Government publishes proposals to make viability 'simpler, quicker and more transparent'

The government has set out proposals to make viability assessments 'simpler, quicker and more transparent', including a move to change national planning policy to make clear that applications that meet viability requirements set out in local planning policies 'should be assumed to be viable'.

Development: government sets out proposals for changes to viability assessments
Development: government sets out proposals for changes to viability assessments

A consultation document published by the Department for Communities and Local Government today includes a section setting out proposals to make the use of viability assessments "simpler, quicker and more transparent".

The document says that stakeholders told the government that the use of viability assessments "has expanded to a degree that it causes complexity and uncertainty and results in fewer contributions for infrastructure and affordable housing than required by local policies".

It says that the process is "seen as being susceptible to gaming" and the process is "neither easily understood nor transparent".

Among proposals for consultation, the document says that the government proposes to make clear in the National Planning Policy Framework that where policy requirements "have been tested for their viability, the issue should not usually need to be tested again at the planning application stage".

"Applications that meet requirements set out in the plan should be assumed to be viable", it says. 

The document also proposes that councils set out the "types and thresholds for affordable housing contributions required; the infrastructure needed to deliver the plan; and expectations for how these will be funded and the contributions developers will be expected to make".

This would "make clear how the key strategic priorities that need to be planned for are to be delivered", the document says.

The consultation also proposes to update planning guidance on the issue.

For example, it says, "guidance could range from setting out clearly defined terms to be used, a preferred approach to calculating costs and values (including land values), the format and accessibility of viability assessment reports, through to detailed process and methodology".

Elsewhere, the document proposes to amend national planning policy to ensure that local planning authorities "set out in their plans how they will monitor, report on and publicise funding secured through section 106 agreements, and how it is spent, following an open data approach".

It also asks for ideas on how councils and applicants can better publicise infrastructure and affordable housing secured through new development.

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