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Housing White Paper proposes a significant shake-up of national planning policy
7 February 2017

The long awaited Housing White Paper has been published by the Government and as expected introduces a wide range of measures designed to fix the ‘broken’ housing market.

Whilst the Paper comprises a high-level review of the current mechanisms available to get homes in place it is clear that the Government seeks to implement significant changes to legislation and national policy in the coming months. This should provide clarity on the weight to be attributed to a number of Written Ministerial Statements and amendments to guidance that have crept into the planning system over the last year.

Indeed, a number of headline proposals point towards the first revision of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) since its publication in 2012.

This review of the Framework, and indeed how the planning system is stewarded, is expected to focus on the following:

  • More frequent review of local plans and a greater emphasis on cross boundary policy making;
  • Greater clarity to local planning authorities on how to deliver a sound and robust plan;
  • A potential review of planning application fees, comprising a maximum increase of 20%, provided that the increased revenue bolsters local authority planning departments;
  • Increased transparency on who owns potential development land and for what purpose;
  • A new standardised approach to the calculation of an authority’s required housing supply;
  • The ability to now ‘fix’ a local authority’s demonstrable housing land supply for a 12 month period, based on a rolling 3-year period of delivery;
  • New punitive measures where a local authority’s housing supply is deficient;
  • A greater emphasis on the ability of smaller sites, particularly in rural areas, to contribute towards housing provision;
  • A requirement for local planning authorities to ensure that the development potential of sustainable sites is maximised;
  • Mechanisms available to local planning authorities to ensure the implementation of planning permissions for housing;
  • Renewed protection for the Green Belt, except in special circumstances where release is required to aid housing delivery;
  • The requirement for local authorities to clarify the level of housing that their neighbourhood plans are expected to deliver;
  • Greater protection for communities with adopted neighbourhood plans in local authority areas where housing supply is deficient;
  • Revised definition of ‘affordable housing’ including clarity on the nature of starter homes; and
  • An updated, but as yet undefined, definition of what constitutes ‘sustainable development’.

What is clear is that the Government are intent on significantly unblocking the pipeline and ensuring that the burden of housing delivery is equally assumed by urban and rural areas. In addition there is a clear aim to provide certainty to developers and decision makers alike on when and where housing should be built. In particular we consider the intention to ‘fix’ a local authority’s housing supply figure will help remove the need for unnecessary appeals that seek to challenge what can be an ever changing target.

There does, however, seem to be a reduced focus on the delivery of starter homes with the Government’s commitment to deliver 200,000 starter units by 2020 absent from the Paper.

In addition, whilst it is proposed to supplement the income of local authority planning departments with increased application fees many of the other measures, such as the responsibility of Councils to enforce delivery of new homes, will add a significant additional burden.

The Paper will also have significant implications on landlords and tenants. We intend on issuing a separate review of these provisions in due course.

Consultation on the White Paper is now open for 12 weeks until 2nd May 2017. The document can be viewed here.

If you are a landowner and would like to discuss what the proposals in the White Paper mean to you please feel free to contact Robinson & Hall’s planning and development team.

Call or email Andrew Barr on

01234 362926

Call or email Alex Munro on

01234 362891

Call or email Sarah Kasparian on

01234 362913

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