This Monday Prime Minister, Theresa May, launched a host of new planning rules in a bid to boost the number of houses being built in England. Below is a summary of the changes, plus the thoughts of industry experts Savills and few of my own comments.
More responsibility on local authorities to deliver new homes
The new housing delivery test for local authorities will focus on the amount of homes delivered rather than simply the volume planned for. Developers are to be held accountable for delivering on their promises. This includes delivering on affordable housing targets and community infrastructure.
Getting the most out of land
Local authorities are to be given a greater level of freedom over existing brownfield land in order to build properties which maximise density. So-called redundant land, such as empty shops or under-used industrial space, will be encouraged to be used for homes. There will also be more leeway for upward extensions on existing blocks of flats, office buildings and shops. Downing Street argues that this means we can build homes and protect the Green Belt simultaneously.
Developments need to result in an environmental net gain where possible and there will be increased levels of protections for ancient woodland.
Building the right homes
More affordable homes will be built covering the full gamut of people in England. This will include first-time buyer specific developments, build to rent sites with family friendly tenancies. There will also be guaranteed affordable dwellings for key workers and specially adapted homes for the elderly. New quality standards will also be brought.
Increased transparency in the planning process
The government is to encourage local authorities to work with each other to ensure the gap between homes planned and homes actually built begins to narrow. There is to be a standardised approach when assessing housing needs and new measures will are to be introduced to ensure the system of developer contributions is cleared up and simplified.
A consultation has been launched to give everyone ie you....the opportunity to feed in views on proposals for the future of planning and will run until Thursday 10 May.
These are definitely policies which could be a step in the right direction. However, I have a concern that there is still a belief that house builders 'sit on land' to make money in the future rather than build to make money and deliver to shareholders now.
This and the complete lack of policies to support new builds from smaller buy to let/property investors who have been main creators of new homes since 2000, make me worry that although the government does seem to be go further policy wise than others in the past, it still doesn't understand some of the basics when it comes to creating new homes.
I do however like the fact that the government is putting pressure on Local Authorities to produce more robust local plans and monitor the delivery of homes built, not just whether the plan has been produced or not.
I also like the idea that there is finally recognition of the need to build more affordable homes. But I hope these are truly affordable and I just hope that the government understands that they will need to fund these in areas such as London where the cost of building/buying land is way higher than key workers - or the private home building sector - can afford to build.
Commenting on the new draft policies Mishcon de Reya planning lawyer of Daniel Farrand said:
"A lot of the detail for both planners and developers in the NPPF will have to carry through into locally adopted plans. Some councils have struggled to adopt plans against a backdrop of moving goalposts and, in some cases, political discomfort with the sheer number of homes councils are being asked to plan for. The government will have to follow up this policy with its offer of help to struggling authorities and loss of planning powers for any authorities who might be avoiding or otherwise failing to deliver plans. One imagines that the development industry will not respond positively to everything in the NPPF, but any degree of certainty it - and new local plans - can deliver will no doubt be welcomed in these uncertain times”
Savills assessment snapshot
It is widely accepted that England needs 300,000 new homes a year to have a meaningful impact on affordability, to do this, here needs to a 1.3 per cent addition to stock per year and this should be weighted towards the least affordable places;
The proposed method of assessing housing need fails to reach this target. It also does nor account for areas that have delivered low numbers of new homes for years, for example Waverley in Surrey;
Although there is a new Waverley Local Plan which is better than the previous version, taking this proposed methodology, it's still not enough to satisfy demand. And if this is replicated across other Local Authority plans, targets won't be reached as we are still planning to fail.
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