Thursday, 05 March 2015

Councils have 12 months to ensure their plans fit with new framework

Minister’s warning over local plans

Councils that are unprepared for long-awaited planning reforms will have to accept growth in their area, a government minister has warned.


Following the publication of the national planning policy framework this week, local government minister Bob Neill said councils had ‘no excuse’ not to have put together local plans, which dictate how much development there will be in an area over a set number of years.

However, 60 per cent of councils don’t have a local plan in place leaving them at risk of having to approve development their communities do not want due to a pro-growth bias ingrained in the new framework, which came into effect on Tuesday.

In cases where local authorities don’t have a post-2004 local plan, the NPPF - which aims to simplify the planning process and put decision making in the hands of communities - will influence planning decisions. Councils have 12 months to ensure their local plan fits with the NPPF’s objectives.

There is a requirement in the NPPF for local authorities to find a five-year land supply, plus an extra 5 per cent. If a council has consistently under-built it would be asked to find an extra 20 per cent.

Mr Neill insisted the NPPF, along with government incentives such as the new homes bonus, which rewards councils that build new homes, would ensure authorities meet their area’s housing needs.

‘Because the [local] plan is the dominant factor in this it has to be found sound by the planning inspectorate. If it doesn’t meet the need for affordable housing it won’t be signed off,’ he said.

Philip Skill, head of planning at Stroud Council, which has a local plan, admitted the authority would find it ‘very difficult’ to refuse development under the NPPF.

The new system was largely welcomed by developers.

Steve Turner, head of communications at the Home Builders Federation, said: ‘Since the election there has been a policy vacuum in planning which has clearly influenced our members’ decisions to make applications. Now we finally have certainty in the system they are more likely to place applications.’

Paul High, managing director of Orbit Homes, the development arm of 37,000-home Orbit Group, said: ‘If we’ve looked at a piece of land where we felt the planning position was uncertain, and was likely to be uncertain until the framework was issued, we’ve tended to steer clear of it. [The NPPF] will open up those areas.’

Environmental groups welcomed a tightening of the definition of a contentious ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ which remains in the NPPF, but without a clause indicating a default ‘yes’ response to development in absence of a local plan.

The document also now encourages development on brownfield sites ahead of green belt.

Key points: national planning policy framework

  • Extra land supply requirement reduced from 20 per cent to 5 per cent for most councils
  • Councils have 12 months to get local plans in place
  • Brownfield land should be used before greenfield
  • Intrinsic value of the countryside included in definition of ‘sustainable development’

Readers' comments (7)

  • Gavin Rider

    Key point - the "intrinsic value of the countryside" taken from the perspective of the NPPF means BUILD ON IT!

    This document is a disaster-in-the-making for the undesignated open countryside in any area where there is not a strong local plan already in place, and as this article points out 60 percent of councils don't have a plan in place.

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  • Gavin Rider

    Mr Neill says "Because the [local] plan is the dominant factor in this it has to be found sound by the planning inspectorate. If it doesn’t meet the need for affordable housing it won’t be signed off".

    So, what about the 40 percent of Local Authorities who do already have a local plan that perhaps does not meet the identified need for Affordable Housing in the SHMA?

    Does that mean that past approval of their local plans will be revoked by the Planning Inspectorate because of the NPPF?

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  • This will make planning authorities pull out their finger and be proactive in determining what is important for their particular areas. So far they have been dragging their heels - they have to take responsibility for the planning outcomes which in turn drive the economy and house prices/supply, and demand. Incentives such as the planning bonus should prompt increased supply, and reduced house prices.

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  • Rick Campbell

    Will Ministers cause a panic by opening their orifices?

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  • Most local authorities don't have a local plan. Localism made easy for the exclusion of local residents' views. Shapps and Pickles must be awake all night laughing.

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  • Gavin Rider

    Venk - house prices over the past few decades have borne no relationship to the balance of supply and demand, so what makes you think that building loads more houses now is going to suddenly start having an influence on prices?

    Planning does not drive the economy - you have swallowed the government's line along with the hook and the sinker. Industry and commerce drive the economy.

    You can plan all you want, but if nobody has any spare money to spend or they are saving all their money because their pensions will probably not be worth having, they won't buy.

    The New Homes bonus will incentivise local authorities to approve new housing, but it won't get the housing built - developers have to do that and they are already sitting on around 300,000 approved planning applications that they have not so far built. What makes anyone think that approving more will make them build more?

    What will make them build more is approving cheaper sites where the developers can make more profits. that is where the open countryside comes in, because agricultural land is umpteen times cheaper than any other. (at least, it is until farmers start to realise the true value of their land for development, and push up the prices to development market levels, then we will be back at square one - except agricultural land will have gone up in price by a factor 20 for no good reason. Brilliant strategy, Pickles Shapps Clark et al.)

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  • Chris

    "house prices over the past few decades have borne no relationship to the balance of supply and demand,"

    So the decreasing supply of low-cost rented housing coinciding with massive inflation in private rents and house sale prices has no relationship?

    You are right about the landbanking though Gavin - indeed, this with-held supply has also contributed to escalating prices, so yet another supply and demand relationship!

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