Are lights turning amber for new housing plans?

For the last couple of years the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has delivered somewhat of a boon for housing developers and those who have land to make available for housing.

As intended, the simplified planning guidance and the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ have played their part in this.

However, what has really helped housing developers get schemes through planning has been the requirement for local authorities to identify and keep up-to-date a deliverable five-year housing land supply.

Most importantly, the NPPF states that where relevant policies are out-of-date, permission should be granted unless any adverse impacts outweigh the benefits. This is the case even if the local authority already has a core strategy or local plan.

This has allowed many developers to get schemes that are situated in less acceptable areas (as far as the Council is concerned) through “planning by appeal”. For example, in May 2012, an appeal against Stroud District Council was allowed for up to 200 dwellings on the basis of the absence of a five-year housing land supply, despite the proposal being located outside a defined settlement boundary.

In another decision, against the Borough Council of Wellingborough in August 2012, on an appeal for 65 dwellings, the inspector noted that had the council been able to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply, the appeal would have been dismissed.

For a few years now, this has been great news if you’ve had a chunk of land that you’ve wanted to develop housing on. Planning consent has been far easier to come by.

But the halcyon days are going to come to an end. There are signs that many local authorities are finally catching up with the requirements of the NPPF and are beginning to get their updated five-year housing land supply strategies in place.

Logically, this means that applicants won’t be able to hammer local authorities at appeal to get their proposals through. Once that window slams shut, the chance may be gone.

In my estimation, I would say landowners and developers looking to bring housing schemes to fruition in areas that are outside their local authority’s preferred development areas may only have a small window to get their scheme through the planning process.

That isn’t to say that planning permission will be a complete no go, just that it will potentially become more problematic.

If you are in this position I would recommend speaking to an experienced planning consultant and your professional advisers as a matter of urgency.

For more information on this, or any other planning matter, please feel free to give me a call to discuss your requirements in more detail.