The update to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) marks another tweak in the way England plans its communities, but it comes with vital changes which may offer greater opportunities for SME builders.
Richard Beresford, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), said: “We need to focus on the positive aspects of the reform amidst concerns about changes to five-year land supplies, housing targets and greenbelt land. Now that the new planning landscape is established, our priority is ensuring that these changes result in tangible improvements.”
The NPPF document outlines how local authorities should operate the planning system, but historically, ambiguous language has meant that local authorities have not always put the spirit of policy into practice.
Rico Wojtulewicz, Head of Policy and Market Insight at the NFB, said: “Paragraph 69, which the NFB wrote to promote small and medium sized sites is now Paragraph 70, and adds reference to Local Development Orders, permission in principle and design assessments. Whilst we welcome our recommendations being heard, the NFB urges the Government to define medium-sized sites in planning terms, covering between ten and fifty homes. This precise definition would ensure Paragraph 70 enables SMEs in practice, rather than LPAs interpreting policy simply as advice.”
In addition, Michael Gove announced planning league tables, penalties, and legal action for failure to produce a local plan, along with the long overdue removal of extension of time requests.
Wojtulewicz continued: “We have been heard on extension of time requests and we thank Mr Gove for that. These time requests have been a plague on our industry and local councils have been gaming the system with their use, often at the expense of local builders.
It will be fascinating to see what Mr Gove comes up with in terms of a planning league table and penalties, which we also recommended, particularly as we already have one in place in the Housing Delivery Test.”