Fixing our broken housing market – the Housing White Paper is finally here

8th February, 2017

As you will no doubt have seen in the national press today, the government has finally published its eagerly awaited Housing White Paper.  As expected, there are ambitious proposals involving a series of ‘carrots’ and 'sticks’ such as clearly supporting higher density developments and more measures to hold LPAs to account over their delivery rates. There is welcome support for bringing small and medium scale developments forward, which are rightly recognised as making a valuable contribution alongside the larger scale schemes.

Many of the proposed changes are to be implemented through amendments to the NPPF, which will be announced later this year following the feedback on the proposals published today.

Here is our summary of the main headlines. We look forward to discussing the issues of interest to you in the coming weeks.

If you have any queries please don’t hesitate to contact anyone in our planning team.

Key proposals contained in today’s White Paper to note: 

  • Much needed clarification to the way the Objectively Assessed housing Need (OAN) is calculated to be in place by April 2018, and proposals to fix the 5 year supply position on an annual basis to provide greater certainty. Proposals that will generally be welcomed if they can genuinely lessen the scope for contention.
  • Introduction of a Housing Delivery Test – to address LPAs falling behind actual housing delivery targets. Corrective measures would be scaled in accordance with the degree of shortfall.
  • 20% buffer to be added to 5 year supply where actual delivery falls below 85% of requirement
  • Clarification that Green Belt boundaries should be reviewed where there is clear evidence that the housing requirement cannot be met through other means, including viable brownfield sites and increasing densities
  • Strengthening the presumption in favour of brownfield development
  • Measures to support smaller house builders to diversify delivery, including a £3bn house building fund, presumably to help unlock difficult but sustainably located sites
  • Clear encouragement for higher density development in sustainable locations, including building upwards to better utilise “sky space”, and potentially relaxing national space standards
  • A shift in emphasis from Starter Homes to a more balanced affordable homes provision, decided at the local level, including a minimum of 10% affordable home ownerships on all sites
  • Revising the tests of soundness for local plans, and clarifying what evidence is relevant at examinations, which should help to speed-up the plan making process and avoid time wasted on immaterial issues
  • Neighbourhood plans to be given housing requirements, presumably to reinforce the role of neighbourhood plan groups on positive planning rather than frustrating the system.
  • Measures to streamline the consenting regime for Great Crested Newts, with potential for survey work and mitigation to be undertaken at the plan making stage
  • Reforms to developer contributions and CIL to be announced in the Autumn Budget this year.

Other measures of note included in this consultation, which the government suggest could complement the objectives of improving housing delivery:

  • Introduce a charge for planning appeals
  • Increasing planning application fees by 20% by July this year, providing fees are reinvested in planning services. A further 20% may be considered based on housing delivery performance
  • A proposal to reduce the time limit for commencing development from three years to just two years 
  • Improving the completion notice process to “galvanise the building of homes” once they have approval.

So plenty to digest in this latest effort at tackling the challenges facing the housing market.  Comments on the White Paper are invited by 2 May.

A digital copy of the Housing White Paper can be viewed online here.