Planning reform to fix the broken housing market

Planning reform to fix the broken housing market-delayed by the General Election

In March 2017, the Government set out its intention to reform planning with the publication of the Housing White Paper. It was a mixture of green and white and sets out the Government’s four-point plan to fix the broken housing market.

In trying to understand and explain all of the proposed changes to national planning policy and legislation, we thought we’d got our head around what was potentially happening and when.
However, with the announcement of the General Election of 8th June 2017, we may well be back to square one.

Here is a summary of the changes we were expecting over 2017 prior to the announcement of the General Election.

What’s happened so far?
The Housing and Planning Act received royal assent on the 12th May 2016.
The following sections of the Act on planning came into force from the day the Act received Royal Assent:
• Local planning authority duty to keep a register of particular kinds of land
• The setting of fees for planning applications
• Processing of planning applications by alternative providers
• Urban Development Corporations

A number of the other planning provisions in the Act have since come into force with a commencement date yet to be confirmed:

Sections 158 and 159 on planning obligations
Section 160 on development consent for projects that involve housing
Sections 180 and 181 on compulsory purchase order confirmation and time limits
Sections 192-198 on compulsory purchase compensation

The Neighbourhood Planning Bill had its third reading and will receive Royal Assent in due course. Clause 6-11 of the Bill sets out Local Planning and the powers for intervention.

Starter Homes and Small sites register
The Act put into legislation the Government’s intention to provide a number of Starter Homes. The Government will commence the general duty on local authorities to promote the supply of starter homes and will bring forward regulations to finalise the starter homes definition and monitoring provisions. The Government have previously proposed that local authorities should keep a register of “small sites” in their areas and have since confirmed that it would not go ahead with the requirement for local authorities to keep a small sites register at this time.

Local Plans
The Secretary of State is given powers to intervene where Local Authorities are failing. This is through the Neighbourhood Plan Bill which has had its third reading.
The Government confirmed that following a previous proposal to incentivize preparation of a Local Plan and reduce New Homes Bonus in areas where this is not happening, they will not be taking this forward in 2017/2018.
Press release: Priminister Minister – Councils must deliver local plans for new homes by 2017

Permission in Principle
The Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Permission in Principle etc.) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2017 was made on March 6th 2017 which clarifies a number of points on permission in principle in England.
Competition in the system
The act gave the SOS through regulation the power to introduce pilot schemes for competition in processing applications.
Developer Contributions
Clauses have been added into the Act to deal with dispute resolution in order to speed up the process of negotiation.

Further changes are coming!
Here’s a summary of the changes in planning that were being considered before the General Election announcement:
Housing land supply and standardized requirement- Government’s priority 
The Government’s priority is to consult on options for introducing a standard methodology for calculating OAN and housing requirement. There will be criteria for moving away from the standard methodology which would require justification. Options are being explored within this consultation for local authorities have to set a housing requirement for Neighbourhood Plans.
The Government are considering whether local authorities will be able to have land supply agreed on an annual basis and for this figure to be fixed on a one year basis. This figure will undergo independent examination, however there are rumblings of concern from local authorities that the time to undergo local plan examination will impact on the date in which the housing figure is adopted.
We were anticipating the consultation in spring 2017, so any time now. Depending on the general election result the incoming government may continue to progress with this priority.

Local Plans
The Government are consulting on the intention to make changes to the NPPF to introduce a housing delivery test and considering consequences for under delivery (fall below the 95% threshold over a 5 year period).
Changes to the NPPF
We were anticipating a revised NPPF in the summer with the following changes:
Duty to Co-operate to be amended so that authorities will be expected to prepare a statement of Common Ground.

  • CLG and the Government are keen for joint planning and will encourage
    Amendments to paragraph 14 and the presumption in favour of sustainable development
    Paragraph 156 and strategic priorities
  • Principle of upward extensions  to be included
  • Stronger support for rural exception sites
  • Allowance for more brownfield land to be released for development with higher proportion of starter homes
  • Definition of affordable housing to be amended to encompass a wider range of products
  • NPPF to be amended to include support for and increased number of new build to rent homes
  • Introduce presumption that brownfield land within settlements is suitable for housing
  • The government have set out their intention to strengthen planning policy to support higher densities in urban locations with a review of the Nationally Described Space Standard
  • Clarification to be made to Green Belt Policy to make the tests for release more transparent
  • Clarification of flood risk policy to ensure that policies for managing flood risk also address cumulative flood risk
  • Amend policy on noise to take into account existing business and adjacent uses
    It is unclear at the present time whether any incoming Government will continue with preparing a revised NPPF

Developer Contributions
The Government were proposing to review the process for developer contributions following publication of the CIL Experts Group findings. This will be reported in the autumn statement 2017.

Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects
The act will change so that a development consent order could grant consent for housing that is linked to a NSIP.
Permission in principle
The following statutory instruments were to be made in order to implement the permission in principle policy.

  • The Town and Country Planning (Permission in Principle) Order 2017
  • The Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications, Deemed Applications Requests and Site Visits) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017
  • The Town and Country Planning (Register of Previously Developed Land) Regulations 2017
  • Permitted development rights for state funded schools to be extended

Fees and Capacity
Government were considering increasing planning fees with further allowance for authorities who are delivering to increase fees up to 20%. This additional funding would be ring-fenced and would have to be spent within the Planning Department. Thurrock for example, could gain an additional £200,000 Consideration also being given to setting up fees for submitting planning Appeals.

Better information on Build out and Developer Track record
A September consultation was anticipating to deal with issues surrounding developer’s delivery rates, whether the start date of development should be included in a planning application, changes the legislation for secretary of State Sign off and the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders.
The Government have asked the question as to whether Local Authorities should be able to take into account a developer’s track record and delivery rates in considering applications. We are of the opinion that each site is different and on site constraints as well timely discharge of Conditions impacts on meeting targets. Developers already provide information on delivery rates to local authorities when they are preparing SHLAA documents and calculating supply.

Secretary of State Call in period
A statutory period of 3 months is proposed in which the SOS can call in applications.

Prior to the general Election announcement on April 18th, The Government were proposing a raft of consultations over the spring and summer of 2017 to amend national planning policy to improve delivery of much needed homes. Housing is sure to be top of all parties’ manifestos as in 2015 when all parties pledged to increase housing numbers:

Labour- least 200,000 new homes a year are built by 2020,
Conservatives- 200,000 new Starter Homes exclusively for first-time buyers under 40
Liberal Democrats- 300,000 a year

No matter the outcome of the general election, we all have a role to play in meeting the aims of the Housing White Paper and Urbanissta looks forward to working with the housebuilders in this time of change to secure the houses that Britain needs.

Do you need to speak to a planner? Contact us today.

Read the Planning Reform Proposals here.

The Housing White Paper:
Part: 1
Part: 2
Part: 3
Part: 4

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