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The revised NPPF: will it fix the housing crisis?

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on Monday issued its consultation on a revised National Planning Policy Framework, the first substantial update since its original publication in March 2012.

The consultation continues the Government’s planning reform package set out in last years Housing White Paper, ‘Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places’ and the Autumn Budget statement. The measures, coupled with additional resources for local authority planning (through increased fees and the planning delivery fund), are seeking to achieve a step change in the number of new homes delivered.

Launching the consultation, Theresa May stated: We’re giving councils and developers the backing they need to get more homes built quickly.”

What do we know so far?

The consultation document includes the following new or amended measures:

  • Housing need – confirmation of a new standard method for the calculation of local housing need.
  • Affordable housing – an expectation that at least 10% of new homes on major sites (those of 10 units or over) be made available for affordable home ownership.
  • Planning contributions – commitment to reforming developer contributions through regulation and stated intention to standardise the approach to viability assessments.
  • Small sites – Local Planning Authorities to ensure that at least 20% of the sites allocated for housing in their plans are of 0.5ha or less, to help diversify opportunities for housebuilders.
  • Housing delivery test – the presumption in favour of sustainable development will apply from 2020 where housing delivery is below 75% of an authority’s requirement.
  • Commencement of development – encouragement for local planning authorities to impose planning conditions to bring forward development within two years.
  • Redevelopment of retail and employment land – encourage redevelopment for other uses, such as housing where this would be a more effective uses and help to meet identified development needs.
  • Green Belt – remains protected but redevelopment of previously developed land in the Green Belt for affordable housing encouraged, where there is no substantial harm to openness.
  • Plan progress – introduction of a legal requirement to review the Local Plan every 5 years and confirmation of special measures where local authorities fail to make timely progress.

Greater Manchester

At this stage it is not clear as to what the implications are locally. However, it is considered likely that the Greater Manchester Combined Authority will wait for greater certainty around Objectively Assessed Need before consulting on the next stage of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. On current projections, this will result in an overall reduction in the housing requirement for Greater Manchester of approximately 10,000 dwellings across the 20 year plan period, when compared with the figures proposed as part of the 2017 draft GMSF.

It remains to be seen as to whether the standardised methodology will assist in rebalancing inequalities across the country, consistent with other Government initiatives such as the Northern Powerhouse. As is stands the revised NPPF states that the standardised methodology should be utilised “unless there are exception circumstances that justify and alternative approach which reflects current and future demographic trends and market signals.”

Summary

The draft revision of the NPPF is clearly well intentioned, repeats much of the Governments previous rhetoric but does not include any new measures that will significantly boost the supply of housing. The Government’s stated aim of make sure we use the space we have available efficiently and reduce the need to build outreinforces the tension between delivering the 2020 target of 300,000 homes per year against the radical reform many had hoped for when the Housing White Paper was first published.

Your Comments

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It would have been helpful to be able to consider NPPF changes alongside the outcomes of the new national standardised methodology and it is unclear why this has not been produced at the same time nor indeed when it will be forthcoming. Clearly many local authorities are now very close to May local election purdah and the political implications of the considerably higher figures in many areas particularly in the Tory heartlands and London may make release just too difficult.

By LA Planner

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