All posts tagged: john healey
Will the new National Planning Policy Framework be a developers’ charter or a NIMBY wet dream? I think the answer to that question depends very much upon how we as a sector respond to it. Back in February former housing Minister John Healey described us as the most introverted sector he had ever come across. I think he is absolutely right. But the new planning framework gives us a fantastic opportunity to put our heads above the parapet and make the case for housing. It could represent the best chance in a generation to build significant numbers of new homes, but this will only happen if the housing and development industry engages fully with the planning process.
There are three key aspects of the NPPF which give me grounds for optimism.
Firstly, the plan’s the thing. The new framework is plan-led and local plans must make an objective assessment of future development needs, including housing. Where plans are silent, absent or out of date then the presumption in favour of sustainable development takes effect. Local authorities will have twelve months to get their plans in order. If we fail to engage with the local planning process then we deserve to fail.
Secondly, the NPPF calls for a significant boost to housing supply. Local authorities must plan to meet “the full, objectively assessed needs for market and affordable housing in the housing market area” and to provide an annually updated list of developable sites that provide the required housing for the first five years, with an additional buffer of 5 percent (20 percent for poor performers). They must also identity a supply of sites for years six to fifteen. Local authorities will be required to draw up a housing delivery plan and they must take account of migration and demographic change. The plan must include details of the size, type and tenure of homes to be provided in each location. Affordable housing must be provided on site “unless off-site provision or a financial contribution of broadly equivalent value.” This provides plenty of ammunition to ensure that housing needs are properly accounted for in Local Plans. Every housing provider should be keeping a close watch on their key local authority partners and they should prepared to challenge backward-looking authorities who fail to make proper provision. The “duty to co-operate” in the Localism Act also makes it essential that local authorities consider needs over a wider area, so decisions like those in the Stevenage/North Hertfordshire dispute should be robustly challenged. The fact that England is set to grow by 232,000 households every year for the next twenty years means that every local authority has a part to play in new provision. Local opposition cannot compete against the objective fact of population growth and rising demand, but as a sector we need to ensure this message is being heard.
The third significant element of the NPPF is the economic message about market signals, first raised by Kate Barker. The NPPF states that: “Plans should take account of market signals, such as land prices and housing affordability, and set out a clear strategy for allocating sufficient land which is suitable for development in their area, taking account of the needs of the residential and business communities.” I see this as a great opportunity for national bodies like the NHF and the CIH, as well as local authorities, to set out a proper definition of affordability. Imagine a world where planning policy dictated that an affordable average home should aim to be no more than three times the average salary in an area. This would push local authorities to release more land for housebuilding in order to restore balance to local housing markets.
Paragraphs 47 to 55 and 159 of the NPPF set out the key requirements for housing provision. I would urge everyone involved in housing strategy and supply to learn these by heart. Now is the time to make the case for housing.