Yesterday’s announcement from Theresa May on the overhaul of national planning guidance offered plenty of rhetoric but little new substance. Planning red tape, slow local authorities and unscrupulous developers are still holding back a surge in house building – filing cabinets are still bulging in the minds of ministers. Though promised a new National Planning Policy Framework, the Government announced yet another period of consultation – until 10th May – on a variety of measures announced over the past 12-months, such as setting standardised housing requirements, pushing for shorter permissions (‘use it or lose it’) and greater transparency in viability assessments. This time we are promised the final NPPF before summer recess on 24 July.
Rather than blaming the housebuilders and/or local planning authorities for not delivering the much-needed housing, perhaps the question that should be asked is whether it the Government’s continued rhetoric and delays in implementing much-needed policy changes that are stifling delivery.
Many of the changes are welcome and have been called for by the house building industry. Indeed, greater transparency and standardisation in setting housing requirements should shorten local plan examinations. But, extending viability assessments into local plan assessment and policy will need better skilled local authorities and Inspectors to implement, and will inevitably lead to discord, appeals and delays to house building. And, despite all the fanfare by ministers, the pressure for greenfield housing will remain, some brownfield sites will still be uneconomic to redevelop, affordable housing levels often remain aspirational rather than realistic, and objectors and promoters will still have to argue their case in front of the local authority planners, Inspectors and local plan Examiners, rather than actually building the much-needed dwellings for everyone to live in.
Planning nirvana still lies ahead of us, yet it is still too far ahead for people trying to get on to the housing ladder or rent an affordable home now. This draft NPPF will not solve the housing crisis in England by itself
DPP Residential Team, 6th March 2018
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