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Planning news - 4 May 2017

Published: Thursday, 4th May 2017

Neighbourhood Planning Bill passes into law, End ‘big eight’ house builders’ dominance to fix housing market, say MPs, Planning permissions for new homes continue to rise. And more stories...

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

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Neighbourhood Planning Bill passes into law

The House of Commons and the House of Lords have agreed on the wording and provisions in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, which has now received Royal Assent.

The bill became law on 27 April 2017.

The Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 contains new powers for the government to direct two or more local authorities to develop joint plans. County councils will also have the power to prepare plans where districts do not have one.

It also includes restrictions on powers to impose planning conditions, including on local authority use of pre-commencement conditions, which now require written consent from the developer to be enforced.

On Friday 28 April, Parliament approved the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No2) Order 2017, which will see permitted development rights that allow demolition of buildings used as class A4 “drinking establishments” will cease from 23 May 2017.

The regulations meet a requirement in section 15 of the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 that a development order incorporating pub protection measures in the act be brought forward as “soon as reasonably practicable”.

3 May 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

End ‘big eight’ house builders’ dominance to fix housing market, say MPs

The government must end the dominance of large house builders if it is to fix the UK’s broken housing market, according to MPs.

The eight largest companies build more than half of all new homes, said the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee, and the government should support small and medium-sized builders to ensure a competitive market.

It called for improved access to land and finance for smaller builders, with the government reducing the risk for them by preparing sites for development by providing infrastructure and planning permissions.

“The housing market is broken, we are simply not building enough homes,” said committee chair Clive Betts. “Smaller builders are in decline and the sector is over-reliant on an alarmingly small number of high-volume developers, driven by commercial self-interest and with little incentive to build any quicker.

“If we are to build the homes that the country so desperately needs, for sale and for rent, then this dominance must end.”

The committee also called for increased building by local authorities and housing associations to help protect the sector against economic downturns. Borrowing caps on councils’ housing revenue accounts are limiting their ability to build and should be raised or removed in the areas where housing affordability is worst.

The government also needs to tackle the demand for more rented homes, give more help to modern methods of construction and make improvements in further education to tackle the growing skills shortage – described by MPs as the biggest challenge facing the sector.

They noted that development land market is so competitive that developers pay inflated prices and seek to recover costs by increasing density, reducing affordable housing and building slowly to keep demand high. A successor Commons committee should examine the case for public intervention.

MPs also voiced concern that the government’s housing white paper weakens protection for green belts in the National Planning Policy Framework as “exceptional circumstances” for development could now include any local authority not building enough homes. They urge the government to publish clear guidelines.

The RTPI is mentioned a number of times in the report, with head of policy Richard Blyth illustrating the scale of recent reductions in resources in local authority planning departments.

According to the report, the reduced resources of planning departments are a factor in many of the other challenges identified in the report, such as the prioritising of larger sites over multiple small sites, the time taken to process planning applications and the time taken to negotiate with developers.

It states that the RTPI identify the issue as being "less of a skills gap, and more of a capacity gap, and explain that 'in the majority of cases, local planning services are surviving on the goodwill and professional integrity of the officers, but this may not be sustainable''.

The RTPI’s work to encourage more people to pursue a career in planning has been welcomed by the committee.

The report states that the role of planning is “fundamental to the success of communities,” and council leaders and chief executives must show leadership and support to recognise this and empower innovation by planners. It recommends that local authorities “must show a commitment to the planning function and ensure there are incentives and support in place for employees that are seeking further training and formal planning qualifications, such as those facilitated by the RTPI”.

Capacity in the homebuilding industry can be found here.

2 May 2017
Huw Morris, The Planner

Planning permissions for new homes continue to rise

The number of homes receiving planning permission continues to rise and approached 300,000 last year, according to a report.

Latest research by consultants Glenigan and the Home Builders Federation (HBF) reveals 293,127 homes secured granted permission in 2016.

This is the highest yearly total recorded since figures compiled by Glenigan began in 2006, with plot permission numbers now exceeding the pre-crash peak by around 15 per cent.

However, the number of sites securing permission fell by 11 per cent compared with 2015, from 19,600 to 17,500. Glenigan said this indicates that permissions are being granted on larger strategic sites.

The research argued that because of the infrastructure requirements associated with larger sites, these permissions tend to take longer to start being delivered and tend to be built over a longer period.

The HBF said local authorities must be realistic about the rate at which large sites can deliver and do not expect one large site to address their housing requirements.

The average size of sites gaining permission has increased by 16 per cent in the past 18 months as local authorities focus their attention on larger sites. Glenigan said this highlights problems facing small housebuilders in finding suitable sites and progressing them through the planning system.

The report cant be found here (pdf).

2 May 2017
Huw Morris, The Planner

Battersea developers to delay affordable homes delivery

Rising construction and labour costs are forcing the developer behind London’s Battersea Power Station (BPS) to delay some affordable homes on the landmark scheme.

Battersea Power Station Development Corporation cited “wider economic changes” for the delays.

Under a deed of variation to the section 106 agreement submitted to the London Borough of Wandsworth, 103 affordable homes will now be relocated to a later phase when another 147 homes are scheduled to be built. The 103 homes represent around a sixth of the total affordable homes in the project.

To compensate, 386 affordable homes will be brought forward into the project’s next phase.

“The proposed modifications will reflect the specific circumstances of the site, reducing restraint and encouraging the continued development of the BPS,” said the planning document for the amendment.

“However, as a result of its uniqueness, the project faces a number of challenges which include both site-specific and wider economic changes which are placing increasing pressure on its continued successful delivery. As a result, the delivery priorities for the project have been reconsidered.”

26 April 2017
Huw Morris, The Planner

Report: Planning system delays frustrating small builders

Small firms are being driven away from housebuilding because of delays and rising costs in the planning system.

This is in turn slowing down attempts to tackle Britain’s housing crisis.

Research conducted by the National House Building Council (NHBC) Foundation suggests that small builders are experiencing “deeply frustrating” delays. It notes that a third have waited for more than a year for planning permission from a local authority.

In addition, nearly 80 per cent say they have experienced a significant hike in planning-related fees in the past two years.

Small House Builders and Developers: Current Challenges to Growth considers the experiences of nearly 500 companies who construct less than 10 homes a year.

The report, and others by industry professionals before it, including the Federation of Master Builders’ CEO Brian Berry, notes the decline over the past decade of the number of small and medium-sized housebuilders.

The report also suggests that the lack of available land at a suitable prices has become more of a problem for small builders with 37 per cent identifying it as a serious obstacle to growth for them.

The government announced in its housing white paper in February 2017 that it wants to bring forward more smalls sites that are more easily accessible to smaller firms.

Neil Smith, head of research and innovation at NHBC, said: "While the planning process is recognised as a necessary control, small housebuilders and developers continue to express considerable frustration with it. The increasing complexity, time taken to achieve a decision, and the unpredictability and inconsistency within the planning process are slowing the delivery of new homes and, in some cases, causing companies to leave this market.”

He said greater certainty and more standardised approaches, clarity concerning the fees and tariffs, coupled with a more responsive service from planning departments “would increase predictability and significantly help to speed up the process, thereby increasing the number of homes built”.

The RTPI has “long argued” that more needs to be done to support small to medium-sized builders, including offering ready permitted sites to them, said Richard Blyth, head of policy and research at the RTPI.

“We must get them building again if we are to tackle this nation’s housing shortage, and under-resourced planning departments is one of the issues. There are also many other ways in which small and medium builders could be given more work, such as building homes for councils, housing associations and even central government, without the need for planning permissions.”

Small and large sites should work together, said Blyth.

“Both are needed to generate developer contributions for much-needed infrastructure. However, delivering infrastructure is often harder to do if you have a spray of smaller sites than if you have one big one. On the large sites there have been some very impressive deliveries of infrastructure, which have come as a consequence of economies of scale.”

* The NHBC Foundation was established in 2006 and aims to deliver research and practical guidance to help the housebuilding industry address the challenges of delivering 21st century new homes.

3 May 2017
Laura Edgar, The Planner

News round up

A round up of planning news

Khan pulls plug on-garden-bridge

London mayor Sadiq Khan has effectively scrapped the highly controversial Garden Bridge across the Thames.

Khan said he would not provide financial guarantees for building the bridge, citing continuing a £70 million shortfall in funding and a lack of land use agreements for the scheme, which had been championed by the actress Joanna Lumley.

Planning permission for the bridge, from Temple on the north side of the Thames to the South Bank, is due to expire in December.

The bridge was backed by previous mayor Boris Johnson and former chancellor George Osborne, who committed £60 million of public funding to the project with the balance to be raised from private and corporate donations.

Khan had commissioned Labour MP and former public accounts committee chair Margaret Hodge to review whether the scheme was value for money. She recommended scrapping it earlier this month to stop wasting any more public money.

The Planner

Barking enforcement officers praised as rogue landlord faces huge payout

Planning enforcement officers at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham have been praised for their role in successfully prosecuting a rogue landlord and securing a massive fine.

The Planner

Javid retreats on Aylesbury estate order

Communities secretary Sajid Javid has overturned his previous decision not to grant a compulsory purchase order (CPO) for the regeneration of Southwark’s Aylesbury estate.

The Planner

Police protection for fracking site risks fight against crime

The government has rejected a plea by Lancashire Constabulary to cover the huge cost of protecting a fracking site, prompting claims that this will undermine the fight against crime.

The Planner

Clarion calls for massive regeneration investment in Merton

The UK’s largest social landlord has unveiled a £1 billion investment and development programme on housing estates in South London.

The Planner

Reading approves Royal Elm Park development

The £500 million Royal Elm Park landmark development has been approved by Reading Borough Council.

The Planner

New mayor faces call to tackle West of England housing crisis

Social landlords and homebuilders have joined forces to call on the West of England’s first mayor to commit to tackling the region’s housing crisis.

The Planner

Battersea developers to delay affordable homes delivery

Rising construction and labour costs are forcing the developer behind London’s Battersea Power Station (BPS) to delay some affordable homes on the landmark scheme.

The Planner

Application unveiled for 4,500-home urban extension to Corby

An outline application has been submitted for a 4,500-home urban extension near Corby.

The Planner