Review announced for National Planning Policy Framework

The first major planning reform under the Conservative Government has been announced, with significant focus on ensuring increased home ownership across England.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was first published in 2012 at a time when housebuilding, along with the rest of the economy, was still emerging from the recession. Annual completions were around 100,000 per annum at the time. Theresa May wants more people to be able to own their own home, and part of the Government’s solution is to drive the delivery of new homes to over 300,000 per year by 2025.

The Government’s first NPPF review promises to rewrite “the rules on planning” (Theresa May, 5 March 2018). Central to this review is the fixed desire to release more land for housing and ensure that local councils prioritise delivery of new homes in areas of need.

Through the Annual Planning Survey, GL Hearn has been analysing local planning authority performance throughout this time. This has indicated that although the planning system could still benefit from some marginal gains, the system is performing relatively well. The NPPF has generally proven popular by the survey’s respondents over the years – contrary to views on other aspects such as the Community Infrastructure Levy and Neighbourhood Plans.

Whilst the NPPF does not set out the criteria for special measures, the introduction of the Housing Delivery Test and the Annual Position Statement will provide greater incentives for councils to ensure that developers meet the required housing delivery rates.

Housing affordability is also central to the Council’s thinking with the draft NPPF. Sajid Javid has recently noted that the “average house prices in England are eight times average earnings”. Adding: “In London, where we have the most acute shortage, it is 15 times average earnings. That's not just the worst we have had in England, it's the worst of any major developed economy.”

Here are GL Hearn’s five takeaway points from this week’s launch:

Key point 1 – the Government will introduce a standard methodology for calculating housing need. Councils will have to use this unless ‘exceptional circumstances’ apply.

Key point 2 – The ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ continues to apply. Councils that cannot demonstrate either future delivery (five year housing land supply) or past delivery (Housing Delivery Test) may be subject to the presumption being applicable.

Key point 3 – substantial weight is to be afforded to using suitable brownfield land within settlements and using airspace above existing premises to increase housing delivery.

Key point 4 – whilst the Green Belt continues to be protected, the methodology for releasing land from the Green Belt has been clarified including councils demonstrating the need to examine all other reasonable options. However, when Green Belt land is to be released for development, brownfield land and sustainable locations should be considered in the first instance

Key point 5 – the support for affordable housing (including the much maligned Starter Homes) is strong within the NPPF. All schemes providing more than 10 units need to provide 10% of affordable homes for sale although schemes such as built to rent and student accommodation are exempt from this requirement. In order to assist smaller developers, developments under 10 units should not provide affordable housing and 20% of all sites allocated in local plans should be smaller than 0.5ha

Many of these points seek to address the extensive housebuilding challenge set out within the Government’s Housing White Paper – ‘Fixing the Broken Housing Market’ (February 2017) and the Autumn Budget. Today’s consultation closes on 10 May 2018. It will be fascinating to see how this process plays out alongside other Mayoral Plans over the course of 2018.

In addition to the NPPF consultation, the Government is also consulting on reforming the developer contributions for affordable housing and infrastructure. This seeks to reduce complexity within the system and bring forward developments in a timelier manner. The Annual Planning Survey highlighted this area as one of the key areas for challenge and, as such, the measures proposed would be welcomed by the development industry.

This review is not comprehensive. Much more detail sits behind the policies and content of the Draft. Our experts would be happy to assist you in understanding the land and property specific implications of the draft NPPF. We will be monitoring this closely. Please contact us if you would like to understand more about the new draft Policy Framework.