Members of the DLP team were in York last week for an audience with Gavin Barwell, the Minister for Housing, Planning & London. The discussion focused on the recent publication of the Government’s White Paper – Fixing Our Broken Housing Market. The Minister was keen to reaffirm his desire to obtain a wide range of views on the contents of the consultation paper in order to understand the experience of those operating within the housing market.
Despite the ongoing emphasis on the early adoption of Local Plans, audience members were keen to understand when and how issues resulting in further delays to the plan preparation process would be addressed. Although no specific timescale was provided for the lifting of the Holding Direction on the Bradford Local Plan, a standardised approach for calculating Objectively Assessed Housing Need (“OAN”) is being swiftly progressed , with a view to confirming the methodology within an updated National Planning Policy Framework, targeted for issue in summer 2017. The OAN figure calculated through this methodology should be a minimum figure and the Minister invited all Authorities to set ambitious targets above this figure to deliver the housing required across the country. Within this context it was confirmed that the White Paper had sought to define the ‘exceptional circumstances’ in which appropriate locations for Green Belt release could be made and views were invited as to whether this clarification had been successful.
Turning to the issue of housing delivery rates, the need to increase the number of SME developers, encourage local authority housebuilding programmes and support institutional investment in innovative construction methods such as modular build was acknowledged. Flexibility within the planning system to support delivery through these routes would be an associated requirement to deliver this. This could make the White Paper aspirations relating to shortening of time periods for the implementation of planning permissions and penalties for failures to deliver, all the more challenging. However the Minister made clear that Local Authorities should work proactively with the private sector to successfully deliver housing without the need for sanctions. If this can be achieved following the adoption of Local Plans it is Government’s view that incremental increases in housing delivery can be achieved.
The Government’s consultation runs until 2nd May 2017 and we continue to strongly recommend that individual companies as well as trade organisations and others respond directly to this consultation given the pressure on all to deliver more housing.