Issued by: Department for Communities and Local Government
Issue date: 7 December 2015
Closing date: 25 January 2016
Background: The government's aim to create 200,000 Starter Homes by 2020/21 was reiterated in last month's Autumn Statement. Last week, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) launched a consultation on proposed changes to national policy designed to support delivery of Starter Homes.
Key points: A written ministerial statement and planning guidance this March set out an exception site policy to release land for Starter Homes, which will be available for sale to first-time buyers aged under 40 at a 20 per cent discount on market value.
This DCLG consultation explores further avenues for supporting delivery. First, it proposes to change paragraph 22 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to make clear that unviable or underused employment land should be released unless "significant and compelling evidence" justifies its retention.
Such evidence would include an up-to-date need assessment and "significant additional evidence" of market demand. The DCLG says it is considering the merits of "expecting" local planning authorities to adopt time limits for how long unused commercial or industrial sites should be protected where there is no compelling evidence of market interest in bringing them forward within two years.
The consultation proposes to widen the exception site policy to incorporate other types of unviable or underutilised sites previously used for retail, leisure, health, education or other non-residential institutions. It also asks if there is potential to encourage more homes in mixed commercial schemes and unlet commercial units.
The consultation proposes that rural planning authorities would "exceptionally" have flexibility to apply a "local connection" test for occupants of Starter Homes, reflecting difficulties in "access to the housing market for working people" in some rural areas.
Finally, the consultation proposes some relaxation of green belt policy. First, it proposes to amend national policy to give express support for neighbourhood plans to allocate "appropriate small-scale" green belt sites for Starter Homes.
Second, as signalled in the Autumn Statement, it proposes to amend paragraph 89 of the NPPF, which prevents brownfield site redevelopment where this has additional impact on green belt openness, to give more flexibility and enable "sensitively designed redevelopment". To qualify, proposals would have to contribute to Starter Homes delivery and be "subject to local consultation".
The DCLG proposes to narrow down the grounds on which councils can refuse Starter Homes on exception sites to "overriding" design, infrastructure and local environmental factors, such as flood risk.
The document can be found here.