Bringing you the issues at the heart of the planning & development industry shaping the world in which we operate, we aim to keep you efficiently informed.

Hear from Nick Taylor, Head of Planning, Carter Jonas

Six years after the Government consolidated 1,000 pages of national policy guidance into just 50, an updated version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF2) has just been published. Over the last six years there has been considerable litigation and challenge and in the updated NPPF, the Government has attempted to maintain simplicity as well as provide clarity.

This briefing note sets out our views on the headline changes, the implications of these and commentary on some
of the things that didn’t change which we think should have.

It's all about the housing market stupid!
With apologies to Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential Campaign, NPPF2 has restated the Government’s commitment, and some would say obsession, with housing delivery, both in terms of supply and for the first time, delivery.

On supply, as promised, the Government is committed to introducing a standard methodology for assessing local housing need. There are plenty of critics of this approach, but it was argued that it would at least make the system consistent. Except it won’t, because a get-out clause is included with a deviation allowed where “exceptional circumstances justify an alternative approach which also reflects current and future demographic trends and market signals”. So in some cases, expect nothing to have changed at all and for all sides at local plan examinations to seek to demonstrate exceptional circumstances and thus argue that a standard methodology is not appropriate. So much for the benefits of introducing a standard methodology!

At the other end of the process is the new housing delivery test. This is new and challenges local planning authorities to maintain housing delivery. This would be a fair test if delivery rested wholly with the authority, but as delivery is reliant on a wide range of factors including the performance of developers and market conditions, some may conclude it is a little harsh to punish a local authority for matters which may on occasions be outside of its control. Expect considerable research and monitoring on this. Also, expect a renewed effort at ensuring Local Plans are up to date and reviewed in a timely fashion.

So how many houses do we need?
The Government’s housing target has been set at 300,000 units per annum based on previous household projections (2014). This has been at the heart of all Government statements about the housing market over the last couple of years.

However, new household projection data is planned to be released in September (2016 data) which is understood to be likely to lead to a reduced national target. So if the national target is going to go down, we can expect local targets to have to be adjusted and there is of course now the potential to argue exceptional circumstances depending on whether or not you are supporting or opposing growth. Expect further clarification on this and for many debates to start at a local level on housing needs for a particular area.

Additional test for local authorities considering changes to Green Belt boundaries
Local communities and Central Government have increasingly been alarmed at the apparent ease with which local planning authorities have undertaken reviews of Green Belt boundaries. The previous test required Green Belt boundaries to be reviewed only in “exceptional circumstances”, and local planning authorities often considered the test to have been satisfied because of a need to find additional land for housing and there not being enough brownfield land.

It is clear that the Government believed this increasingly to have become a default scenario and so the test has been strengthened to require demonstration of “fully evidenced and justified”exceptional circumstances. One can only surmise at this stage that it means local planning authorities will have to undertake a detailed consideration of the supply of brownfield and other land before considering a review of Green Belt boundaries. We consider that where local planning authorities do anticipate needing to release land from the Green Belt to meet future development needs, this strengthening of the test is likely to lead to considerable scrutiny from communities, landowners and developers, and finally the inspector at the Examination in Public into any draft Plan.

A helpful clarification is that where a strategic plan has proposed changes to Green Belt boundaries, these can be changed in neighbourhood plans. There is also a new opportunity for limited in-filling in villages or the partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed land where this contributes to meeting an identified local affordable housing need, provided this would not cause substantial harm to the openness of the Green Belt. We can see the possibility of this raising anxieties in some locations.

New settlements or significant extensions to towns and villages
Although the guidance on the potential contribution of new settlements or significant extensions to towns and villages is not new, clarification is provided which suggests that the support for these is enhanced. Significantly there is mention of the principles of the Garden Cities movement, which had been absent in the draft NPPF, which suggests that this form of development is again in vogue with the Government. It implies also that councils will be encouraged to support these developments through joint ventures or locally led development corporations. Paragraph 119 suggests the use of compulsory purchase powers by planning authorities as a tool for land assembly. Another one to watch.

Anything for town centres?
There is not much change in relation to town centres with NPPF2 restating their primacy and the need to protect and encourage investment in them. At a difficult time for the High Street, this is unsurprising.

Focus on design, quality and engagement
Good design has been significantly strengthened in NPPF2 as it is “fundamental to what planning and development should achieve” (paragraph 124). Early liaison with planning authorities is promoted and entering into voluntary Planning Performance Agreements for large and complex projects is a new addition. The use of collaborative workshops as one way of achieving early engagement with local communities is suggested. In our opinion, these requirements have the potential to frontload the development process resulting in a more lengthy pre-application process but with possibly greater community buy-in to schemes and a more streamlined determination period. A key addition in NPPF2 is the requirement for planning authorities to ensure quality is consistent from approval to completion. This is likely to result in more detailed submissions and less flexibility on amending design details through the planning condition discharge process. It could also vary the perception of what constitutes a non-material amendment. Could this be the end of post consent value engineering?

Small sites and density
NPPF2 has scaled back the percentage of small sites that should be allocated in a Development Plan and within Brownfield Registers from the 20% proposed in draft NPPF2 to 10%. Sites must not be larger than 1 hectare. A get-out clause has also been inserted for those authorities unable to meet this requirement, no doubt driven by local authorities’ consultation responses. NPPF2 promotes the use of Local Development Orders for small and medium sized sites therefore confirming the acceptability of brownfield developments of 10 plus units on sites less than 1 hectare in size. There is a clear intention of optimising densities in city and town centre locations that are well served by public transport. This is a new addition and reflects sentiments of the draft London Plan. Minimum density standards are suggested for other parts of the plan area. An important addition is direction for authorities to take a flexible approach in applying policies or guidance relating to sunlight and daylight where they would otherwise inhibit making efficient use of a site. This relaxation in approach is welcomed.

Neighbourhood plans
The status of Neighbourhood Plans is clarified following significant litigation and NPPF2 emphasises the need for development to comply with neighbourhood plans. Paragraph 65 sets out that strategic policies should identify a housing requirement figure for designated neighbourhood plan areas and there should be no need to review this at examination stage. The intention here must be to speed up Neighbourhood Plan Examinations. Annex 2 makes it clear that a Neighbourhood Plan is part of the Development Plan unless the planning authority decides it should not be made.

Affordable housing
The definition of Affordable Housing has been amended to include Build to Rent, Starter Homes and discounted market sale housing. Social Rent has been reintroduced under the affordable housing for rent definition, following an earlier disappearance in draft NPPF2. The change of definition for the Build to Rent sector could be particularly important as the tenure becomes more mainstream and which some in the market consider will make a substantial contribution to housing delivery in city and town centres.

Planning obligations & viability
A subtle change in wording sets out that planning obligations ‘must’ only be sought when they meet the CIL Regulation tests. This compares to ‘should’ wording in the draft. This definitive position should make the process of securing obligations more transparent for applicants and local authorities.

Paragraph 57 sets out that the onus is on the applicant to justify a viability assessment and the weight to be given to it is a matter for the local authority. Where local plans are up-to-date, a site is deemed to be viable and therefore any subsequent viability assessments submitted as part of a later planning application could carry less weight. This puts greater importance on accurately promoting sites and making representations to influence draft policy wording through the emerging Plan process. As not all development costs and abnormals are known at the outset, this new weight consideration of viability assessments at planning application stage could actually result in protracted negotiations and slow down housing delivery in the long term.

So what's been missed?
We consider that an opportunity has been missed to be provide much greater flexibility on when changes to Green Belts should be allowed. This would have been helpful to guide the Mayor of London to lead a London wide review of the Green Belt in consultation with neighbouring authorities under the duty to co-operate to provide for a wide range of housing types to meet London’s housing needs.

Nick Taylor
Partner, Planning & Development
020 7016 0733

Carter Jonas in the news

The Firle Estate had responded to a specific request by Wealden District Council Planners to submit a detailed planning application for 33 dwellings, shops, offices and including the full requirement for affordable housing. This was to be in accordance with their emerging plan and to deal with a substantial shortfall in their 5 year land supply. The application was submitted in August 2016.

Unfortunately, Wealden District Council altered its policy due to the adverse impacts that large scale development was having on the air quality and the ecology of Ashdown Forest. For over two years there has been a moratorium on new housing development in Wealden as a result meaning all planning applications have been placed in the pending file.

However, we have been able to unlock the application ready for a hopefully positive decision shortly as a direct result of our team negotiating robustly with the Council, responding directly to the new emerging planning policy and adjusting the application to suit. A positive decision is expected in October.

For further information, please contact a member of our team:

Lachlan Robertson
Partner, Planning & Development
01225 747267

Carter Jonas has sold one of the last large brownfield development sites in Cambridge on behalf of Ridgeons, the timber and builders’ merchant.

The 8.4-acre (3.4-hectare) site on Cromwell Road is located to the east of Cambridge city centre providing easy access to nearby amenities and the mainline railway station. It was last used as a builders’ merchants, but former occupier Ridgeons has relocated to a new facility on Norman Way.  The site has been acquired by Cambridge City Council.

Carter Jonas’ planning team undertook the initial promotion of the site to secure outline consent, before the residential development team brought the site to the open market. Outline planning permission exists for 245 residential units with the approved masterplan including a mixture of apartments and townhouses, as well as provision for a new nursery or community facility, car and cycle parking, and new landscaped open spaces. Carter Jonas has now been instructed to progress detailed planning consent for the site.

The development of the site will be brought forward by the Cambridge Investment Partnership, a joint venture between Cambridge City Council and Hill Investment Partnerships that was formed to develop sites to help meet Cambridge’s significant housing needs, including for affordable housing.

Colin Brown, Partner, Carter Jonas said: “The Ridgeons site on Cromwell Road is one of the last brownfield sites in this area of Cambridge with neighbouring sites now redeveloped for housing. It is an exceptional opportunity to create a new residential community and deliver much needed housing. We received over 100 enquiries in the first phase of marketing and nine formal offers by the tender date before the Cambridge Investment Partnership was selected as the preferred bidder. The deal we have agreed is testament to the very competitive Cambridge market. From a Carter Jonas point of view we are delighted to have been reinstructed to progress a detailed application.”

Cllr Lewis Herbert – Leader of the Council said: "The purchase of this site provides us with the opportunity to build a large number of much-needed, high quality new council homes, that will give Cambridge families and individuals the homes and stability thy deserve. The purchase also enables the council to invest in housing development on a key city site."

For further information, please contact a member of our team:

Colin Brown
Partner, Planning & Development
01223 326826 

Development North launch Ripon Residential Development site for 390 dwellingsThe land comprising c. 23.19 ha (53.3 acres) is located on the south western edge of the Cathedral City of Ripon, within the Borough of Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

The Carter Jonas northern development team were initially instructed by the landowner to select a developer partner to take the site forward through the planning process.

Terms were agreed with promoters, Gladman, who obtained outline planning permission on 13th June 2018, following appeal, for the development of up to 390 dwellings. Carter Jonas are now instructed to market the site with the benefit of that planning permission.

The site benefits from a fantastic location with direct views to Ripon Cathedral, The Quarry Moor Nature Reserve adjoins the site to the east. The Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is situated c. 0.75 miles (1.2km) to the west and includes the Studley Royal Park and Fountains Abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The site was released to the market on Thursday 13th September with early indications suggesting interest will be strong.

For further information, please contact a member of our team:

Dan Sherwood
Associate Partner, Planning & Development
0113 203 1062

Carter Jonas secures planning for student accommodation development in EpsomCarter Jonas has secured planning permission on behalf of private residential developer Willco Properties Ltd from Epsom and Ewell Borough Council for a new student accommodation development in Surrey. Willco Properties Ltd has an ongoing relationship with the University of the Creative Arts (UCA) to provide high quality student accommodation across Epsom.

The six storey, 99-bedroom development known as Bradford House will also include 2,384 sq ft (221.5 sqm) of Grade A office space and basement parking. It will replace the ageing, vacant office building located on East Street. The new building has been designed by architects Geoffrey Sloan Associates.

Carter Jonas secured planning permission for the neighbouring student accommodation development, Crossways House, in 2014. This included a change of use and extension to the former office building to create 97 student bedrooms with ground floor office space.

Katy Davis, Partner, Carter Jonas, commented: “UCA recently announced the launch of a new business school for the 2018/19 academic year and it is hoped the scheme will be fully operational in time for 2020. There is currently a 50% shortfall in accommodation, so the development will be integral to meeting demand in an area that is already popular with students. It will also bring further vitality to Epsom town centre given the development’s proximity to shops, amenities and public transport.”

For further information, please contact a member of our team:

Katy Davis
Partner, Planning & Development
020 7529 1513

Planning Success on Appeal for 72 Houses in Oxfordshire VillageCarter Jonas’s Planning South team have secured planning permission on appeal, following a 4 day public inquiry, for 72 houses on a site in the north Oxfordshire village of Launton.

Planning partner Huw Mellor appeared at the public inquiry as expert planning witness on behalf of Carter Jonas’s client Manor Oak Homes and led the team of consultants that acted in support of the proposed development. Included were architects A T Architecture Limited who produced the application plans, including the proposed site layout shown on the image of the site.

Huw Mellor commented “This is a significant planning outcome for the team and one that would not have been achieved without some very careful advance planning and detailed consideration of the planning issues at hand. This was a largely greenfield site and one set outside the village settlement, in a rural location. Gaining planning consents on such sites are not easily achieved and the allowing of the appeal demonstrates the expert planning advice and keen judgement that Carter Jonas planners can bring to even the most potentially difficult of sites.

For further information, please contact a member of our team:

Huw Mellor
Partner, Planning & Development
01865 255 166

The next edition of Planning & Development Bulletin will be published in November 2018, however you can keep up-to-date with our latest firm wide developments on the news section of our website.

Case studies

@ James Bainbridge
James Bainbridge
01865 404437 email me about James
@ Nick Taylor
Nick Taylor 
Partner - Head of Planning
020 7016 0733 email me about Nick Taylor
@ Colin Brown
Colin Brown
Partner - Head of Planning and Development Division
01223 326826 email me about Colin
@ Steven Sensecall
Steven Sensecall
Partner - Head of Planning in the Southern Region
01865 297705 email me about Steven

James is Chairman of Carter Jonas.  Formerly Head of the Planning & Development Division, James advises clients on proposed development projects throughout the south of England with nearly 30 years of experience in residential and mixed use development.  This includes site identification, project management of planning and development strategies, valuation and viability appraisals, marketing and sale of development opportunities. He has specific expertise in option, promotion and other development agreements, joint ventures and landowner equalisation agreements. James has been involved in sites ranging from new settlements to city centre regeneration and smaller provincial and rural schemes, and also provides expert witness and independent expert valuation services for dispute resolution.

I can provide advice on:

Nick is a chartered town planner and development surveyor with over 25 years' experience, gained across the residential, commercial, retail and industrial sectors for corporate, institutional and private landowners and developers. He has worked at CBRE and Drivers Jonas Deloitte. His professional experience is in three main sectors – Strategic Land / Projects, Retail / Mixed-Use and Central London. Strategic Projects / Land involves the promotion of land for commercial and residential development for landowners and developers. Retail / Mixed-Use schemes are a blend of edge of centre and town centre mixed-use schemes with food stores and other uses, often residential. This sector includes regeneration and waterside schemes. Central London focuses on projects from Canary Wharf to Hammersmith and Camden down to Wandsworth, Southwark and Lambeth.

When he isn’t working, Nick can be found playing golf (increasingly badly) and spending time re-stocking and emptying his wine cellar to indulge his passion for wine.

Colin is a Partner and was appointed Head of Planning & Development Division in November 2020, he is based out of our Cambridge office.  He has over 25 years’ experience of planning consultancy and has a broad sphere of work.  He acts for a wide range of private, institutional and developer clients and has worked on significant planning applications and appeals.

He regularly instructs Counsel, and has appeared at a number of Local Plan examinations and in Section 78 and other appeals where he has often given evidence.  He carries out much land promotion work and has a strong track record of delivering planning consents taking projects through their entire process from site identification to construction on site.  

Away from work, Colin is Chairman of the Cambridge Forum for the Construction Industry and of the Cambridge branch of networking group, Interact.  He is also Chairman of the Dining Rights Committee at the Hawks’ Club, a sporting club in the City for Cambridge University sportsmen. He is a regular, if poor golfer, a keen cyclist and a committed, but somewhat less dangerous skier than he once was.

I can provide advice on:

Steven is Partner and Head of Planning Southern Region and is based in our Oxford office.

I can provide advice on:

Our latest publications

The ongoing greenfield/brownfield debate | 2022
View Research