Housing White Paper Update
After the publication of our Housing White Paper Briefing Note (7th February 2017), yesterday DLP Planning attended a seminar with Gavin Barwell MP where he provided a helpful overview of the paper and took questions from development professionals. In an open and honest session, he gave an insight into his views on how the White Paper can help tackle the housing crisis:
Key points from the session:
• Barwell said he is a ‘man in need of allies’ – he clearly wants to work with different sectors to move forward housing delivery.
• He was clear that the focus is on delivery – ‘people can’t live in planning permissions’. He is clearly intent on ensuring that not only are Local Plans put in place in a timely manner but homes are built off the back of them.
• He recognises that the solution will be multi-faceted. He stated early on if that planning were the only issue, the housing shortage would have been sorted out years ago.
• He went on to make it clear that he didn’t see this as a ‘quick fix’ and that he recognised that once completion rates improve there will need to be sustained delivery for many years to catch up.
• On the need for 10% allocations in new Local Plan to be small sites (under half a hectare), Barwell made it clear that it should not just be about small individual sites, but splitting up larger allocations to ensure parts are built out by smaller builders. He reiterated a Government commitment to release public land to smaller builders and work with them in partnership rather than to sell in bulk to the volume builders. A policy is expected on this issue in the next NPPF review.
• Barwell acknowledged that the Duty to Co-Operate was not working as well as it should. He is very keen to see local authorities work together on joint plans covering strategic issues– he stopped short of saying these would be like regional plans, however he encouraged authorities to think about wider economic markets not just their own issues.
• Barwell believes in some areas, that owners/promoters are holding back delivery by not releasing land, which is why he is looking to introduce transparency is land ownership information. The measures to provide more clear info on ownership and interests through Land Registry is therefore aimed primarily at Local Authorities to help with their plan making.
• On concerns regarding the translation of the ambition of the White Paper to increase housing delivery into reality on the ground, Barwell believes attitudes are quickly changing and particularly highlighted the change in attitudes of many MPs to the housing issues over the last couple of years. He believes this change will continue which he hoped would help free up development.
• On plan making he stated that he wants there to be a ‘differentiation’ between need and what is actually planned in new Local Plans. He clearly thinks that in some areas known constraints are influencing assessments and OANs are being ‘fixed’ at the outset. He wants to stop this and wants everywhere to be ‘honest’ about housing need at the outset – even if ultimately it cannot be delivered in the locality.
• On Green Belt issues Barwell was very strong stating categorically that he ’did not believe Green Bet release is the only answer to increasing land supply’. He set out that the fact 11% of Britain is urban and 13% Green Belt means there is plenty of other land available which should be looked at before Green Belt. He also reiterated that Green Belt is not an environmental policy, it is a policy to prevent sprawl – and it has been successful. He accepted there would be Green Belt release but that this would only be after authorities have exploded all other options, including working with neighbours.
• On the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) Barwell said he expects a statement in the Autumn budget about amendments to how it would operate.
• On the capacity of Local Authorities Barwell noted it was the one issue that everyone he spoke within preparing the paper agreed was an issue. There was no mention of direct Government funding but he was clear that fees can go up by 20% in all areas as long as the authorities use the increased income to pay for planning resources. A further 20% increase could be added by authorities who are delivering well against targets – a 40% increase overall.
• Barwell reiterated the importance of the private rented sector, but was clear that he was looking for a balance between encouraging delivery of new homes through the sector and protecting the rights of tenants. He is acutely aware that the role of rented housing has changed in recent years, with more families in rented accommodating and giving them security in their tenancies was one of his aims
• Finally, Barwell noted his one regret about the paper is that it doesn’t say enough about ‘place based solutions’. He spoke several times about the Government being open to offers from Local Authorities as to how they could increase delivery in their area with Government support. He suggested this would be an issue that would be addressed in more detail in due course but is something he thinks is key.
The DLP Briefing Note on the White Paper can be seen here: and the consultation runs until 2nd May 2017.
Please contact us should you have any queries.