Housing and Planning

Delivering an adequate housing supply has never been easy, and it is a constant issue on the agenda for all political parties.

07 Aug 2018
"Apartment block

The planning system plays a key part, and there has been a dominant "planning is the problem" narrative in this context.

Local authorities and developers often argue over the level of affordable housing required as part of planning applications, as well as over suitable affordable housing review mechanisms. These requirements are based in planning policy, and courts can be reluctant to get involved on the basis that it is the responsibility of local authorities to assess housing need. National planning policy and guidance does not dictate how local authorities identify housing need, which makes the scope of reasonable and lawful planning judgement broad (and thus harder to challenge by developers).

Section 106 agreements for large residential developments can take a long time to negotiate, which leads to uncertainty over what a developer's 'final set' of obligations will be, delays in achieving the grant of planning permission, and delays with developers' programmes.

As was highlighted at Howard Kennedy's Breakfast Briefing on "Are Developers Tired of London" on 13 June 2018, the potential high cost of the Community Infrastructure Levy can also act as a deterrent to some developers, depending on where they want to build. The number of planning application documents required by some local authorities are also seen as unnecessary.

There are other voices in this debate, and views are split as to whether the planning system really is the main culprit in the housing crisis.

A few weeks ago, Howard Kennedy hosted a Planning Futures Question and Answer session with the Right Honourable John Healey MP, shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning, on Labour's Green Paper called "Housing for the Many". The paper contains proposals including reforming the planning system so that there is a duty on councils to deliver affordable housing, redefining affordable housing to relate it to average incomes rather than housing being a percentage of market rents, and establishing a new English Sovereign Land Trust to make more land available, more cheaply.

On the other hand, earlier this year the Local Government Association published controversial research findings which showed there are 423,000 homes in England and Wales with planning permission still waiting to be built. That research commented that the figures prove the planning system is not a barrier to house building. It argued that the Government instead needs to provide councils with more powers to intervene when homes that benefit from planning permission are not built. In January 2018, the Government established a panel of experts (led by Sir Oliver Letwin) to carry out a review into understanding why hundreds of thousands of homes haven’t been built, despite having planning permission. Its findings will be an interesting read.

Clearly, there are many factors at play when it comes to meeting housing need. To quote from RICS: " there is no one silver bullet to the housing crisis. The problem is as diverse as the people it affects and the solutions need to make use of all available tools and address demand on all tenures."

*Please note - This article was written before the revised NPPF was released, but Howard Kennedy is hosting a breakfast session on 23 August 2018 where Steve Quartermain (the Government's Chief Planner) will be talking about the impact of the revised NPPF.


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