Most could be summed up in one word – ‘tinkering’. But there are some changes in emphasis:
· Viability is a sore issue for both developers and Councils, with time and money wasted by both developers grappling with difficult and marginal sites, and Councils who see that development profits have never been higher. The new wording is unlikely to end the controversy, although ‘standard inputs’ may end some of the bickering.
· Housing Need Assessments get a long overdue standard methodology, and this will save a lot of money. However, the new method is biased towards more building in areas with high prices, despite no proof of a link between supply of new houses and house prices (the reasons are more complex and mostly related to the local economy). Poorer areas that desperately need housing regeneration ironically will have less incentive to build.
· Housing Delivery Tests for local authorities are introduced. These will make it easier to get planning permission if the local authority hasn’t got enough land allocated. It is a blunt instrument. Some authorities simply have very little suitable land and overheated economies. Good for developers but look out for some very upset local communities.
· Green Belt policies get new wording (para 132-6) but retain strong protection. Lawyers are will benefit from interpreting these changes.
· Air Quality is slightly strengthened following multiple court defeats to the Government over inadequate plans to combat air pollution. Clear Air zones are introduced, but general opinion is that these will be ineffective and the Government will be back in court soon.
· Ancient woodlands and other ‘irreplaceable habitats’ get stronger protection, although very few genuinely important habitats are lost each year; the real issue is agricultural practices.
This is a difficult balancing act for the Government – they clearly want more land including Green Belt released for house building, but their supporters won’t accept erosion of the Green Belt. They won’t accept the real solutions which include regional planning, rebalancing the economy away from the southeast to areas that want development, and they can’t accept that the market is not the solution to everything – for instance encouraging Council and other social housing. It was good enough for Churchill and Macmillan, so I don’t see why the concept is so difficult for Conservatives of today. But it will make for an interesting couple of years in planning.
Should you require further advice on the NPPF please do not hesitate to give Peter Black a call on 07505221405 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. First half day work is free for new clients.