16 March 2018
Matthew Good, Planning Associate Director and Housing expert, continues his analysis of recent developments in UK housing. To read Part I, please visit: https://www.wyg.com/news-and-press-releases/wyg-housing-expert-reflects-on-spring-statement-and-nppf-part-i
Local planning authorities are asked to support the delivery of entry level exception sites, suitable for first-time buyers or renters at a scale proportionate to the settlement (paragraph 72). Interestingly, these sites should be adjacent, but outside existing settlements on land not identified for housing. The sites can be subsidised by general housing, provided they comprise a high proportion of the dwellings. Unfortunately, this does not appear to extend to settlements in the Green Belt.
The need for local authorities to have a five-year supply of housing land is retained (paragraph 74). Where a five-year supply of deliverable sites cannot be demonstrated, the new presumption in favour of development is invoked (paragraph 75). The definition of a ‘deliverable’ site has been strengthened by excluding sites with outline planning permission, permission in principle, allocated in the development plan or identified on a brownfield register, unless there is clear evidence that delivery will commence in the first five years (glossary). This tightening of the definition is in response to several recent court cases and should assist in reducing lengthy discussions at appeals and plan examinations.
The need for a buffer of specific deliverable sites is also retained; however, a new 10 percent buffer is included (paragraph 74b). The 10 percent buffer can be applied where the local planning authority wishes to demonstrate a five-year supply through an annual position statement or recently adopted local plan (paragraph 76).
The 20 percent buffer will be based on supply over the previous three years. From November 2018, this will be where the Housing Delivery Test indicates that delivery was below 85 percent (paragraph 74c).
Where the housing requirement is expressed as a range, the lower end of the range will be utilised for the five-year supply (draft PPG).
In neighbourhood plan areas, which allocate housing sites, the five-year supply is reduced to three years, reflecting the Written Ministerial Statement, December 2016, and the recent High Court Judgment (paragraph 14).
The annual position statement will set out the land supply position at 1st April each year and will need to be prepared in consultation with developers and others who have an impact on delivery (glossary). Where there are unresolved disagreements regarding sites, the authority must identify this in their submission to the Planning Inspectorate. If the authority can still demonstrate a five-year supply after scrutiny by the Inspectorate, they will benefit from being able to demonstrate a supply for a one-year period (draft PPG).
The Housing Delivery test is introduced through the draft NPPF (paragraph 77). This will test the rate of delivery of homes against the housing requirement. In the following circumstances, the presumption in favour of sustainable development will apply;
The presumption in favour of sustainable development will remain in place until subsequent Housing Delivery Test results demonstrate that delivery exceeds the required rate of delivery in the following year. In neighbourhood plan areas, this is reduced to 45 percent of that required over the previous three years.
Where the test indicates that delivery has fallen below 95 percent of the local planning authority’s housing requirement over the previous three years, the authority should prepare an action plan, in line with national planning guidance, to assess the causes of under-delivery and identify actions to increase delivery in future years. The draft PPG suggests that developers, land promoters and landowners should be involved in the writing of an action plan.
The introduction of the Housing Delivery test is welcome and will assist in focusing local authorities in ensuring sites are truly deliverable. It will also reduce ambiguity for the application of the 20 percent buffer in the five-year supply discussion.
Where the housing requirement is expressed as a range, the test will be applied to the lower end of the range, if it reflects local housing need including any agreed need from neighbouring authorities, or a mid-point if it does not (Housing Delivery Test Measurement Rulebook).
Local authorities can introduce shorter implementation periods for planning applications where this would expedite delivery, without threatening viability. The local authority can also take into consideration the reasons for previous non-implementation in applications to renew permission (paragraph 78). This will place greater emphasis upon implementing a consent. It does not, however, extend to build-out.
Whilst not a return to ‘brownfield first,’ the draft NPPF requires plans to contain a clear strategy for accommodating objectively assessed needs in a way which makes as much use of brownfield land as possible (paragraph 117). This also extends to brownfield sites within the Green Belt, where they are for local affordable need and would not cause substantial harm to the openness (paragraph 144).
The draft NPPF seeks to make efficient use of land (paragraph 122), and prior to suggesting any release of Green Belt, plans must have optimised the density of development (paragraph 136b). It also recommends the use of minimum density standards in town and city centres (paragraph 123).