Housing Crisis - will the draft NPPF really help deliver more homes?

Tom Wessely, Assistant Planner at Lambert Smith Hampton discusses the implications of the NPPF for young surveyors!

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The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) has recently published the new, draft National Planning Policy Framework with an aim to build more housing. However, how effective will this document be in solving our national housing crisis?

The existing National Planning Policy Framework, which I will refer to as the ‘planning handbook’, was introduced by the Coalition Government in 2012 to simplify national planning policy with a presumption in favor of sustainable development. The planning handbook replaced approximately 30 documents with one short document of 59 pages. The planning handbook is exercised as a material consideration (an issue relevant to deciding the outcome of a planning application).

In other words, the policies stated in the handbook are considered alongside considerations such as supplementary planning documents (SPDs), Governance and Planning Inspectorate requirements and design standards when determining planning applications.

The emerging themes of the new planning handbook include;


·         Support for new settlements and urban extensions

·         Delivering planning permissions

·         Reduced reliance on viability assessments

·         Minimum density standards

·         Promoting Build to Rent

Whilst the planning handbook promotes Build to Rent and shows support for new settlements and urban extensions, the measures to encourage house building can be considered limited in their scope and likely effect. The handbook states that local planning authorities should put pressure on landowners to deliver permissions by imposing planning conditions on the applications. On paper this seems viable, but I’m unsure about the practicalities; planning approvals can sometimes be used as a mechanism to increase the value of land prior to be being released for development. This has also not been considered by the new planning handbook; therefore, there is nothing here that will hurt developers who sit on land banks and restrict or slow down the housing supply.

However, on a brighter note, the planning handbook states that policies and decisions should allow upward extensions providing it is context with the neighbouring development and local vernacular. This can be considered a promising tool for boosting the UK housing supply. But can the MHCLG go further than this? What’s preventing an upward extension being considered as a permitted development right? This would certainly be a more efficient approach in improving the UK housing supply.

So what does all of this mean for young surveyors? Well, it is important to understand what is on the front burner and what’s only on a simmer. For the first time this policy document is encouraging private rented sector development and sets a minimum target of 10% affordable homes for sale (20% discount) in all new developments over 10 units. Moreover, the document encourages minimum density levels on urban land and introduces the possibility of refusal for inefficient use of land. This therefore puts added pressure on architects to draw up dense schemes which maximise the PTAL rating.

In contrast, there has not been much development or change with regards to Green Belt. ‘Very special circumstances’ continue to exist as the only exception to a loss of green belt land. However, the handbook does provide an example of what a very special circumstance may include; ‘wider environmental benefits associated with increased production of energy from renewable sources’ (MHCLG, 2018).

On balance the new, draft planning handbook is solely focused on mechanisms to build more housing. The renewal of the handbook is a politically motivated; however the success of this political stance, and whether the planning handbook will be effective in delivering more housing, remains to be seen.


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TOM Wessely


Tom is an Assistant Planner at Lambert Smith Hampton. He graduated from Newcastle University in 2016 and joined LSH in July 2017. He is currently working in the Planning and Development Team alongside his studies at Reading University.



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