17 October 2014
, On 16 October 2014, the Labour Party published the report of the Lyons Review on housing supply. Sir Michael Lyons had been tasked with preparing a plan for developing a policy framework to deliver 200,000 new homes per year by 2020.
The report contains a total of 39 recommendations, many of which relate to planning and development. Some of the key recommendations include:
- Reforms to the Local Plan System
LPAs should be required to submit a local plan to the Planning Inspectorate for examination within a set time frame (by December 2016). If this requirement is not met, the secretary of state would have the power to direct the Planning Inspectorate to intervene to ensure a plan is produced.
The Local Plan-making process should be streamlined. This would involve splitting the process into two stages. First local authorities would work together on the strategic elements, including housing numbers, major urban extensions, new settlements and strategic infrastructure. Work on the detailed policies of a Local Plan could be approved after a “lighter touch” second stage.
- Streamlining the Planning Process
Support for the current Government’s proposals to introduce set timescales on planning authorities to sign off planning conditions and the ‘deemed discharge’ of conditions where an authority fails to comply.
The introduction of “redline” applications for sites of fewer than 10 units. This would establish the principle of development and require the builder to provide a plan of the site alongside a short statement justifying the design and addressing likely impacts. This is aimed at reducing the burden and risk of planning applications.
- The Right to Grow
Groups of authorities covering one or more strategic housing market area should be able to prepare a "Strategic Housing Market Plan" with statutory weight, which must be taken into account in developing and updating Local Plans. The secretary of state should have the power to require the authorities of a particular housing market area to complete a Strategic Housing Market Plan, where co-operation is not forthcoming and housing need is not met.
- More Resources for Local Planning Authorities
Local planning authorities should be able to set planning fees locally on a full cost recovery basis – in return for guaranteed high levels of service.
- A Spatial Dimension for the NPPF
Inclusion of a "national spatial dimension to the NPPF to identify opportunities for substantial housing growth created by national infrastructure investment". This guidance would inform local plans and major developments and ensure national infrastructure decisions are linked to opportunities to build more homes.
The NPPF should be updated to establish a brownfield first policy, with a sequential test to be applied to development.
- Use it or Lose it
The life of a planning permission should be reduced from three to two years, with higher fees applying for renewal of expired permissions. Councils should have powers to levy a charge equivalent to council tax if land allocated in a plan (with or without permission) is not brought forward within five years.
The definition of commencement of development should be amended – requiring more substantive work to take place on site to keep a planning permission alive.
- Affordable Housing
Proposed changes for a minimum threshold of 10 units for affordable housing S106 should be reversed. A new arbitration service for S106 negotiations should be introduced.
To strengthen the ability of local planning authorities to meet affordable housing need in their areas, the definition of affordability in the NPPF should be revised to reinstate the previous definition of affordable housing (namely, that affordable housing should "meet the needs of eligible households at a cost low enough for them to afford, determined with regard to local incomes and house prices").
To reduce scope for different interpretations of viability, definitive guidance on the subject be issued. This would include clear identification of the “uplift arising from the grant of planning permission” while allowing the landowner to “receive a reasonable return”. An “open-book” approach to negotiating site specific viability is advocated.
- Housing for Older People
Incentives should be introduced for older people to downsize. Incentivising private sector investment in provision of homes with extra care should also be explored.
- New Homes Corporations
Local authorities should be allowed to request the creation of locally led New Homes Corporations, as delivery agents to respond to the specific needs across a housing market area. They would bring together housing associations, development and investment partners to focus on the delivery of new homes.
- Housing Growth Areas
New Housing Growth Areas are proposed, giving Local authorities the ability to designate such areas and then “issue a call to landowners to pool or sell their land or transfer it as an equity stake in a joint venture”. Landowners that did not want to co-operate could be subjected to reformed CPO powers.
Once the land was assembled, the authority would seek a lead partner with joint responsibility for master planning, parcelling up land and outlining the type and timescales for development. The development partnership would offer plots to a range of builders with housing associations, developers and others submitting bids which would be assessed on price, quality and deliverability of the scheme.
- Garden Cities and Garden Suburbs
The government should immediately promote a programme of garden cities, garden suburbs and remodelled towns and cities. The Garden cities could be delivered by new Garden City Development Corporations based on updated New Towns legislation. The Government should publish criteria for locally-led Garden Cities, setting out the criteria the government will expect them to meet (in the context of national spatial priorities). Proposals from private promoters could be accepted, but only where local support can be demonstrated.
The government should give a clear indication as to the extent to which London’s housing needs should be met within the capital or the surrounding local authority areas.
- Local Homes for Local People
In areas with a public stake in new housing development, local authorities should be empowered to "ensure that a proportion of new homes are released and marketed locally before further afield so that people living locally or with strong local connections including first-time buyers get the chance to buy the homes that their local community have given permission to be built".
- Zero Carbon
The current government’s proposals to exempt small developments from the full zero carbon standards should be reversed.
Ian Gillespie, Partner, commented “The Lyons Report makes interesting reading. The broad aim of the work, to explore options for increasing the delivery of new housing, must be supported –although some of the proposals do have an air of familiarity. For example, the splitting of the Local Plan-making process into stages, sounds very much like the former Structure and Local Plans system. It of course remains to be seen whether Labour will have the opportunity to act upon these recommendations”.