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.
What's new for the planning making process?
There is continued recognition that a plan-led system without plans in place fails everyone. At the end of January 2017, 34 authorities had not published a local plan for consultation. Only one-third had adopted a plan since adoption of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in March 2012.
Continuous review backed by intervention: The Neighbourhood Planning Bill will require authorities to ensure all areas are covered by a plan, alongside regulations requiring a review at least once every five years. The government remains committed to intervening "where necessary" if authorities fail to deliver plans - but still has not yet fleshed out the detail of how it intends to do so, save that the focus will be in areas of higher housing pressure.
Increased flexibility for plans: There will be a focus on mandatory key strategic policies (to be listed in the NPPF and subject to consultation) which could be set out in plans produced by individual or joint authorities or through spatial development strategies by a combined authority or elected mayor. Duplication between plans should be minimised - the expectation is for more detailed policies to be covered by neighbourhood plans or area action plans. Combined authorities or elected mayors are proposed to have the power to allocate strategic sites through spatial strategies.
Examinations: The consultation covers the soundness tests for plans - the government proposes to make is clear that plans should set out 'an' appropriate strategy rather than 'the most' appropriate strategy, which opens up potential for challenge. Views on more proportionate consultation and examination procedures are sought, including as to evidence base requirements.
Joint working: The government is consulting on proposals to change the NPPF to expand the duty to co-operate to require a statement of common ground between authorities on housing and other requirements cutting across authority boundaries.
Whilst the plan-led system will remain intact, the proposals reflect continued political see-sawing as to who should be responsible for them. Regional planning is creeping back in through the encouragement of joint working and strategic plans by combined authorities or mayors. At the same time, commitment to supporting neighbourhood plans remains strong. A lighter touch approach as to content and examination is signalled.