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Social Housing Speed Read – Draft revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

Last week our speed read covered the NPPF, and our predictions on what this draft revised framework would include.

Last year, the Government’s Housing White Paper set out expectations for the revised NPPF. This includes new policies to support the building of new homes, and encourage (by requiring) local authorities to develop and maintain housing plans. Given the lack of affordable, quality housing, industry figures have pressed the Government to ensure that new building initiatives don’t compromise on housing design, social equality and actual affordability.

On 5 March 2018 the Government published the draft revised NPPF. We predicted the changes – how close were we?

The changes

Greg Clark, as the-then Communities Secretary began the NPPF consultations. Now, as Planning Minister, he promises to simplify the “elaborate and forbidding” world of planning policy in order that people and communities are re-engaged with it.

Using our broad policy areas of last week, the NPPF proposes as follows:

To address the lack of up-to-date local plans amongst local authorities, we expected to see more responsibility being granted to neighbourhood planning groups. The NPPF sets out the intention for communities to have “direct power” to set planning policies through neighbourhood plans, and even grant planning permission through Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders for specific developments.

Housing needs
As we said last week, a change to the way in which housing need is assessed has been mooted. The NPPF sets out the detail on how local planning authorities are to ascertain housing need. A Strategic Housing Market Assessment will enable authorities to assess their “full housing needs”, including the scale and mix of housing required by local people.

Use of land

  • Green belt protection is a key feature of the NPPF, and local planners will be expected to “plan positively” by, for example, using this land for outdoor sport and recreation.  Naturally, planners are expected to ensure that “substantial weight” is given to any planning proposals which could harm the green belt.
  • As also expected, local planners will be expected to annual identify the sites to provide housing. These sites need to be sufficient to provide five years’ worth of housing requirement.

Housing delivery
The NPPF will support the use of windfall sites in an authority’s plan for housing supply.  Planners will also be expected to “illustrate the expected rate of housing delivery through a housing trajectory… and set out a housing implementation strategy”.

Affordable housing
The revised NPPF emphasises that the viability and costs of new builds needs to be paid “careful attention” at the plan-making stage, recognising that “plans should be deliverable”. It is also recognised that the various costs, including affordable housing requirements will need to not be an obstacle to “competitive returns” for land owners and developers.

What’s the verdict?

Property Week has described Theresa May’s speech at the National Planning Conference as support for the Government’s plan to introduce “tough new planning laws” to apply pressure to councils and developers to approve and build new homes.

Industry figures have welcomed the revised NPPF proposals. Helen Gordon, chief executive of Grainger has said that “any revisions to the NPPF that encourage public bodies and local authorities to unlock more land for development” are welcome, as “this is key to building affordable homes across the country”.

Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association however defended the records of councils, who last year “granted nearly twice as many planning permissions as the number of new homes that were completed”. Lord Porter said that “the private sector will never build enough of the homes the country needs on its own”, and called on the government to give financial support to house building by local authorities.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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