The long awaited White Paper, entitled 'Fixing our broken housing market', finally emerged from DCLG last week. It signals the government's direction of travel under Theresa May, with an emphasis on a fairer Britain supporting the hard working for whom housing has become increasing unaffordable. Consultation on some of the key proposals closes on 2 May 2017.
This article is part of a series of articles about the Government's long awaited February 2017 Housing White Paper, which sets out the UK Government's broad approach to addressing issues in the housing market. To read about more topics covered in the White Paper and to access other articles in this series please click here.
Bringing forward schemes: viability and delivery of new homes
The government intends to continue to bring forward planning reform in a number of key areas affecting viability and delivery of new homes.
CIL & s106: Following the delayed report of the expert group, options for reform of s106 and community infrastructure levy will be considered and an announcement is expected at the Autumn Budget 2017. In the short term, the government will consult on standardised open book agreements and the monitoring and reporting of planning obligation data. The government also intends to explore whether higher financial contributions can be sought from development sites released from the green belt.
Starter homes: The duty to promote starter homes will commence, but the mandatory requirement for 20% starter homes on reasonably sized sites will be dropped. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is proposed to require starter homes to be targeted to first time buyers with incomes below £80,000, and £90,000 within London. To deter abuse, purchasers must have a mortgage and there will be a 15 year period during which some or all of the discount must be repaid on sale. Views are sought on a policy expectation of 10% affordable home ownership units across sites, excluding sites of up to ten units or 0.5 ha, as part of a package of mixed affordable tenures. The NPPF is to encourage starter homes on brownfield sites, including particularly non-strategic employment sites which have been vacant, unused or unviable for five years and on rural exception sites subject to local connection tests.
Building out permissions: The NPPF is to be amended to require authorities to consider how realistic it is that a site will be developed in determining applications for sites where previous permissions have not been implemented. Views are sought on whether an applicant's track record of delivery is relevant to determination for large scale sites. Further, there is a proposal to reduce permissions from a default period for implementation of three years to two years, save where deliverability could be affected. That is likely to result in more token implementation across the country to ensure hard fought consents are not lost. The completion notice process (whereby authorities can impose a period for build out of stalled sites after which permissions are lost) is to be reconsidered, potentially removing Secretary of State approval. Controversially, new guidance is mooted to promote the use of compulsory purchase powers on stalled sites, with the suitability of sale by auction being considered.
Design: The government is clearly listening to the calls from communities for better designed homes. The consultation includes proposals to change the NPPF to encourage area-wide design codes (to speed up small site delivery) and to require plans to set clear design expectations following community consultation, perhaps including design codes. Pre-application discussions with the local community on design are to be encouraged, but design is not to be a reason to object where it accords with plan requirements.
Detailed requirements: Building regulation requirements will be kept under review and the Nationally Described Space Standard is to be reconsidered, as is the relationship between the planning system and modern methods of construction. The government will consult on improving energy performance of new homes through the Emissions Reduction Plan if it can be done without making homes less affordable.
Noise: The consultation covers proposals to amend the NPPF to emphasise that planning policies and decisions should take account of existing businesses when locating new development nearby and, where necessary, to mitigate the impact of noise and other nuisance.
It is disappointing that the government has not chosen to take immediate action on the problems affecting the relationship between CIL and s106 on larger sites, particularly around pooling. On the other hand, it is good news for developers that proposals for mandatory starter homes and penalties for slow build out are not being taken forward. Whilst good design is in everyone's interest, developers will need to engage at the plan making stage to ensure that policies are not rendering schemes unviable.