Government consults on proposed changes to NPPF

Out-Law News | 15 Dec 2015 | 3:42 pm | 2 min. read

The UK government has opened a consultation on proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

In a consultation document published last week (28-page / 511 KB PDF), the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has proposed changes that will support the delivery of discounted starter homes and the development of housing at small sites, on brownfield land and in new settlements.

According to the document, the government intends to amend the definition of "affordable housing" in the NPPF to include low cost market housing, such as starter homes for sale to first time buyers under the age of 40. The government also intends to alter national policy to clarify that councils must plan for the needs of those aspiring to buy their own home.

The exception site policy for starter homes is due to be expanded and strengthened under the government's plans. Existing policy provides that applications for the development of starter homes on unviable or underused industrial and commercial land should be approved by councils unless conflicts with the NPPF cannot be mitigated. The government has proposed to amend the policy to include land previously in leisure, retail or non-residential institutional uses and "to make it clearer that planning applications can only be rejected if there are overriding design, infrastructure and local environmental … considerations that cannot be mitigated".

The document also outlined proposals to allow local people drafting neighbourhood plans to allocate small sites within the green belt for the development of starter homes and to change national policy to enable the redevelopment of brownfield sites in the green belt where harm to the openness of the green belt is "not substantial" and the proposed development "contributes to the delivery of starter homes".

A presumption in favour of development has been proposed for applications to build housing on brownfield land and on small sites within or immediately adjacent to existing settlement boundaries. The document said the government intends to introduce "a more supportive approach for new settlements within locally led plans" and a housing delivery test which would compare councils' housing targets with their delivery of homes and require action, such as the identification of additional sites, to be taken to address under-delivery.

Other proposals outlined in the document included expecting councils to require higher density development around commuter hubs and amending the NPPF to clarify that "unviable or underused employment land should be released unless there is significant and compelling evidence to justify why such land should be retained for employment use".

Planning expert Jamie Lockerbie of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said: "This consultation proposes to bring the wording of the NPPF in line with the Conservative government’s planning agenda which is to prioritise delivery of starter homes and the development of brownfield land. It will be interesting to see what responses are generated, particularly those from local planning authorities in response to the proposal to bring starter homes within the remit of affordable housing."

The consultation closes on 25 January.