What the Housing White Paper means for the planning system

The latest Housing White Paper recognises that the "broken housing market" is one of the greatest barriers to progress faced by the UK. It rightly identifies that the planning system has a significant role to play in ensuring the delivery of homes to support sustainable growth.

Giving local authorities adequate resources is key to improving the planning process and speeding up housing delivery. The proposed increase in planning fees by 20 per cent this year, and the potential for a further 20 per cent for high performing authorities, need to be dedicated to improving local authority planning services so that it secures delivery of new homes and sustainable development.

The White Paper confirms that the Government will consult on options for introducing a more standardised approach to assessing housing requirements and will require Local Plans to be reviewed at least every five years. Simplification of the process by which housing need is assessed is a step in the right direction, so long as that method provides a robust estimate of the true scale of need. The suggestion to review and fix housing land supply on an annual basis, through consultation and discussion between authorities, developers and infrastructure providers will be a challenge and demand scarce resources.

The White Paper reaffirms the protection given to the Green Belt. It makes it clear that Green Belt boundaries should only be amended where all other reasonable options for meeting their development requirements have been examined. This is the approach that the Secretary of State has recently confirmed in relation to the Birmingham Plan. In addition to that is the requirement for compensatory measures to offset the impacts of loss of Green Belt, including environmental or access improvements, which recognises that there are opportunities where development takes place to improve the value of remaining Green Belt land for wider public benefits.

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