Seven things you need to know about the Planning for Housing conference

The Planning for Housing conference, organised by Planning, took place in London last week. Here are seven key messages we picked up from last week's event.

The conference took place last week in London
The conference took place last week in London

1. The chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) warned that a recruitment crisis in both PINS and council planning teams is an "existential threat" facing the planning system, as well as to the inspectorate itself. Sarah Richards said that, according to her own "back-of-an-envelope" calculations, there were only around 1,000 people across the country "whose day-to-day job is to write plans". She added: "The delivery of the whole of our thinking about future places is reliant on this very small core of people."

2. Further details on revisions to the government's new standard method of calculating local housing need are expected to emerge before Christmas, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) chief planner Steve Quartermain said. Quartermain told the conference that the department will "consult as soon as we can" on revisions to the methodology.

3. The impact of the new housing delivery test (HDT) combined with the new standard method of assessing housing need is likely to boost many councils' land supply positions, new research shows. Consultancy Indigo Planning revealed their new research at the conference, which found that the introduction of the delivery test will actually improve housing land supply positions for many authorities, particularly outside London. The authorities that the consultancy expects to benefit are those that might have been expected to have to provide an additional 20 per cent buffer on their five year housing land supply under the 2012 NPPF, on the grounds of "persistent under-delivery", but whose performance under the test is likely to mean that they will only be required to provide a five per cent buffer under the new framework.

4. The idea that capturing the uplift in land value arising from planning permission can provide a "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow" to deliver new infrastructure and housing is misguided, the head of the government's infrastructure adviser has said. Phil Graham, chief executive of the National Infrastructure Commission, said the body was careful to "manage expectations around land value capture", adding that any money generated in this way is "always finite".

5. The government's national housing agency is gearing up for "massive growth" in staff to support ministers' target of delivering 300,000 homes a year in England by the mid 2020s, according to one of its senior officials. Homes England executive director for land Stephen Kinsella said the agency aims to double the 750 staff it employed in 2017 to 1,500 in the next 18 months, including 150 in a current recruitment round. He said the reinforcements are needed to build an "activist and interventionist" agency.

6. Reduced housing need arising from the latest household projections could make it harder for councils to demonstrate the exceptional circumstances needed for green belt changes, said a senior consultant. Andy Meader, director of consultancy Pegasus Group, said recent case law had established that the intensity of housing need was a key factor in demonstrating the exceptional circumstances required to justify green belt release in local plans.

7. The Labour Party wants to put communities "at the heart" of the planning process after years of what it describes as "huge deregulation". Speaking about the party’s new planning commission, shadow planning minister Roberta Blackman-Woods told delegates: "People think planning is done to them and they don’t have any role in shaping their area. We want to see that reversed." She also said the community infrastructure levy and section 106 systems "are no longer fit for purpose", adding: "We do need a new system for capturing uplift in land value."


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