Details of revised national planning policy for new homes in England revealed

A revised national policy for planning in England has been published which will make it easier for councils to challenge poor quality and unattractive developments and give communities a greater voice about how developments should look and feel.

The revised National Planning Policy Framework follows a public consultation launched by the Prime Minister earlier this year to provide a comprehensive approach for planners, developers and councils to build more homes, more quickly and in the places where people want to live.

The new rules focus on promoting high quality design, stronger protection for the environment, building the right number of homes in the right places and greater responsibility and accountability for housing delivery from councils and developers.

‘Fundamental to building the homes our country needs is ensuring that our planning system is fit for the future. This revised planning framework sets out our vision of a planning system that delivers the homes we need,’ said Secretary of State for Housing James Brokenshire.

‘I am clear that quantity must never compromise the quality of what is built, and this is reflected in the new rules. We have listened to the tens of thousands of people who told us their views, making this a shared strategy for development in England,’ he added.

Some 85 of the proposals set out in the housing white paper and the last Budget are implemented in the new National Planning Policy Framework.

The framework ensures councils have the confidence and tools to refuse permission for development that does not prioritise design quality and does not complement its surroundings.

With an emphasis on engaging with communities and allowing residents to see proposed development before it’s even built, it encourages councils to make use of innovative new visual tools to promote better design and quality, which will also make sure new homes fit in with their surroundings.

Adopted neighbourhood plans will demonstrate clear local leadership in design quality, with the framework allowing groups seeking such plans to truly reflect the community’s expectations on how new development will visually contribute to their area.

Whilst the framework sets the strategic direction for driving up new build quality, it will remain up to councils to apply these polices in the most appropriate way in their area, recognising that they are well placed to know their area’s unique character and setting.

The new framework has also been updated to provide further protection for biodiversity; ensuring wildlife thrives at the same time as addressing the need for new homes.
Changes to the framework see the planning system align more closely with Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan, which aims to leave the environment in a better state for future generations.

It includes more protection for habitats, and places greater importance on air quality when deciding development proposals and it provides strengthened protection for ancient woodland and ancient and veteran trees across England, ensuring they can be retained for the benefit of future generations.

Whilst giving councils real flexibility to make the most of their existing brownfield land, the revised framework makes sure they exhaust all other reasonable options for development before looking to alter a Green Belt boundary.

The government has more explicitly outlined the protection of the Green Belt in England, explaining the high expectations and considerable evidence that would be needed to alter any boundary.

To help tackle unaffordable house prices in many areas across the country, the framework sets out a new way for councils to calculate the housing need of their local community including different forms of housing, such as older people’s retirement homes.

Under the framework, from November 2018 councils will have a Housing Delivery Test focused on driving up the numbers of homes actually delivered in their area, rather than how many are planned for.

In addition, to make sure that the necessary infrastructure and affordable housing is delivered to support communities, clearer guidance for both developers and councils has also been published.

Brokenshire said that it means that developers will know what is expected of them up front, even before they submit a planning application and councils have greater power to hold them to these commitments.

However, while welcoming a move towards greater transparency in the planning system, and measures that try to resolve the challenges in negotiating the number of affordable homes through the viability process, council chiefs have also criticised the updated policy.

Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, said that they fail to give councils the powers they need to ensure homes with planning permission are built out quickly, with the necessary infrastructure, in their local communities.

‘It is hugely disappointing that the Government has not listened to our concerns about nationally set housing targets, and will introduce a delivery test that punishes communities for homes not built by private developers. Councils work hard with communities to get support for good quality housing development locally, and there is a risk these reforms will lead to locally agreed plans being bypassed by national targets,’ he said.

‘Planning is not a barrier to house building, and councils are approving nine out of 10 applications. To boost the supply of homes and affordability, it is vital to give councils powers to ensure homes with permission are built, enable all councils to borrow to build, keep 100% of Right to Buy receipts and set discounts locally, he added.