5 November 2015
A notable feature of the Housing and Planning Bill is a move to allow some permanent housing as part of a Development Consent Order (DCO). The 2008 Planning Act only allows for temporary accommodation in these circumstances - unhelpful to both developers of Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) and local planning authorities. The new Bill’s provisions allow NSIP developers to deliver a small amount of housing, including affordable homes, as part of any DCO.
On the face of it, this looks to be good news for developers and local authorities but, in practice, will it be a help or hindrance?
Restrictions on housing provision
The Bill’s provisions allow infrastructure developers to deliver a small amount of housing as part of any DCO. Unsurprisingly, there are restrictions:
In the grips of a housing crisis, a further avenue for housing delivery is to be welcomed. The policy shift does allow developers greater flexibility when they are considering bringing NSIP projects forward, in particular the construction and operation phases. There is a clear viability benefit to NSIP schemes if a housing element can be added to the mix and the change may encourage NSIP developers to form partnership arrangements with traditional house builders to deliver both elements.
Location and local impact
But the solution to the housing crisis doesn’t just lie in the numbers. Homes need to be built in the right locations. Providing legacy housing close to a nuclear power station may not always be the most ideal use of resources or in the wider public interest.
There is another potential snag. The draft supporting guidance suggests that the housing elements will need to be considered against the provisions of both the National Planning Policy Framework and other national guidance whilst the local development plan may “also be relevant”.
A procedural part of the 2008 Act is that local authorities submit a local impact report (LIR), giving details of the likely impact of the proposed development on the authority’s area. LIR responses will depend upon wider considerations, such as local supply positions, and housing proposals under the provisions of the Bill may be assessed in very different ways. This could potentially lead to conflict with the general ethos of the UK planning system, which gives policies within an adopted development top priority in the decision-making process.
It will be for the examining authority, the Planning Inspectorate, to ultimately decide the balance of considerations and developers should prepare themselves for uncertainty. We will continue to advise on emerging guidance.
For more information or assistance please contact Alex Bullock, Senior Planner, on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01823 215185.