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Updated on 8 February 2017

The Housing White Paper. Was it Worth the Wait?

Despite all the talk, hype and pre-release posturing, the newly released Housing White Paper, is, we think, a bit of a disappointment – lots of talk and not a lot of action. More pressure placed on already struggling Councils to further plan housing needs and demands, as well as the ability for them to put pressure on developers to start building on land they own. So what has come out of Central Government in the end?

The Paper aims to deliver in a number of different areas, including:

Forward Planning for Homes

  • Maintaining strong Green Belt protection – ensuring that no Green Belt is developed without other policies implemented to offset the impact arising from development
  • HM Land Registry will aim to achieve comprehensive land registration by 2030 to clarify how much land is available for housebuilding
  • Brownfield is given priority for development with a presumption that Brownfield sites are usually suitable for development
  • More homes to be delivered on on Public Sector land – the Government surplus of land has the capacity for 160,000 homes
  • Councils and developers to promote higher densities in urban locations through renewing space standards and encouraging estate regeneration
  • Support neighbourhood planning groups through increased funding and digital tools


  • Increase nationally set planning fees for local authorities by 20% – with the potential for a further 20% increase for local authorities who meet their housing targets
  • Making it easier for local authorities to act against those who don’t act once planning permission is granted with the shortening of the life of permissions from three to two years
  • Local authorities that fail to meet housing need will be subject to presumption of planning permission on all sustainable sites
  • £25 million of new funding for authorities in areas of high housing need to plan infrastructure
  • Increased transparency in local plans – as well as potentially requiring large housebuilders to publish aggregate information on build out rates

There is support for small and medium housebuilders through the Home Building Fund whilst institutional investors in the private rented sector and ‘build to rent’ are encouraged, as are housing associations through borrowing against future earnings. Local Authority house building is encouraged through JV and Local Development Companies.

For getting onto the housing ladder, starter home incomes are identified at less than £80k (£90k in London) whilst the equity loan scheme has funding until 2021, and right to buy discounts are extended to housing association tenants.

It seems that rather than blame the system for the shortfall in homes, the Government has pointed the finger at developers refusing to implement planning permissions – ignoring the fact that the system frequently places so many conditions and obligations on permissions that these take months to get to delivery.

So, will it deliver the 250,000 plus new homes that the Government estimates are needed each year to keep up with demand? The answer is – very unlikely. There is nothing in the White Paper that will give the housing market the substantial kick-start that it needs to facilitate delivery. More resources for the decision makers to speed up the planning process, rather than additional burdens to be placed on the local level policy makers would have been a good start. It appears that the Green Belt is safe for a while longer.

The full text of the Housing White Paper and the associated Ministerial Statement can be read here

Time for CIL Reform?

At the same time as the publication of the Housing White Paper, the CIL Review Panel’s Report into the effectiveness of CIL has been published, and although it receives only a passing reference in the Housing White Paper, it is worth reading. In short, CIL in its current form simply doesn’t work, and in fact the regulations are overly complex and unfit for purpose and should be overhauled – more precisely, that:

“Key Recommendations

We recommend that the Government should replace the Community Infrastructure Levy with a hybrid system of a broad and low level Local Infrastructure Tariff (LIT) and Section 106 for larger developments.

 We recommend that Combined Authorities should be enabled to set up an additional Mayoral type Strategic Infrastructure Tariff (SIT)”.

So, the Government recognises that substantial CIL reform is needed, and a twin track approach may be the solution, but changes are not expected until the Autumn Budget – in November 2017, so until then, its business as usual with the inherently complex existing system, for now.

The full text of the CIL review and its associated documents can be found here.

Updated on 27 January 2017

Ashford College Phase 1 is well underway!

It’s really lovely to see a project coming to fruition, and especially one which will deliver such huge benefits for the local community. Since April 2015, we have gone from the artist’s perspective……

To this…..

The new Rotunda is certainly looking stunning in the winter sunshine! Looking forward to a site inspection next week.

[Photos and artist’s perspective courtesy of HNW Architects]

Updated on 17 January 2017

Happy New Year…. And a taster of what’s to come in 2017….

Christmas is long gone and the diets and dry January are in full swing…. Here in the office two planning approvals have already landed on our desks – one for a new respite care home facility and the second, for a project which had its fair share of legal complexities, a large detached new dwelling in the Surrey countryside for a private client. Fingers crossed it looks like there are more and varied permissions to come!

Projects aside, 2017 is forecast to be jam-packed full of exciting changes and new challenges for planning. To give you an idea of what’s ahead in policy and legislative terms, here is a ‘planning top ten’ for 2017:

  1. Housing White Paper – this was expected today, but we understand it has been delayed, possibly until March 2017. It will include more detail on the new ‘garden towns and villages’ announced on 2nd January, starter homes, the £7bn of new funding for affordable housing announced on January 5th, and a commentary on the importance of modular housing amongst other things;
  1. Garden Towns and Villages – On the 2nd January the DCLG announced the chosen locations for fourteen new Garden Villages and three Garden Towns (Aylesbury, Taunton, Harlow and Gilston), which between them are intended to deliver over 48,000 new homes. It is intended that a £6m fund which can be accessed over the next two financial years can be used to ‘unlock the full capacity’ of sites, providing funding for additional resources and expertise to speed up delivery;
  1. Revisions to the NPPF – proposed changes to the NPPF were announced in December 2015 and included changes to the definition of affordable housing, higher density development around commuter hubs and a new presumption in favour of brownfield housing development. These changes are unlikely to be finalised until after the Housing White Paper;
  1. Outcome of the CIL Review­­ – an independent panel was set up in 2015 by the Government, to review the effectiveness of the CIL regime across the UK, and their response is expected with the White Paper;
  1. Neighbourhood Planning Act – alongside the ongoing uncertainties regarding housing land and neighbourhood planning, which were further complicated by the Written Ministerial Statement on 12 December 2015 (which effectively raises conflict with the NPPF), the the Neighbourhood Planning Bill is continuing its journey, with the second reading taking place today. The timetable for enactment is not yet confirmed so watch this space;
  1. Planning Permission in Principle – the Housing and Planning Act 2016 introduced the concept of PPIP – The aim is to enable prospective developers to bid on and invest in a site in the knowledge that the principle of development is acceptable. In practice planning permission will automatically be granted for housing led development on specific sites. After the PPIP an application for technical detail consent will be required (similar to a reserved matters application), which once granted, will provide a detailed planning permission. A number of SI’s to facilitate this are expected during the course of the year;
  1. Housing in the NPPF – The case of Suffolk Coastal District Council v Hopkins Homes Ltd will be heard on 22 February 2017, when the Supreme Court will consider the weight to be attached to policies relating to housing supply in the NPPF. The judgment could have significant implications upon developers bring windfall sites forward for new housing;
  1. Starter Homes – On 3rd January, the Housing Minister announced that the first Starter Homes, which are to be partly funded through the Starter Homes Land Fund, would get under way this year. The homes are to be delivered through partnerships with local authorities, which are to prepare and ‘de-risk’ suitable sites so that construction can be ‘fast-tracked’ by developers or through accelerated construction initiatives. The timescales for delivery seem somewhat ambitious, as the regulations are not yet in place to facilitate this. However, more should become clear through the White Paper as well as SI’s on starter homes that are likely to be effective in the Summer – setting out the definition of a ‘starter home’, confirming when they are required, and detailing monitoring arrangements to ensure delivery;
  1. Planning Agreement Dispute Resolution Procedures – the Housing and Planning Act 2016 also included a new procedure to try and reduce the frequently long delays in securing planning agreements. The new provisions are expected to be finalised this year;
  1. Upward Extensions for London Housing – Looking for ever more creative solutions to London’s housing crisis, the Government’s response to consultation on changes to the London planning policy to allow the upward extension of extension of existing buildings for housing is awaited. Options include PD rights (subject to prior approval) for two additional storeys up to the roofline of the adjoining building, London Plan policies to support upward extensions, and London Boroughs making development orders to grant permission for upward extensions.

With an extensive menu of planning changes ahead, 2017 has all the ingredients to be a busy one for legislation and policymakers, whilst those on the frontline unravel the day to day application and implications of these. That is before we even throw the potential challenges of Brexit into the mix.

For more information or to explore how these changes may affect you or your clients, please contact Charlotte Grant at charlotte.grant@harwoodsavin.com or on 07834 449156



Updated on 11 November 2015

One Million New Homes by 2020? New Permitted Development Rights and Brownfield Permission in Principle….

On Monday 12 October 2015, Central Government announced further proposals to boost housebuilding across the Country.

The Planning Bill is the first piece of planning legislation made by the new Government. It received its Second Reading on 2 November when the House of Commons voted for the Bill to be sent to a Public Bill Committee that will scrutinise the Bill line by line. The first sitting of the Public Bill Committee has yet to be announced but the Committee is expected to report by 10 December 2015. In the normal course of events the Bill might be expected to receive Royal Assent sometime in the middle of 2016.

So what are the key headlines for Planning?

Local Plans for New Homes

The proposals include a requirement for Councils to produce local plans for new homes by 2017 – or government will ensure plans are produced for them. Government research shows that while 82% of councils have published local plans, only 65% have fully adopted them, and almost 20% of councils do not have an up to date plan at all. This provides an immediate opportunity, in areas where local plans are out of date or not yet updated, for developers to promote new sites, including those not previously considered for residential development.

Office to Residential – Now Permanent….

Although not covered within the Bill and to be dealt with via a separate Statutory Instrument, the Government also announced that a temporary rule introduced in May 2013 allowing conversion of disused offices into homes without applying for planning permission will be made a permanent change.

The rights will also now allow the demolition of office buildings and new build residential. In addition, new permitted development rights will enable the change of use of light industrial buildings and launderettes to new homes.

Brownfield Land Registers and Permission in Principle

This aspect of the Bill will essentially create a new form of planning permission – ‘permission in principle’ – in essence a ‘two-part consent’ for brownfield sites. Permission in principle may be granted by a development order, the scope of which is yet to be determined.

The consent will not be capable of implementation, however, until ‘technical details consent’ has also been granted. The new type of permission will work in a manner similar to an outline planning permission, which requires a reserved matters approval to be in place before it can be implemented.

Bypassing badly performing LPAs

Developers are freguently frustrated by delays caused by under- resourced planning departments. The Bill will provide the opportunity for developers to apply direct to the Secretary of State for planning permission. The changes will allow the Secretary of State to create a new category of non-major development in relation to which the performance of LPAs will be judged, thus increasing the pressure on councils to decide applications promptly and to provide sound reasons where permission is refused.

The new rules will also confer on the Secretary of State the power to direct that certain categories of application may be made directly to him. This could be particularly useful where, for example, an LPA is performing poorly in determining applications for certain types of development only.

In addition to the above, the Bill also includes changes to a number of other matters, namely:

  • Clarification on the definition of ‘Starter Homes’ and the associated thresholds
  • measures to speed up neighbourhood planning;
  • provision to support custom and self-building by imposing a duty on LPAs in this respect;
  • measures to promote the sale of vacant high-value housing to raise funds for other housing provision;
  • rules to require the publication of information concerning the financial benefit to LPAs of development for which permission is sought;
  • increased powers for the Mayor of London; and
  • procedural changes concerning the operation of Urban Development Corporations.

A more detailed briefing note has been prepared by Nicola Gooch, Associate Solicitor at Thomas Eggar LLP, and can be requested by e-mail to enquiries@harwoodsavin.com.

Updated on 31 March 2015

Pickles Announces More Flexibility in Planning

Good news for developers, businesses and homeowners…..

Last week the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP announced changes to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 to introduce new permitted development rights which come into force from 15 April 2015.

These permitted development rights allow more development to take place without the need for a planning application. Where appropriate, the development may require prior approval, allowing consideration by the local planning authority of specific planning matters. These new measures will benefit developers, businesses and householders, providing further flexibility but with some restrictions.

In broad terms, the changes include:

  • supporting mixed and varied high streets by allowing more change of use between shops and financial and professional services, allowing the change of such uses to restaurants or leisure use, and allowing retailers to adapt their facilities more freely to support click and collect
  • increasing housing supply by allowing change of use from some business uses to residential and continuing to allow larger, rear domestic extensions; we have also clarified the wording on front extensions following requests by some local authorities
  • supporting growth by allowing commercial filming for longer periods, allowing larger capacity solar panels on non-domestic buildings, making permanent larger business extensions, allowing like-for-like replacements within waste management facilities and allowing equipment housings for sewerage undertakers
  • introducing a new requirement to enable local consideration of a planning application for any change of use to a betting shop or pay day loan shop

Introducing this regulation helps to meets the government red tape challenge commitment to simplify and reduce planning regulation, by consolidating the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 and its 22 amendments

The government will further consider the case for extending the office to residential reforms, which are helping provided more new homes on brownfield land.

More specifically, the changes will include:

  • For three years the ability to change from a Class B8 storage and distribution use to Class C3 residential use subject to prior approval.
  • Casinos and amusement arcades (sui generis) will be able to change to residential and undertake limited works to enable this under PD.
  • The time limited right for larger rear extensions to dwelling-houses is to be extended for a further three years to May 2019.
  • Betting offices and pay day loan shops will become sui generis.
  • Change of use from Class A1 shops and Class A2 finance and leisure uses to Class A3 will be permitted and there will be limited rights, subject to prior approval to build extensions and extraction units.
  • Change of use will be permitted from Class A1 and A2 to Class D2 assembly and leisure uses.
  • There will be a right for shops to erect ‘click and collect’ facilities.
  • There will be rights for shops to modify existing loading bays.
  • Permitted development rights are introduced for temporary filming.
  • There will be new permitted development rights for installing solar panels on non-domestic buildings.
  • The existing time limited ability to extend shops, offices and industrial warehouse buildings will be made permanent.
  • New rights are introduced to replace plant and machinery on existing waste management sites.
  • New permitted development rights are to be introduced for sewerage undertakers.

All of the above changes are subject to certain limitations, for example in respect of Listed Buildings, properties in National Parks and Conservation Areas etc, and specific requirements. If you would like further advice as to how these changes may affect you or your clients, please contact us for further information:

Charlotte Grant on 07834 449156 or charlotte.grant@harwoodsavin.com or Carl Thomas on 07595 309005 or carl.thomas@harwoodsavin.com


Updated on 26 March 2015

New Ministerial Written Statement

The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP made a Written Statement to Parliament on 25 March 2015, setting out the steps the Government are taking to streamline the planning system, protect the environment, support economic growth and assist locally-led decision-making (‘Ministerial Written Statement – Planning Update – March 2015’). Of particular interest is the importance that the Government continues to attach to safeguarding the Green Belt and particularly encroachment by unauthorised development. A new evidence-based planning and recovery policy for the Green Belt is proposed, to strengthen protection against unauthorised development.

Various statements and clarifications have been made in respect of S106 Agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy. As part of the ongoing attempt to speed up the planning system, the Government is committed to tackling delays associated with Section 106 planning obligation negotiations. The Government has also published a response to the ‘Section 106 Planning Obligations – speeding up negotiations’ consultation which supports the view that Government should consider further strengthening the legislative framework for resolving delays in negotiating these agreements. Revised guidance will be published alongside this.

Updated Legislation

The DCLG has also issued a variety of new and updated pieces of legislation this week including:

The updated Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 (DMPO), which comes into force on 15 April 2015, will introduce the Regulations for the deemed discharge of planning conditions. (‘DMPO, April 2015’) In short, a if local planning authority has failed to make a decision within 8 weeks, then conditions can be deemed to be discharged.

From 15 April 2015 there will also be new notification requirements for applications for Listed Building Consent. The Arrangements for Handling Heritage Applications – Notification to Historic England and National Amenity Societies and the Secretary of State (England) Direction 2015 (‘Arrangements for Handling Heritage Applications Direction 2015’) sets out the requirements to notify Historic England (the new name for English Heritage from 1 April 2015) and other bodies.

For further advice on any of the above issues, please contact Charlotte Grant on charlotte.grant@harwoodsavin.com