We are currently half way through a consultation period following the issuing of the draft revised Framework, the first major overhaul to the National Planning Policy Framework in six years.
The document has been around, untouched in its nature for a period of time that has not been seen previously (despite the additions of the NPPG and Ministerial Statement respectively); whilst the original NPPF provided a much needed consolidation of the weighty tomes of the previous PPS statements, given the predominant momentum politically in recent times to become more aggressive in the approach to delivering housing, it cannot be doubted that an update to reset and recalibrate the priorities is overdue.
The consultation period for this draft continues for a further month and either it is expected that the draft as is or a version with the same predominant objectives is highly likely be adopted by summer.
Further to this, consultation on the consideration of viability appraisals is provided in conjunction with the draft; it is expected that there will be consistency with the draft London Plan and the Mayor’s vision of “fast tracking” the decision making stage of development by circumnavigating the consideration of Affordable Housing Viability at the decision making stage. It could be expected therefore that the consideration of Affordable Housing numbers will be a local matter, using a calculation methodology that could allow for the security of the principle of a residential development permission with the subsequent requirements for Affordable Housing secured afterwards, most likely through the negotiation of a Section 106 Agreement. How this particular process will work, particularly its ability to then contribute to any weight of balance exercise associated sites not fully in accordance with policy still requires clarification. I would be hugely surprised if the production of an updated position on viability comes forward at the same rate as an updated and adopted NPPF.
There are a number of important, predominantly subtle, changes within the new NPPF. I will not subject you to the majority of them in this blog given their dry nature however I identify some key elements that can be expected to sit front and centre within the updated document.
The tilted balance consideration has taken into consideration the Hopkins Homes case. Within Paragraph 11, removing the now relatively ambiguous “golden thread running throughout both plan making and decision making” to a clear “decision should apply a presumption in favour of sustainable development”. If nothing else this reiterates the requirement as set by Hopkins Homes to make sure that the tilted balance exercise and the overarching requirement to consider weight of balance in any application is adhered to and undertaken by Local Planning Authorities in their decision making process.
Paragraph 75 repositions a Council’s requirements with regard to the consideration of five year housing supply from simply identifying that they could show five years worth of sites on plan to specifically demonstrating that they can demonstrate such housing supply is deliverable to meet their requirements. Failure will be subject to the tilted balance exercise where the Local Planning Authority “cannot demonstrate a five year supply for deliverable housing sites” or “where the housing delivery test indicates that delivery of housing has been substantially below the housing requirement over the previous three years”.
Paragraph 75 places greater specific emphasis on a requirement for a Local Authority to make clear that the constant rolling level both their housing need and the numbers of deliverable sites to satisfy their need with a new 5 or 10 per cent buffer applied depending on the circumstances of the Council’s position statement. Paragraph 76 goes further to this in requiring a Council to provide an annual position statement that specifically engages with developers and others who have an impact upon that delivery. The paragraphs also clarify how the 20 per cent buffer from here on in should be applied by demonstrating that the relatively subjective “persistent under delivery” now specifically relates to a period of three years.
These changes, whilst on an individual level seemingly carry limited weight, collectively place greater pressure on Local Authorities from all angles to prioritise their consideration of deliverable housing supply. As a result it offers greater opportunity for developers to engage the argument of tilted balance where such responsibility is not being met.
If the Local Planning Authority wishes to maintain great control over the location and type of housing supply within its Borough it must provide greater focus and constant clarity on the matter; it is the clarity of position that should, in principle, reduce speculative risk to a developer. Should a Local Authority meet its requirements and responsibilities, the by-product should be the delivery of more approved residential sites.
This draft offers a platform from which permissions and as such housing supply could in principle increase. The key question will be whether Local Planning Authorities engage with the responsibility being placed upon them by Central Government and the strength of the consequences should they fail to do so.
MRICS BSc (Hons) RICS Accredited Expert Witness
NextPhase Development Ltd