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Planning News - 9 February 2017

Published: Thursday, 9th February 2017

Housing white paper: Right homes, right places; Building homes faster; Market diversification; Government vows to help people now. And more stories...

This weeks planning news in association with ThePlanner, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

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Housing white paper: Right homes, right places

The government’s housing white paper aims to simplify plan-making so it is easier for communities to produce plans and for developers to follow them.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid launched the paper today (7 February) in the House of Commons.

Fixing our broken housing market’s first chapter, ‘Planning for the right homes in the right places’ sets out measures to ensure that every part of the country has an up-to-date local plan.

Transparency on land ownership will be increased, says the paper.

Building on measures in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, the government is proposing that every authority should be covered by a plan, but will remove the expectation that they should be covered by a single local plan.

“Instead, we will set out the strategic priorities that each area should plan for, with flexibility over how they may do so.”

Further to this, the government wants to enable spatial development strategies, which would be produced by combined authorities or elected mayors, to allocate strategic sites.

Plans should start from an “honest assessment” of the housing need and local authorities should work with their neighbour so “difficult decisions are not ducked".

To make more land available, the contribution from brownfield and surplus public sector land should be maximised, “to support the regeneration of our cities, towns and villages, to support economic growth and to limit the pressure on the countryside,” states the paper.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will be amended to indicate that “great weight should be attached to the value of using suitable brownfield land within settlements for homes”.

Green belt boundaries should only be amended in exceptional circumstances and existing strong protections will be maintained.

Communities will be given a stronger voice in the design of new housing in order to improve the quality and character of new development, according to the white paper, “building on the success of neighbourhood planning”.

Additionally, better use should be made of land for housing. Higher densities, such as in urban locations where the housing demand is high, should be encouraged. Space standards will be reviewed.

Laura Edgar, The Planner.
7 February 2017

Housing white paper: Building homes faster

Measures in the government’s housing white paper seek to reduce the scope for local and neighbourhood plans to be undermined by changing the way that land supply for housing is assessed.

Fixing our broken housing market was launched by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid today (7 February). He said it represents a “bold, radical vision”.

Chapter 2 of the white paper – ‘Building homes faster’ – includes a proposal that will see a new housing delivery test ensure that local authorities and wider interests are held accountable for their role in ensuring that new homes are delivered in their area.

The test will highlight whether the number of homes being built is below target and provide a mechanism for establishing the reasons why, according to the paper. Where necessary, the test will “trigger” policy responses that aim to ensure that further land comes forward.

To transition to a housing delivery test, the government said it would use an area’s local plan, where it is up to date, to establish the appropriate baseline for assessing delivery. If there isn’t an up-to-date local plan, the government would use “published household projections for the years leading up to, and including, April 2017-March 2018 and from the financial year April 2018-March 2019, subject to consultation, the new standard methodology for assessing housing need”.

From November 2017, if housing delivery falls below 95 per cent of an authority’s annual housing requirement, the government wants the local authority to publish an action plan.

Proposals in this chapter also include boosting local authority capacity and capability to deliver, and to improve the speed and quality with which planning cases are handled.

The government has said it wants to ensure that infrastructure is provided in the right place at the right time by coordinating its investment and through the “targeting” of the £2.3 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund announced in the Autumn Statement last year.

According to the white paper, the government will support developers to build out more quickly by tackling “unnecessary delays caused by planning conditions” as well as considering a new approach to how developers contribute to infrastructure.

Laura Edgar, The Planner.
7 February 2017

Housing white paper: Market diversification

The government has laid out measures to support backing small and medium-sized builders to grow and build more homes.

This would include through the Home Building Fund, announced in October last year.

According to ‘Fixing our broken housing market’, the government’s new Accelerated Construction programme would support it in diversifying the market through partnering with small and medium-sized firms and others as development partners and contractors.

The Help to Buy equity local scheme would be pitched to small and medium-sized builders to encourage take-up, says the paper.

It also notes that the number of small builders has declined, as has the number of homes registered by them – down from 44,000 in 2007 to 18,000 in 2015.

The government want to bring forward more small sites for development, which are more easily accessed by these firms. Further to this, the Home Building Fund will provide £1 billion of short-term loan finance targeted at SMEs and custom builders to deliver up to 25,000 homes during this Parliament and £2 billion of long-term loan funding for infrastructure and large sites, creating up to 200,000 homes.

Proposals under diversifying the market also include encouraging more institutional investors into housing, including for building more homes for private rent and encouraging family friendly tenancies.

Fixing our broken housing market has also laid out support for housing associations and local authorities to build more homes and measures to boost modern methods of construction in house building through offsite manufacturing.

Laura Edgar, The Planner.
7 February 2017

Housing white paper: Government vows to help people now

The government has pledged to help people to continue support people to buy their own home through Help to Buy and starter homes.

Launched yesterday (7 February), Fixing our broken housing market states that the government intends to make clear through the National Planning Policy Framework that starter homes should be available to households that need them the most. They will be aimed at households with an income less than £80,000, and £90,000 in London.

According to the fourth chapter in the paper, ‘Helping people now’, eligible first-time buyers will be required to have a mortgage in order to buy a starter home to stop cash buyers.

The government has said that there will be a 15-year repayment period for starter homes. When a property is sold on to a new owner within this period, some or the entire discount will need to be repaid. The measure is calculated to reduce the risk of speculation.

In addition to this, the government has committed £8.6 billion for the Help to Buy equity loan scheme to 2021. The paper says the government recognises the “need to create certainty for prospective home owners and developers beyond 2021, so will work with the sector to consider the future of the scheme”.

Fixing our broken housing market proposes to open up the Affordable Homes Programme and relax restrictions on funding so that providers can build a range of homes, including affordable rent options.

Helping the most vulnerable people who need support with their housing is also listed in the chapter. The government plans to develop a sustainable and workable approach to funding supported housing.

Other measures aimed at helping people now include taking action to promote transparency and fairness for the growing number of leaseholders, and cracking down on empty homes and supporting the areas most affected by second homes. In addition, the government said it would do more to prevent homelessness by supporting households at risk before they reach crisis point as well as reducing rough sleeping.

Laura Edgar, The Planner.
8 February 2017

Neighbourhood Planning Bill: Prior approval for permitted development debated

The House of Lords’ consideration of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill continued as they debated amendments on permitted development rights and land use after planning permission has lapsed.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab) moved an amendment (14) that sought to, he said, provide the local planning authority and community with a “degree of influence in developments that have been approved by way of permitted development rights in respect of a change to residential use”.

Kennedy explained that the amendment sets out the matters for which the developer has to apply to the local planning authority to see if prior approval is required.

If not dealt with properly, “all the matters listed in the amendment could lead to inappropriate development or development that is not sustainable and does not enhance the area, potentially causing significant problems for the local community”.

Lady Cumberlege (Con), speaking on behalf of Lord Porter, said that permitted development can be a useful way of speeding up building the homes, infrastructure and communities needed.

But, she said “councils should have to consider the impact that new developments are having across an area".

"Local planning authorities and their communities," she continued, "should have a greater say on the cumulative impact of new development falling within existing permitted development rights that affects their local area.”

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con), the parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Communities and Local Government and Wales Office, stated when new permitted development rights are designed, “we work to ensure that any matters that we think require the consideration of the local planning authority are included in the prior approval contained within that right”.

He noted that certain criteria have to be considered in the prior approval process for the change of office to residential, including some of the matters in amendment 14.

Therefore he asked Kennedy to withdraw the amendment, which he did.

Kennedy then proposed amendment 15. He explained: “If planning permission lapses, the local authority may direct the use of that land for purposes relating to priorities in the local development plan or neighbourhood plan.”

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD), who proposed the amendment alongside Kennedy, said the problems the amendment sought to address were not isolated to just London and other urban areas. People in rural areas suffer “significant frustration” when planning permission has been approved but nothing happens.

Bourne said he appreciated and supported the intention the amendment sought to address, but said he thought it was not needed at the moment and that the impending housing white paper would cover the issue. Therefore he asked Kennedy to withdraw the amendment.

Bourne proposed clause 11: statements of community involvement, which he said would clarify how communities can be involved in decisions about the wider planning of their area.

“It extends the matters to be set out by a local planning authority in its statement of community involvement. This will ensure that authorities include in these statements their policies for involving their communities and others in the preliminary stages of plan-making. Specifically in relation to their functions under Sections 13 and 15 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, these include a local planning authority’s survey function and the preparation and maintenance of a local development scheme.”

Speaking about government amendments 21, 22 and 23. These, he explained, would allow the secretary of state to produce regulations that set out further matters which local planning authorities must address in statements of community involvement. They aim to ensure that the government can clarify further for communities, including neighbourhood planning groups, how they can play a role in the development of their area.

  • All three amendments were agreed, while an amended clause 11 was agreed.
  • Amendment 19 was also agreed.
  • Amendments 16, 17, 17A, 24, 25 and 27 were withdrawn.
  • Amendments 18, 20, 26 and 27A were not moved.
  • An amended clause 6 was agreed. Clauses 7, 8, 9, 10 were agreed.

The full transcript of the session can be found here.

Laura Edgar, The Planner.
6 February 2017

News round up

A round-up of planning news

Communication ‘critical’ for effective planning

Communication that clearly and consistently engages the community is critical to promoting the benefits and minimising the concerns the community might have about projects, RTPI Young Planners have heard.

Natalie Wheble, corporate communications manager at Thames Tideway Tunnel delivered a communications workshop at the RTPI Young Planners chair’s first meeting of 2017.

Participants were taken through the process of managing a major infrastructure project from a media and PR perspective. Using the Thames Tideway Tunnel project as an example, they considered how to engage with the community and ensure that their feedback effectively incorporated into the final project.

They also considered what makes a good story, the risks of promoting a story to the press – and why an audience might be interested in it.

Scottish construction regains lost ground

Expectations across the Scottish construction sector are showing signs of regaining the ground lost after the Brexit vote last year, according to the latest Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Construction Market Survey, Q4 2016.

Following a noticeable dip around the time of the EU referendum, expectation for output growth over the coming year has strengthened, said the institution. Workload expectations for Scotland have also improved.

The survey suggests a modest growth across the Scottish construction sector in the final quarter of 2016, with 7 per cent more respondents reporting an increase in total workloads.

But the institution said the comments left by respondents continue to highlight uncertainty surrounding the departure from the European Union as dampening investment and activity.

More information can be found on the RICS website.

Cornwall heliport green-lit

Cornwall Council has granted full planning permission for a new heliport on the edge of Penzance.

Planning consultancy WYG helped to secure the planning permission for Penzance Heliport Ltd.

A helicopter service to the Isles of Scilly has not run since 2012.

The new service will see flights operate through St Mary’s Airport and will also restore a direct link to Tresco. It will operate seven days a week.

The councils received more than 2,600 messages of support for the project, and just 20 objections.

Shops signed for Chester regeneration

Chester West and Chester Council has announced that has signed House of Fraser and a four-star Crown Plaza hotel to Chester Northgate, a city-centre regeneration project.

Chester Northgate is a 500,000 square feet redevelopment, located in the north-west quarter of Chester city centre, being led by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

House of Fraser has signed an agreement to anchor the development.

The Crown Plaza hotel will have 167 bedrooms and a spa, and a 600-capacity conference facility.

Plans for the regeneration of the city centre also include 70 stores, cafés and restaurants, as well as a new cultural centre, 70 homes, a six-screen Picturehouse cinema and a car park.

Plans for 1,500 homes on outskirts of Cardiff

Plans for 1,500 homes, a park-and-ride scheme, shops, offices and a school for the outskirts of Cardiff will go before planners this week.

The plans are for Creigiau, off junction 33 of the M4.

The application is for outline permission. At this stage, councillors are being asked to give permission for the homes, which would be a mix of house, flats and sheltered accommodation for the elderly.

The site is part of Cardiff City Council’s local development plan.

The planning committee will meet on Wednesday at County Hall.

Laura Edgar, The Planner.
7 February 2017