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27th July 2017

Opening doors? Planning in the future


27th July 2017

Opening doors? Planning in the future

In this Blog, the contents of which were firstly partly published in the Legalease Procurement and Outsourcing Journal, I explore the previous Government’s consultations around increasing housing supply and improving planning in the future; and I analyse some of the impacts this may have on stakeholders’ interests in the future.

What is the ‘Housing crisis’ referred to in the media … and why is trying to solve it so important?

Written by Noel Gallagher and sung by Oasis, the Oasis hit ‘Fade Away’ has been listened to by millions like me who grew up in the nineties. Understood to be a song about growing older, his lyrics for me have come to represent the sombre inevitably of life for many people of all generations across England who are despairingly seeing childhood dreams about key milestones fading away before their very eyes because of the country’s chronic under-supply of appropriate housing.

The ‘Housing Crisis’ we hear described in the media relates to the shortage of available houses for sale or rent in England and the impact this is having on all generations and the wider economy in the short, medium and long-term until solutions are found to increase the supply of the right types of housing in the right locations to meet this demand.

The previous Housing White Paper is one of a number of policy and consultation responses which the previous Government published to try and tackle this increasingly complex issue.  In it, the Government emphasised that it seeks ‘consensus with effected stakeholders for a new, positive, mind-set to house building’.

This is a consensus which, for me, seems vital if we are to ever effectively begin providing the right type of housing in the right locations which our country so desperately needs now and in the future.

The Government encouraged all affected stakeholders to respond to the public consultation in order to outline their views on its suggested policy initiatives aimed at trying to increase the supply of housing in England.

… So what was the Housing White Paper?

The Government published its 106 page Housing White Paper on Tuesday 7th February titled ‘Fixing our Broken Housing Market’. It is a policy document that had been produced by the Government to set out its proposals for future legislation aimed at trying to address the lack of the right types of houses in the right locations in England to meet current and future sale and rental demand.  The Government put the White Paper out to public consultation for 12 weeks until 23:45 GMT on 2 May 2017.

The White Paper squarely acknowledged that a lack of the right homes being built in the right places by successive Governments over previous decades has led to soaring house prices and rising rents – and which has created a housing market which fails to work for many people of all generations.

The Paper also acknowledged that this is an urgent problem, one that is upon us now, and one which will continue to have both immediate and longer-term social and economic effects for the country and society as a whole unless it begins to be addressed.

The previous Government both prior, during and after the launch had been clear in its message that there is no one ‘silver bullet’ solution to the housing shortage; and emphasised that a wide range of policy responses covering the whole house building process is required. It also explained that one of the challenges of successful policy making is recognising and taking account of the fact that we have many different localised housing markets across the country.

Did you know that the previous Government released a lot more than just a Housing White Paper?

To provide some context to the Housing White Paper, the previous Government had been trying to undertake a truly nationwide consultation on this pressing issue and, despite there having been criticism from some stakeholders that the proposed measures in the White Paper had not been radical enough, the length of the consultation period (12 weeks); the length of the White Paper (106 pages); the fact that the Government had made this a priority despite the unparalleled administrative and legislative demands of Brexit legislation; and the fact that the White Paper had been released so soon in the last Parliament; all seems to illustrate that the previous Government had been prioritising trying to find solutions to the housing crisis and is very keen to try and achieve a consensus amongst stakeholders on the way forward to tackling this complex and multi-faceted issue.

It is important to note that alongside the Housing White Paper the previous Government also:

  • Announced a new consultation which closed on 1 May 2017 on planning and affordable housing for build to rent which sought views on planning measures to support an increase in Build to Rent schemes across England. This included proposals to change the NPPF to support and increase the number of new Build to Rent homes; and the provision of Affordable Private Rent homes as the main form of affordable housing provision on Build to Rent schemes.
  • Published the Government’s response to the ‘Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s Inquiry into the report of the Local Plans Expert Group’ which examined what measures or reforms might be helpful in ensuring the efficient and effective production of Local Plans.
  • Published the Government’s response to their previous ‘consultation on upwards extensions in London’ which sought views on proposals to deliver more homes in London by allowing a limited number of additional storeys on existing buildings through a permitted development right, local development orders or development plan policies.
  • Published the Government’s response to ‘the technical consultation on implementation of planning changes’ which contained detailed proposals to support certain provisions of the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
  • Published the Government’s response to ‘the Rural Planning Review’. The Rural Planning Review call for evidence had sought views on how the planning system was operating in rural areas and invited ideas about how the planning system could be improved to support sustainable rural life and businesses.

(As well as providing a summary of the responses to this the Rural Planning Review and the Government’s response, the response document also sought views on extending the thresholds for agricultural permitted development rights to help farmers, and on a new agricultural to residential permitted development right to help provide housing for rural workers.)

  • Published the final independent report of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) Review Group, the ‘Independent report: Community Infrastructure Levy review: report to government’, was submitted to the Government in October 2016.

How might the outcome of the Housing White Paper and the other previous consultations and reports impact your assets and interests?

Following the 12 week consultation period ending, the previous Government said it would be reviewing the comments received and intending to eventually publish an amended National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) later in the year because many of the proposed changes would involve amendments to the Framework.

The amended NPPF would also likely be anticipated to consolidate the outcome from the previous and current consultations and incorporate changes to reflect changes made to national policy through various Written Ministerial Statements issued since March 2012.

To-recap, these previous Written Ministerial Statements were titled: ‘Support for small scale developers, custom and self-builders’ (28 November 2014); ‘Sustainable Drainage Systems’ (18 December 2014); ‘Starter Homes’ (2 March 2015); ‘Parking: helping local shops and preventing congestion’ (25 March 2015); ‘Housing standards: streamlining the system’ (25 March 2015); ‘Local Planning, which covers onshore wind farms’ (18 June 2015); ‘National Planning Policy Framework: technical adjustment’ (22 July 2015); ‘Green Belt protection and intentional unauthorised development’ (17 December 2015) and ‘Neighbourhood planning’ (12 December 2016).

Is the Housing White Paper it for this year; or are there more changes to be aware of on the horizon?

  • There will also be an Autumn Budget in 2017 where the previous Government indicated that it intended to make an announcement regarding the future regime of developer contributions.

What did the Housing White Paper propose changing?

The 106 page White Paper proposed a wide number of proposals covering the whole house building process and can be found in full here.  There were a number of questions at the end of the White Paper which the Government encouraged consultation responses from stakeholders.

The wide ranging focus of the previous consultations

In all the previous consultations, I believe it was to be welcomed that there was:

  • A coherent focus on the ongoing need for early engagement with communities over new development;
  • an acknowledgement that Councils need to adequately plan for specific types of housing (including for the elderly);
  • an acknowledgement that a range of policy responses are required.
  • a serious consideration given to diversifying the supply of housing providers, but whilst importantly still listening very carefully through these consultations to those builders who are already actively building and investing in our housing supply.

Concluding remarks

At a time when the second instalment to Danny Boyle’s hugely iconic nineties film Trainspotting has returned to our cinema screens 20 years on from its first instalment, it is perhaps a noteworthy indictment of the current predicament we face with our housing supply shortage that its musings on life in Britain no longer refers to “Chose Life … Chose fixed interest mortgage repayments … chose a starter home”  … but instead to no mention at all of housing … just to the dark part assessment “Chose Life … chose a two hour journey to work … and chose the same for your kids, only worse”.

The Housing White Paper, at a time when our legislators also have BREXIT to negotiate, may not currently have all the answers for helping to reverse the supply and availability of houses for sale and rent in England. Its aims however, and the way it has widely consulted to try and seek stakeholder consensus for a multi-faceted policy response is, I truly believe, an important ambition to embrace if we are to ever build a policy consensus in England aimed at starting to reverse the current housing supply predicament and its wider future social and economic fall outs which ultimately affect all stakeholders.

We will be monitoring any future planning related announcements from the Government with care and if you require any future planning assistance or information around this, please do not hesitate to contact Rob Sellen.

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