper explains how the government will fix the broken housing marketing. It covers the whole house building process, from finding sites to securing local support and permission as well as getting homes built quickly and sold on fair terms. But it also goes further, seeking to build consensus for a new, positive, mind-set to house building. A can-do approach that simply does not tolerate failure. The housing market has taken decades to reach the state it’s now in. Turning it around won’t be quick or easy. But it can be done. It must be done. And, as this White Paper shows, this government is determined to do it.

When the Housing White Paper was released yesterday, we studied it, listened about it and wanted to share our findings.

Here is our synopsis of the Housing White Paper 2017…

Part 1:

The government identifies three key challenges:

  • Firstly, over 40% of local planning authorities do not have a plan that meets the projected growth in households in their area… but some duck difficult decisions and don’t plan for the homes their area needs. The uncertainty this creates about when and where new homes will be built is both unpopular and affects the entire house building process – slowing it right down. Without an adequate plan, homes can end up being built on a speculative basis, with no co-ordination and limited buy-in from local people
  • Secondly, the pace of development is too slow – This government’s reforms have led to a large increase in the number of homes being given planning permission. But there is a large gap between permissions granted and new homes built
  • Finally, the very structure of the housing market makes it harder to increase supply. Housing associations have been doing well – they’re behind around a third of all new housing completed over the past five years 17 but the commercial developers still dominate the market. And within that sector, a handful of very big companies are responsible for most new building

The cause of our housing shortage is simple enough – not enough homes are being built. Fixing it is more complex.

The government indicates that it will do the following:

  • Firstly, we need to plan for the right homes in the right places. This is critical to the success of our modern industrial strategy. Growing businesses need a skilled workforce living nearby, and employees should be able to move easily to where jobs are without being forced into long commutes. But at the moment, some local authorities can duck potentially difficult decisions, because they are free to come up with their own methodology for calculating ‘objectively assessed need’. So, we are going to consult on a new standard methodology for calculating ‘objectively assessed need’, and encourage councils to plan on this basis. We will insist that every area has an up-to-date plan. And we will increase transparency around land ownership, so it is clear where land is available for housing and where individuals or organisations are buying land suitable for housing but not building on it
  • Secondly, build homes faster. We will invest in making the planning system more open and accessible, and tackle unnecessary delays. Development is about far more than just building homes. Communities need roads, rail links, schools, shops, GP surgeries, parks, playgrounds and a sustainable natural environment. Without the right infrastructure, no new community will thrive – and no existing community will welcome new housing if it places further strain on already stretched local resources. We’re giving councils and developers the tools they need to build more swiftly, and we expect them to use them. Local authorities should not put up with applicants who secure planning permission but don’t use it
  • Finally, diversify the housing market, opening it up to smaller builders and those who embrace innovative and efficient methods. We set out how we will support housing associations to build more, explore options to encourage local authorities to build again, encourage institutional investment in the private rented sector and promote more modular and factory built homes. We will also make it easier for people who want to build their own homes

The government acknowledges that the shortage in supply will not solve itself. They note that the housing shortage isn’t a looming crisis, a distant threat that will become a problem if we fail to act. We’re already living in it. Our population could stop growing and net migration could fall to zero, but people would still be living in overcrowded, unaffordable accommodation. Infrastructure would still be overstretched. This problem is not going to go away by itself. If we fail to build more homes, it will get ever harder for ordinary working people to afford a roof over their head, and the damage to the wider economy will get worse. They acknowledge that tackling the housing shortage won’t be easy. It will inevitably require some tough decisions.

The proposals in this White Paper set out how the government intends to boost housing supply and, over the long term, create a more efficient housing market whose outcomes more closely match the needs and aspirations of all households and which supports wider economic prosperity.

The list of proposals are summarised as:

  1. Right Homes in the Right Places.
  2. Building Homes Faster.
  3. Diversifying the market.
  4. Helping People now.

We address each of these proposals in detail.

Summary of proposals from Part: 1

The Government intends to:

NPPF Amendments:

  • Plans and policies should not duplicate one another
  • Tighten the definition of what evidence is required to support a ‘sound’ plan
  • Amend the tests of what is expected of a ‘sound’ plan, to make clear that it should set out ‘an’ appropriate strategy for the area
  • From April 2018 the new methodology for calculating housing requirements would apply as the baseline for assessing 5 year housing land supply and housing delivery in the absence of an up-to-date plan
  • Local planning authorities are expected to have clear policies for addressing the housing requirements of groups with particular needs
  • Identified housing requirement should be accommodated unless there are policies elsewhere in the National Planning Policy Framework that provide strong reasons for restricting development
  • Provide a strong reason to restrict development when preparing plans
  • The presumption in favour of sustainable development could be clarified further through some additional adjustments
  • Indicate that great weight should be attached to the value of using suitable brownfield land within settlements for homes
  • Encourage local planning authorities to consider the social and economic benefits of estate regeneration
  • Encourage a more proactive approach by authorities to bringing forward new settlements
  • Make clear that authorities should amend Green Belt boundaries only when they can demonstrate that they have examined fully all other reasonable options for meeting their identified development requirements
  • Make efficient use of land and avoid building homes at low densities
  • Address the particular scope for higher-density housing in urban locations
  • Ensure that the density and form of development reflect the character, accessibility and infrastructure capacity of an area
  • Make a flexible approach in adopting and applying policy and guidance that could inhibit  these objectives
  • Amend national planning guidance to highlight planning approaches that can be used to help support higher densities
  • Review the Nationally Described Space Standard and how it is used in planning

Regulations

  • They will set out in Regulations a requirement for these documents to be reviewed at least once every five years
  • Authorities are expected to prepare a Statement of Common Ground
  • Strategies require unanimous agreement of the members of the combined authority, regulations will allow them to allocate strategic sites
  • Local planning authorities are able to dispose of land with the benefit of planning consent which they have granted to themselves

Consultations

  • Make decisions on intervention on the basis of criteria, as set out in the consultation – making use of its existing powers and those proposed in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill
  • Consult on options for introducing a more standardised approach to assessing housing requirements
  • Consult on using powers in the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 to issue a new General Disposal Consent, which would enable authorities to dispose of land held for planning purposes at less than best consideration without the need for specific consent from the Secretary of State

General Proposals

  • Allow spatial development strategies to allocate strategic sites
  • Increase the amount of planning data that is easily available to individuals, groups, entrepreneurs and businesses
  • Pilot programme  for data presentation
  • Local planning authorities should be able to demonstrate that they have a clear strategy to maximise the use of suitable land in their area
  • Local planning authorities are expected to provide neighbourhood planning groups with a housing requirement figure
  • Expect local planning authorities to have policies that support the development of small ‘windfall’ sites
  • Indicate that great weight should be given to using small undeveloped sites within settlements for homes
  • Highlight the opportunities that neighbourhood plans present for identifying and allocating small sites that are suitable for housing
  • Encourage local planning authorities to identify opportunities for villages to thrive
  • Give much stronger support for ‘rural exception’ sites that provide affordable homes for local people
  • At least 10% of the sites allocated for residential development in local plans should be sites of half a hectare or less
  • Work with developers to encourage the sub-division of large sites

Funding & Infrastructure

  • Use the new £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund to encourage and support collaboration
  • Decisions on infrastructure investment take better account of the opportunities to support new and existing communities

Power of Direction

  • Allow the Secretary of State to direct a group of authorities to work together
  • Remove the policy expectation that each local planning authority should produce a single local plan
  • Set out in policy the key strategic priorities that every area is expected to plan for

HM Land Registry & Land Control

  • Government will collate and make openly available a complete list of all unregistered publicly held land by April 2018
  • Government will ensure completion of the Land Register
  • Government will ensure completion of the Land Register
  • Publicly-held land in the areas of greatest housing need will be registered by 2020
  • Improve the availability of data about wider interests in land
  • Will consult on improving the transparency of contractual arrangements used to control land
  • HM Land Registry will be modernised to become a digital and data-driven registration business
  • Examine how HM Land Registry and the Ordnance Survey can work more closely together
  • Government will ensure completion of the Land Register
  • HM Land Registry will make available, free of charge, its commercial and corporate ownership data set, and the overseas ownership data set
  • Consult on how the Land Register can better reflect wider interests in land
  • HM Land Registry will make available, free of charge, its commercial and corporate ownership data set, and the overseas ownership data set
  • Simplify the current restrictive covenant regime

Green Belt & New Towns

  • Legislate to enable the creation of locally accountable New Town Development Corporations
  • Amend policy to encourage a more proactive approach by authorities to bringing forward new settlements
  • Amend national policy to make clear that authorities should amend Green Belt boundaries only when they can demonstrate that they have examined fully all other reasonable options for meeting their identified development requirements
  • Where land is removed from the Green Belt, local policies should require the impact to be offset
  • National policy to make clear that when carrying out a Green Belt review, local planning authorities should look first at using any Green Belt land which has been previously developed and/or which surrounds transport hubs
  • Appropriate facilities for existing cemeteries are not to be regarded as ‘inappropriate development’
  • Development brought forward under a Neighbourhood Development Order should also not be regarded as ‘inappropriate’
  • Where a local or strategic plan has demonstrated the need for Green Belt boundaries to be amended, the detailed boundary may be determined through
    a neighbourhood plan
  • Legislate to enable the creation of locally accountable New Town Development Corporations
  • Where land is removed from the Green Belt, local policies should require the impact to be offset
  • When carrying out a Green Belt review, local planning authorities should look first at using any Green Belt land which has been previously developed and/or which surrounds transport hubs
  • Appropriate facilities for existing cemeteries are not to be regarded as ‘inappropriate development’
  • Development brought forward under a Neighbourhood Development Order should also not be regarded as inappropriate
  • Where a local or strategic plan has demonstrated the need for Green Belt boundaries to be amended, the detailed boundary may be determined through
    a neighbourhood plan
  • Local planning authorities are expected to provide neighbourhood planning groups with a housing requirement figure

Local & Neighbourhood

  • Local and neighbourhood plans (at the most appropriate level) and more detailed development plan documents (such as action area plans) are expected to set out clear design expectations
  • Strengthens the importance of early pre-application discussions
  • Design should not be used as a valid reason to object to development where it accords with clear design expectations set out in statutory plans
  • Recognizes the value of using a widely accepted design standard

What are your thoughts? Have your say…

The consultation will begin on 7 February 2017. The consultation will run for 12 weeks and will close on 2 May 2017. All responses should be received by no later than 23:45 on 2 May 2017.

This consultation is open to everyone. The government are keen to hear from a wide range of interested parties from across the public and private sectors, as well as from the general public.

During the consultation, if you have any enquiries, please contact: planningpolicyconsultation@communities.gsi.gov.uk

You may respond by completing an online survey here:

Alternatively you can email your response to the questions in this consultation to: planningpolicyconsultation@communities.gsi.gov.uk

If you are responding in writing, please make it clear which questions you are responding to. Written responses should be sent to:

Planning Policy Consultation Team Department for Communities and Local Government

Third Floor, South East Fry Building 2 Marsham Street

SW1P 4DF

When you reply it would be very useful if you confirm whether you are replying as an individual or submitting an official response on behalf of an organisation and include:

  • Your name
  • Your position (if applicable)
  • The name of organisation (if applicable)
  • An address (including post-code)
  • An email address
  • A contact telephone number

Consultation questions for Part: 1 

Question 1

Do you agree with the proposals to:

  1. a) Make clear in the National Planning Policy Framework that the key strategic policies that each local planning authority should maintain are those set out currently at paragraph

156 of the Framework, with an additional requirement to plan for the allocations needed to deliver the area’s housing requirement?

  1. b) Use regulations to allow Spatial Development Strategies to allocate strategic sites,
    where these strategies require unanimous agreement of the members of the combined authority?
  2. c) Revise the National Planning Policy Framework to tighten the definition of what evidence is required to support a ‘sound’ plan?

Question 2

What changes do you think would support more proportionate consultation and examination procedures for different types of plan and to ensure that different levels of plans work together?

Question 3

Do you agree with the proposals to:

  1. a) Amend national policy so that local planning authorities are expected to have clear policies for addressing the housing requirements of groups with particular needs, such as older and disabled people?
  2. b) From early 2018, use a standardised approach to assessing housing requirements as
    the baseline for every year housing supply calculations and monitoring housing delivery, in the absence of an up-to-date plan?

Question 4

Do you agree with the proposals to amend the presumption in favour of sustainable development so that:

  1. a)  Authorities are expected to have a clear strategy for maximising the use of suitable land in their areas?
  2. b)  It makes clear that identified development needs should be accommodated unless there are strong reasons for not doing so set out in the NPPF?
  3. c)  The list of policies which the Government regards as providing reasons to restrict development is limited to those set out currently in footnote 9 of the National Planning Policy Framework (so these are no longer presented as examples), with the addition of Ancient Woodland and aged or veteran trees?
  4. d) Its considerations are re-ordered and numbered, the opening text is simplified and specific references to local plans are removed?

Question 5

Do you agree that regulations should be amended so that all local planning authorities are able to dispose of land with the benefit of planning consent which they have granted to them?

Question 6

How could land pooling make a more effective contribution to assembling land, and what additional powers or capacity would allow local authorities to play a more active role in land assembly (such as where ‘ransom strips’ delay or prevent development)?

Question 7

Do you agree that national policy should be amended to encourage local planning authorities to consider the social and economic benefits of estate regeneration when preparing their plans and in decisions on applications, and use their planning powers to help deliver estate regeneration to a high standard?

Question 8

Do you agree with the proposals to amend the National Planning Policy Framework to:

  1. a) Highlight the opportunities that neighbourhood plans present for identifying and allocating small sites that are suitable for housing?
  2. b) Encourage local planning authorities to identify opportunities for villages to thrive, especially where this would support services and help meet the authority’s housing needs?
  3. c) Give stronger support for‘rural exception’ sites – to make clear that these should
    be considered positively where they can contribute to meeting identified local housing needs, even if this relies on an element of general market housing to ensure that homes are genuinely affordable for local people?
  4. d) Make clear that on top of the allowance made for windfall sites, at least 10% of sites allocated for residential development in local plans should be sites of half a hectare or less?
  5. e) Expect local planning authorities to work with developers to encourage the sub-division of large sites? and encourage greater use of Local Development Orders and area-wide design codes so that small sites may be brought forward for development more quickly?

Question 9

How could streamlined planning procedures support innovation and high-quality development in new garden towns and villages?

Question 10

Do you agree with the proposals to amend the National Planning Policy Framework to make clear that:

  1. a)  Authorities should amend Green Belt boundaries only when they can demonstrate that they have examined fully all other reasonable options for meeting their identified development requirements?
  2. b)  Where land is removed from the Green Belt, local policies should require compensatory improvements to the environmental quality or accessibility of remaining Green Belt land?
  3. c)  Appropriate facilities for existing cemeteries should not to be regarded as ‘inappropriate development’ in the Green Belt?
  4. d)  Development brought forward under a Neighbourhood Development Order should not be regarded as inappropriate in the Green Belt, provided it preserves openness and does not conflict with the purposes of the Green Belt?
  5. e)  Where a local or strategic plan has demonstrated the need for Green Belt boundaries to be amended, the detailed boundary may be determined through a neighbourhood plan (or plans) for the area in question?
  6. f)  When carrying out a Green Belt review, local planning authorities should look first at using any Green Belt land which has been previously developed and/or which surrounds transport hubs?

Question 11

Are there particular options for accommodating development that national policy should expect authorities to have explored fully before Green Belt boundaries are amended, in addition to the ones set out above?

Question 12

Do you agree with the proposals to amend the National Planning Policy Framework to:

  1. a)  Indicate that local planning authorities should provide neighbourhood planning groups with a housing requirement figure, where this is sought?
  2. b)  Make clear that local and neighbourhood plans (at the most appropriate level) and more detailed development plan documents (such as action area plans) are expected to set out clear design expectations; and that visual tools such as design codes can help provide a clear basis for making decisions on development proposals?
  3. c) Emphasise the importance of early pre- application discussions between applicants, authorities and the local community about design and the types of homes to be provided?
  4. d) Makes clear that design should not be used as a valid reason to object to development where it accords with clear design expectations set out in statutory plans?
  5. e) Recognise the value of using a widely accepted design standard, such as Building for Life, in shaping and assessing basic design principles – and make clear that this should be reflected in plans and given weight in the planning process?

Question 13

Do you agree with the proposals to amend national policy to make clear that plans and individual development proposals should:

  1. a)  Make efficient use of land and avoid building homes at low densities where there is a shortage of land for meeting identified housing needs?
  2. b)  Address the particular scope for higher- density housing in urban locations that are well served by public transport, that provide opportunities to replace low-density uses in areas of high housing demand, or which offer scope to extend buildings upwards in urban areas?
  3. c)  Ensure that in doing so the density and form of development reflect the character, accessibility and infrastructure capacity of an area, and the nature of local housing needs?
  4. d)  Take a flexible approach in adopting and applying policy and guidance that
    could inhibit these objectives in particular circumstances, such as open space provision in areas with good access to facilities nearby?

Question 14

In what types of location would indicative minimum density standards be helpful, and what should those standards be?

Question 15

What are your views on the potential for delivering additional homes through more intensive use of existing public sector sites, or in urban locations more generally, and how this can best be supported through planning (using tools such as policy, local development orders, and permitted development rights)?

Further questions relating to parts 2, 3 and 4 will be issued for your consideration so hold your response until you have reviewed all the questions. Use this opportunity to have your say.

In the papers today…

There are some interesting comments in the news today with regards to the White Paper.

“Housing experts find more to criticise than praise in the government’s plan and is branded beyond feeble by Labour to solve the housing crisis.”

“Home ownership is a distant dream.”

Tomorrow we will return to Part: 2 of our review of the Housing White Paper 2017…

The second proposal – ‘Building Homes Faster’.

Read the full Housing White Paper 2017 here.

 

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