Forthcoming planning guidance and regulations: what to look out for

09 May 2019

Following MP Oliver Letwin’s independent report on how to close the significant gap between the amount of land allocated or benefitting from planning permission for housing and the level of completions (the build out rate), James Brokenshire (MP and Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government) announced a series of consultations and new guidance during the Spring statement.

Oliver Letwin found there to be a significant lack of diversity in the types of housing being delivered by larger schemes. He therefore recommended that the Government adopt a new policy for all future sites (initially those over 1,500 units) in areas of high housing demand requiring the developers of those sites to provide a greater diversity of house types.

He also suggested that this ought to be incentivised, by making any future government funding (for example through Housing Infrastructure Funds) dependent on developers of such sites accepting a Section 106 agreement which requires conformity with any diversification planning guidance published by the Government.  He also proposed that a National Expert Committee could be set up to help arbitrate on such matters.

Whilst James Brokenshire made clear his scepticism with regards any incentivisation of such measures, in the Spring statement he did announce that the Government will be publishing additional planning guidance on housing diversification later this year which could have implications for developers of large sites (over 1,500 dwellings).

Sustainable standards to tackle cilmate change
James Brokenshire acknowledged that heating existing homes is the single largest contributing factor to the UK’s carbon footprint and that tackling climate change requires new homes to be built to a more sustainable and efficient standard.  He therefore committed the Government to adopting a “Future Homes Standard” by 2025 requiring new homes to be built with the ‘latest green technology’.

He has more recently confirmed that the Future Homes Standard will be implemented through an uplift to Building Regulations, indicating that the new standard will be consulted on during 2019.  The consultation will expand on the technical details of these proposals, but they are expected to build on the Prime Minister’s Clean Growth Grand Challenge mission to at least halve the energy use of new build property by 2030.
Other measures announced following Oliver Letwin’s report include:
  • Minor and major changes to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015 as set out in our article of 15th April.
  • The publication of an ‘Accelerated Planning’ Green Paper which will provide further guidance on Planning Performance Agreements and other procedural improvements to speed up the planning process.
  • The publication of “Better Planning for High Streets” Green Paper which will set out guidance for local authorities on measures to regenerate high streets including the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders.
In our opinion...
We have doubts that the Government would seek to implement proposals to incentivise a more diverse housing supply as suggested by Oliver Letwin; more realistically, the guidance is likely to set out a suggested housing mix which would then be up to Local Authorities to apply subject to consideration of local needs. The ‘Future Homes’ Standard’ could be more prescriptive but it remains to be seen whether we will quite go back to the days of the Code for Sustainable Homes, or whether something akin to the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) currently used to asses the environmental performance of non-residential buildings is implemented.
In either case clearly all housebuilders will need to be fully aware of this consultation when published and to comment as appropriate; any future standards implementation will likely take place from 2025.

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