The Prime Minister's speech on Monday (5 March) clearly directed its aim at the national house-builders, who have been asked to 'do their duty' to deliver the homes we need and criticising any that have unscrupulously abused the viability assessment process.

We have seen a flurry of activity from DCLG and the release of the long-awaited updated draft version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This is very much an iterative approach, reflecting the numerous ministerial statements and already adopted national policies that have followed the original 2012 publication, as well as the new policies and proposals that will be consulted on.

The following pick up the key house-building policy revisions:

  • Development viability – taking forward the reforms to viability assessment proposed in the Planning for the right homes in the right places consultation, the policy makes clear that where a proposed development accords with all relevant policies in the plan there is no need for a viability assessment to accompany the planning application. The policy also expects all viability assessments to reflect the Government’s recommended approach which is set out in draft revised national planning guidance published alongside the Framework.
  • Standard Method for Assessing Local Housing Need – introducing the new standard method for the calculation of local housing need by local authorities. The details of the standard method are set out in draft revised national planning guidance published alongside the NPPF. Essentially, the method is based on household growth projections for the relevant local area with an uplift to take account of the relationship between median local house prices and local earnings.
  • A broader NPPF definition of Affordable Housing – to now recognise 'Starter Homes' , 'Affordable Private Rent' for Build to Rent schemes as well as 'Other affordable routes to home ownership', including shared ownership, equity loans and other low cost homes for sale and rent to buy (which includes a period of intermediate rent).
  • Minimum Affordable Housing provision for major sites – reflecting the Housing White Paper proposal that at least 10% of homes on major sites should be available for affordable home ownership, with certain exemptions.
  • Making greater use of small sites – taking for forward the White Paper proposals to encourage greater use of small sites, to help diversify opportunities for builders and increase the number of schemes that can be built-out quickly. Following Budget 2017 the draft text proposes that local planning authorities should ensure (subject to further consultation on a threshold) that at least 20% of the sites allocated for housing in their plans are of half a hectare or less.
  • Housing Delivery Test – from November 2018 the presumption in favour of sustainable development will apply to all local authorities where over the last three years there has been 'substantial under-delivery' against their housing requirements. By November 2020 this means that local authorities must deliver at least 75% of their required housing to avoid their housing policies being deemed out of date.
  • 5 Year Land Supply – taking forward the White Paper proposal that the 5 year land supply position should be capable of being agreed for a one year period. The policy proposes that this should be demonstrated either through a recently adopted plan, or through a subsequent annual position statement. A minimum 10% housing land supply buffer is required in order for local authorities to take advantage of this policy.
  • Time limits for implementation – authorities may consider imposing a planning condition to bring forward development within two years as opposed to the standard 3 year time limit; subject to where a shorter timescale could hinder the viability or deliverability of a scheme. Local planning authorities are encouraged to consider why major sites have not been built out when considering subsequent planning applications (i.e. the developer's track record).
  • Density and land use – taking forward themes from the White Paper, local planning authorities are encouraged to avoid building homes at low densities in areas of high demand, and pursuing higher-density housing in accessible locations, while reflecting the character and infrastructure capacity of each area. To also take a flexible approach to policies or guidance that could inhibit making effective use of a site.
  • Brownfield sites – reflects the White Paper proposal to give substantial weight to the value of using suitable brownfield land within settlements for homes.
  • Strengthening of Environmental Protections – to align with the Government's 25 Year Environment Plan. It includes additional policy on strengthening existing networks of habitats and taking full account of air quality impacts. Development within National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty should be limited. There is also enhanced policy protection for ancient woodland and other irreplaceable habitats, by making clear that development resulting in their loss or deterioration should be wholly exceptional.