Commercial planner Alex Bateman looks at some of the key points from the government’s Housing White Paper published this week.
Top ten planning highlights from the Housing White Paper
1 “The consensus is that we need from 225,000 to 275,000 or more homes per year to keep up with population growth and start to tackle years of under-supply” – This would mean a 32 per cent to 61 per cent increase in homebuilding based on average current figures.
2 “Authorities that fail to ensure an up-to-date plan is in place are failing their communities by not recognising the homes and other facilities that local people need and relying on ad hoc speculative development that may not make the most of their area’s potential” – Harsh but true words from Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid.
3 “We propose to ensure all authorities can dispose of land with the benefit of planning permission which they have granted to themselves” – Will this encourage local authorities to approve development on their own land to help balance the books? Only time will tell.
4 “73 per cent of people say they would support the building of more homes if well designed and in keeping with their local area” – From experience, “in keeping” actually means low-density affordable housing.
5 “At least 10 per cent of the sites allocated for residential development in local plans should be sites of half a hectare or less” – While this is commendable and will encourage the small and medium housebuilders to enter the market, this will also have a knock on impact of reducing affordable housing delivery which traditionally come from larger sites.
6 “We will increase nationally set planning fees. Local authorities will be able to increase fees by 20 per cent from July 2017 if they commit to invest the additional fee income in their planning department” – To be fair, planning departments haven’t seen the benefit of an improving market in a very long time.
7 “We propose to amend national planning policy to encourage local authorities to consider how realistic it is that a site will be developed when deciding whether to grant planning permission for housing development on sites where previous permissions have not been implemented” – In the majority of cases, the applicant is the landowner not the builder. Also, there are many factors for not building out. This seems like a punishment for bold development.
8 “We are considering the implications of amending national planning policy to encourage local authorities to shorten the timescales for developers to implement a permission for housing development from the default period of three years to two years, except where a shorter timescale could hinder the viability or deliverability of a scheme” – With build costs at an all-time high and a skills shortage, how feasible is it to reduce the time limit?
9 “We will consult on introducing a fee for making a planning appeal … One option would be for the fee to be capped, for example, at a maximum of £2,000 for the most expensive route (full inquiry)” – I honestly cannot see how this will work in practice. Planning is purposely vague on some aspects to allow for debate and communication. Appeals are sometimes the only option available.
10 “We propose that by April 2018 the new methodology for calculating objectively assessed requirement would apply as the baseline for assessing five-year housing land supply and housing delivery” – Arguments over how to calculate five-year housing land supply has been ongoing for years. A simplified and transparent approach is a welcomed addition.
Alex Bateman is an associate planner at Stile Harold Williams (SHW).