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22/03/2018

A flurry of consultations

Much is afoot in the planning industry, says Katherine Evans

The spring is clearly consultation season. With the consultation draft of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) came a consultation on developer contributions, shortly followed by the Spring Statement. Given how the long-awaited NPPF revisions are set to implement around 80 previously announced reforms, much is afoot in the planning industry.

NPPF

The reforms set out in the housing white paper (February 2017), the Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places consultation (September 2017) and the Autumn Budget, have found their way into the NPPF. This being said, some expected items such as "Agent for Change" have not been taken forward.

Changes largely focus on housing provision through plan-making and needs assessments, with the introduction of a standard methodology for the assessment of housing requirements. How to prevent the reassessment of viability post-local plan assessments in practice, however, appears to contradict the aim of building more quickly, so this will be interesting to follow.

The proposal for minimum density requirements in locations where there is a shortage of land to meet identified needs appears to be a more focussed version of paragraph 58 PPG 3, but it remains to be seen whether this will prove controversial like in 2006.

Revisions also require small sites to provide large contributions to housing needs, which may prove tricky in practice. It remains to be seen whether this would result in larger sites being split up to meet requirements and this policy ignores that planning is a land use activity and that the absence of small sites may be a consequence of land form. One consequence of the focus on smaller sites could be that land values are driven up as small and large developers compete for sites.

Developer Contributions

Ever since the Community Infrastructure Levy’s (CIL) first implementation in 2010, there have been practical problems associated with it and numerous amending regulations. The new consultation proposes further change but nothing radical – the main proposal that has been picked up from the CIL Review is the Strategic Infrastructure Tariff (SIT), which would be used to fund strategic infrastructure projects.

Proposed changes to pooling restrictions will probably be welcomed as although it might have been intended as a stick to make local authorities take up the CIL, its practical problems – including deterring development – negated any perceived benefits. Given how the feasibility of local authorities adopting the CIL is set nationally, however, removing pooling obligations may not prove straightforward.

With substantial sums having been paid through CIL and where development is contingent on the provision of infrastructure, it seems inequitable that there should not be an obligation on local authorities to deliver infrastructure the CIL is paying for, particularly where developers are delivering more housing. In this regard, flexibility over the CIL clearly has disadvantages as well as benefits.

Spring Statement

As expected, the Spring Statement did not deliver any major news, although positive announcements were made. The chancellor introduced a Housing Growth Partnership (HGP), providing support for small housebuilders, and pledged £1.67 billion in funding for affordable housing in London.

The HGP is particularly interesting and could be considered a compliment to the focus on small sites in revisions to the NPPF. As Sir Oliver Letwin’s letter to the chancellor indicates, there is now a need to focus on increasing absorption rates and it will be interesting to see whether the HGP or Housing Infrastructure Fund impact on these rates.

Katherine Evans is a partner at law firm TLT.


Read more:

RTPI to lead NPPF consultation with members

Spring Statement 2018: Hammond backs West Midlands to build 215,000 homes in 10 years

Spring Statement: More funding for Housing Growth Partnership

Housing white paper: Government to support SMEs and renters

Javid announces methodology to assess local housing need

Autumn Budget 2017: Stamp duty abolished for first-time buyers; garden towns; £15bn extra for housing market


Image credit | Shutterstock

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