Comment from Carl Dyer, Head of Planning at Irwin Mitchell
Yesterday Theresa May announced reforms, to crackdown on councils and developers flouting planning rules.
Speaking at a national planning conference in London, the Prime Minister promised to rewrite planning rules and told developers and builders: "It’s time to do your bit".
She also declared a major overhaul of the National Planning Policy Framework and that around 80 of the proposals set out in the Housing White paper will be implemented.
May said planning rules, when used incorrectly, tied councils up in red tape and allowed some developers to game the system. She also wanted councils to take a developer’s previous rate of build-out into account when deciding whether to grant planning permission.
The Prime Minister also urged councils to “do all they can to find sites, grant planning permissions and build homes” including through adopting a new nationwide standard that shows how many homes local authorities need to plan for in their area.
The review did not include any proposal to reform Green Belt restrictions. Indeed authorities can only amend Green Belt boundaries if they can prove they have explored every other reasonable option for building the homes their community needs.
Expert Opinion“I hope to goodness that Theresa May is better briefed on Europe than she is on planning. She has clearly not thought this through properly.
"Where to begin?
"She wants developers and communities to co-operate more. The problem is that most communities want development in other communities. Everyone wants housing; but they want in the next ward or borough; not theirs.
"She starts from a premise that developers are land banking. Someone should tell her that her government has asked Oliver Letwin to investigate whether that is true, and it would be sensible not to make pronouncements on the subject until he has reported on the facts. (Unless Mrs May has already decided what his findings are to be, irrespective of the facts he finds).
"She is talking of taking build out rates into account when granting planning permissions. This is flatly contrary to the premise that planning permissions are not personal: they run with the land. And many developers don’t have build-out rates, because they sell the land on to house builders – many of whom don’t want to be involved in the planning system: they outsource that risk, so that they can buy “oven-ready” sites from developers.
"Talks of wanting to cut red tape; then totally contradicts herself by saying she wants to make it harder to get permission. Developers only are able to 'game' the system because the system is so badly broken.
"And nothing in the consultation draft out this week is going to change that.”
Carl Dyer - Partner
Speaking about the NPPF itself, Dyer added:
Expert Opinion“Much of the existing document survives virtually unchanged. While it has been 'reordered' into different chapters, many paragraphs are retained verbatim with different numbers. There is nothing radical or really new: only policy proposals which have already been trailed.
"We have a new term for what used to be 'Starter Homes': 'Entry level housing', which looks very similar. It is to be prioritised. So we still have planning policy chasing first time buyers. Which is a pity, because you could provide more homes for more people with less resources and less land if you targeted elderly down-sizers, who would release their homes onto the market.
"So yes, we have a new definition of Entry Level Housing, but still no comprehensive definition of retirement housing.
"The proposal to exclude specialist housing (including for the elderly) from affordable housing requirements is welcome.
"But this whole review could have attempted so much more.”
Carl Dyer - Partner
The plans will be consulted on over the next eight weeks with a final version expected to be published in the summer.
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