Housing need consultation: 9 things you need to know

Nine things you need to know about this week's consultation on housing need, including an 'ambition' to publish a revised National Planning Policy Framework by Spring 2018, proposals to strengthen cross-boundary planning, changes intended to streamline viability assessments and plans to make section 106 agreements more transparent.

New homes: consultation aims to deliver the right homes in the right places
New homes: consultation aims to deliver the right homes in the right places

1. Standard methodology proposals revealed
The consultation document sets out the government’s much-anticipated proposals to simplify the process for assessing local housing need. According to the document, the new methodology would use household growth projections as the baseline for local housing need, before adding a multiplier for less affordable areas (defined as those in which house prices are more than four times average earnings). The proposed model also includes a cap designed to limit the level of any increase. Communities secretary Sajid Javid told MPs that the proposed formula would mean that local housing need figures would rise by an average of 35 per cent in more than 150 local authority areas. READ MORE.

2. Timetable for transition set out
The consultation proposes that the new standardised method would apply "immediately" from 31 March 2018 where plans are more than five years old, or if new plans have not been submitted to the secretary of state on or before that date. If a local plan is submitted before this date, or is at examination, then authorities can continue with their current approach, the consultation suggests. Plans adopted in the last five years should use the standardised method when next reviewing or updating the plan, the consultation proposes.

3. Revised NPPF set for Spring 2018
The consultation document sets out the government’s ambition to publish a revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in Spring 2018. "This will ensure that we not only plan for the right homes in the right places, but that we turn existing and future planning permissions quickly into homes through reforms such as the Housing Delivery Test," the document says.

4. Move to strengthen cross-boundary planning
Councils will have to produce a "statement of common ground" with neighbouring authorities within 12 months of the publication of the government's changes to the NPPF in order to "improve how local authorities work together to meet housing and other needs across boundaries", the consultation proposes. According to the document, the government intends to set out in the revised NPPF "that all local planning authorities should produce a statement of common ground". The document says that the statement should set out the cross-boundary matters, including the housing need for the area, distribution and proposals for meeting any shortfalls". READ MORE.

5. Plan for ‘simpler, quicker and more transparent’ viability assessments
The consultation contains proposals intended 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". The document says that the government proposes to make clear in the NPPF 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". READ MORE.

6. Bid to help neighbourhood groups plan for needs of their areas
Councils with up-to-date local plans could be expected to provide neighbourhood planning groups with a housing need figure for their plan areas, while councils without an up-to-date local plan could use a "simple formula-based approach" to supply such a figure, the consultation document proposes. It proposes to make clear in planning guidance that authorities may provide specific housing need data for neighbourhood plan areas "by making a reasoned judgement based on the settlement strategy and housing allocations in their plan, so long as the local plan provides a sufficiently up-to-date basis to do so". It adds that, where a local plan is out-of-date, the government is to set out in guidance "a simple formula-based approach which apportions the overall housing need figure for the relevant local authority area/s, based on the latest figures calculated under the new standard approach … to the neighbourhood planning area". READ MORE.

7. Views sought on additional fee rise proposal
The consultation says that the government intends to bring forward regulations to enable authorities to increase in planning application fees by 20 per cent "at the earliest opportunity". The consultation also seeks views on the "most appropriate criteria" to be applied to enable a proposed additional 20 per cent planning fee increase for authorities who are delivering the homes their communities need.

8. Greater transparency over section 106 mooted
The government proposes to amend national planning policy so that local planning authorities and elected mayors "should set out in their plans how they will monitor, report on and publicise funding secured through section 106 agreements, and how it is spend, following an open data approach". According to the consultation, while there is a requirement to record each section 106 agreement on the planning register, there is no legal requirement for local planning authorities to publish summary data from those agreements, or to monitor and report on whether these benefits have been received and spent.

9. DCLG lists priority areas for public land registration
The government published alongside the consultation a document listing areas of greatest housing need. The publication of the document follows a commitment in the February housing white paper to register the ownership of all publicly held land in the areas of greatest housing need by 2020, with the rest to follow by 2025. The consultation document says: "This information can be taken into account alongside other considerations, including land constraints, to assist plan makers in finding sites suitable for housing development."

The consultation runs for eight weeks until 9 November 2017. The document is available here.

Next month's Planning for Houing Conference will include a session looking at the proposed new standard methodology for assessing housing requirements. For more information and to book your place click here.

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