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Social Housing Speed Read – Predicted outcomes of the revised NPPF

The Government have been working on a revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which is due to be published this month.

What is it?

The original consultation on the revision of the NPPF was launched over two years ago by the then Communities’ Secretary Greg Clark.

The Housing White Paper outlines some of the changes expected for the revised NPPF, in particular a series of new housing-focused policies.

The revised policy is intended to act as a starting point for councils to draw up their local plans and local Government bodies have said that the Government’s commitment to affordable housing must be strengthened in the new planning guidance.

What are the expected changes?

The following broad policy areas are where we could expect to see changes in the revised framework:

  • Plan making – over half of local authorities do not have an up to date local plan in place. The testing of local plans set out in the guidance will be altered and there is room for neighbourhood plans to be strengthened further and neighbourhood planning groups may be provided with local planning authority housing requirement figures, as well as being expected to lay down design expectations for their areas.
  • Housing needs – the 2017 consultation on the revision of the NPPF considered changes to the assessment of housing need. Depending on how these changes are implemented in the guidance, it could have a significant impact on local planning authorities housing targets and planning strategies.
  • Use of land – Government are tasked with ensuring housing delivery is meeting target whilst trying to protect green belt land and prioritise brown field site and it is expected that the revised NPPF will retain protection of green belt provisions. The revised NPPF will be amended to give local planning authorities the flexibility to agree housing land supply on an annual basis fixed for a period of one year. There will be consultation on the measures available to encourage the use of small sites, including the requirement that 20% of local housing land supply should be 0.5ha or less. Intensification policies will also be included as the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has already confirmed there will be support for upwards residential extensions and for using brownfield land within settlements for housing.
  • Housing delivery – to increase housing delivery, the NPPF will support the development of local policies to encourage the development of small windfall sites. As already set out in the Housing White Paper, the Housing Delivery Test will be introduced in the guidance to monitor housing delivery within local authorities and it was confirmed in the Autumn Budget that consultation will take place to strengthen the proposed tiered approach in areas of under delivery.
  • Affordable housing – A revised definition of affordable housing products is expected to be included in the revised NPPF with a draft list already included in the Housing White Paper. These changes have been called on by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) and the Association for Public Service Evidence (APSE). These bodies have also called on changes to viability testing after a survey they conducted found 60% of councils said viability assessments had hindered their ability to secure affordable housing.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the TCPA has said “There is no doubt that the current planning framework has deprioritised vital policy on affordable housing, climate change, good design and social equity, each of which are essential for building quality places.”

Paul O’Brien, chief executive of the APSE, said: “Alongside financial freedoms, councils need a planning system that enables them to deliver more genuinely affordable homes. The government should ensure that the definition of affordable homes set out in the new NPPF is based on a measure of income and not pegged to an arbitrary proportion of market price.”

The current expectation is that the final revised NPPF will be published this summer, although if further consultations are issued there could be some delay.

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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