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Important Short Term Planning Changes Announced

Government quietly introduces consultation on major transitional changes to planning

Whilst all of the attention over the past week has been (quite rightly) focussed on the new White Paper ‘Planning for the Future’ which set out the Government‘s radical changes to the planning system, another consultation was quietly released on the same day by MHCLG. The consultation includes a series of shorter term measures that the Government is seeking to introduce to improve the effectiveness of the planning system in advance of the White Paper reforms coming into force next year but also reflecting the impact of Covid 19 on the economy. The changes are potentially significant and notice should be taken of them.

Firstly there is a change to the Standard Method for assessing housing need. The revised assessment methodology is also referenced in the White Paper as being a cornerstone of standardisation across planning policy. The figures released by the Government indicate a substantial increase in housing targets for most boroughs especially London boroughs. There are some big increases proposed which many boroughs may find hard to accommodate.

The second consultation is a firming of the proposals for First Homes which is the Government’s favoured approach to the delivery of first time buyer affordable homes sold at a discount to market price for first time buyers (including key workers) through developer contributions. First Homes were consulted upon in February 2020 and it is clear the Government is (following the relative failure of Starter Homes) keen to continue to push home ownership. There will be a requirement that 25% of all affordable homes in a scheme will be First Time Homes discounted at 30% below market value.

The Government is also consulting on lifting (for up to 18 months) the small sites threshold, below which developers do not need to contribute to affordable housing from 10 units up to 40 or 50 units. This will make a significant and positive impact on the viability of a range of small to medium scale schemes. Local planning authorities and the metropolitan mayors are likely to be up in arms over this as it will impact on the delivery of affordable homes over the next couple of years. There has been a number of appeal cases related to the difference between NPPF policy guidance and local plan policy over the past couple of years regarding small sites contributions and this will likely increase if this measure is introduced.

Finally the Government is proposing removing many of the restrictions which have hampered the use of Permission in Principle. This initiative came in during 2017 however its use has been limited as most LPA’s have not introduced Part 2 which allowed major applications to be made. The consultation suggests extending the current Permission in Principle application process on minor brownfield schemes to major development so landowners and developers now have a fast route to secure the principle of development for housing on sites without having to work up detailed plans first.

This would circumvent the two stage process required for major schemes through the Brownfield Register (Part 1 and Part 2) and extends the current options open for minor development; effectively delivering outline permissions for schemes up to 150 units and greater if a successful EIA screening opinion is achieved.

As with all recent changes the devil is in the detail for all these changes and we would be happy to chat through the possible opportunities and constraints of these changes.

This consultation document can be found at:
www.gov.uk/government/consultations/changes-to-the-current-planning-system