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Government to set Local Plans deadline for December 2023, review calculation of Local Housing Need

A requirement for all local authorities to have up-to-date Local Plans in place by December 2023, a review of the formula for calculating Local Housing Need, a raised threshold in the Housing Delivery Test and reform of planning fees are among the proposals contained in a policy paper issued by the government today.

The specific proposals in the policy paper, Planning for the Future, (some of which were set out in Budget 2020) include:

  • The launch next month (April 2020) of a national brownfield map and a call for proposals for building above stations. A £400m investment will be made to use brownfield land productively.
  • A review of the formula for calculating Local Housing Need. A new approach will be introduced “which encourages greater building within and near to urban areas".
  • The introduction of new permitted development rights for building upwards on existing buildings by summer 2020, including to extend residential blocks by up to two storeys and to deliver new and bigger homes.
  • Consultation on the detail of a new permitted development right to allow vacant commercial buildings, industrial buildings and residential blocks to be demolished and replaced with well-designed new residential units which meet natural light standards.
  • A requirement for all local authorities to have up-to-date Local Plans in place by December 2023, or see government intervention. "The government will prepare to intervene where local authorities fail to meet the deadline in accordance with the existing statutory powers, considering appropriate action on a case by case basis."
  • Raising the Housing Delivery Test threshold to 75% in November 2020, “incentivising local authorities to deliver on their local plans”.
  • Reform of the New Homes Bonus "to reward delivery".
  • Reform of planning fees. A new planning structure will “ensure that planning authorities are properly resourced to improve the speed and quality of their decisions”. This will be linked to a new performance framework to ensure performance improvements across the planning service for all users.
  • Automatic rebates where planning applications are successful at appeal.
  • To ensure land for housing is built out, the government will act to make it clearer who owns land by requiring greater transparency on land options. It will also explore wider options to encourage planning permissions to be built out more quickly.
  • Expansion of the use of zoning tools to support development. The government will outline further support for local areas to simplify the process of granting planning permission for residential and commercial development through zoning tools, such as Local Development Orders.
  • Improvement in the effectiveness, take-up and role of compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) to help facilitate land assembly and infrastructure delivery. The government will consult on legislative reforms to speed up the CPO decision-making process. It will consult on: introducing statutory timescales for decisions; ending the automatic right to public inquiry; encouraging early agreements on compensations; and exploring the scope to remit more decisions back to LAs; as well as wider reform.
  • Revision of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to embed the principles of good design and placemaking.
  • Taking forward many of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s recommendations.
  • Giving local authorities the ability to ensure that new homes conform to local residents’ ideas of beauty through the planning system. By using the National Model Design Code the government will set out clear parameters for promoting the design and style of homes and neighbourhoods local people want to see. Local places will be asked to produce their own design guides and codes, informed by listening to local people and considering local context. "This will embed standards in planning policy and give local communities the confidence to demand that they are met."
  • A review of the government’s policy for building in areas at flood risk.
  • The introduction of a Future Homes Standard. From 2025, the FHS will require up to 80% lower carbon emissions for all new homes.

The policy paper said the government would bring forward a series of major publications and legislation that would form the bedrock of a housing strategy to be published later in the year. They include:

  • A Planning White Paper in the Spring “to modernise our planning system, ensuing it supports the delivery of homes that people need and creates more beautiful and greener communities;
  • A Building Safety Bill “to bring about the biggest change in building safety for a generation”;
  • A Renters’ Reform Bill “to provide greater stability for those who rent their homes”. The Bill will implement already-announced plans to end no-fault evictions;
  • A Social Housing White Paper “to ensure that residents in social homes are treated fairly”.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I want everyone, no matter where they live, to have access to affordable, safe, quality housing and live in communities with a real sense of place – as part of our mission to level up, unite and unleash the potential of this country.

“We must think boldly and creatively about the planning system to make it fit for the future, and this is just the first step, so we can deliver the homes communities need and help more young people onto the ladder.”

Cllr David Renard, Local Government Association planning spokesman, said: “It is vital that the Government does not take away more of the powers councils and communities need over planning developments in their local area.

“The planning system is not a barrier to housebuilding. It gives protection to communities so they can ensure new developments are environmentally-friendly, safe, supported by the right infrastructure and include affordable homes."

He added: “Council planning departments work hard to approve nine in 10 planning applications as quickly as possible with the number of permissions granted for new homes doubling since 2012. However, taxpayers are still having to subsidise a £180m annual bill to cover the cost of processing applications, which is why councils need to be able to set their own planning fees.

“Permissions granted are outstripping the number of homes being built with more than a million homes having been given planning permission in the last decade remaining unbuilt or unfinished.

“If we are to build the right homes we need as a nation and in the right places, the planning system needs to be protected and councils must be able to resume their historic role as major builders of affordable homes. They need powers to take action on unbuilt land which has planning permission and a reformed Right to Buy system which allows councils to replace sold homes and set discounts locally.”

Cllr Mark Crane, District Councils’ Network lead member for stronger economies, said: “Reforming planning fees is an opportunity to resolve the significant under-resourcing of council planning teams. We believe councils should be able to set these locally to cover the cost of processing applications.

“We are clear however that endless meddling with the planning system will not tackle the housing crisis and build much-needed homes. We have significant concerns with proposals to extend permitted development rights for upward extensions so that developers can avoid paying what they owe for local infrastructure and for local affordable homes."