Yesterday (13 October 2015) the Housing and Planning Bill was published, bringing forward new planning legislation including requirements for starter homes in section 106 agreements, planning permission in principle on brownfield sites, and allowing housing elements to be included in NSIPs. The broad aims of the bill are to further streamline the planning system as well as to create more housing. Some highlights are outlined below.

Separately, the Department for Communities and Local Government made an announcement confirming that the office to residential permitted development rights will now be made permanent. Those who already have permission will have three years in which to complete the change of use, removing an element of doubt. To further support the delivery of new homes, the rights will in future allow the demolition of office buildings and encourage new building for residential use. Those LPAs currently exempt from the rights have until May 2019 to make an Article 4 Direction if they wish to continue determining planning applications for the change of use.

Click here to read the DCLG announcement on permitted development rights.

New Housing and Planning Bill

Some highlights include:

1.  Starter Homes required in section 106 agreements

  • Local planning authorities (LPAs) may only grant planning permission for certain developments if a section 106 planning obligation is agreed which provides for a specific number of starter homes or which pays a sum to the authority to provide such homes (further legislation is expected with detail).
  • Starter Homes are defined to an extent: a new dwelling which is only available for purchase by qualifying first-time buyers (under the age of 40) and which is made available at a price which is at least 20% less than the market value. There is not yet detail on the liquidity of the units e.g. how long they would need to be kept for, what the restriction on sales would be, what happens to a subsidy on an onwards sale.
  • The Secretary of State will issue further guidance on LPAs' duty to promote the supply of starter homes when making planning decisions.
  • The Secretary of State can issue a 'compliance direction' if the LPA's local plan is incompatible with its functions in relation to starter homes.
  • Further regulations may also specify that certain types of residential development should be exempt or that certain areas should have a higher starter home requirement. It is thought that the new starter homes requirement is intended to replace current requirements for affordable rented homes.

2.  Planning Permission in Principle

  • Also referred to elsewhere in the press as 'deemed planning permission' or 'zoning for brownfield land': it will be possible to grant permission in principle on certain land e.g. brownfield land kept in a register by the LPA, where the land is allocated for a certain use (e.g. housing development) within the local plan or neighbourhood plan. This permission in principle will be subject to further technical details which need to be approved.
  • Permission in principle will be granted at the time when the relevant local plan document setting out the land allocation is adopted by the LPA. 
  • Conditions will not be attached to the 'in principle' permission but will be reserved for the 'technical details' consent stage. The LPA will not be able to re-open or reconsider the principle of the development at the 'technical details' consent stage, as that has already been granted at the permission in principle stage.
  • There will be a further consultation on the process for technical details consent.
  • This is a welcome proposal which goes some way towards restoring the old style redline planning permissions, although EIA principles will need to be considered.

3.  NSIPs with housing elements

  • Amendments to the Planning Act 2008 will mean that applications with 'related housing' can proceed through the DCO regime for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (housing on the same site, next to, close to or otherwise associated with the development). Other consents would not be required alongside a DCO for the relevant housing development.
  • It is not clear yet whether or how the units will be restricted to occupation in connection with the project, or whether the units will provide new housing available for anyone to occupy.
  • Guidance will follow with more detail.

4. Right to buy  

  • New provisions aim to give housing association tenants the right to buy their property (as council tenants can already do), with the government compensating the housing association for the discount offered to the tenant, and with the proceeds going towards new homes delivered by the housing association.
  • The Secretary of State may also require a LPA to sell high value vacant local authority-owned housing and provide new housing.