On the 6th of December, in response to Tory rebellion over housing targets and the Levelling Up Bill, Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) made a Written Ministerial Statement in which he provided an update on the Bill and announced further changes to the planning system. These will be detailed in a new National Planning Policy Framework prospectus, which will be published for consultation by Christmas. Key areas of interest are summarised below:
- A method for calculating local housing need figures will remain, with Gove stating that the “plan-making process for housing has to start with a number”. However, this should be “advisory” and determined by Local Authorities working with the community to determine the housing need based upon “what should be protected in each area”. This change would undoubtably have implications for the amount of land released from the Metropolitan Green Belt, as well as other sensitive landscapes such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, via Local Plans.
- Significant changes are proposed to the requirement for Local Authorities to demonstrate a 5-year housing supply. Authorities will have more breathing space where their Local Plans are up-to-date, at an advanced stage but land supply is being reassessed, or where Neighbourhood Plans are in force. The consultation will also consider dropping the need for a 20% increase over housing need. These changes could reduce the opportunities to make speculative applications in some areas, where Authorities are failing to deliver their full housing need.
- The Planning Inspectorate will be instructed not to “override sensible local decision making” giving local communities greater control over development in their neighbourhood.
- Proposals to strengthen Neighbourhood Plans and ensure that National Development Management Policies will not limit local areas from setting local policies based on local issues.
- A proposal to increase planning application fees, including a doubling of fees for retrospective planning applications.
- The “brownfield first” pledge will be reinforced with proposals for lower rates under a new Infrastructure Levy for brownfield over greenfield land, a review to identify further measures to prioritise brownfield land and “further protection in national policy for our important agricultural land for food production”.
- Consultation on new measures to ensure developers build out consented developments including “allowing local planning authorities to refuse planning applications from developers who have built slowly in the past” and not punishing Local Authorities under the housing delivery test when developers don’t build out consented schemes. This coincides with enabling Local Authorities to stop “irresponsible developers and landowners who persistently ignore planning rules and fail to deliver their legal commitments to the community” from getting permissions.
- Proposals to review the Use Classes Order to “control changes of use to short term lets”.
Subject to seeing the actual changes, the proposals do seem to represent an increasing challenge to releasing land for development and to securing planning permission on sites which are not allocated in Local Plans.
We await further detail via the imminent publication of the prospectus and will monitor the evolution of the proposals with interest, to find out the extent of the above changes, when they will come to fruition, and the implications they may have for our clients.