Tuesday, 17 January 2017

NHF: councils should be allowed to update Local Plans

Councils should be allowed to update their Local Plans to take account of the “major shifts” in policy that are set to be introduced through the Housing and Planning Bill, the National Housing Federation has said.

In the National Planning Policy Framework consultation, the government proposes giving councils six to 12 months to partially review their Local Plans in light of the new definition of affordable housing, which includes Starter Homes.

In a consultation response, Rachel Fisher, head of policy for the National Housing Federation (NHF), said the organisation “welcomed” the proposals to give councils some time to alter Local Plans “in line with any change to the definition of affordable housing”.

However, she added: “It is concerning that the government does not think it is necessary to give local authorities time to amend Local Plans in light of any of the other changes.

“These changes represent a major shift which, without an up-to-date Local Plan, could put authorities in a vulnerable situation with increased ‘planning by appeal’.”

She added it would be “sensible” to give councils the same 2017 deadline that will be imposed on those that do not have a Local Plan “with the option of preparing interim policies in the meantime”.

The NHF also said that by including Starter Homes in the definition of affordable housing this could have a “discriminatory impact” on protected groups.

Ms Fisher said the definition change led to a concern there will be a “shortage of more traditional forms of affordable housing which benefit people from protected groups”.

She added: “This is because [based on the government’s impact assessment of the Housing and Planning Bill] it is likely that the delivery of Starter Homes could crowd out more traditional forms of affordable rented properties.”

Ms Fisher said people from protected groups “on average have considerably lower incomes than those who do not, citing figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

A report commissioned by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in 2008 found disabled men were paid on average 10.5% less than non-disabled men. Disabled women were paid 6.8% less than non-disabled women.

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