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Theresa May launches consultation to overhaul planning framework

Monday 05 March 2018

Councils could be stripped of their planning powers if they fail to approve enough housing developments under tough new planning laws unveiled by the Prime Minister this week.

In a bid to restore the dream of home ownership to millions of would-be buyers, Theresa May has proposed a major overhaul of the National Planning Policy Framework - the rules governing the building of homes in England - to force councils to hit housebuilding targets.

Despite already delivering more than a million homes since 2010, the government has recognised it must to do more to achieve its target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

The shake-up, the first in six years, aims to encourage the construction of more homes and weed out developers with a poor build-out record, by focusing on the following key areas:

  • Greater responsibility - Local authorities will have a new housing delivery test focused on driving up the numbers of homes actually delivered in their area, rather than numbers planned for. Developers will also be held to account for delivering the commitments, including affordable housing and the infrastructure needed to support communities.
  • Maximising the use of land - More freedom will be given to local authorities to make the most of existing brownfield land to build homes that maximise density. Redundant land will be encouraged such as underutilised retail or industrial space for homes, with more flexibilities given to extend upwards on existing blocks of flats and houses as well as shops and offices.
  • Maintaining strong protections for the environment - Ensuring developments result in a net gain to the environment where possible and increases the protection given to ancient woodland so they are not lost for future generations.
  • Ensuring the right homes are built - Delivering more affordable homes that meet the housing needs of everyone wherever they are in their life, including sites dedicated for first time buyers, build to rent homes with family friendly tenancies, guaranteed affordable homes for key workers and adapted homes for older people.
  • Higher quality and design - Introducing new quality standards so well designed new homes are built in places people are proud to live in and live next door to.
  • More transparent planning process - Local authorities will be encouraged to work together and continue to close the gap between planning permissions granted and homes built. A new standardised approach to assessing housing need will be introduced with new measures to make the system of developer contributions clearer, simpler and more robust, so developers understand what’s expected of them and will be in no doubt that councils will hold them to their commitments.

The 80 point consultation proposal is part of a wider package of housing reforms; building on the recent £5 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund announced to help unlock new homes in areas with the greatest housing need.

Commenting on the announcement, Housing Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, said: “An entire generation is being locked out of a broken housing market as prices and rents race ahead of supply. Reforming the planning system is the crucial next step to building the homes the country needs. This government is determined to fix the broken housing market and restore the dream of home ownership for a new generation. There is no silver bullet to this problem but we’re re-writing the rules on planning, so we can take action on all fronts.”

NAEA Propertymark Chief Executive, Mark Hayward commented: “Clearly we need more houses and we welcome these announcements from the Government; however, given the nature of housebuilding we need to recognise that it will inevitably be a slow process before people feel that they have more homes available to them. Our monthly housing market report showed demand for housing boomed in January, creating competition among buyers and causing the number of sales to first time buyers (FTBs) to drop. It looks like those trying to get their first foot on the property ladder are in for tough year.”

The National Planning Policy Framework will be open to consultation for the next eight weeks, with the final version due to appear in summer.

Respond to the consultation