- The White Paper- Fixing Our Broken Housing Market: A Summary
Laura Evans, in our Planning and Environmental Law team, discusses the recent White Paper which highlights how the government aims to tackle England's housing crisis.
The White Paper, published on 7 February 2017 concentrates on how the government aims to tackle England’s housing crisis which has been described as a “broken housing market”. The paper highlights the government’s firm commitment to require local planning authorities to fully assess and meet the housing need.
The emphasis of the Paper is on four areas:
- Local Planning Authorities planning for the right homes in the right places
- Building homes faster
- Diversifying the housing market
- Helping people right now to invest in affordable homes
The areas covered in the White Paper are extensive. Some of the key proposals are summarised below.
Assessment of Housing Need - OAN
Currently, some local authorities are free to formulate their own methodology for calculating ‘objectively assessed need’ (“OAN”) and the government believes that in this way they are able to escape difficult decisions. The government propose to consult on a new standard methodology for calculating OAN, to be implemented by April 2018, and will encourage local authorities to plan for new homes on that basis.
The government is consulting on the requirement that all local authorities have an up-to-date plan so that local communities can decide where development should go so that development is planned rather than the result of ad-hoc speculative applications that may not make the most of an area’s potential.
It proposes to set out in regulations a requirement for local plans and other local development documents to be reviewed at least once every five years. Local authorities will be required to update their local plan if their existing housing target cannot continue to be justified against the objectively assessed housing requirement- unless a departure from the standard methodology has been agreed with the Planning Inspectorate (“PINS”).
There will be a consultation on options for introducing a standardised approach to assessing housing requirements. The consultation will be published this year.
Housing Delivery Test
The government is proposing a new rolling 3 year housing delivery test with a first assessment period from April 2014 – March 2017. It is proposed to use an area’s local plan where it is up to date (less than 5 years old) to establish the appropriate baseline for assessing delivery. Where there is not an up to date plan, published household projections for the years leading up to and including April 2017 – March 2019 will be used.
The government is also consulting on:
- 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.
- If delivery falls below 25% from November 2018, 45% from November 2019 and 65% from November 2020, the presumption in favour of sustainable development would automatically apply.
The phased introduction of the housing delivery test consequences gives authorities the time to address under delivery in their areas.
Maximising the Use of Land
Authorities must grapple with the persistent pressure of preservation of the green belt whilst meeting housing supply needs. As a result, there is a focus on maximising the use of suitable land brownfield sites and smaller sites suitable for custom builders and smaller developers are to be promoted.
The government proposes to amend the NPPF to require local planning authorities to have a clear strategy in place for maximising the use of suitable land. Other proposals include:
- promotion of higher-density housing in urban areas
- the requirement of plans to make efficient use of land
- to avoid low-density housing where there is a shortage of sites
- encouragement of the building over or replacement of low density uses including car parks
- promotion of upward extension
The fundamental aim of the green belt has been to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open. The NPPF currently states that the Green Belt should be amended only in “exceptional circumstances”.
The government propose to include changes to the NPPF so “local communities can hold their councils to account” over the definition of exceptional. In addition, it is proposed that the NPPF be amended to make clear that authorities should amend Green Belt boundaries only when they can demonstrate that they have examined fully all other reasonable options for meeting identified development requirements. Including; making effective use of suitable brownfield sites, estate regeneration, currently underused land, surplus public sector land, optimising the proposed density of development and exploring what other authorities can help to meet housing needs.
A further proposed change to national policy is if green belt land is released, authorities should require the impact to be offset by compensatory improvements to the quality or accessibility of remaining green belt land.
Increasing Planning Fees
The government has proposed to permit authorities to increase planning application fees by 20% from July 2017 provided they commit to invest the additional fee income in their planning department. A further 20% increase will be permitted for those authorities who meet their target in delivering new homes.
The government are also consulting on introducing a fee for making a planning appeal to deter unnecessary appeals which can cause delay and waste taxpayer’s money with a potential for the fees to be refunded if the appeal is successful.
Consultation on some of the key proposals closes on 2 May 2017.
For more information and legal advice, please contact a member of the Planning & Environmental team.
This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.