Thursday 13 April 2017

Brown Field Sites & Local Plans

A couple of interesting articles from The Planing Portal news updates caught my eye this month.

The first about Brown Field Sites and the second about the lack of Local Plans from certain local planning authorities.

In a recent article, Laura Edgar from The Planner wrote:

Developers support government pledge to free up brownfield land, says survey

The biggest opportunity arising from the government’s housing white paper is the proposal to release more publicly owned land for development, according to a survey of developers.

Short-term property lender Amicus Property Finance commissioned the research. It was conducted with 51 UK property developers.

The top four most popular measures in the housing white paper were:

Increasing the availability of brownfield sites (69 per cent);
The proposed reduction in the time permitted by local authorities to approve planning applications from three to two years (49 per cent);
The continuation of the Help to Buy scheme (45 per cent); and
Increasing the focus on building more homes in the affordable housing sector (41 per cent).
Despite suggesting that they support elements of the housing white paper, developers have expressed scepticism that the government will meet its target to build a million homes by 2020. Just one in five (21 per cent) think this target is realistic.
The research also considered what property developers would like to see the government introduce to address the housing crisis. More than three-quarters (78 per cent) would like to see a repeal of the stamp duty rises and tax relief reductions on landlords; 44 per cent wanted to see incentives for elderly people to downsize, and 37 per cent called for a suspension in capital gains tax to encourage more land to come on to the market.

Keith Aldridge, founder and managing director at Amicus Property Finance, said: “Property developers appear highly supportive of a number of the ideas in the white paper, particularly releasing more brownfield land to the market and the greater focus on affordable housing. The existing ‘Help to Buy’ initiative has also been well received by many developers and we have already financed a number of successful developments in the South-East.

“Though large-scale government investment plays a part in stimulating supply, developers see the current tax laws as one of the biggest obstacles to solving the housing crisis, particularly repealing the recent stamp duty increases for landlords.”

Whether you like it or not, people need to live somewhere that is convenient for their work and family lives. We have all heard others say "I remember when all of this were fields." and similar comments, but the simple facts are that the population is rising and people need affordable housing.

However, in a further article, Laura Edgar also went on to write:

Report: 43 per cent of councils yet to publish draft local plan

New research has suggested that 36 per cent of planning authorities have seen a local plan through examination to adoption, but 43 per cent have not even published a draft local plan.

The report, by planning consultancy Lichfields, considers the progress of local plans under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) since it was launched five years ago.

The inability of some councils to make progress with their local plans could expose them to government interventions announced in the housing white paper, the consultancy warned.

Planned and Deliver notes a number of policies included in the housing white paper that might have implications for plan making and delivering planned housing, such as the housing delivery test.

Statistics in the report

161 local plans examined or submitted for examination since the introduction of the NPPF
105 local plans found sound with 36 per cent of local planning authorities boasting an up-to-date local plan against the NPPF
30 per cent of sound plans subject to an ‘early review’, all related at least in part to housing matters
71 per cent of early reviews subject to a deadline or time limit, with eight local plan areas already missing that timescale
23 tools and tests Lichfields have identified within the housing white paper that could help improve plan-making
The research also suggests that in aggregate, adopted post-NPPF local plans, when combined with the London Plan, are not providing for sufficient housing to match the number of homes implied by household projections. The shortfall could be 3,945 dwellings per annum. This is without the consideration of improving affordability.

Lichfields said that with many plans yet to be prepared in locations with restrictive policies, including policies relating to the green belt, there is likely to be a need for upward pressure on housing requirement figures in emerging and next generation plans.

Matthew Spry, senior director of Lichfields and an advisor on the Department for Communities and Local Government Local Plans Expert Group in 2016, said: “As it has been from the beginning, the major factor slowing the local plan process is the debate and disagreement over housing numbers. Indeed, almost half of plans found sound have needed to adjust their housing targets before making the grade.

“Our research has identified 222 local authority areas (56 per cent) may fail these tests and face the consequences of needing an action plan or application of a 20 per cent buffer on their five year land supply.”

The government is currently legislating to make having a plan a statutory requirement. If a council does not have an up-to-date local plan, the government may intervene by directing a local planning authority to review its existing plans or directing councils to prepare a plan.

Spry said: “Despite some frenetic plan making activity over the past 12 months, our research shows that getting these plans to formal submission remains over the horizon for many areas.

“There are clear signs that the prospect of the housing white paper’s reforms has caused a hiatus, but with net housing completions reaching almost 190,000 last year despite poor plan coverage, it is perhaps better to apply one comprehensive set of reforms now, rather than have constant tinkering.”

Planned and Deliver can be found here (pdf). 

* Lichfields formerly operated under the name Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners. The name Lichfields came into use on 14 February 2017.

This is very disappointing as clearly the latter will have an impact on the former, and without a clear local plan the population could be poorly served by both local authorities and developers.

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