Spotlight: Planning


12 May 2016, by Neal Hudson

What are the challenges ahead for housebuilding?


■ The Government is firmly committed to reversing the decline in home ownership by increasing new housing delivery. It has introduced national targets but success will depend on local planning and implementation. The Housing & Planning Bill is creating uncertainty but is only part of the solution, notably as amendments to the NPPF are anticipated in the summer following the March 2016 LPEG recommendations.

■ There is growing pressure on local authorities to get their plans in place and ensure a sufficient pipeline of land to meet their targets. In March 2016, 33% of local authorities had an up-to-date plan. That is better than 24% last year, but progress is slow. Some of the worst performing local authorities are those with the most unaffordable housing and greatest need.

■ Meanwhile, a significant number of dwellings permitted (10%) have been via planning appeal. The absence of a five year supply of housing is the principal reason for appeals being granted, accounting for 54% of appeals over the last two years. Our analysis shows that only 30% of local authorities can demonstrate 5.5+ years of supply. Where there is no five-year supply, the March 2016 Court of Appeal decision (‘Richborough Estates Case’) makes it clear that all policies in a plan which restrict housing development could be considered ‘out of date’.

■ Urban areas with successful economies and rapidly growing populations present an additional challenge. These cannot meet housing needs within their administrative boundaries and so unmet housing need has to be taken up by surrounding authorities, e.g. Birmingham, 38,000 dwelling shortfall. A strengthened Duty to Co-operate should help but greater progress is needed. Our call for an ‘Arc of Co-operation’ around London is louder than ever. Here and further afield, the pressures are being recognised, as the Secretary of State has now granted the first significant appeal on Green Belt land in Gloucestershire for circa 1,500 dwellings.

■ The planning system will inevitably come under further pressure to deliver more homes and local authorities will need to plan for higher levels of development. To be successful, both locally and nationally, they also need to identify a diverse range of development opportunities that facilitate greater activity from the full spectrum of potential housebuilders.


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