In the midst of a housing crisis, it is no surprise that housebuilding initiatives continue to dominate the UK headlines. The government's recent housing White Paper, with its array of proposals ranging from simplifying the planning system to diversifying the housing market, seeks to smooth the way to higher productivity and builds on initiatives such as the garden villages programme, the Home Building Fund, Shared Ownership and Help to Buy, to name but a few.

We set out some housebuilding highlights below as well as a round-up of recent planning developments.

Government housing strategy

The government has published a number of key documents and consultations in the last few months.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) issued its report on Housing in England: overview on 19 January 2017, in which is set out its housing strategy and the overall housing landscape. Housebuilding has not kept pace with need and "two of the Department's four strategic objectives for this Parliament are focused on housing: increasing home ownership, and increasing the supply of homes, with an ambition of delivering a million new homes in England by 2020". (See also the DCLG press release.)

On 7 February 2017, the DCLG published the Housing White Paper "Fixing our broken housing market", setting out the government's plans to reform the housing market and boost the supply of new homes in England. Divided into four chapters, the White Paper covers: planning for the right homes in the right places; building homes faster; diversifying the market; and helping people now. The report identifies the housing problem as threefold: not enough local authorities planning for the homes they need; housebuilding that is simply too slow; and a construction industry that is too reliant on a small number of big players.

Planning policy changes consultation

As part of the White Paper, the DCLG launched an open consultation on changes to planning policy and legislation in relation to planning for housing, sustainable development and the environment that will be needed to implement certain proposals. You can access the consultation, which closes on 2 May 2017, here.

Our planning colleagues have released a spotlight on the implications of the Housing White Paper which you can watch on Dentons Planning TV here.

What are the implications beyond the residential market?

The focus of the Housing White Paper is on residential land use with many of its proposals relating to the planning system. For Dentons' commentary on the issues of potential significance for the wider property industry, read: "The Housing White Paper: implications beyond the residential market". This article deals in particular with "Making land ownership and interests more transparent" and " Leasehold reform to promote fairness and transparency".

Local authorities invited to express interest in garden cities

The DCLG has invited expressions of interest from local authorities that want to create new communities based on garden city principles. The prospectus explains how the government can support local areas that want to create new garden villages, towns and cities.

Planning news

We have picked out some updates from Dentons' Planning blog that are of relevance to housebuilding projects.

Care needed in applying local green belt policies

A High Court decision to grant permission for a hydro-power installation at a weir on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) has been quashed by the Court of Appeal. The appellant hotel owner succeeded on the grounds that the authority had, in applying its own policies on MOL development, failed to apply the stricter London Plan policies. Roy Pinnock explains more about the case here.

The High Court has quashed the grant of permission for a mixed-use development likely to adversely affect sunlight reaching adjacent open land used by the neighbouring school for children's play. The application had been considered on the basis the redevelopment of the vacant site would have enhanced the character and appearance of the conservation area. Read more about the case here.

You might also be interested in the following updates:

You can read more about planning issues and developments on Dentons' planning blog.

Other housebuilding news

  • Building Performance Evaluation (BPE) is the process of evaluating how a building performs and can be carried out on both new and existing buildings. The Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA) has issued a Guide to Building Performance Evaluation in Domestic Buildings (BG64/2016) to explain what BPE is, how to use it to address issues of inefficiency and poor comfort in domestic buildings, why it is important and how it can be carried out.
  • Brexit priorities: the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) have called for the government's Brexit negotiations to address six priorities for the built environment sector: access to skills, common standards, research excellence, infrastructure, devolution commitment and community.
  • In January 2017, the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) published a Green Paper calling for key leadership roles for cities and local authorities in the delivery of sustainable new homes and communities. The Green Paper considers: what city, combined and local authorities can do to raise standards [of new-build housing] using their current planning powers; how they can proactively use their role as landowners; and how they could engage with the devolution agenda.