Earlier this year, the Government carried out a consultation for the review of the NPPF giving the public an opportunity to comment on and respond to questions raised in the consultation, highlighting particular issues such as a focus on both town centres and rural areas, transport, infrastructure, design for new homes and environmental considerations.
The deadline for submitting comments was in May, and on 24 July the Government announced the key areas in which changes would be made.
Whilst the new NPPF is more evolution than revolution, we have detailed below some of the key changes resulting from the consultation, particularly around delivering new homes.
Housing Delivery Test
Local policies must provide for local housing needs, including needs from neighbouring areas. One of the key ways that the new NPPF addresses this is the Housing Delivery Test. This measures how a local authority performs in delivering new homes and provides ways to speed up delivery if it falls below targets. For example, if local authorities aren’t delivering enough homes, they must produce an action plan to speed up delivery, or if they have historically under-delivered, a buffer of additional sites is imposed to help account for the existing demand.
There is also a new emphasis on speeding up delivery once planning permission has been granted. Developers will be familiar with conditions that development of a site should commence within three years of the grant of planning permission, but under the new framework, local authorities should consider shorter time limits to encourage faster delivery.
Small Sites & Affordable Housing
The definition of ‘affordable housing’ has been broadened under the new NPPF. Two significant additions are ‘starter homes’ and ‘discounted market sales housing’. The new definition offers developers greater flexibility in reaching affordable housing requirements.
A new requirement has been imposed on local authorities to accommodate at least 10% of their housing requirements on small sites of up to one hectare. This policy has been introduced to encourage more development by small and medium-sized house-builders and to speed up housing delivery as smaller sites can often be developed faster than larger ones. Local authorities should use registers of brownfield sites to identify small sites that can be brought forward. To ensure that they can be delivered quickly, the new NNPF encourages authorities to use local development orders to deem planning permission granted in certain circumstances.
Another strand of the new NPPF’s small sites policy is the introduction of ‘entry level exception sites’. These are developments of affordable housing (new definition) starter homes adjacent to existing settlements. Sites are limited to one hectare or 5% of the size of the existing settlement. One of the key effects of this policy to encourage of incremental expansion of settlements (even those in rural areas).
Effective Use of Land
The new NPPF dedicates an entire chapter to ‘making effective use of land’. This is linked to delivery of new homes on brownfield sites, sites which are currently under-developed, and redevelopment of commercial space into residential. The key change here is that particularly where areas have good transport links, local authorities will need to set minimum density housing targets, encouraging flats and greater numbers of smaller homes rather than fewer larger homes.
The changes to the NPPF should encourage local authorities to identify more sites for new homes, and bring existing sites forward faster.