Revised planning framework prompts mixed response from councils

26 Jul 18

Council leaders have praised the government’s “positive” u-turn on the definition of affordable housing but said it was “hugely disappointing” that local authorities would be punished for low build rates.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has reinstated ‘social rent’ into its definition of affordable housing after initially dropping the term in the draft National Planning Policy Framework in March.

Lord Porter, chair of the Local Government Association, said: “It is positive to see social rent retained in the definition of affordable housing – as called for by the LGA – although the definition should be clearer in separating social rent from ‘affordable’ rent which is often not accessible for people on lower incomes.”

The revised NPPF, published on 24 July, defines affordable housing as property where “the rent is set in accordance with the government’s rent policy for social rent of affordable rent, or is at least 20% below local market rents”.

The revised NPPF said the Housing Delivery Test would come into effect in November 2018 to encourage local authorities to build and meet national house-building targets. 

Authorities will be penalised for housing delivery below 25% of housing required by November 2018, followed by 45% a year later and 75% in 2020.

MHCLG is yet to define the consequences for failing to meet housing delivery targets.

Porter said: “It is hugely disappointing that the government has not listened to our concerns about nationally set housing targets, and will introduce a delivery test that punishes communities for homes not built by private developers.

“Councils work hard with communities to get support for good quality housing development locally, and there is a risk these reforms will lead to locally agreed plans being bypassed by national targets.”

Announcing the NPPF, housing secretary James Brokenshire stressed the importance of build quality.

“I am clear that quantity must never compromise the quality of what is built, and this is reflected in the new rules,” he said.

The NPPF document stated: “Local planning authorities should … seek to ensure that the quality of approved development is not materially diminished between permission and completion”.

A focus on sustainability and innovation was also highlighted and the NPPF called for greater weight to be given to outstanding designs that promote high levels of sustainability.

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