The National Planning Policy Framework (‘the Framework’), first issued by Government in 2012 has had a major impact on the planning system and has, on balance (to coin a common planning term) resulted in an increase in planning permissions.
On 5th March, central Government issued its consultation document on proposed changes to the Framework. The key message from the consultation launch being, the document’s ability to ‘boost housing delivery’.
One week on, Lanpro reflects on the proposed revisions and the thoughts of our clients:
Presumption in favour of sustainable development – proposed changes aim to provide greater clarity on when the general presumption in favour does not apply: where a development plan is absent or relevant policies are out of date and the site is on a defined list of protected assets. Although the ‘Golden Thread’ would now go, the general presumption in favour will remain and we are still likely to battle with apportioning weight to policies and hoping for a balanced assessment from determining officers.
Plan-making – paragraph 11 of the new Framework is very clear that a District’s housing need, calculated under the Government’s new emerging OAN methodology, is very much a “minimum” and that local planning authorities should also plan to meet any unmet housing “needs that cannot be met within neighbouring areas”.
Local plan reviews – there will be a statutory requirement for local planning authorities to review their local plans every five years from adoption. Local planning authorities must consider whether to revise their plan following such a review and publish their reasons, if they decide not to do so. It’s unclear if this could encourage local authorities to push difficult decisions on major strategic development sites to a ‘5 year review’ or whether it will force them to address them at the time of making the plan (likely to be each case on its merits).
Affordable homes – at least 10% of homes on major sites should be available for affordable home ownership, with certain exemptions (including self-build). This has evidential implications on scheme viability.
Smaller Sites – local planning authorities should ensure that at least 20% of the sites allocated for housing in their plans are of half a hectare or less. This raises the question of whether the Framework can deliver on its aim to facilitate greater use of small sites, help diversify opportunities for buildings and increase delivery. We note that the National Federation of Builders has welcomed this provision.
Housing delivery – a new ‘housing delivery test’ would impose sanctions on councils failing to meet housebuilding targets set in their local plans. From 2020, the presumption in favour of sustainable development will apply where delivery is below 75 per cent of the authority’s housing requirement, or where the housing delivery test indicates that delivery of housing has been substantially below the housing requirements over the previous 3-years. This approach will prevent Councils re-basing housing need assessments using their own up-to-date objectively assessed need figures and to cut-loose rolled-up housing undersupply from previous years.
Shorter planning permissions – councils are to be encouraged to impose shorter commencement timescales to help ensure schemes are implemented in a timely manner. Council’s will be required to consider imposing planning conditions requiring development to be brought forward within two years rather than the usual three, “unless this could hinder viability or deliverability”. This presents an additional area of negotiation with potential delays to issuing planning permissions and raises potential concerns for land promotors.
Development in the countryside and rural housing – the presumption against the development of “isolated” homes in the countryside no longer applies to the subdivision of an existing residential property. The exception test for delivering one-off “truly outstanding or innovative” isolated new homes in the rural area, remains. Planning authorities would also be required to consider some market housing on rural affordable exception sites. This could present a more flexible approach and encourage the delivery of more new homes in the Countryside.
Garden Cities / New Settlements – reference is no longer made to ‘Garden City Principles’, however, the benefits in planning for larger scale development such as new settlements remains, with specific reference drawn to the ability of such developments to optimise existing and planned infrastructure, the area’s economic potential and the scope for net environmental gains. Indeed, paragraph 73 of the new Framework is very clear and states that “new settlements or significant extension to existing towns and villages” are likely to be the best way of accommodating large numbers of new homes. This reference to new town building and the lack of a reference to garden city principles may reflect a realisation within Government that the majority of the garden towns and village sites shortlisted post the 2016 call-for-sites, are not for financial reasons able to adopt the garden city principles.
Making effective use of land through vertical extensions to development – the draft Framework supports opportunities to use the airspace above existing residential and commercial premises for new homes i.e. through well designed upward extension. It is anticipated that new permitted development rights will come forward for this which would likely require prior approval applications.
One week on, much has been said on the implications of the draft Framework, namely its potential to “turn up the heat on councils” and forcing developers to deliver their planning permissions.
Having reflected on the proposed changes with Lanpro, Strategic Land Promotor, Glavenhill comments:
“We welcome the measures the Government is proposing which are targeted at increasing the rate of housing delivery, however, we are concerned that the potential imposition of shorter timescales for planning permission implementation could have a negative effect on the land promotion model. Once permitted, and providing minimum land values are met, a promoter and land owner will sell but this is of course predicated on the demand for the site, land values and other site specific complications which could lead to delays and a real danger of permissions being lost.” (Ben Steward, Director, Glavenhill Strategic Land)
As well as consulting on the revisions to the Framework, Government has issued draft planning practice guidance on viability assessments which will require such assessments to be made publicly available, other than in exceptional circumstances. Previously, applicants / developers submitted their viability assessments on the basis that they would remain confidential. In practice, viability assessments have been sought (and secured) by third parties through Freedom of Information legislation in recent years, and some local authorities have even adopted policies requiring them to be made publicly available.
Lanpro continue to discuss the draft Framework consultation document with our clients and we are advising on its implications on behalf of the Building Growth Sector of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
If you wish to hear our thoughts, or find out what it may mean for you, please contact Ian Douglass, Lanpro Head of Planning (firstname.lastname@example.org).