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Government to consult on NPPF changes: Reaction

Words: Laura Edgar
A consultation

The government has announced a consultation (pdf) to seek views on specific changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), including broadening the definition of affordable housing. Reaction from the industry has been collated here.

Affordable housing redefined


The current definition includes some low-cost home ownership models such as shared ownership, as long as they are subject to ‘in perpetuity’ restrictions or the subsidy is recycled for alternative affordable housing provision.

The government proposes to amend the NPPF definition to include a fuller range of products, including Starter Homes and other low-cost market housing products.

The RTPI highlighted that in its response to the Housing and Planning Bill, it expressed concern about the focus on the overall number of Starter Homes and the reclassification of affordable housing.

The Localism Act 2012 aimed to give more power to localities in terms of being able to create balanced communities but the Starter Homes proposals “reduced the ability of local areas to plan for and created balanced communities”, the RTPI said, adding that social rent and shared ownership homes will be squeezed out and replaced by Starter Homes.

Mike Best, executive director at planning consultancy Turley, said: "The removal of ‘in-perpetuity’ or subsidy recycling requirements seems likely to impact on the way in which the funding of discounts finds its way into the property market, hence why equalities implications are considered further.”

The transitional arrangements, Best continued, suggest that local plan affordable housing policies could be reviewed quickly. “The consultation doesn’t anticipate any of the changes slowing down the progress of local plan adoption. This may be wishful thinking.”

Residential development around commuter hubs


Currently, local planning authorities set appropriate density levels to reflect local circumstances, but the government wants to encourage development around new and existing commuter hubs, increasing the density “to make more efficient use of land in suitable locations”.

Citing its 2014 paper on Transport Infrastructure Investment, the RTPI said transport hubs often provide “suitable” locations for higher density development.

“However, it is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this issue, and our recent analysis of commuting data showed that there may be places where densification around railway stations leads to unintended negative consequences - for example, by increasing congestion on local roads.”

Housing on brownfield land


To ensure that possible opportunities for brownfield development are pursued, the government wants to make it clear in the policy that “substantial weight should be given to the benefits of using brownfield land for housing (in effect, a form of ‘presumption’ in favour of brownfield land)”.

The RTPI said brownfield sites should only be considered as suitable for sustainable development if they have good access to infrastructure and jobs.

“Many brownfield sites are so poorly located that their development would generate high volumes of car traffic and long commutes.”

Green belt land


The government would like to encourage local communities to consider opportunities for Starter Homes in their area as they develop neighbourhood plans, including on designated green belt land. Additionally, the government is considering releasing brownfield land in the green belt as part of its approach to delivering 200,000 Starter Homes.

Best said: “The consultation makes clear that this only affects about 0.1 per cent of the green belt. These are controversial changes for what looks like a limited overall boost to housing supply, whereas the bigger issue is the need for comprehensive green belt reviews to identify land around most major cities.”

Roger Tustain, managing director at planning consultancy Nexus Planning, said increasing national planning policy support for community-led development in the green belt to deliver Starter Homes would be a step in the right direction.

However, to deliver homes in the volumes required there needs to be a “full and frank” debate about the purpose and function of the entire green belt around our key cities.

“The green belt was originally introduced in the 1940s to prevent the sprawl of cities, not to preclude development or stop growth around the surrounding towns and villages. It is unlikely to happen, but we would like the government to take a strong stance and lead a debate on how parts of the green belt can be used to deliver all types of homes, not just Starter Homes to plug the massive national housing shortfall. Without such a debate, it is unlikely to succeed in delivering enough homes, in the right locations, to keep pace with demand."

To read more about the RTPI thoughts on the consultation proposals, please visit the institute's website.

The consultation document can be found here.

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