Planning overhaul designed to boost housebuilding in England

Out-Law News | 05 Mar 2018 | 3:41 pm | 2 min. read

Planning rules in England will be updated to make it quicker and easier for developers to build new homes, the UK government has said.

On Monday the government outlined a raft of measures designed to address what UK prime minister Theresa May called a "national housing crisis", including draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The proposed update of the NPPF incorporates policy proposals previously consulted on by the government in its housing white paper and its 'planning for the right homes in the right places' consultation. The government set out its responses to those papers among its raft of announcements on Monday.

The plans also build on the government's commitment to change planning policy and legislation to make more land available in population hubs as outlined in the Budget 2017.

May said: "We’re streamlining the planning process, so that much-needed homes aren’t held up by endless appeals and bureaucracy. We’re making it easier for neglected and abandoned commercial sites to be turned into housing. And we’re making sure councils do all they can to find sites, grant planning permissions and build homes. That includes creating a nationwide standard that shows how many homes authorities need to plan for in their area – making the system fairer and more transparent."

The measures announced by the government include proposed new guidance on when viability assessments should be carried out to ensure that local planning policies are deliverable financially.

The government has also opened a consultation on planned reforms to the current system of developer contributions – payments that developers are obliged to pay to mitigate the impact of their developments on the local area.

The new proposals on developer contributions includes plans for the introduction of a new strategic infrastructure tariff which local authorities would be able to levy to help pay for new infrastructure needed to address increases in population stemming from the building of new homes.

Housing secretary in England, Sajid Javid, said: "This government is determined to fix the broken housing market and restore the dream of home ownership for a new generation. There is no silver bullet to this problem but we’re re-writing the rules on planning so we can take action on all fronts."

Planning expert Mike Pocock of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: " After six years the NPPF was long-overdue an overhaul. The proposals were greatly anticipated and as a result needed to be hard-hitting if they were to be seen to be responding to the challenges facing delivery of housing. Though it is not perfect, the new standardised approach set out in the Housing Delivery Test is fundamental to how planning decisions will be made and should bring much needed clarity."

"The question is: will these latest proposed changes will translate into quicker planning consents which are then built out in a timely fashion?" he said. "Policy can only go so far and there is a distinct lack of information about how councils will be better equipped to resource the inevitable impacts on their planning departments. Developers will also be cautious regarding the imposition of more onerous timescales for delivering developments given the practicalities of discharging planning conditions and the challenges in securing funding in these uncertain economic times."