After so long we have reached the top of the mountain: the white paper and accompanying documents have all been published today, 7 February 2017. However, now we see a series of further peaks on the horizon.
A good way into the white paper itself, Fixing Our Broken Housing Market, is to start at the back end. From page 72 you have the detailed proposals listed, including a series of proposed changes to the NPPF and other policies which are now the subject of a consultation process from today until 2 May 2017. The consultation focuses on a series of 38 questions but some of the questions are potentially very wide-ranging. Further consultation is proposed on various matters, including
– housing requirements of older people and the disabled
– Increasing local authorities’ flexibility to dispose of land at less than best consideration and related powers
– Potentially increasing fees for planning appeals (up to a maximum of £2,000 for the largest schemes, recoverable if the appeal is allowed)
– Changes to section 106 processes (with further consideration being given to dispute resolution “in the context of longer term reform”)
– Requiring housebuilders to provide aggregate information on build-out rates and, for large-scale sites, as to the relevance of the applicant’s track record of delivering similar schemes
– Encouragement of use of CPO powers to support the build out of stalled sites.
There is a supplementary consultation paper on planning and affordable housing for build to rent containing a further 26 questions, with a consultation deadline of 1 May 2017.
There are responses to previous consultation papers and reports:
– Summary of responses to the technical consultation on implementation of planning changes, consultation on upward extensions and Rural Planning Review Call for Evidence (including a u-turn on the previous idea of an upwards extensions permitted development right in London, now to be addressed by policy).
– Government response to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee inquiry into the report of the Local Plans Expert Group
There is plenty to get to grips with, for example:
– the housing delivery test and new methodology for assessing objectively assessed need
– an understandable focus on whether the applicant will proceed to build out any permission and at what rate, although with a worrying reduction of the default time limit for permissions from three to two years
– Homes and Communities Agency to become “Homes England”.
It is also reassuring to see the Government applying real focus to build to rent, reducing its emphasis on starter homes – and also reducing its reliance on permitted development rights.
However, it is surprising how much still remains unresolved. We will apparently have a revised NPPF “later this year” but for much else the start date looks to be April 2018, for example a widened affordable housing definition including watered-down starter homes proposals (no longer a statutory requirement and with reference to a policy target of a minimum of 10% “affordable housing ownership units” rather than the requirement of 20% starter homes previously proposed) and a new methodology for assessing five year housing land supply.
Liz Peace’s CIL review team’s review of CIL: “A new approach to developer contributions” (October 2016 but only now published) remains untackled. The Government’s response will be announced at the time of the Autumn Budget 2017.
Decision-makers will need to grapple very quickly with the question as to the weight they should give to the white paper as a material consideration, given the Government’s clear policy direction now on a range of issues.