On March 5th the government published the revision to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The revision, which is the subject of a consultation by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, is the first significant update since the NPPF’s original publication back in 2012.

While the document does include a number of new policies, the body of the content is made up of the outcomes of previous consultations including, the white paper ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ and ‘Planning for the right homes in the right places’, both of which were published last year.

The demand for measures to tackle the affordable housing crisis is the driving force behind the revision, with many of the notable changes being aimed at forcing local planning authorities and developers to speed up the development of future residential sites. Here is a round-up of some of the major proposed changes:

Green Belt Policy

Green belt policy to be altered to encourage the release of more brownfield land for sizeable residential developments.

As green belt land is still protected, councils should optimise density of development in towns and city centres.

In relation, at least 20 per cent of sites allocated to housing in Local Planning Authority plans will need to be 0.5ha or less. This will diversify opportunities for developers and encourage the use of small sites.

Affordable Housing

Applications that are not considered to make efficient use of land, especially in locations where there is a shortage of land, will be rejected.

At least 10 per cent of new homes on major sites is to be made available for affordable housing ownership.

Local Housing Authorities will be required to set a housing delivery figure. This will be calculated by dividing the number of homes delivered by the number required in each location. Significant under delivery (75 per cent) over a three-year period, will result in local plans being classified ‘out of date’. Although not officially stated, one can assume the housing delivery figure will eventually replace the five-year housing land supply test.

Developers will be required to implement planning permissions within a two-year period. This measure will help reduce land banking schemes.

Viability in Planning

Viability assessment to become standardised and publicly available. 

In summary, the proposed revisions are in keeping with the government’s long-standing desire to help local housing authorities meet new affordable housing targets through sustainable means – i.e. avoiding building out into green belt land and encouraging developments in towns and cities. Whether the changes outlined above are enough to combat the barriers currently holding back the government’s efforts to build 300,000 new homes each year, is yet to be determined.  

The National Planning Policy Framework draft has a consultation deadline of May 10th.