Everything will become clear this summer with the new NPPF


The planning world is awaiting the publication of the revised National Planning Policy Framework with bated breath…

Did you submit a response to the consultation draft NPPF? Then look to the end of July, when the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), is expected to be published, to see if the Government listened to you.

The NPPF is expected to address a number of key issues raised through consultation responses:

  1. Green Belt land protection and release for development – the Government must demonstrate its continued support for the protection of the Green Belt, but also be realistic about the value of some land that is currently designated and which may no longer satisfy the objectives of such land. There is also a need to meet the competing demand where some local planning authorities cannot meet their own housing land requirements without the release of some Green Belt land. For instance, a letter organised by Siobhain McDonagh MP and more than 50 signatories (planners and non-planners) suggests there should be a presumption in favour of development on land within one kilometre of a train station providing access to London’s Zone 1 in less than 45 minutes, whether part of the Green Belt or not.
  2. The definition of affordable housing – this includes social rented housing and affordable rented housing merged into one definition of ‘affordable housing for rent’. The consultation indicated a significant shift towards housing for sale, rather than for rent, and reference to the inclusion of discounted market sales housing and starter homes as affordable housing. These combined are likely to be welcomed by developers, but it could spell further problems for those who are unable to afford to buy a property and are reliant on social rented housing.
  3. A standard methodology for assessing housing need – this would be used to determine the minimum number of homes needed in strategic plans, “unless there are exceptional circumstances that justify an alternative approach which also reflects current and future demographic trends and market signals”. In establishing the figure, it adds, “any needs that cannot be met within neighbouring areas should also be taken into account”. Details of the methodology are to be set out in revised guidance.
  4. The requirement for 20% of housing need to come forward through small sites of less than 0.5 hectares – this is great news for SME house builders and could see increases in the delivery of housing sites. However, it could cause headaches for LPA planners who, with limited resources, will need to try to identify sufficient sites, while addressing residents’ objections and concerns (NIMBY) and subject to housing proposals, and political interference, too.
  5. Planning authorities will have six months from publication of the new NPPF to submit local plans for examination under the old framework – this will be a struggle for those LPAs that are far behind the curve, have resource issues and long-standing problems juggling land constraints (Green Belt, AONB etc). However, the emphasis on the creation of a Local Plan will be welcomed by developers seeking clarity.

Some commentators have suggested that James Brokenshire, the new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, is viewed as a safe pair of hands in Government circles and will not rock the boat, however, it is possible that the consultation draft NPPF already started to do that and he should be prepared to man the pumps. Of course, he arguably has the support of others in Government, notably Dominic Raab (Housing Minister) and Gavin Barwell (the former Housing Minister and now Theresa May’s Chief of Staff).

But there is such a strong demand for change and clarity, as well as progress, particularly in 5YHLS (five year housing land supply) calculations and the adoption of Local Plans, that if the revised NPPF does not deliver, the outcry in the planning and development industry could be deafening. On the other hand it could be a truly welcomed document that delivers stability which, because of the aforementioned appeals, High Court and Supreme Court decisions and Written Ministerial Statements, has been lacking for a long time.

So if you submitted a response to the consultation draft NPPF by 10 May, keep your fingers crossed that the Government listens to you, and sticks to its apparent urgent end of July publication date so that you get your new-found clarity.

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