Carter Jonas Responds to the Housing White Paper
Date of Article
Feb 07 2017

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Nick Taylor, Head of Planning, Carter Jonas, said: “A large proportion of the Government white paper reimagines or relaunches past initiatives, but there are a number of interesting new proposals that reflect a commitment to ensure that new housing is delivered in a timely fashion.”

On assessing housing need & local plans

“The proposal to try and arrive at a single methodology for objectively assessing housing need is positive and could short-circuit delays often encountered in the Local Plan preparation process. We also welcome the suggestion that housing land supply should be assessed annually and agreed by Councils and stakeholders, therefore removing lengthy delays – often at appeal – as to the true extent of any housing shortfall. Further urging Local Authorities to get Local Plans in place as soon as possible, are necessary as is the suggestion plans should be flexible and be reviewed regularly with a clear focus on delivery.”

On changes to the Green Belt

“The reaffirmation of Green Belt policy is not surprising, but we do feel there is a missed opportunity to re-assess its effectiveness as a planning policy tool as it has been over 60 years since it was launched.  All too often it is conflated with policies dealing with landscape quality and the reality on the ground is often very different.

“The Government seems intent instead to encourage much higher densities in urban locations – something that may not be singularly popular with those living in such areas and experience suggests that residents will react negatively. Density is not the panacea for delivering more housing and we need to consider the type of housing that we are building with more support for smaller units or communal type living with shared facilities.

On the Nationally Described Space Standard

“It’s interesting to note the intention to review the Nationally Described Space Standard alongside the drive for more efficient use of urban housing sites – there was always going to be a contradiction here. The NDSS came into effect in March 2015, but few local planning authorities have had a chance or the inclination to gather evidence and formally adopt it through the policy-making process to date. Those currently doing so, such as Leeds or Cambridge, might end up being wrong-footed.”

On increasing planning application fees

“Improving funding for local authorities by increasing planning fees and ring fencing the income for planning departments seems a sensible approach to address the lack of resource. Many of our clients are unlikely to object to this if it results in more timely decisions. "

On the private rented sector

“We have been moving away from home ownership as the tenure of preference for a number of years, so the increased reliance on rented accommodation is not unexpected. The Government is easing away from the assumption that there should be a sizeable wave of new homeowners, with the ratio of median house prices to median earnings being simply too high in certain parts of the country.”

On the implementation of planning permission

“Shorter timescales for implementing planning permission will probably not cause great ripples amongst housebuilders dealing with small to medium sized sites, but could be more of an issue on much larger, strategic sites.  Proposals around completion notices are interesting, specifically the suggestion that Local Authorities could effectively withdraw planning permission on sites under construction if progress comes to a halt. It could also cause problems on sites where a housebuilder is not in control. It will mean that as soon as permission is granted and the six-week judicial review period has expired that there is a very tight timescale to sell the site to a housebuilder or select a development partner for reserved matters and conditions to be discharged. However, we suspect this will happen infrequently.”

On SME housebuilders

“We welcome the recognition that a greater number of smaller sites, including within rural settlements, should be released to ensure that small to medium sized builders can play their part in delivering the new homes – now reckoned to sit between 225,000 and 275,000 homes per annum.”