However, there has been a hiatus in the planning system created by the ongoing uncertainty since the 2020 Planning White Paper, a lack of funding for local authorities (recently highlighted by the RTPI) and further delays caused by the emerging Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (‘LURB’) and consequential planning reforms. Local plans continue to be abandoned, delayed or deferred. Recent data from the ONS has highlighted the stifling economic impact that this is having on the housebuilding sector and data suggests that major residential planning consents are at their lowest level since the Cameron government.
We believe the Government should:-
To urgently provide clarity on how housing need is calculated by, if necessary, reverting to locally assessed housing need (following guidance which sets out the key factors to take into account) which is independently reviewed and robustly tested at Examination. This should address housing need across administrative boundaries, whilst ensuring that sufficient homes are delivered nationwide to address the housing emergency that exists and to support increased levels of economic growth;
Local Plans should deliver a wide range of suitable sites (by size and location), to deliver different tenures and types of dwellings (e.g. senior living, self and custom build). It is important that local authorities have a duty to independently review and update these plans every 5 years and changes should be made to Paragraph 33 and Footnote 39 of the NPPF to emphasise the need to keep local plans updated and to reinforce the need to maintain a rolling 5 year housing land supply in all areas of the country;
To ensure that all local plans include sufficient reserve sites such that in the event of non-delivery or slow delivery of an allocated site, immediate housing land releases could be made to ensure delivery of the requisite annual housing requirement; To ensure that the Government intervenes in the plan making process more readily and more consistently when little effort is being made by authorities to review an out-of-date Local Plan
To consider making the existence of an up-to-date Local Plan a requirement for local authorities to be able to bid for all forms of Government funding, including from Homes England, as a clear incentive for authorities to prepare and review Local Plans;
To allow local authorities with an up-to-date local plan to be able to set a higher level of locally determined Infrastructure Levy;
To allow local authorities to be able to set their own planning application fee levels where this can be justified and an up-to-date plan is in place;
To consider offering a significant boost to the New Homes Bonus for authorities with an up-to-date plan in place and to re-introduce Planning Performance Grants;
To consider requiring applicants to pay a fee upon submission of an Appeal, proportionate to the application fee, which would be refunded by the local authority in the event that the Appeal were allowed. Also, to refund planning application fees to all successful appellants to incentivise positive decision making by local authorities.
To ensure that Natural England and the Environment Agency review urgently the impact of their policies on Nutrients (as well as Water and Recreation) and are urged to take a more practical, pragmatic interpretation of the ‘precautionary approach’ inherent within the Habitat Regulations.
This could be achieved through the preparation of secondary legislation which establishes the principle that developer contributions, to accelerate improvements in Wastewater Treatment Works and water efficiency schemes which minimise further water usage in new homes, whilst also contributing to retrofitting of existing properties and other possible.
To outline that if there is no up-to-date Local Plan in place, then the decision maker should place a reduced level of weight on any conflict with the policies contained within the Local Plan with an accompanying stronger presumption in favour of sustainable development where the Local Plan is more than five years old. This would provide a positive incentive to keep plans up to date;
To review the current Local Plan Examination process to make it more streamlined and make the tests of soundness clearer and more relevant to achieving growth in the context of sustainable development objectives;
To re-emphasise the importance of the Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development by clarifying the interpretation of Paragraph 11d of the NPPF.
Original Publication Date: Sept 22