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What ‘planning for the right homes in the right places’ really means

Sara Parkinson, Programme Director

Last week the government published its consultation paper ‘Planning for the right homes in the right places’ outlining proposals for a number of the Housing White Paper reforms. Here’s my take on how the 62-page proposal could impact London.

Arguably the most anticipated element is the standardised approach to calculating housing need. This will make the process simpler, faster and more cost-effective for local planning authorities (LPAs). It also aims to increase the speed of local planning preparation and sign-off. This will have a greater impact outside of London, where there is still a lack of up to date local plans in place.

The emerging London Plan will set an annual target of 65,000 homes. The government’s standardised approach to calculations would see this increase to 75,000, but as the draft plan will be published before the government’s cut off of March 2018, the new methodology will not yet apply.  It will kick in for any subsequent changes to the plan.

The government has clarified that the Mayor will continue to set the London wide housing target and apportion this to boroughs. Using a similar methodology, LPAs including London boroughs will be expected to provide housing targets for neighbourhood plans.

The new methodology uses ONS data but states ‘robust local data’ can be used, which may enable the Mayor to continue using his baseline data. It then applies an ‘adjustment’ to take into account affordability of new homes. This could mean increased housing targets for higher value areas – it remains to be seen what impact this will have on London.

The consultation asks how its proposals for a statement of common ground should apply to Mayors with planning powers. The Statement is expected to set out how adjacent local authorities will work together to meet housing or infrastructure needs that cross boundaries. The new London Plan should set out how boroughs will be expected to contribute towards pan–London housing need and approach sub-regional housing assessments. But, will the statement have a positive impact on the Mayor’s discussions with local authorities in the south east? Some of whom are reluctant to accommodate London’s growth beyond its boundaries.

Reforms to viability in plan making and decision taking would require LPAs to identify infrastructure and affordable housing requirements, how these will be funded and the contributions expected from developers. Mirroring the Mayor’s threshold approach in the Affordable Housing and Viability SPG (2017), it suggests those planning applications that meet the local plan’s affordable housing targets should not be viability tested, but does not clarify whether there will be any flexibility on tenure mix.

Views are being sought on how viability assessments can be made simpler, quicker and more transparent. We expect the government to look to the Mayor’s SPG for examples of best practice. LPAs will also be expected to report on funding or infrastructure delivered through Section 106 agreements and how it is spent.

Finally, the White Paper offered a 20% increase in planning application fees for LPAs who have committed to resourcing planning departments. The consultation asks how a further 20% increase in fees can be given to authorities meeting their housing targets.

Next steps for London First?

We will be responding to the consultation with member views, and will host round table discussions to seek input. More information will follow, but please get in touch with any queries.

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