The Government has published its revised National Planning Policy Framework, replacing the existing rulebook with a document planners have described as “lacking in big changes or surprises” but signalling a change in definitions of affordability.
The revised NPPF follows a public consultation launched by the Prime Minister earlier this year, to deliver what the Government describes “a comprehensive approach for planners, developers and councils to build more homes, more quickly and in the places where people want to live”.
Changes include laying the path for the future implementation of a housing delivery test, prioritising brownfield sites, tightening expectations on design quality, and broadening the definition of affordable housing. There is also great emphasis on environmental issues, and encouraging housebuilding on smaller sites.
However, the plan has been criticised for its over-emphasis on the housing sector, with Ian Fletcher, director of real estate policy at BPF, stating that it was “unfortunate” that “the NPPF doesn’t give more impetus to sustainable economic growth, and the policies required to allow businesses to invest, expand and adapt.”
Secretary of State for Communities, James Brokenshire MP said: “Fundamental to building the homes our country needs is ensuring that our planning system is fit for the future.
“This revised planning framework sets out our vision of a planning system that delivers the homes we need. I am clear that quantity must never compromise the quality of what is built, and this is reflected in the new rules.
“We have listened to the tens of thousands of people who told us their views, making this a shared strategy for development in England.”
The new rules will see 85 of the proposals set out in the housing white paper and the Budget, implemented in the new NPPF.
Steven Grimster, planning director at Barton Willmore said: “While perhaps lacking in big changes and surprises, what the revised NPPF has done is unlock a new beginning for affordable homes. This is good news for some areas in the North West, like Manchester, where very few affordable homes have been delivered in recent years.
“Government has followed through on its commitment to broadening the definition of affordable housing, pushing for a greater focus on affordable homes for sale, such as starter homes and ‘discount market’ sale. This should attract new entrants into the market place, helping to diversify the offer and increase rates of delivery thereby addressing some of the findings of the Letwin Review. Adding to this, there is now a national requirement for at least 10 per cent of affordable provision on each site to be for affordable sale, reinforcing the Government’s commitment to home ownership.
“Although this is likely to be good news for housing delivery, how will this be translated into Local Plan policies? Few local authorities have yet to embrace a ‘discount for sale’ affordable product and this now needs to change. We expect that many local authorities will need to update their evidence base to ensure that they fully capture local housing needs based on the wider definition of what now constitutes an ‘affordable’ home. This could cause further delays to getting Local Plans in place, such as the long-awaited Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.”
RIBA president Ben Derbyshire said: “We are pleased to see commitments to the Climate Change Act, to Garden City principles and that our call for increased transparency in viability tests has been formally incorporated. We will now be urging Government to closely monitor confidentiality exemptions to ensure this is not abused.
“The Government has also highlighted the importance of quality design to address any concerns about the potential impact of higher density development and the importance of well-designed housing generally. The RIBA welcomes this awareness and urges further action on how to design high density homes that are desirable. This includes urging the Government to give planners the resources, tools and power to raise the bar of quality design in the system.”
Larry Gold, deputy chief executive of Trafford Housing Trust, said: “Trafford Housing Trust is strongly supportive of a new housing delivery test for local authorities. This policy is vital to ensure there is greater focus in areas such as the North West, where there is significant demand for homes. At the same time, the Government must work with local authorities to ensure targets are achievable.
“While we agree that housing developers need to exhaust brownfield sites and existing areas in need of regeneration, the chronic housing shortage will inevitably means that local authorities need to consider building on green belt sites to ensure the pace and scale of development we need.
“We welcome the Government’s decision to include ‘social rent’ within the definition of affordable housing. We now need to ensure that developers are able to build more social rented homes.”