Town and Country Planning

Fixing our broken housing market: Housing White Paper released 7th February 2017.

7 February 2017 | Planning Policy Updates

The Government today (7th Feb) released its long awaited Housing White Paper. Responses to this Paper are to be submitted by 2nd May.
In an attempt to fix the ‘broken housing market’ the Housing White Paper incorporates a number of measures to boost the supply of housing including;

  • Local plan changes
  • Speeding up delivery
  • Maintaining protection for the green belt, which can only be built on "in exceptional circumstances
  • Ensure neighbourhood planning delivers more housing
  • Higher expectations from developers
  • Starter homes and increasing the types of tenure
  • Increased support for small and medium builders
  • Making efficient use of land
  • Fixed Housing land supply
  • Increased planning fees

These measures are summarised below.

Local Plan changes

LPAs will be required to review all of their local development documents at least once every 5 years. There will be greater flexibility with no requirement for one single local plan. Instead it is proposed that LPAs work with neighbouring Council’s to prepare Spatial Development Strategies e.g. joint Statements of Common Ground.

Statutory plans are to include clear and detailed design expectations.

Speeding up delivery

In an attempt to speed up delivery, the following measures are proposed;

  • The introduction of a 2 year time limit for commencing development
  • Strengthening powers of intervention by local authorities, e.g. compulsory purchase powers and completion notices on stalled sites.
  • A developers track record on the delivery of other sites may be a material consideration in the decision making process.

Maintaining protection of the green belt.

The Government intends to ‘retain a high bar to ensure the Green Belt remains protected’. Where GB boundaries are to be amended, LPAs must demonstrate that they have explored all other reasonable options including brownfield sites, estate regeneration, underused and surplus public sector land. Where GB land is to be released, LPAs are required to offset the impact by providing improvements to the environmental quality or accessibility of remaining GB land. It is proposed that development on brownfield sites within the GB is allowed but only for development with a higher proportion of starter homes and where there is no harm to the openness of the GB.

Neighbourhood planning

In an attempt to ensure that neighbourhood plans (NP) deliver more housing, LPAs will have to integrate their local plans with NPs in an improved way. LPAs will have to provide neighbourhood planning bodies with their own housing requirement figure and take into account the resulting plans allocating small sites that are suitable for housing.

Higher expectations of developers

The government expects developers to build more homes, engage with communities and promote the benefits of development. Moreover developers are expected to build homes swiftly once permission has been granted. The government are also encouraging developers to invest in research and their skills base creating skilled roles within the built environment.

Starter Homes and increasing the types of tenure

Some clarity has been provided regarding starter homes;

  • The government proposes to change the NPPF to stipulate that housing sites deliver a minimum of 10% affordable homes
  • There will be a household income cap of £80,000 (or £90,000 in London) to be eligible for starter homes and first time buyers will also be required to have a mortgage.
  • The taper approach will last for 15 years during which time if the property is sold on to a new owner, some or all of the discount is to be repaid.
  • House providers are being encouraged to build a range of housing products including those for affordable rent and private rent.
  • Changes are proposed within the NPPF to support Build to Rent. Affordable rent is defined as being at least 20% below local market rent.
  • The government is seeking to ensure that family friendly tenancies of three or more years are available.
  • A definition of affordable housing will be provided.

Increased support for small and medium builders

The government recognises that small and medium builders have been hit hard by the recession. Amendments will be made to the NPPF to request LPAs include policies that support the development of windfall sites which are currently not allocated in plans. Furthermore, additional changes to the NPPF include the need to LPAs to ensure that at least 10% of the sites allocated for residential development in local plans should be sites of 0.5 ha or less.

There will be no requirement for LPAs to keep a small sites register.

Making efficient use of land

It is proposed that the NPPF is revised to make clear that plans and development proposals should make “efficient use of land and avoid building homes at low densities’’.

Fixed Housing land supply

Amending the NPPF to give local authorities the opportunity to have their housing land supply agreed on an annual basis and fixed for a one year period, in order to create more certainty about when an adequate land supply exists. Authorities taking advantage of this will have to provide a 10% buffer on their 5 year land supply.

Increase in planning fees

LPAs are permitted to increase their planning application fees by 20% with that increase being ring fenced by to planning departments.

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