Draft NPPF: Delivering a sufficient supply of homes

13th March 2018
By Vanessa Rowell

Chapter 5 of the draft NPPF is called “Delivering a sufficient supply of homes” and this sets out how the government intends on delivering its golden target of 300,000 homes per annum.

The most noticeable change within the Draft NPPF is that there is now an importance placed upon smaller sites being brought forward in order to help deliver housing. New measures include ensuring that at least 20% of the sites identified for housing in a local authority’s local plan are of half a hectare or less. Placing this 20% requirement on local authorities is a new element that will have to be considered during forthcoming local plan examinations. The Draft NPPF also promotes the use of area-wide design assessments and Local Development Orders in order to quicken the pace of housing delivery and smaller sites. Local Planning Authorities are also advised to work with developers to encourage the sub-division of large sites where this could help to speed up the delivery of new homes. 

Paragraph 64 sets out how affordable housing contributions should not be sought for developments that are not on major sites (reflecting the 2014 WMS), other than in designated rural areas (where policies may set out a lower threshold of 5 units or fewer). Major development for housing is defined as where 10 or more homes will be provided, or the site has an area of 0.5 hectares or more. This should assist smaller developers in bringing forward such sites by reducing financial obligations. However in practice we have found that many Local Authorities which have particular affordable housing shortage have continued to apply affordable housing contributions to small sites despite the WMS (with varying success) and it is questionable whether the introduction of the text to the NPPF would change this. As is the case now if local authorities were proposing to include a policy in their new local plans contrary to the draft NPPF, then they will have to demonstrate exceptional circumstances to justify the approach.

Another interesting proposition is highlighted in paragraph 72:

“Local Planning Authorities should support the development of entry level exception sites, suitable for first time buyers (or those looking to rent their first home)…These sites should be outside existing settlements, on land which is not already allocated for housing and should:
a)    Comprise a high proportion of entry-level homes that will be offered for discounted sale or for affordable rent; and
b)    Be adjacent to existing settlements, proportionate in size to them, not compromise the protection given to areas or assets of particular importance in this Framework, and comply with any local design policies and standards”

There are a number of terms used here which are not clearly defined and would undoubtedly be interpreted differently between developers and local authorities and subject to debate over coming years.  Nevertheless the introduction of this paragraph is a positive one and appears to present an opportunity for developers to deliver new homes on sites not allocated within a Local Plan.

Whilst the draft NPPF still recognises the importance of larger scale development in delivering much needed new homes, there is a greater focus than before on the opportunity for smaller sites to contribute towards housing need which is welcomed.  This recognises that such sites can often be delivered more quickly with less complicated infrastructure and other commitments and therefore should assist the government in meeting their 300,000 homes target.

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