Six things you need to know about new planning practice guidance

Six things you need to know about new sections of the government's Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) that were published last week.

Online guide: new planning guidance has been published by the government
Online guide: new planning guidance has been published by the government

New planning guidance to reflect the finalised version of the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) last Thursday. Here are six key areas where the updated PPG has introduced new details compared to the proposals set out in draft guidance published in March.

1) Assessments of housing need that result in a lower figure than that identified by the standard method will be considered unsound in principle. Alternative approaches that result in a lower need figure than the standard method "should in principle be considered to be unsound, on the basis that the minimum need has not been identified," the guidance says. Authorities "will need to demonstrate, through a robust evidence base, that the lower need figure is based on realistic assumptions of demographic growth and that there are exceptional local circumstances to deviate from the standard method," it adds. More details here.

2) Local authorities will not be "obliged" to accept unmet development needs from neighbouring councils if doing so would have an adverse impact as assessed against the NPPF. The new PPG section on plan-making also states that the inability to secure co-operation on strategic planning matters should not prevent an authority from submitting a plan, but that "comprehensive and robust evidence" of efforts made to co-operate would be needed in such circumstances, which would be "thoroughly tested" at examination. More details here.

3) Councils wanting to have their five-year housing land supply confirmed in an annual statement will have to undergo a two-stage, three-month assessment by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS). The final PPG states that authorities can submit their annual position statement to PINS for review "by 31 July of the same year", with the inspectorate issuing a decision in the following October. Inspectors will assess a council's annual position statement through a two-stage assessment - firstly, considering whether the correct process has been followed, and secondly, looking at "whether the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites". More details here.

4) The new housing delivery test will take account of councils that use a staged approach to local plan housing targets. Where the annual local plan target changes at different points in the plan period, the PPG states that "these stepped requirements will be used in the housing delivery test in place of annual average requirement figures". It adds: "A stepped requirement allows authorities to reflect significant changes in the level of housing expected to be delivered across the plan period." More details here.

5) Neighbourhood planners can meet the housing requirement in their areas through a mix of site allocations and windfall allowance. Meeting housing need in full is a condition that neighbourhood plans must meet if their areas are to benefit from the limited protection from the presumption in favour of sustainable development penalty in the revised NPPF. The PPG says that a neighbourhood plan housing requirement could be met through a combination of site allocations and a policy for a windfall allowance policy but not through the latter alone. More details here.

6) Councils should consider covenants that require private build to rent homes to be retained in the sector for a defined period. The new guidance on build to rent says authorities should consider "a covenant period for the retention of private market rent homes in that tenure and potential compensation mechanisms in the event that private market rent homes are sold before the expiration of an agreed covenant period". However, it warns councils that they should not use covenants in a way that could affect the viability of schemes and restrict development. More details here.


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