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Government unveils major reforms to NPPF

Words: Huw Morris
New housing / Shutterstock_198728240

Local planning departments should use household projections from 2014 when assessing housing need as the government signalled major revisions to the standard method and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published in July.

In related moves, the government is also proposing to revisit the definition of “deliverability” and to modify the NPPF to take into account a European Court of Justice ruling on habitat assessments earlier this year.

Under the proposed changes, unveiled in a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) consultation paper, planning departments should use 2014 household projections instead of the 2016 figures. The MHCLG had indicated it would revise the standard method at the time of the NPPF’s publication.

The 2016 projections by the Office of National Statistics cut the number of households by 53,000 a year between 2018 and 2028, forcing several councils and combined authorities to delay their plans in anticipation of the proposed changes to the standard method.

The MHCLG now acknowledges that using the standard method to calculate housing need based on the 2016 figures cut the number of homes from 269,000 to 213,000, significantly below government targets for 300,000 homes a year and below the 217,350 delivered last year.

It also admits the 2016 projections have forced some councils to “reconsider” the number of homes they are planning for, but reaffirmed the 300,000 home target.

The MHCLG also proposes issuing forthcoming planning guidance that will ensure that the 2016 projections “do not qualify as an exceptional circumstance that justifies a departure from the standard methodology”. It will review the standard method in the longer term and publish a new version of the NPPF that will also revisit the definition of “deliverable sites”.

In further reforms, under its proposed revision of “deliverability”, the MHCLG now describes “sites which do not involve major development and have planning permission, and all sites with detailed planning permission, should be considered deliverable until permission expires”.

The MHCLG is also offering “additional clarification” to the NPPF following the European Court of Justice’s ruling on habitats assessments following a Republic of Ireland case. It acknowledges that the effect of the ruling is that “appropriate assessment of habitats impacts is required in plan-making and decision-making whenever there is a potential impact on a habitats site, regardless of any mitigation measures proposed”.

The MHCLG is proposing that the resumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply where the plan or project is likely to have a significant effect on a habitats site “unless an appropriate assessment has concluded that there will be no adverse effect from the plan or project on the integrity of the habitats site”.

The consultation can be found here on the MHCLG website.

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