A resurgence in estate agents’ land and new homes businesses could be on the cards following the Government’s long-awaited National Planning Policy Framework.
While there will be no overnight revolution, its publication begins to put an end to the planning vacuum that has existed since the Coalition took office and announced it would be abolishing top-down national house-building targets.
The biggest single change is one of philosophy, with local councils told to ‘enable’ development rather than simply ‘manage’ it.
The document makes it clear that local communities will be responsible for their own planning, and that they should look to redevelop brownfield sites before looking at any green fields.
There is also emphasis on redeveloping existing town centres rather than out-of-town schemes.
Local councils without local plans (now called core strategies) in place will be prompted to get on and produce them within 12 months.
In future, planning applications which are in general agreement with core strategies will be approved in an easier, quicker and cheaper process.
But the NPPF has not met with an unqualified welcome, with some commentators apparently disappointed in its underlying aim to protect the countryside.
Adam Challis, head of research at Hamptons, said: “It is about time that we get real about housing need. Greenfield development must form part of the development land mix in order to meet housing delivery targets.”
The RICS seemed uncertain as to whether the NPPF was much of a help or not.
Jeremy Blackburn, head of UK policy, said: “RICS supports the Government’s vision of reforming the guidance to the planning system. However, we would also like to see the Government address the serious problems currently affecting the UK housing market, such as the lack of affordable mortgage and development finance.
“Reforming the planning system in isolation will not deliver the 100,000 extra homes required each year or the jobs needed to breathe life back into the UK’s anaemic housing market.
“However, the NPPF provides a robust framework alongside existing national policy statements and we are optimistic that sustainable development can be delivered. The time has come to stop talking and start delivering the development and growth UK Plc so badly needs.”
Steve Lees, director at the website SmartNewHomes, had no such criticisms. He said: “The NPPF lays the foundations for a house-building and economic recovery, unravelling the complex planning law which has resulted in a shortage of homes alongside population growth.
“Developers only build in areas where there is a demand for new homes, creating jobs, improving local infrastructure and helping to generate increased local investment which in turn boosts local house prices.
“The Government is right to prioritise the development of brownfield land and house builders are well versed in creating sustainable developments out of these sites, as they have done for many years, with 75% of new home schemes already being built on previously developed land. If 250,000 homes were built every year for 25 years, only 1% of England’s land mass would be used.
“Savvy local authorities will continue to seek opportunities to identify disused sites for development, generating income for local people through the New Homes Bonus.”