Planning minister calls for councils to be 'much tougher' with developers on build-out speed

The housing minister has called for councils to be 'much tougher' with developers to ensure that sites with planning permission are built out.

Housing minister Kit Malthouse (second right) speaking at the Bright Blue conference fringe event
Housing minister Kit Malthouse (second right) speaking at the Bright Blue conference fringe event

Kit Malthouse was speaking yesterday at a Conservative Party Conference fringe event on home ownership organised by think-tank Bright Blue.

In his speech he also said:

  • he wants to reinforce and strengthen neighbourhood planning
  • the government has given local authorites "much greater powers to turn schemes down on the basis of design"

Referring to new powers in the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), he said: "What we've tried to do in the NPPF is give local authorities the ability to be much more assertive in their power to grant and remove planning permission. 

"So at the moment, a developer gets permission on a piece of land and sits on it. They know that if that permission runs out, because the authority needs the land for their five-year land supply, they will renew their [permission]. 

"In the NPPF, we're encouraging local authorities to give only two-year permissions and also to make sure they've got a plan B [for allocating alternative sites]. So if that permission runs out, they can say: 'You know what, your land's now out [of the development plan]. It's going to be playing fields or a park or back to agriculture, because we're now going for plan B, which is this land. 

"And also that you can look at an applicant's record of delivery in the granting of permission.

He added: "What I want to really reinforce over the next few months with local planning authorities, is that - not least because we have this new deliverability test [in the NPPF] - they must be much tougher in this game of chicken that takes place in planning system at the moment.

"They have got the powers to do it in the NPPF now."

Malthouse also said he wanted to strengthen neighbourhood planning and see as much coverage across the country as possible.

Neighbourhood plans provide "certainty" for both the local community and for developers, he said, adding: "What I would like to see is the promotion of that local neighbourhood plan supported by the local borough plan structure across as much of the country as possible. 

"On average, they reckon neighbourhood plans produce 10 to 15 per cent more housing than is generally targeted because the local community feels planning is being done by them rather than to them.

"There's more we can do to reinforce and strengthen the idea of local neighbourhood planning."

Elsewhere, Malthouse said a key way of boosting housing delivery was through better quality design. 

He said: "Fundamentally, it's about design. We have to do something to improve acceptability among the population. 

"New housing developments very often cause significant political difficulties. More often than not, that's heavily related to the design. How they look, the massing, the structure, will it fit in, is it using the local vernacular? Is the developer building the conservation area of the future? In my mind, over the last ten to 15 years, we haven't seen enough of that concentration on design .

"The National Planning Policy Framework does put much greater emphasis on design. We are giving local authorities much greater powers to think about design and to turn schemes down on the basis of design.

"Really good, solid design is much more likely to get you planning permission and get the local community behind it."

According to Malthouse, 'NIMBYism' is "definitely receding" across the country because the baby boom generation is accepting that their children and grandchildren cannot get onto the housing ladder like they once did. 

"That acceptibility will improve markedly if we can design things so they can look good and fit in," he said.

Next week’s Planning for Housing conference includes a session on speeding up housing delivery. Speakers will include Stephen Kinsella, executive director for Land at Homes England; Liz Peace, chair, Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation; and Stewart Murray, strategic director of economic growth, Waltham Forest Council. For full details and to book your place, click here.


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