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Planning news - 15 February 2024

Presumption to be applied to brownfield land following review of London Plan

An overarching planning assumption in favour of development on brownfield land will be introduced across the capital following a review of the London Plan. 

Housing secretary Michael Gove wrote to the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan yesterday (12 February) advising him of the move, which will not apply to the green belt or Metropolitan Open Land. 

The measure will be extended across England, and Gove has instructed every local authority in the country to prioritise brownfield developments and to be less bureaucratic and more flexible in applying policies that “halt” housebuilding on brownfield land. Changes to the NPPF are to be consulted on. 

In December1, Gove announced that he had commissioned an independent review of aspects of the London Plan. Giving a speech in London to launch the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and announce a local planning authority performance league table, he insisted that changes to the London plan were needed “if our capital is to get the homes its people need to flourish and thrive”.  

The London Plan review was carried out by Christopher Katkowski KC, Councillor James Jamieson, Dr  Paul Monaghan, and Dr Wei Yang. 

They acknowledged that London has a “significant” housing crisis because the supply of new homes has not kept pace with demand, jobs and population growth. 

“The current London Plan sets a capacity-based 10-year target of 52,300 homes each year from 2019/20 to 2028/29, within a context of its assessment of need of around 66,000 homes per annum,” states the report. “Four years into that 10-year period, when measured against the cumulative target, there has been an undersupply of more than 60,000 homes, more than a year of equivalent supply.” 

The group also highlighted the results of the Housing Delivery Test; only six local planning authorities met their housing targets up to 2021/22. More recent Greater London Authority (GLA) data for 2022/23 suggests only four are meeting the target. 

Affordable housing starts have seen an increase but, overall, there has been “a downward trend in housebuilding which, if it continues, would result in a shortfall of more than 150,000 homes – equivalent to 29 per cent of the total target – by 2028/29." 

According to the report, public and private sector stakeholders are clear that the London Plan “is not the sole source of the problem”. Wider macroeconomic conditions, fire safety, infrastructure constraints, statutory consultees, viability difficulties, and planning resourcing pressures have all contributed. 

But the group believes that there is “persuasive” evidence that “the combined effect of the multiplicity of policies in the London Plan now works to frustrate rather than facilitate the delivery of new homes, not least in creating very real challenges to the viability of schemes”. 

Evidence given to the group suggests that policy goals in the London Plan are being applied incorrectly – as ‘musts’ rather than ‘shoulds’. 

It identifies that a policy mechanism intended to assist applicants and decision-makers in navigating a path to boost the housing supply is missing from the London Plan strategy. 

The group considers that “the addition to the London Plan of a strong presumption in favour of residential development on brownfield sites would be an effective and worthwhile way of making it much more likely that the plan will facilitate the delivery of the number of new homes which London has the capacity to provide. An alternative (or meanwhile) course would be issuing a written ministerial statement and/or an addition to the Planning Practice Guidance which sets out a presumption along similar lines”. 

The local planning authorities that will need to apply the presumption are those whose net housing completions since 2019/20 have fallen below the cumulative annualised total of their 10-year target. 

Where the presumption applies, it means granting planning permission “as quickly as possible unless the benefits of doing so would be significantly and demonstrably outweighed by any adverse impacts which would arise from not according with policies in this plan”. 

In applying the presumption, "substantial weight" is to be given to the benefits of delivering homes. 

In his letter to the mayor of London, Gove explains that given the importance of delivering homes in cities, “where there also remains some persistent under-delivery”, there is a benefit to applying the recommendation more broadly across England. 

Christopher Katkowski KC, the lead reviewer of the London Plan, said: “I am delighted to see the idea which I together with my colleagues on the London Plan Review came up with of a planning policy presumption in favour of delivering new homes on brownfield sites being taken forward on a wider scale as part of a suggested change to the NPPF. The inspiration for the brownfield presumption came from the NPPF in the first place and so it is good to see the idea being brought back to its roots as an additional lever to encourage the delivery of new homes. I see this as a worthwhile and welcome change." 

Gove intends to consult on changing two policies in the NPPF, after which he wants to introduce them “as soon as possible”. 

The first change seeks to “empower decision-makers to take a more proportionate approach to applying policies or guidance in relation to internal layout of development, giving more weight to the benefits of delivering as many homes as possible”. 

Gove wants to make a change to the Housing Delivery Test, “whereby all authorities subject to the housing need urban uplift will be subject to a presumption in favour of sustainable development on brownfield land should they not deliver at least 95 per cent of their assessed need”. 

The consultation begins today (13 February) and closes on 26 March. 

Gove also uses the letter to notify Khan that he is seeking views on whether changes are required to the threshold at which a residential planning application is referable to the mayor. This is currently set at 150 homes or more. 

In a statement on the UK Government’s website, Gove said: “Today marks another important step forward in our Long-Term Plan for Housing, taking a brownfield first approach to deliver thousands of new homes where people want to live and work, without concreting over the countryside. Our new brownfield presumption will tackle under-delivery in our key towns and cities – where new homes are most needed to support jobs and drive growth.” 

The brownfield land policy consultation can be found here on the UK Government website.   

The London Plan Review report can be found here  and the housing secretary's letter to the mayor of London can be found here  on the UK Government website. 

The government announced that legislation had been laid in Parliament today (13 February) to extend current permitted development rights (PDRs), so that commercial buildings of any size can be converted into new homes. This includes shops and offices.   

Also, the government is consulting on proposals that would see more new extensions or large loft conversions freed from the need to seek planning permission. It closes on 9 April and can be found here on the UK Government website.   


Paul Wakefield, planning partner at law firm, Shakespeare Martineau, said: “Interestingly, in the announcement, the government once again seeks to draw a distinction between brownfield and greenbelt, suggesting that the one be prioritised in favour of the other. This is a false equivalence, as the numerous brownfield sites within the greenbelt testify. 

“However, the content of the consultation doesn’t quite match the rhetoric, and instead simply focuses on delivering increased density on brownfield sites, and euphemistically invites local planning authorities to ‘take a flexible approach to applying planning policies or guidance relating to daylight and sunlight and internal layouts of development’, whilst also proposing a presumption in favour of brownfield sites in major towns and cities. 

“There are two aspects to this: the first is that there are relatively few greenfield sites in the major towns and cities already, and as such the majority of development there is already focussed on brownfield sites. With this in mind, it’s not clear how much these proposals will change things, although further incentivising such development will likely be welcomed by developers. 

“Secondly, brownfield redevelopment is more expensive, which means that there are inevitably viability challenges which come from developing brownfield sites, and this often has a consequence for local authorities who have to make concessions on matters such as affordable housing provision, or other infrastructure impacts. Given the troubled finances in many local authorities, this may actually place an increased burden on councils whose finances are already stretched to breaking point, and which may mean that we see the development of accommodation which just meets the minimum acceptable living standards, with density seemingly the principal driver, at the expense of place making. 

“Density done well, in the right location, can be a huge positive. However, done poorly it can create significant social problems. As such, the need for good planning remains paramount.” 

CPRE head of policy and planning Paul Miner commented: "We welcome the government’s proposals to encourage developers to build on urban brownfield land. Now we need a proper brownfield-first policy too. Without one we will continue to see a chronic lack of genuinely affordable housing or homes for social rent in rural areas. 

"There are enough shovel-ready brownfield sites in the UK for 1.2 million new homes. We hope that today’s announcement will help to realise their potential. We have concerns, however, that the proposed ‘presumption in favour’ will make it harder for local authorities to negotiate the provision of sufficient levels of genuinely affordable housing or the required wider infrastructure.   

"We need to build communities with a genuine mix of social housing and low cost homes for sale. Without them, the housing crisis will remain unsolved."   

Peter Hardy, Co-head of Living (Housing) at Addleshaw Goddard, said: "This will certainly be a welcome boost to development but we need to see even bigger commitments by the government. If the government wants to demonstrate that it is serious about increasing housing supply, there needs to be radical reform. Not everyone will be happy with this, of course, but at this point only major change will bring us close to the number of new homes that are needed. 

"Town and city centre developments will benefit from existing infrastructure provisions, but only to an extent. Who will fund the additional school and health centre places required by the new residents? 

"Gove has once again said there is no plan to build on the green belt. But much green belt land is poor quality so there is a strong argument to be more selective and boost decent re-wilded green land whilst using the poor quality land for housing and other infrastructure." 

Craig Pettit, planning director at Marrons, noted that "the types of homes considered acceptable in London may not be elsewhere, moreover, there are towns and cities across the country that benefit from greenfield and green belt development to assist in the growth of local infrastructure the local economy". 

"The government needs to recognise that it’s not a one size fits all approach and a balanced approach to economic and housing growth must be advocated. Green belt development has the ability in many locations, where done sustainably, to introduce far more benefits than brownfield development.” 

Claire Dutch, co-head of planning at law firm Ashurst, said: "Another raft of proposals to boost the supply of housing has emerged from the government this morning. The flagship policy – encouraging residential development on brownfield land - is nothing new. The government has added bells and whistles to strengthen the policy which at first glance is helpful. But the new proposals come within weeks of a revised NPPF which states that urban densification should not happen if the uplift is out of character with the existing area. Mixed messages continue. 

"The government continues to single mindedly focus on more brownfield development as the panacea to solve the housing crisis whilst the green belt remains sacrosanct." 

Ritchie Clapson CEngMIStructE, co-founder of propertyCEO, said: “Today’s announcement underlines the importance of converting unused brownfield sites which could unlock up to 1.2 million new homes right across the country, according to countryside charity CPRE. But simply removing restrictions will do little to solve the housing crisis unless other key issues are addressed. 

“The vast majority of brownfield conversion projects are too small to be attractive to large housebuilders. But they're perfect for SME builders – a group who previously accounted for over 30 per cent of all development in the UK but who now represent just 12 per cent. The government needs to be doing a lot more to encourage landlords and other solo entrepreneurs to take on these smaller development projects, otherwise they simply won't happen." 

13 February 2023 
Laura Edgar, The Planner 

BNG requirements now in force – but gains will not be ‘comfortably achievable’

All major housing developments in England are required to deliver at least a 10 per cent biodiversity net gain (BNG) from today (12 February).

The regulations make England the first country in the world to enforce BNG as a legal requirement.

However, a survey of land promoters and developers found that just 7 per cent believe that the requirements are “comfortably achievable”.

Of the 42 land promoters and developers surveyed, 45 per cent felt the principles are “somewhat achievable”, while 43 per cent said fulfilment would be “very challenging”. 

The research was conducted by national green space management charity the Land Trust, in partnership with the Land Promoters & Developer Federation (LPDF) and the Home Builders Federation (HBF).

Of the respondents, 95 per cent support the launch of BNG regulations, with 5 per cent in opposition.

This survey, carried out from 1 November–1 December 2023, builds on research carried out in August 20222.  It again asked respondents what they consider to be the biggest challenges in implementation and delivery of BNG.

BNG was introduced in the Environment Act 2021. It forms part of the government's plans to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030 while helping to create more beautiful communities and deliver new homes.

As with the 2022 survey, this recent poll found that the availability of on-site land to deliver biodiversity requirements was the biggest challenge for land promoters and developers, with 88 citing this as a concern.

The second most common concern was the impact BNG would have on the overall viability of a site at 69 per cent while 62 per cent are concerned about the provision of “appropriate administration resource and skill set within the local planning authority”.

Other challenges cited include:

52 per cent - The availability of land to deliver offsite BNG;

48 per cent - The cost to the developer;

43 per cent - The availability of appropriate management bodies to deliver BNG;

40 per cent - The availability of third-party credits;

36 per cent - Delivering BNG alongside other legal requirements; and

31 per cent - The 30 years’ delivery of BNG. 

Alan Carter, chief executive at the Land Trust, said: “As the wider industry gets to grips with the practicalities of the regulations and begins to understand their impact on housing delivery, it seems clear there will need to be flexibility in approach with a tailored, partnership solution for each development, whether BNG fulfilment is on or off-site."

According to the poll, 37 per cent said their organisation has already started rolling out a biodiversity policy or strategy on-site, and 42 per cent of respondents said their organisation has incorporated BNG into its ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) strategy.  

Of the respondents, 83 per cent said it was either very likely (33 per cent) or likely (50 per cent) that their organisation would need to go off-site to fulfil BNG obligations, compared with 79 per cent of respondents in 2022.

More than one in five (21 per cent) land promoters and developers said they are already experiencing a shortage in supply of biodiversity units, whereas 48 per cent said they expect there to be a shortage in the future. Just 12 per cent said they are not currently experiencing a shortage in biodiversity units, with one in 10 saying they were confident there wouldn’t be a shortage in the future.

Respondents were also asked what they thought would be compromised as a result of BNG regulations: 81 per cent are concerned about the overall viability of a development. This was followed by open green space for public access (45 per cent) and affordable housing delivery (43 per cent). 

Phill Bamford, policy director at the LPDF, commented: “Whether the issue is the ability to provide BNG on-site, the availability of offsite solutions, the availability and cost of credits, or the resources and skills set of local planning authorities, all have the potential to lead to increased costs and further delays in an already overstretched and overburdened planning system. The impact on SME housebuilders is going to be particularly significant, especially as the delivery of BNG for smaller sites is far more likely to involve off-site solutions.

“However, the sector has positively embraced the principles of BNG and will continue to strive towards delivering high-quality and well-designed places that both protect and benefit biodiversity. We encourage the government to continue its engagement with the sector, to monitor and review the implementation of BNG whilst remaining open to making improvements to the process where and when they are needed.”

Sam Stafford, planning director at the HBF, added: Whilst the developers of larger sites have been increasingly including BNG on their developments, for smaller sites, where it is not possible to deliver on-site solutions, there is a reliance on off-site credits, the availability of which is a challenge in some areas, with the market still in its infancy.

“We also need to ensure there is sufficient capacity in local authority planning departments to manage BNG. Delays in the planning process are already a major constraint on development. BNG adds further complexity to the process and without adequate resourcing, further delays are inevitable.”    

To help local planning authorities integrate BNG at a local level, the government highlighted that £10.6 million of funding is being committed this financial year to "help local authorities recruit and expand ecologist teams, investing in green jobs and increasing capacity to create new wildlife-rich habitats alongside developments".

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “Biodiversity net gain will help us deliver the beautiful homes the country needs, support wildlife and create great places for people to live.

“This government is going further and faster for nature, since 2010 we have restored an area for nature larger than the size of Dorset, banned microplastics and set ambitious targets to halt biodiversity decline.

“This vital tool builds on our work to reverse the decline in nature and for everyone to live within a 15-minute walk of a green space or water and will transform how development and nature can work together to benefit communities.”

Delivering Mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain can be found on the Land Trust website3


Chair of Natural England Tony Juniper commented: “If we are to halt and reverse the decline of wildlife in line with our ambitious national targets then it will be vital to ensure that new habitats are created to compensate those being lost to developments.

“Biodiversity net gain is a key moment on our path to halting the decline of nature, enabling developers to make a positive contribution through creating new habitats, increasing access to green spaces, and building healthy and resilient places for people to live and work.

“Many developers are already using biodiversity net gain in new developments and recognising the benefits for people and nature.”

Angus Walker, a Partner and planning law specialist at BDB Pitmans, said: “Developers have no doubt been rushing to submit their planning applications to beat the 12 February implementation date. We can now expect planning applications to fall temporarily as developers and local authorities get to grips with the unfamiliar regime.

“The BNG register also opens today and there is an initial shortage of registered offsite land making the purchase of expensive credits more likely, which run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. This adds further cost to already stretched developers, and smaller developers will feel this hardest.

“We can also expect to see a new source of planning objections, with developers being accused of under-scoring existing habitats and over-scoring proposed enhancements, exacerbated by a lack of trained ecologists needed to score those habitats.

“There is also a chronic lack of local authority resources to monitor and enforce habitat enhancement and maintenance. As with all new regulations there will be early teething problems and criticisms, but I am confident that these will eventually settle down.”

Philp Alfandary, a partner and corporate tax specialist at BDB Pitmans, added: “The tax position around BNG payments remains unclear in many respects. Landowners receiving payment from developers need to consider whether that payment is taxed on day one or deferred over the 30-year period, and the impact that might have on the deductibility of costs incurred in maintaining those habitats over that 30-year period.

“There are also questions around potential capital gains tax liabilities. If the habitat has been created to allow a landowner to sell BNG credits, will HMRC argue that it is a trade and subject to income tax? And will any likely increase in the value of the land trigger a potential capital gains tax liability if sold?”

Raising BNG ambition

The Wildlife Trusts express concern that BNG is "not currently on track to play its part in addressing the severity of the continuing nature crisis", with current ambition too low.

In a briefing published on Thursday 8 February, the trusts outlined a series of measures to raise that ambition, including:

  • Developers and local authorities go beyond the minimum requirements and aim for at least a 20 per cent gain for nature.
  • The government should change policy and guidance so the sale of excess biodiversity units is prevented.
  • No further broadening of permitted development rules and government to provide policy guidance to ensure BNG for permitted development is made a matter for local consideration rather than a blanket exemption.
  • Local planning authorities should be resourced with the right level of skills and capacity across departments to oversee the BNG process to ensure it is properly implemented, monitored and enforced.
  • BNG to be ‘additional’ to existing mechanisms for nature conservation and enhancement.

Rachel Hackett, planning and development manager at The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The Wildlife Trusts are determined to set the gold standard for BNG and to demonstrate what BNG should and can achieve both for nature and climate. We are wrestling with two inextricably linked crises – helping nature to recover is fundamental to addressing climate change. So it’s extremely disappointing to see that some of the rules and guidelines for BNG fall short of their intended ambition and we will continue to call for regulations and guidance to be more effective.

“Given the uncertainties surrounding habitat creation, a gain of 10 per cent will at best hold the tide against nature lost to development and provide a contingency to ensure no overall loss of biodiversity. But if we want to secure real recovery for nature, we need to see at least 20 per cent gain – and for government to reverse the decision to enable developers to sell on excess units.”

Read A New Era for Nature Positive Development on The Wildlife Trusts website (pdf)4.  

12 February 2024
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Gove will shine ‘a pitiless’ light on local authority planning performance – while seeking to change appreciation of its role

Housing secretary Michael Gove has told the House of Lords Built Environment Committee that his department will shine a ‘more pitiless light on local authority performance’ - while accepting that the work of public sector planners is too often underappreciated.

Gove made this remark during a section of the proceedings on planning resources, in which he also expressed his desire to see the expertise of local planners appreciated.

Baroness Janke highlighted RTPI research that found that 80 per cent of local planning departments do not currently have the staff to meet their workload demands.

She questioned what the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) is doing to evaluate the impact of additional funding and also what plans there are to help the recruitment and retention of planners, “many of whom have moved to the private sector where salaries are significantly higher?”.

Gove listed government measures including an increase in the amount being made available to local authorities “specifically for enhancing the planning department through the planning delivery grant”, which he described as “one of the most oversubscribed funds that we’ve dedicated”.

He also mentioned the increase in planning fees. “We've also made it clear that statutory consultees and others have to have their fee arrangements changed in order to put money into the system. How will we monitor it? We're going to have, not just league tables showing how well local authorities are doing – and they already exist in a way in how the Housing Delivery Test is met – but we’ll have more honest league tables. We’ll be shining a more pitiless light on local authority performance in order to see which of them are performing well.”

Gove added that he was committed to changing the perception of planners, telling the committee that he had heard from people within the profession that they feel it “has been denigrated” and is “underappreciated”.

“I think it is sometimes the case in some local authorities that the expertise of planners is not always appreciated, and I want to change that.”

In answer to Lady Janke’s question about whether the comprehensive resources and skills strategy promised in the 2020 Planning for the Future white paper will be produced and be adequately resourced, Gove emphasised that planning had been prioritised for additional support.

“We have been working with the RTPI and others to ensure we have an approach towards skills and education in this area that will encourage more people into the profession and enhance the delivery of a pipeline of skilled planners overall. And yes, there is more that can be done.”

When pressed on the skills strategy, Gove replied: “We will come back to this committee with such an outlook.”

Nutrient neutrality rules ‘inflexible’

On nutrient neutrality, Lord Best questioned whether primary legislation was still part of the plan to address it rather than continue with a moratorium on housebuilding.

Gove noted that the government had sought to introduce an amendment in the autumn of 2023 to what was at the time the levelling up and regeneration bill, which the Lords rejected5. Although keen to bring forward primary legislation, there wasn’t space in the “congested” King’s Speech6 last November, he said. 

“That doesn't mean that we have been idle,” said Gove. “We've been working in order to ensure that we can provide more extensive mitigation, both to ensure that a market of mitigation can become more mature and also to use public money to help that as well.”

Lord Best brought up a Home Builders Federation (HBF) figure of 140,000 homes not being built as a result of current nutrient neutrality rules. He questioned whether this was broadly right or “an exaggeration, as some people have told us”.

“It is difficult to be precise,” answered Gove. “We use the figure of around 100,000. Because again, with no disrespect to the HBF, we thought it better to be cautious in that estimate. The work they have done reflects the direct experience of their members; there is no reason to believe it is anything other than robust, but we wanted to err on the side of caution.”

Nutrient neutrality issues are affecting 74 local authorities. Nutrient pollution is an urgent problem for freshwater habitats and estuaries that are home to wetland birds, fish, and insects. Increased levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, for example, can speed the growth of certain plants, which disrupts natural processes and damages wildlife.

In 2018, ‘Dutch N’ came before the European Court of Justice, which ruled that articles 6(2) and 6(3) of the EU Habitats Directive, as implemented in the UK by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, should require that new development affecting Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) achieve nutrient neutrality.

Natural England 7responded by revising guidance for local authorities on how to conduct an appropriate assessment of all housing applications to guard against nutrient-related problems. Developers are expected to mitigate or offset pollution.

During the session, Lady Eaton noted that people are concerned, on the back of nutrient neutrality, that other issues like air pollution could arise.

Gove argued that the current application of nutrient neutrality rules “is inflexible”.

“It hits development and it doesn't deal effectively with the real problem, which is with water companies and with some farming practices.”

Now outside of the EU, the UK has the freedom to change this, said Gove, who explained how the direct application of each of these regulations must be looked at to see how they might be improved.

Chair of the committee, Lord Moylon, pointed out the “devastating effect” that nutrient neutrality regulations are having on small builders, who operate in one area or county and can’t suddenly pop up in another, unlike large national housebuilding companies that “can reallocate resources, to some extent, at least”.

In the past 20 years, continued Moylon, “the number of new homes built by small builders has fallen from 40 per cent of the total to close to 10 per cent”.

“We’re close to extinction for the small building sector, despite the valuable contribution that they in principle are able to make. Does it give you a cause for concern that it might be one of the outcomes of the policies the government is pursuing?”

Gove admitted that it did, highlighting how, among factors, there has been a significant fall in the number of small firms since the 2008 financial crash.

“If you're a big volume builder, you're automatically going to be more resilient, automatically going to be able to pay more for the sorts of people who can help you through the planning system, and automatically, as you quite rightly point out, more able to find mitigation sites and to pay for them. That is one of the reasons why I was so keen that we tackle a nutrient neutrality moratorium through primary legislation, and it's one of the reasons why we've made money available to local authorities, and why working with Defra in some areas as I mentioned, like Poole and Stodmarsh.”

8 February 2024
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Small builder workloads decline further but materials costs ease

Small builders reported a fall in enquiries for new work during the fourth quarter of 2023, but they noted that there was a wane in material prices. 

According to the Federation of Master Builders's (FMB) State of Trade Survey for Q4 2023, 47 per cent of its members saw a fall in enquiries for new work at the end 2023 

This led to a 15 per cent fall in workloads.   

However, following a period of rising material prices, fewer companies had to increase their prices for building work. The survey found that 63 per cent of members reported that material costs increased in Q4 2023, down from 71 per cent in Q3. 

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “2023 was undoubtedly a difficult year for small building companies with falling enquiries and workloads starting to drop. Significantly, conditions for the repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI) sector, which had been the main driver for construction output, worsened for the first time. 

“The good news from our survey is the reported easing of material price rises with fewer Master Builder companies having to increase their prices for building work. However, with house building rates continuing to remain low and the recent fall in RMI activity an alarming downward trend is emerging for small builders, which will need to be addressed in the upcoming Budget.” 

The survey also found: 

  • There was a decrease in total workload in the UK, enquiries and employment over Q4 of 2023, in all sectors being worked on by small builders, including repair, maintenance, and improvement. 
  • Overall, difficulty in recruitment has slightly decreased, however more than quarter of members report a decrease in employees. 
  • 36 per cent of members are struggling to hire carpenters. 
  • 34 per cent of members are struggling to hire bricklayers. 
  • Just under half of FMB members report that jobs are delayed because they are struggling to hire skilled workers. 
  • The impact of increased outgoings has led to 66 per cent of members increasing the prices they charge, with just under half reporting that the business is on track to make a loss or fall below expected margins. 
  • One in five report that they are restricting hiring new staff as a consequence of increased outgoings. 
  • In Wales there was a decrease in overall workloads, dropping from 14 per cent in Q3 2023 to -28 per cent in Q4. 
  • There was a decline in enquiries in Wales, with a decrease from a net change of 0 per cent to -33 per cent on balance. 
  • Scotland reported a slight decrease in overall workloads, dropping from 8 per cent in Q3 2023 to 7 per cent in this quarter. 
  • In Scotland, there was a decline in enquiries, with a decrease from a net change of 8 per cent to -13 per cent on balance, indicating a challenging picture ahead. 
  • Northern Ireland saw a fall in overall workloads, dropping from 0 per cent in Q3 2023 to -17 per cent in Q4. 
  • There was a decline in enquiries in Northern Ireland, with a decrease from a net change of 20 per cent to -17 per cent on balance. 

Berry concluded: “As we head towards the General Election, housing is increasingly becoming one of the major issues that will decide the outcome. With workloads and enquiries down, recruitment declining, and costs remaining high, the FMB survey is clear evidence that with the chancellor set to announce his latest budget in March, there is a substantial need to reduce barriers to construction and provide financial support to SME construction firms facing tough economic conditions.” 

More information can be found on the FMB website. 8 

12 February 2024 
Laura Edgar, The Planner  


Guidance updated on four year housing land supply requirement

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has updated national planning guidance to clarify how a four year housing land supply should be calculated. 

The revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published just before Christmas9 (19 December). Under it, local authorities that have adopted a local plan within the past five year are not required to publish an annual five year housing land supply. 

Confusion had arisen around whether the local authorities that are subject to the four year housing land supply requirement were required to demonstrate this against a four or a five year housing requirement. 

Yesterday, chief planer Joanna Averley wrote to local planning authorities to say Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) had been updated to clarify "how local authorities who meet the policy criteria can calculate a four-year housing land supply position, as well as further detail on the circumstances under which authorities are not required to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply for decision making".   

"In particular, paragraph 226 of the updated NPPF introduced a temporary measure that 

means some authorities only have to demonstrate four years of specific deliverable sites instead of the usual five. Following feedback from across the sector, the Planning Practice Guidance confirms that this will be based on the performance against five-year housing land supply; not an alternative calculation." 

The updated guidance states: "Both the five year housing land supply and the four year housing land supply that authorities should demonstrate for decision making should consist of deliverable housing sites demonstrated against the authority’s five year housing land supply requirement, including the appropriate buffer." 

According to Averley's letter, DLUHC intends to publish further housing supply and delivery guidance for how local authorities that are calculating their five year housing land supply can consider past oversupply "in due course". This includes "wider updates to ensure that the position in the revised NPPF is fully reflected in guidance". 

Averley's letter can be found here on the UK Government website10. Housing Supply and Delivery PPG can be found here11

7 February 2024 
Laura Edgar, The Planner   

News round-up

Allsee Technologies submits digital technology centre plans 

Allsee Technologies has submitted a planning application to build an 80,000-square-foot office headquarters and digital technology centre at St. Modwen’s Longbridge Business Park. 

After a £20 million investment, the new building will support the creation of more than 150 skilled jobs. 

Subject to the planning permission being granted, construction work is due to start in summer 2024 with an opening scheduled for late 2025. 

Next stage of Design Code Pathfinder Programme launched 

The Office for Place has launched the next phase of the Design Code Pathfinder Programme. 

It will focus on testing the implementation of design codes in planning decision-making. 

Up to five new design code pathfinders will be selected by the Office for Place, and they will receive a share of up to £0.5 million to review, update and expand an existing design code in line with the National Model Design Code. 

Local authorities from across England that have an adopted design code, or equivalent (the local authority has set clear, precise requirements) to understand its impact through the development management process. 

Proposals are sought from local authorities with design codes that have ideally been adopted for five or more years, however, the Office for Place will consider expressions of interest where design codes have been adopted for less than this if there is sufficient evidence of it being used as part of the planning decision-making process. 

More information about the call for expressions of interest can be found on the UK Government website12.  

Brighton Marina consultation opens 

Brighton & Hove City Council has launched a six-week consultation for residents and businesses to give their views on a new neighbourhood plan for Brighton Marina. 

The draft plan was prepared by Brighton Marina Neighbourhood Forum under the government’s neighbourhood planning regulations. Once this consultation has been completed the plan will be submitted to an independent examiner appointed by the council. 

More information, including all the consultation documents and how to submit comments online, can be found on the Brighton Marina Neighbourhood Plan website13 and the forum's website14

The deadline for comments to be made is 11:59pm on 18 March 2024. 

Government agrees £1.1bn rural broadband contracts 

The government has agreed on contracts worth around £1.1 billion to connect 677,000 rural homes and businesses across England to “lightning-fast” broadband known as Project Gigabit. 

Six new contracts worth more than £450 million will allow suppliers to immediately begin detailed surveying work to connect about 236,000 premises across England. 

Five of these latest contracts will be delivered by broadband provider CityFibre, serving rural communities in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Sussex, Kent, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, and Milton Keynes. 

A further contract to upgrade premises in Nottinghamshire and West Lincolnshire has been awarded to Hull-based supplier Connexin. 

The first premises are expected to be connected in early 2025. 

McLaren Living selected to deliver Minster Quarter Central scheme 

Reading Borough Council has selected McLaren Living to deliver the £250 million Minster Quarter Central scheme. 

The 5.2-acre site, in the centre of Reading and formerly occupied by the Civic Centre, will become a new gateway to and from Russell Street, the Castle Hill Conservation Area and the residential areas of west Reading. 

The proposals are intended to deliver a mixed-use community, incorporating a positive street scene and places for people to shop, eat and enjoy Reading’s arts and culture. Current plans include the re-provision of space for the Charter Market on Hosier Street and an improvement of its new public realm surrounding the Reading Minster.   

Proposals also include the regeneration of Dusseldorf Way, creating a key new boulevard with more street trees and places to sit. 

The development is central to the wider Minster Quarter Regeneration Area, which has the potential to create a new mixed-use neighbourhood in Reading town centre, delivering upwards of 1,200 homes. 

Kidlington infrastructure plans approved 

Cherwell District Council has approved the delivery of new infrastructure in Kidlington called the Kidlington Infrastructure and Community Asset Strategy. 

The programme will complete a trio of place-based programmes for the district, following the example of Banbury Vision 2050 and the Reimaging Bicester work being done in connection with the Garden Town programme. 

Work to drive forward the Kidlington project will be funded from the council’s budget, but in future years will increasingly make use of developer contributions. These are funds provided by housing developers under legal agreements linked to planning permissions to build new homes, places of work, and other infrastructure. 

The programme will have full-time officer support, with a new role being created to manage a strategic oversight board including the town, district and county councils to coordinate with the community, developers, and other stakeholders. 

THRIVE pumps €120m into Irish town centres   

THRIVE, a Town Centre First Heritage Revival Scheme, will fund €120 million to support local authorities and citizens to transform publicly owned vacant or derelict heritage buildings. 

The scheme, co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union, will provide local authorities with funding of between €2 million and €7 million to renovate, refurbish and adapt vacant and derelict heritage buildings in town centres. 

13 February 2023 
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, The Planner 


Our planning news is published in association with ThePlanner, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

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    Planning news - 15 February 2024

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