Day-to-day planning goes on amid ministerial change and policy churn, by Richard Garlick

It has felt like a momentous year for planning, and in this edition we do our best to round it up. The ministerial merry go-round has continued, with one new housing secretary and two new planning ministers.

Substantial revisions to the planning system have been implemented, with the publication of the final revised version of the NPPF in July and regular updates to guidance throughout the year.

Yet important strands of Whitehall policymaking have led to widespread confusion. Revisions to the new standard method for assessing housing need were tabled only weeks after it was formally introduced. This was the government’s response to new household projections that, combined with the standard method, would have reduced need figures to a level well below the government’s target of 300,000 homes a year. In the end, Whitehall’s proposed solution was simply to ignore the latest figures, casting doubts on the credibility of the forecasting and assessment process.

Another much-heralded policy lever introduced by the NPPF was the housing delivery test. This will require many councils with a severe record of underdelivery to set out plans for improvement, allocate more sites for homes or, in the worst cases, have their local plans viewed as out-of-date and therefore become subject to the presumption in favour of sustainable development. However, the government missed its November deadline for publishing the first set of test results, and at the time of writing would say only that the councils affected would be announced "in due course".

Also unclear is whether ministers will follow through on their long-standing threats to take over plan-making in the tardiest authorities. In March, the number of councils in imminent danger of was reduced from 15 to three. But as yet, no intervention has occurred. Castle Point Borough Council’s decision last month not to proceed with a consultation on its draft local plan suggests that the town halls concerned may be questioning whether Whitehall has the appetite to step in.

Amid the policy churn, the business of planning applications, appeals, enforcement and legal dispute continues. In this edition, we round up some of the biggest permissions of the year. We also review the ten appeal and call-in decisions that have been most downloaded from our sister service DCS. We list some of the biggest enforcement penalties of the year, including one planning transgression that resulted in a £4.3 million fine. And we highlight five of 2018’s most important legal rulings.

The next print edition of Planning will be published on January 18. Weekly email editions will be sent on 21 December, 4 January and 11 January. We wish all our readers a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Richard Garlick, editor, Planning //

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