The long awaited White Paper, entitled 'Fixing our broken housing market', finally emerged from DCLG on February 7th. 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 our top-line overview and to access other articles in this series please click here.
Planning to meet housing need
The White Paper signals the government's firm intent to require authorities to fully assess and meet housing need, building on the recommendations of the Local Plan Experts Group of March 2016.
A standard assessment of housing need: Authorities are required to objectively assess housing need, but the government has to date resisted prescribing how this should be done. A consultation is to take place later in the year on a standardised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) approach to assessing need, with limited deviations from the standard to be permitted. At present, views are sought on the proposal, by April 2018, to apply the new methodology in assessing an authority's five year housing land supply, save authorities given more time as they are "collaborating on ambitious proposals for new homes". Views are also sought on the proposal to require the NPPF to address housing requirements of groups with specific needs, such as older and disabled persons. Neighbourhood plan groups are proposed to be able to obtain a housing requirement figure from local authorities.
Meeting need: The government is consulting on a tightening up of the presumption of sustainable development including that housing needs must be met unless any of a specific list of policies provides 'strong reasons' for restricting development or adverse impacts significantly and demonstrably outweigh benefits. Ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees will be added to the relevant list.
Housing land supply: The NPPF is to be amended to enable authorities to agree their housing land supply annually, and fix it for one year (potentially provided they include a 10% buffer on their housing land supply). Views are sought on the role of the Planning Inspectorate in agreeing housing land supply.
Housing delivery test: A new rolling 3 year housing delivery test is proposed, with a first assessment period from April 2014-March 2017. The baseline is proposed to be assessed from local plans of less than 5 years old or otherwise from household projections (with the above standard assessment applying from April 2018). The government will give authorities time to address under delivery and is consulting on the following:
- From November 2017, if delivery falls below 95% of the authority's annual housing requirement, the authority must produce an action plan. If delivery falls below 85%, a 20% buffer on the five year housing land supply is required.
- The NPPF presumption of sustainable development would automatically apply if delivery falls below 25% from November 2018, 45% from November 2019 and 65% from November 2020.
Supporting neighbourhood plans: The government controversially changed policy in December to ensure neighbourhood plans should not be deemed out of date where the authority can demonstrate a three (rather than a five) year housing land supply. The government propose to amend the NPPF to reflect the new policy but are consulting on qualifications. First, neighbourhood plans should meet their share of local housing need. Secondly, the authority must be able to demonstrate at least 25% delivery of targets in 2018, 45% in 2019 and 65% from 2020.
In light of the proposed changes to the NPPF, authorities currently bringing forward their local plans will face difficult decisions in determining whether to continue given the state of policy flux and the potential for plans not to be aligned with government policy once adopted.