For housing the changes are generally as expected with the new Housing Delivery Test strengthening the need to show not only sufficient deliverable sites to meet identified housing need but also demonstrate that those homes are actually being delivered.

This is likely to be welcomed by the development industry and provides a much more objective measurement of when there should be a titled balance applied in favour of development proposals, moving away from what had become a relatively easy exercise on showing that there were sites within the local planning authority's area that were capable of delivering the required housing to a much more objective and realistic requirement that the delivery of those dwellings must also be demonstrated.

To an extent this reflects the way that the arguments have been put forward on these issues, (particularly after the St Modwen Court of Appeal judgement) but it also brings in a much needed sense of realism to the application of the tilted balance.

Hand in hand with this however is a requirement for local planning authorities to consider imposing a planning condition that development must be begun earlier than the default 3 years. The ability to impose such conditions already exists but expect this policy to be used regularly albeit with the requirement that any shorter period for implementation should not threaten the deliverability or viability of the development.

There is, through a number of policies, an effective requirement for local plans to be up to date, an extension of the Secretary of States recent high profile threats to intervene where no up to date plan is in place.

The tilted balance is to change effectively negating part of the Supreme Court decision in Suffolk Coastal. The changes (if they become effective) mean that it is applied if:

  • All policies that that "are most important for determining the application are out of date". Out of date means where a five year supply of deliverable sites (no change to the use of the term deliverable but those sites must include 20% that are of half hectare or less) cannot be identified or (this is new) the Housing Delivery Test indicates that delivery of housing has been substantially below that required over the previous three years;
  • The five year period is reduced (in line with, but with some important changes to, the Witten Ministerial Statement) to three years. This will however only apply where there is a recent neighbourhood plan that has passed referendum two years or less before the decision is made, that plan allocates enough housing to meet its need as identified by the local panning authority and housing delivery was at a least 45% measured against the Housing Delivery Test.

The assessment of housing need and the buffer to be applied has been tweaked by the addition of a new 10% buffer where:

  • there is an annual position statement. There is a need to engage developers and others who have an impact on delivery and that this considered (no detail on how it is to be considered) by the Secretary of State with any recommendations incorporated in it; or
  • that five year supply is demonstrated in a local plan that has been adopted in the last 18 months.

There is not any express brownfield first policy but the list of developments that are not to be regarded as inappropriate in the green belt now includes limited infilling or the partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed land where that contributes to meeting an identified affordable housing need.

The existing protection given to designated land such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ONB) remains as does the distinction between where any development proposals are major and otherwise when there is a requirement to give great weight to observing those areas landscape and scenic beauty.