The British Property Federation has delivered a positive verdict on the proposed planning changes in the chancellor’s autumn statement.
It has called the proposed delivery test “a welcome move”, called the starter homes initiative “a very sensible step”, and has declared itself “delighted” by plans to standardise viability assessments under section 106 agreements.
It’s not all good news, however, with the BPF worried that the help to buy loan scheme is simply prolonging the problems of housing shortage; and, it sees a lack of clarity over housing numbers that have been promised.
Specifically for London, the autumn statement made commitments on delivering the Olympicopolis cultural and university quarter in the Olympic park, set aside £97 million to fund a new Thameslink station at Brent Cross, £55 million to help extend the London Overground to Barking Riverside, and to draw together public land holdings around Old Oak Common’s HS2 station site.
Also in London, the chancellor unveiled funding to support starter homes, with a new London Help to Buy scheme offering government-backed 40% loans, interest free for the first five years.
Says the BPF: “Clearly affordability of housing in London is a significant challenge for first-time buyers, and there is some rationale for having a different ‘help to buy’ offer in London. A 40% equity loan, however, will only add to demand, and buyers’ inability to afford a home will become self-perpetuating if supply of homes doesn’t increase to match these initiatives. The best way to
solve London’s housing crisis remains through building more homes.”
The autumn statement covered several areas of planning, including local and neighbourhood plans, housebuilding, section 106, planning conditions and local decision making.
There will be a delivery test applied on local authorities, to oblige them to deliver the volume of homes promised under their local plans. The BPF commented: “This is a welcome move, and will ensure that local authorities really do concentrate on growth for their area and that their local plans are focused on delivery and the practicalities of housing the population. As local authorities struggle with a lack of resources (both skills and finances), this is a real incentive to keep local plans short and sharp.”
There was a commitment to use planning policy to release non-housing land, and brownfield land in the green belt, for starter homes, albeit with local consultation first. Again, the BPF is supportive: “Whilst likely to raise howls of indignation from some quarters, this is a very sensible step. This change will put a stop to endless battles in the planning regime and will help bring
forward the government’s intended 200,000 Starter Homes.The sites that will be eligible for this will not be lush green fields, but rather disused scrap yards and car parks which happen to sit within the Green Belt, and which are calling out to be more productively used.”
There was further clarification promised on small sites, and on the protection of existing gardens. A halving of the planning guarantee is promised though, as the BPF points out, a rejig of planning fees will be needed to help deliver this: “This would ensure that local authorities have a skilled, fully resourced workforce that enables them to ensure swifter decision times.”
Proposals to standardise viability assessments are promised, something the BPF welcomed: “A standardised viability model should go a long way to solving some of the disputes around development.” Also coming is a review on the operation of the deemed discharge of planning conditions.
LPA Perspective: The development industry, in the face of the BPF, appears largely happy as a result of the chancellor’s recent announcements. However, there are plenty of small changes that could have interesting knock-on consequences. Few of us have yet fully worked them through.