The Government has today (7 February 2016) unveiled its long awaited Housing White Paper. The title ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ gives away the paper’s reoccurring theme. The cause – for too long, we haven’t built enough homes; the fix – build more homes, faster.
Introducing the White Paper, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said ‘we need radical, lasting reform that will get more homes built right now and for many years to come. This White Paper explains how we will do just that’.
It all sounds fairly familiar so far. What is perhaps different, is that the planning process is now, by and large, seen to be working rather than the root cause of delay. The White Paper recognises that the Government’s reforms to date ‘have led to a large increase in the number of homes being given planning permission’. As such, there are no further attempts to radically overhaul the planning system, and, instead, the White Paper includes a series of tweaks to the system already in place. These measures include:
– Consulting on the principle of a new, standardised way of calculating housing demand, with each local authority required to produce a realistic plan and review it every five years.
– Removing the policy expectation that each local planning authority should produce a single local plan.
– Allowing councils to issue “completion notices” demanding that developers start building within two years rather than three.
– Shortening the timescales for developers to implement a permission for housing development from the default period of three years to two years.
– Proposed amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to make it clear that plans and individual development proposals should make efficient use of land and avoid building homes at low density.
– Proposed amendments to the NPPF to make clear that authorities should amend Green Belt boundaries only when they can demonstrate that they have examined fully all other reasonable options.
– Amending the NPPF to indicate that great weight should be attached to the value of using suitable brownfield land within settlements for homes.
– Amending the NPPF to introduce a clear policy expectation that housing sites deliver a minimum of 10% affordable home ownership units.
– Allowing local authorities to increase nationally set planning fees by 20% from July 2017 if they commit to invest the additional fee income in their planning department.
– Consulting on plans to introduce a fee for making a planning appeal as a means of deterring unnecessary appeals.
– A review of the Nationally Described Space Standard and how it is used in planning.
Consultation on the proposed changes to planning policy and legislation runs until 2nd May 2017. Many of the proposed changes involve amendments to the NPPF. The Government intends to publish a revised Framework ‘later this year’, which will consolidate the outcome from the current consultation as well as previous consultations.
A copy of the Housing White Paper and supporting documents can be found here.