Secretary of State James Brokenshire claims his new planning rules will build better homes in the right places; local authorities disagree.
The National Planning Policy Framework has had a long-awaited overhaul, with Brokenshire claiming that the new rules will also make it easier for councils to challenge poor quality and unattractive development, and give communities a greater voice about how developments should look and feel.
The revised National Planning Policy Framework follows a public consultation launched by the Prime Minister earlier this year to provide a comprehensive approach for planners, developers and councils to build more homes, more quickly and in the places where people want to live.
“We have listened to the tens of thousands of people who told us their views, making this a shared strategy for development in England,” Brokenshire said.
The framework sets out a new way for councils to calculate the housing need of their local community. The new methodology aims to deliver more homes in the places where they are most needed, based on factors including the affordability of existing homes for people on lower and medium incomes.
From November 2018 councils will have a Housing Delivery Test focused on driving up the numbers of homes actually delivered in their area, rather than how many are planned for. It is here that the contention lies.
“It is hugely disappointing that the Government has not listened to our concerns about nationally set housing targets, and will introduce a delivery test that punishes communities for homes not built by private developers,” said Lord Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association. “Councils work hard with communities to get support for good quality housing development locally, and there is a risk these reforms will lead to locally agreed plans being bypassed by national targets.
“Planning is not a barrier to housebuilding, and councils are approving nine out of 10 applications. To boost the supply of homes and affordability, it is vital to give councils powers to ensure homes with permission are built, enable all councils to borrow to build, keep 100% of Right to Buy receipts and set discounts locally.”
Matt Thomson, Head of Planning at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, added, “Rather than delivering ‘what communities want’ as it claims to promise, the new planning rulebook and its new ‘housing delivery test’ will result in almost all local plans becoming out of date within two years. It is a speculative developers’ charter and will lead to the death of the plan-led system.
“Without a local plan, councils and communities have little control over the location and type of developments that take place. This results in the wrong developments in the wrong places – local communities’ needs are ignored and valued countryside destroyed for no good reason.”
The new framework has also been updated to provide further protection for biodiversity in an effort to protect local wildlife.
Changes to the framework see the planning system align more closely with Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan, which aims to leave the environment in a better state for future generations. This includes more protection for habitats, and places greater importance on air quality when deciding development proposals.
Whilst giving councils flexibility to make the most of their existing brownfield land, the revised framework makes sure they exhaust all other reasonable options for development before looking to alter a Green Belt boundary.
The government has more explicitly outlined the protection of the Green Belt in England, explaining the high expectations and considerable evidence that would be needed to alter any boundary.
However, according to the CLA which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, changes made to the criteria for Entry Level Exception Sites will now encourage less land to be made available for much needed homes in the countryside.
CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said, “The new rules now state that all properties on an Entry Level Exception Site must be affordable. While we desperately need affordable homes so people can live and work in the countryside, the reality of the policy means that landowners will not bring land forward because the incentive of including market homes on the site has been removed. Without the benefit of cross subsidy, the decision to release land for housing is not financially viable so fewer homes are likely to be built.
“In the last five years, 13% of CLA members have donated or sold land at a discount for affordable housing. We made a robust case to the Government for greater incentives to help grow this figure but by making it less attractive for landowners, the Entry Level Exception Site policy severely limits the chance to solve the rural housing crisis.”