Permissions in Principle, s106 dispute resolution and CIL
The Act allows permission in principle to be granted for housing led development by development order in relation to land that is allocated for development in a qualifying document or by a local authority on application in accordance with the provisions of a development order. No development order has yet been made. Following a consultation the Government’s response is expected in the Spring.
The Act’s dispute resolution provisions for s106 Agreements are still not in force. Last year the Government commissioned an independent review of the Community Infrastructure Levy and its relationship with s106 Agreements. The findings of the review, which have been published alongside the Housing White Paper, found that CIL is not as fast, simple, transparent, certain as originally intended and a number of recommendations have been made to reform how infrastructure contributions can be collected. The Government is now considering reform and has indicated that it will consider dispute resolution in that context. An announcement on CIL is expected in the Autumn budget 2017.
The Government still sees the planning system as an obstacle to the delivery of more housing, this is despite the fact that it acknowledges in its Housing White paper that the problem of existing high prices is making the buying of property a rational investment choice for many people but such choice further exacerbates the problems of high prices and completely distorts the market.
Given this reality it is difficult to see how just building more dwellings in itself will alleviate the problem of affordability unless the building is of a very significant scale. The Government appears to have accepted this by announcing last year more funding for the building of more affordable homes. The Government remains committed to home ownership and this ideological commitment is behind a Rent to Buy scheme, reforms to the shared ownership product and extending the right to buy to housing association tenants. It also means that much new affordable housing will not remain as “affordable housing” and new dwellings will constantly have to be built to keep up with demand if current market conditions prevail.
It is against this backdrop that the intense focus by the Government on planning reform, which effectively equates to a relaxation in controls, can be understood. The questions many will have is whether the proposed reforms are radical enough if the Government is mainly relying on increasing the amount of housing being built to address affordability concerns and whether further reform is really necessary. Is there another way?
We highlight here just a few of the reforms either being implemented or proposed.
Restrictions on use of planning conditions
The Neighbourhood and Planning Bill is making its way through Parliament. One of the key aims of the legislation is to support neighbourhood plans to give communities more certainty as to where and when development will take place. However the proposed Bill also gives the Secretary of State the power to restrict the use of planning conditions. The Bill provides that planning permission for the development of land may not be granted subject to a pre-commencement conditions without the written agreement of the applicant to the terms of the condition.
It is widely recognised the planning departments are under resourced. The Housing White Paper states that local authorities will be able to increase fees by 20% from July 2017 if they commit to invest the additional fee income in their planning department. The Government is also considering allowing an increase of a further 20% for those authorities who are delivering housing.
The Government is keen to improve housing delivery and in the Housing White Paper the Government makes a number of proposals including:
- the introduction of a housing delivery test on local authorities through changes to the NPPF;
- changing legislation to make it easier for local authorities to serve “completion notices” to crack down on the practice of implementing the permission to keep it alive but the developer then not proceeding to complete the development.
- changing national policy to encourage local authorities to consider whether there is a realistic prospect of the site being developed before a further permission is granted where there is evidence of non-implementation of earlier permissions for housing development.
Last year the Government opened a rural planning review. The Government published its response to consultation responses at the beginning of February. As a result of responses the Government is consulting on making amendments to the permitted development regime including introducing a new agricultural to residential permitted development right (to support the delivery of rural homes) for rural workers.
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