Friday, 22 January 2016

Change is on the Way

The new Government has not taken long to get into its stride by introducing changes to the Planning system. Most changes these days require alterations either to primary or secondary legislation, or at least prior public consultation. So it is 2016 that will see the implementation of many of these alterations.

What do we know so far? Well often the devil can be in the detail, so while the full implications may be unknown the direction of travel is clear.

The Housing and Planning Bill should be enacted in the spring.  Key aspects that will change the context for planning professionals include:

·    Planning permission in principle for brownfield sites securable through direct applications or qualifying documents such as development plans and the proposed statutory registers. Secondary legislation will be required to provide the necessary detail.

·      The Bill is set to create a statutory duty upon Councils to promote “Starter Homes” to buy at a discounted (at least 20%) price. This category will be added to the current definition of Affordable Housing (social rented, affordable rented and intermediate (i.e. with an element of equity belonging to the occupiers) housing.

The Government is also currently out to public consultation (to 22nd February) on the first proposed changes to the NPPF since its publication in 2012. Suggested revisions include:

·      Revised definition of affordable housing to follow the Bill above.

·      Higher density housing would be expected around commuter hubs “where feasible”.

·      A greater support for housing development on brownfield sites (including in the green belt).

·      A new “housing delivery” test to allow for action where Councils are failing to meet targets for new homes provision.

·      Being more supportive to new settlements.

·      Greater encouragement for small site housing development.

Other changes in the pipeline or recently enacted include:

·      Temporary rights to convert offices to residential, which would have expired in May, have been made permanent.

·      New rights to convert light industrial buildings and launderettes to residential use are likely.

·      Equally, the redevelopment of office sites for housing in principle may be introduced.

·      Councils will have to have produced their local plans by “early 2017” or face Government intervention.

It seems that yet again the only certainty is uncertainty. But here at Landmark Planning we will endeavour to keep ourselves and everyone else up-to-date.

Peter Wilkinson