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Chance to solve rural housing crisis ‘severely limited’ by planning rules changes

The Government has published a revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as it tries to tackle the ’broken housing market’


Alex   Black

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Alex   Black
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Chance to solve rural housing crisis ‘severely limited’ by planning rules changes - CLA

The revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has provided major changes to planning policy, but rural landowners have warned the lack of flexibility limits their ability to tackle the rural housing crisis.

 

According to the CLA, changes made to the criteria for Entry Level Exception Sites would mean less land being made available for ‘much needed’ homes in the countryside despite Government claims it will build more homes, more quickly in places people want to live.

 

CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said the new rules stated all properties on an Entry Level Exception Site must be affordable but, while affordable homes were ‘desperately needed’ it reduced the incentive to bring land forward.

 

Viability

 

“Without the benefit of cross subsidy, the decision to release land for housing is not financially viable so fewer homes are likely to be built,” he said.


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“In the last five years, 13 per cent of CLA members have donated or sold land at a discount for affordable housing.

 

“We made a robust case to the Government for greater incentives to help grow this figure but by making it less attractive for landowners, the Entry Level Exception Site policy severely limits the chance to solve the rural housing crisis.”

 

Welcomed

 

Strutt and Parker welcomed the publication of the ‘long awaited document, highlighting changes to the presumption in favour of sustainable development, core planning principles, requirements for planning authorities to work together on cross boundary issues and changes to the local plan process.

 

It said the NPPF introduces new ways of assessing local housing need and providing for housing delivery, which are intended to better meet the requirements for housing and bringing forward sites. It has also made changes to the definition of affordable housing.

 

But there were ‘no fundamental changes in the NPPF to the protection of the Green Belt’.

 

John McLarty, National Head of Planning for Strutt and Parker, said: “The policies contained in the new NPPF provide long overdue updates to government policy since it was first introduced in 2012.

 

“Critically it sets out a series of welcome proactive measures to improve the planning process and aid the delivery of housing.”

Provisions

 

James Podesta, head of planning for Rural Solutions, said: “We are pleased to see the continuity of several provisions within the NPPF in support of sustainable development and rural housing, particularly with reference to maintaining the vitality of rural communities, and supporting the development of outstanding or innovative country houses.

 

“The rural economy contributes significantly to the nation’s economic activity with estimates of England’s contribution amounting to nearly £230bn in 2016 and the health of the rural economy is a vital part of strong economic and wellbeing across the UK.

 

“As such, we further welcome paragraphs 83 and 84 dedicated to supporting a prosperous rural economy, which demonstrates the distinct planning approach required to meet the needs of rural businesses and communities.

 

“Whilst we recognise that there were no changes in policy to previously developed land, the policy framework is progressive in terms of rural development and we will continue to be able to work on the same high quality, sustainable developments as we have done before, and champion rural and land-based business diversification.”

Jon Jennings, Director, Cheffins said headline changes within the document were based around good quality design of new homes and housing delivery, with additional support for rural housing.

 

He was disappointed the NPPF small sites allowance had been changed from 20 per cent to 10 per cent of identified sites, albeit the size of the site has been increased to one hectare.

 

He said this risked smaller, edge of village developments falling by the wayside but could be offset to a certain extent by the proposition for councils to work with developers to encourage the subdivision of large sites.

 

He added the allowance of sub-division of existing dwellings to increase housing supply in rural areas was welcome allowing larger dwellings to be converted into multiple homes.

 

Planning

 

In addition, rural planning rules have been relaxed for homes in the countryside for agricultural workers or ‘those taking majority control of a farm business’.

 

“This is a sensible and pragmatic change which would be of benefit for many landowners at varying stages of their careers.”

 

He hoped the plans for a new housing delivery test for all local authorities would help ensure consistency across the UK and the requirements for Councils would become more important.

 

From November councils will be assessed against the number of homes built, preventing unachievable figures being set in local plans.

 

Mr Jennings added: “Despite all of these measures to increase the number of new homes across the UK, the Green Belt continues to be protected as does the open countryside.”

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