The Government’s Housing White Paper seeks to be all things to all people - everyone is supposed to benefit, from developers to local communities. The approach is encouraging, but in many places is not quite the radical change it purports to be. Is that unexpected? Not really. From a planning perspective a large section focuses on refining what sits in existing legislation such as the continually evolving National Planning Policy Framework. The emphasis is speed and delivery for all, and rightly so, given that housing provision is outstripped by need year on year. Many of the more radical elements of the White Paper are already set out by the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, which is progressing through the House of Lords, readying itself for Royal Assent.
So what does it mean for our approach to the planning system right now?
Well, until the Neighbourhood Planning Bill is enacted, and regulations prepared, the changes appear to be subtle and relate more to re-enforcing what we already know through the Localism Act 2011, Housing and Planning Act 2016 and the National Planning Policy Framework and Planning Practice Guidance. These are:
- The need for sufficiently ambitous local plans to be adopted
- Strength of protection for the Green Belt.
- Continuing support for maintaining a specified housing supply.
- Support for the adoption of Neighbourhood Plans
What is new and consulted upon as part of the White Paper and in part comes through the Neighbourhood Planning Bill:
- Higher planning fees to enable local authorities to employ more planners (increase of 20%).
- Fees for appeals (could be £2,000 per appeal).
- Simplified Neighbourhood Planning processes and a new funding round for Forums in 2018-2020.
- Fixed approach to establishing overall housing need (as previously discussed by the Local Plans Expert Group and others).
- Fixed approach to establishing 5 year land supply (and any other supply period related to Neighbourhood Plans).
- Introduction of a Housing Delivery Test applying the presumption in favour of sustainable development (full details to be explained separately).
- Greater support for infill development.
- 10% of site allocations in local plans to be of 0.5ha or less and the sub-division of large sites.
- Green Belt development contributions to off-set its’ loss.
- Apparent push to increase density - again, including a review of Nationally Designated Space Standards.
- Written agreement to pre-commencement conditions with LPAs.
- Streamlining licencing for Great Crested Newts.
- Reviewing a standardised open book approach to S106 Agreements (Autumn Budget 2017).
- Possible 2 year implementation limits of planning permissions.
- Housing delivery track record could be a material planning consideration.
As a consultancy that delivers planning permissions for 2% of the new national housing stock, we will be producing a series of briefing notes over the coming days and weeks in order to unpick the detail of the White Paper and to provide our views on how it affects and supports the industry.
Colin Danks, Director