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  • Gail Collins

Government consults on NPPF reforms

On 5 March 2018 a draft revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The NPPF sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and how these should be applied, providing a framework within which locally-prepared plans for housing and other development can be produced. The Draft Consultation Document can be viewed here.

The Government has billed the NPPF revisions as “…providing a comprehensive approach for planners, developers and councils to build more homes, more quickly, in the places people want to live. Councils and developers will now be required to work with community groups to ensure those affected by new developments will have a say on how they look and feel.”

A range of other documents was also released, including draft Planning Practice Guidance, draft Planning Guidance for Viability, Housing Delivery Test (Draft Measurement Rule Book), Supporting housing delivery through developer contributions and Government response to the housing White Paper consultation: Fixing our broken housing market.

The proposed revisions to the NPPF, the first in 6 years, are considered crucial by the Government for the reform of the planning system as a fundamental tool in delivering housing. The reforms propose to maximise the use of land whilst strengthening protections for Green Belt. The proposed revisions implement around 80 previously announced reforms. The main focus of the review is on housing-related issues, in particular on considerations of how to improve and increase delivery of the proposed additional 300,000 homes per year target, and also how to increase affordable housing.

The revised NPPF focuses on the following general changes:

Cooperation Local authorities are to be encouraged to work together, setting out objectively assessed needs for development, including unmet need from neighbouring areas, unless particular policies provide a strong reason for restricting the overall scale, type or distribution of development. Maximising the use of brownfield land

Local authorities must fully examine “all other reasonable options” for meeting their identified development needs before releasing Green Belt. More freedom will be given to them to make the most of existing brownfield land to build homes that maximise density. The re-use of redundant land for housing will be encouraged, such as under-utilised retail or industrial space, with more flexibility given to extend upwards on existing blocks of flats and houses as well as shops and offices.

Environment There will be a requirement to ensure developments result in a net gain to the environment where possible. Protection to ancient woodland has been increased.

Housing The Government’s objective is to deliver more affordable homes, including sites dedicated for first time buyers, build to rent homes, affordable homes for key workers and adapted homes for older people.

Revisions include: -

  • A presumption in favour of sustainable development will be triggered where a Council cannot demonstrate a 5 year housing land supply or delivery has been substantially below the housing requirement over the previous 3 years.

  • A standard methodology for assessing housing need will be implemented.

  • The revisions state that unless the need for Starter homes is already being met within the authority’s area, sites should be outside existing settlements, on land which is not already allocated for housing.

  • Promotion of smaller housing sites, with local authorities ensuring that at least 20% of the sites identified for housing in their plans are of half a hectare or less.

Design Introducing new quality design standards. The Government also expects minimum density standards to be used in town and city centres and around transport hubs in areas where there is a shortage of land for meeting identified development needs.

The revised NPPF is being consulted upon until 10 May 2018.

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