The Housing White Paper promised to turn around the housing market – but it has been criticised for a lack of substance and clear commitments.

The Housing White Paper promised to turn around the housing market – but it has been criticised for a lack of substance and clear commitments. This briefing sets out the changes in planning coming in soon and identifies areas of further change, with a focus on the elements most relevant to rural areas.

Immediate changes and dates to note

The Neighbourhood Planning Act was brought in at the end of April 2017 and delivers stronger powers of government intervention in the local plan process. The increased emphasis on Neighbourhood Plans is likely to have a disproportionate effect on development proposals in the countryside where they are more common and local authority resources are scarce.

The new Act will also enable stricter controls on the use of the pre-commencement conditions. Regulations for these conditions are expected in the summer and, alongside others

  1. enable local authorities to implement a 20% increase in planning fees; and
  2. implement the new Permission in Principle. A Green Paper on Supported Housing is also likely in the next few months. In November 2017 housing delivery tests will start to be applied and local authorities will be required to produce action plans required if delivery falls below 95% of annual housing requirement. In April 2018 the Government expects standardised housing assessments to be in place.

Changes to Central Government Policy The Planning Framework is nearly five years old and the Government has promised to publish a revised Framework later this year. Key likely changes include:

a new housing delivery test and fixed methods of assessing housing need provision for housing land supply to be agreed on an annual basis and fixed for a year requirements for local authorities to show how they will accommodate their identified housing requirement; and support windfall and small undeveloped sites less emphasis on the provision of starter homes and a new emphasis on the importance of providing for the housing needs of older and disabled people – which could be significant in some rural communities with pressure to provide this specific kind of housing Green Belt policies to retain their current protected status, but we may see the introduction of losses being offset by ‘compensatory improvements’.

The Rural Planning Review

This consultation ran from February to April last year and the Government’s response was published alongside the White Paper. The Government considered responses on the use of Permitted Development rights, and issues including farm shops, polytunnels, and farm reservoirs. Rural housing was another major issue, especially for rural workers and local people, and conversion rights for agricultural buildings.

The Government has promised to issue guidance on farm shops, polytunnels, and farm reservoirs. More importantly, the current consultation on the White Paper - which closed on 2 May – included:

  • questions on changes to agricultural permitted development generally
  • a specific proposal for a new agricultural to residential use permitted development right to allow conversion of up to 750sqm, for a maximum of 5 new dwellings, each with a floor space of no more than 150sqm.

The big news, however, is the removal of permitted development rights for pubs, which is already in place.

And finally…

In a number of areas the White Paper ducked the issue. A pilot programme on open data standards and greater use of digital tools is likely to be seen as too little too late. There may be a consultation on fees for planning appeals but no date has been given, and the Government’s response on the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) has been postponed until the Autumn Statement. As ever with planning, it is a case of ‘watch this space’.