Planning round-up with Salvatore Amico
We asked Salvatore Amico to sum up the current planning outlook, here’s what he had to say.
With the UK’s growing housing shortage, planning is becoming increasingly high-profile, isn’t it?
Yes, it is. Many more local communities are engaging with the planning process through consultations on Neighbourhood Plans, and there is greater pressure than ever before to fix what the government in its Housing white paper referred to as ‘our broken housing market’.
London has a rapidly increasing need for housing, as do most areas in the south east. So, the challenge for councils and developers is to deliver much-needed houses for their local areas as quickly as possible.
Planning has been given more scope, hasn’t it?
Yes. Changes to permitted development rights mean that, for instance, farm building can be repurposed as dwellings, and surplus office accommodation can be turned into residential units. There is more emphasis on making the best use possible of brownfield sites too. Councils are being urged to bring more public sector land into use.
How do you view the proposals in the Housing white paper?
Theresa May’s government will be under pressure to deliver on its manifesto pledge to build around a million new homes during the new parliament.
What the Housing white paper showed is that the government acknowledges the need to speed up the planning process, and ensure that local councils have up-to-date approved plans in place that can deliver sufficient housing. For instance, the white paper proposed shortening the time allowed to developers to start building once they have received planning permission, to speed up the completion of more units. However, councils will need to realise that shortening the time scale could have implications for the smaller developer’s ability to deliver, and consideration must be given to what conditions, especially those that have to be fulfilled before commencement, are attached to permissions that are granted.
If the white paper proceeds, we can expect to see more use of small brownfield sites, and other moves like greater housing density with more storeys, especially in developments around transport hubs.
In this part of the world, the Green Belt is an emotive issue. The Conservatives have pledged to protect it. However, there are exceptional cases where development could be permitted if all other options, including public sector land, have been explored.
A recent Supreme Court judgement has implications for Councils and Developers, can you explain?
Yes. This case involved the joint appeals of two developers, Richborough Estates and Hopkin Homes, who applied to build housing, but had had their applications rejected by Cheshire East Coast Council and Suffolk Coastal District Council respectively, despite the absence of a five-year housing supply. Whilst both councils had complained about proposed developments close to designated green areas, neither of the local councils could show an up-to-date five-year supply of land for homes.
To explain what this means, part of the National Planning Policy framework (NPPF) states that if a council doesn’t not have an up-to-date five-year supply of deliverable housing sites, then environmental and countryside protection plans, as well as local plan policies relating directly to housing, should be considered out-of-date because they have the “effect to influence the supply of housing land by restricting locations where new housing may be developed”.
In this case, there should be a presumption in favour of building homes, and the developers won their appeal. The judgement is a welcome boost to residential development, and underlines the need for councils to keep local plans fully up-to-date.
Finally, are you optimistic about the future?
Yes. Clearly there is a big challenge facing the broken housing market, which requires urgent attention. However, if government, councils, planners and developers can all work together, we can provide much-needed housing whilst at the same time addressing social and environmental concerns, delivering the sustainable development our communities need.