Housing White Paper: Notes on planning

February 9, 2017 / Isla MacFarlane

It is perhaps the biggest bugbear of the housebuilding industry. The planning system has been described as a clunky dinosaur that gobbles up years of developers’ time. The White Paper promises the private-sector a quicker, more efficient and reliable approach to processing planning applications.

Here are the industry’s thoughts on the new measures:

A standardised way of calculating housing demand

John Elliott, Managing Director of Millwood Designer Homes said, “We welcome many of the proposals in today’s Housing White Paper including a standardised way of consulting housing demand and each local authority producing then reviewing it every five years.”

Jonathan Manns, head of regeneration and director of planning at Colliers International, said, “Councils, we’re told, should continue to review the targets in their Local Plans and ensure they’re up-to-date. Hardly ground-breaking but reassuringly familiar. On the plus side, there’s a commitment to standardising the way that housing needs assessments are undertaken and reviewed.”

Increasing planning fees

Ross Murray said, “We understand that planning departments are under resourced, but we can see big downsides of a 40% increase in fees for smaller applicants. It could well be counterproductive, stopping small developments being brought forward. This problem will be compounded by the risk of prohibitive appeal fees. We will urge Government to look closely at the impact of these fee hikes on rural developments.”

John McAuliffe, managing director at McAuliffe Environmental, said, “Planning fee increases of 20% are also an excellent initiative, provided that local authorities are also given specific targets. This includes hitting the 13-week planning period, so that developers see the surety of outcome for the additional 20%. Should they fail to meet such deadlines, this 20% should be discounted to provide a performance incentive. Cracking down on local authorities opposed to development also brings a much-needed impetus to local councils with an anti-development stance, often putting developers off certain council-controlled areas.”

Review of the Community Infrastructure Levy

Justin Gaze, Knight Frank’s joint head of residential development, said, “A review of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is welcome, as this system has become a burden on development, instead of streamlining payment for infrastructure as it was intended.”

Giving local authorities the tools to speed up housebuilding

The House Crowd CEO Frazer Fearnhead, said, “The announcement that the government is cracking down on local authorities opposing development is good news. Councils with an anti-development stance can be hugely obstructive for housebuilding, and without action, the government will fail to satisfy the ever-increasing demand for residential property. Provision for affordable housing also varies significantly between councils, and this needs to be addressed to give new housing figures the boost they sorely need and prevent certain areas falling behind.

“For developers, it often seems that councils put innumerable hurdles in the way of housebuilding. This can include complicated regulatory processes, non-adherence to agreed timetables, innumerable surveys and significant fees before any progress is made. The entire process needs to be simplified to incentivise housebuilding, as council’s demands are so prohibitive and expensive that developers often decide projects are simply not worth pursuing.”

Commitment to build on brownfield and smaller sites

John McAuliffe, managing director at McAuliffe Environmental, said, “The government’s renewed dedication to construction on brownfield land is great news. The additional commitment to building on smaller sites does pose issues however, as the division of larger sites may lead to increased regulatory complexities. Careful considerations need to be made, as sites of less than half an acre will barely cover an acre of net developable land, having minimal impact on the overall shortage of new homes.”

An end to land banking

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said, “We welcome the White Paper’s promise to address failings of the housing market, rather than just meddle with the planning system. Builders must build, not just sit on land. We look forward to seeing the Government’s plans to turn unused planning permissions into homes, and brownfield sites regenerated to bring new life to towns and cities.”

A commitment not to build on the Green Belt

CLA President Ross Murray said, “We welcome Ministers intention to clarify rules so that Green Belt boundaries should only be amended in exceptional circumstances. The experience of those living in the Green Belt is that boundaries are constantly changing as local authorities permit development on one area of Green Belt land, and then compensate by extending boundaries elsewhere. This can reduce economic activity in rural areas. We will work with Ministers to ensure that the policy changes proposed end this practice.”

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said, “If the focus is on genuine need, achievable targets and good quality design that fits with the local environment, we can build the homes the country needs without losing further precious countryside.”

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