Planning legislation to support million new homes target
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The government is putting the squeeze on heel-dragging local authorities that have yet to adopt local plans.

Any council that does not have a local plan in place that sets out zones for new house-building by 2017 will have one imposed upon it, prime minister David Cameron says.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), introduced in 2012, required local authorities to publish an annual trajectory of how many new homes they plan to permit in their area, usually over a period of around 15 years. Some 18% of councils have yet to produce local plans and 35% have not fully adopted them.

The government has set a target of getting a million new homes built by 2020.

Its new Housing and Planning Bill contains measures designed to help achieve that, including:

  • a new legal duty will be placed on councils to guarantee the delivery of ‘affordable starter homes’ on new development sites of a certain size
  • automatic planning permission in principle on brownfield sites to build as many homes as possible
  • councils will be compelled to allocate land to people who want to build their own home
  • current permitted development rights to convert offices to residential will be made permanent.

The measures appear to have been warmly welcomed by the house-building industry.

Home Builders Federation chairman Stewart Baseley said: “We welcome the government’s plans to deliver on its pledge to improve home ownership opportunities for young people. Over the past 25 years building new homes has become ever more costly and complex. New entrants have struggled to join the market, output has fallen far short of demand and the housing ladder has slipped further and further out of reach for many.

“Local plans are a critical part of the planning process and it is essential they are in place if housing supply is to meet local need. Having plans in place provides certainty for both local communities and builders such that all parties understand what is to be built where and can work together to better deliver the type of developments that local people want. Ensuring Local Authorities abide by their responsibilities and put a robust plan in place will ensure more homes get built more quickly via a more constructive, less bureaucratic process.”

Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy & parliamentary affairs at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), said: “Enforcing local plans and measures to speed up delivery on brownfield sites are things surveyors have long called for, and it is good to see these now coming forward in the Bill.

“Some sites have been locked up for too long and these measures, coupled with a brownfield register and fund, will get them moving. While these new measures build on the National Planning Policy Framework and are welcome, the system needs to really pick up speed in order to deliver the vibrant property sector on which the success of our economy depends.

“The real objective here is meeting the housing challenge – or crusade as the Prime Minister put it – where we need to build across all tenures. Dispute resolution for S106 agreements will help unlock many schemes stuck in negotiation, and we look forward to working with government to implement this service. We must combine this with wider measures to increase the supply of affordable and rented properties via councils and housing associations.”

Persimmon Homes chief executive Jeff Fairburn was another fn. He said:  “We have continually supported government policy outlined in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and welcome all measures which seek to improve the operation of the planning system in order to deliver the homes the country needs, in the places they are needed where people want to live.

“The NPPF has taken time to bed in however its policies are working, barriers to sustainable development are being removed and housing output is beginning to increase. A strong locally led plan based system is key to this and the measures to be enacted in the Bill to require all areas to have a plan by 2017 are welcomed. It is hoped that devolution will speed up this process in our urban areas where much of the need is focused.

“We must continue to use land efficiently, do what we can to bring brownfield sites forward but accept that they cannot alone meet the country’s housing needs. Understanding and recording the capacity of brownfield land and doing all that can be done to simplify the process of gaining suitable planning approval is crucial if the most is to be made of this resource.

“We must explore the different types and tenures of housing that can be delivered and work hard give everyone the chance to own their own home. The initiatives under the Bill are welcomed and particularly the drive towards ensuring an increase in the number of starter homes via changes to the definition of affordable housing.

“Homebuilding is and can continue to be a key driver of the economy and the major builders have a responsibility to deliver. We will be working hard alongside government and local authorities to make this happen.”