After much anticipation, the long awaited new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has landed on the desks of planning consultants across England.
The document sets out Central Government’s national planning policies and is effective immediately. All planning applications and appeals must now be determined in accordance with the new NPPF policies, this includes applications and appeals currently in the system.
The true impact that these new policies will have on the housing industry will become apparent in due course. For now, here are five key things that housebuilders and local authorities need to know:
1. Affordable Housing Definition
The affordable housing definition has been widened and now incorporates, amongst other nuances, the inclusion of starter homes. This is a welcome addition to the affordable housing family. The Government has been careful to heavily link the meaning of a starter home in the NPPF to reflect “statute and any such secondary legislation that is relevant at the time of plan-preparation or decision-making”, allowing for any subsequent amendments to come through the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
After much speculation and backlash following its omission in the draft publication, local authority clients will be pleased to learn that the social rent tenure has been retained in the affordable housing definition.
2. Entry Level Exception Sites
The new NPPF brings opportunities for a new type of housing exception site. The ‘entry-level exception site’ is defined as a site that provides entry-level homes suitable for first time buyers (or equivalent for those looking to rent) unless the need for such homes is already being met within the authority’s area. They should comprise entry-level homes that offer one or more types of affordable housing (as defined by the NPPF). Located on land which is not already allocated for housing, these sites must be adjacent to existing settlements and appropriate in size to them. Specifically, entry-level exception sites should not be more than 1ha or exceed 5% of the size of an existing settlement.
Of course, even if meeting these criteria, compliance with relevant policies relating to protection of nationally important sites and with local design policies will still apply. These sites are not permitted in National Parks (or within the Broads Authority), AONBs and the Green Belt.
A key consideration for developers wishing to move forward with this type of site is likely to be demonstrating that the need for such homes is not already being met.
3. Viability Assessments
The new NPPF has broadly maintained its stance on encouraging the transparency of viability assessments. Planning applications that comply with the contributions set out in up-to-date planning policies should be assumed to be viable. However, "it is up to the applicant to demonstrate whether particular circumstances justify the need for a viability assessment at the application stage." If deemed to be required, “all viability assessments should reflect the recommended approach in national planning guidance, including standardised inputs, and should be made publicly available.”
Supplementary guidance confirms that “any viability assessment should be prepared on the basis that it will be made publicly available other than in exceptional circumstances.” These ‘exceptional circumstances’ have yet to be been defined – but even then, an executive summary should be made publicly available. The executive summary should be in accordance with data standards published by Government and in line with their template. However, the template is not expected to be published until Autumn 2018.
4. Housing Delivery Test
The failure of local planning authorities to meet a new Housing Delivery Test will now trigger a presumption in favour of sustainable development. This addition is set to penalise local authorities that experience delivery of housing ‘substantially below’ the housing requirement over a three-year period.
The first Housing Delivery Test results will be published in November this year and the Housing Delivery Test itself will apply from the following day. They will subsequently be published every November, with varying scales defining where a local authority falls foul of its housing delivery rates and is ‘substantially below’ the housing requirement. In November 2018 this will mean where delivery was below 25% of housing required over the previous three years. In November 2019 and November 2020, this will equate to 45% and 75%, respectively.
Importantly, from November this year, the Housing Delivery Test will play a role in defining the buffer that must be used in five-year housing land supply calculations. We eagerly await the November 2018 test results!
5. Standardised Method of Calculating Housing Need
The new standardised method for calculating housing need will come into force after 24th January 2019. However, the Government has admitted that it is intent on adjusting the method further to ensure its 300,000 homes by the mid-2020s can be met. Local authorities that are currently undergoing examination, or which manage to submit before 24th January 2019, will be examined under the previous NPPF policies and therefore will not have to use the standardised method (for now). It is fully expected that there will be a rush of local authorities looking to submit by this date.
Local authorities that have not submitted their local plans for examination by this point will be subject to the new method. For some local authorities in the South East and East Anglia, this new method may see an increase in housing need figures. Whether the housing need figures are increased or reduced, where this method applies, it will clearly have a knock-on effect on five-year land supply calculations.
The new household projections are due to be released in September 2018, however, these are expected to be lower than those previously forecasted last year.
Of course, these points just skim the surface of a document that will provide the basis for housing development in years to come. We would be pleased to advise clients further on the implications the new framework may have on future or current planning applications.
This information does not constitute legal or professional advice. We recommend that specific professional advice is sought before using any of this information.
For further details please contact:
Nicol Perryman | MMath (Hons) MRTPI - Principal Planner
DD: 01603 915335 | M: 07808 318382