Planning Alert
MAY 19

Housing and Planning Act 2016

The Housing and Planning Act received Royal Assent on 13 May 2016, following a seven month preparation process and much debate between the two houses (Lords and Commons).

The Government said on the Bill's publication in 2015 that provisions would kick-start a “national crusade to get 1 million homes built by 2020” and transform “Generation Rent" into "Generation Buy.” The Act’s strategic objectives are increasing the delivery of new homes, and improving the affordability of home ownership for first-time buyers.

A great deal of the Act’s provision will need to be enacted though secondary legislation, such as regulations, etc. The Government has recently consulted on its proposed approach to implementation of the main planning measures, technical consultation on implementation of planning changes (February 2016) and technical consultation on the provision of starter homes.

The Act’s main provisions for planning

  • ‘Planning permission in principle’, subject to adoption of key qualifying documents such as a development plan. 
  • Councils to compile and maintain registers of brownfield land, which may also be ‘qualifying documents‘ for planning permission in principle. 
  • Enhanced powers for community groups in local plan preparation and examination. 
  • Opening up planning application processing to competition. 
  • Powers for the Secretary of State to intervene in neighbourhood planning.  
  • New developments of a certain size to include Starter Homes. 
  • Enable new homes to be delivered under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure mechanism. 

The Act’s main provisions for housing

  • Starter homes introduced in the definition of affordable housing category on new build developments.  
  • First-time buyers will be able to purchase starter homes at a 20% discount of market value, although prices will be subject to price caps. 
  • Councils to consider the sale of vacant council housing.  
  • Housing associations to be subject to Right to Buy.  
  • Better control of rogue landlords and letting agents with powers to ban repeat offenders. 
  • Agents to keep clients' money in accounts separate to business accounts.  
  • Local Authorities to grant planning permission on serviced plots, sufficient to meet the demand for self-build housing in their area. 

Bidwells’ View

The Government wants the new Act to result in a complete step change in both planning processes and housing delivery. However, whether the Act will meet the ambitious Government Target of “1 million homes built by 2020”, remains to be seen, particularly as much of the provisions can only be brought in through secondary legislation which is yet to be published.

Measures such as 'permission in principle' on brownfield sites, and some of the changes to support delivery of homes including Starter Homes will help, provided that Starter Homes are seen as replacing other affordable housing tenures and not in addition to local affordable housing policy requirements.

However, on their own these initiatives are unlikely to be sufficient. Improvements in speed are needed all the way through the planning system from local plan preparation, planning application consideration and determination, legal obligations to the discharge of conditions.

The measures suggested in the technical consultation on Implementation of Planning Changes are a good start, but they will not make up for the last 40 years of housing deficit. Councils, housebuilders, consultants, lenders and the housing market in general will need to speed up and become more efficient to come anywhere close to achieving the Government’s ambitions.

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 will be available here once published: 

Neighbourhood Planning Bill

A further Bill, the Neighbourhood Planning Bill was announced in the 18 May 2016 Queen’s Speech. The Bill is intended to further support the Government’s aims to deliver more houses and improve affordability. The main elements of the Bill are:

  • To further strengthen neighbourhood planning and give even more power to local people; by making the local government's duty to support groups more transparent and by improving the process for reviewing and updating plans.
  • To ensure that pre-commencement planning conditions are only imposed by local planning authorities where absolutely necessary.
  • To make the compulsory purchase order process clearer, fairer and faster for all those involved.
  • To establish the independent National Infrastructure Commission on a statutory basis.
  • To enable the privatisation of Land Registry, which would support the delivery of a modern, digitally-based land registration service that will benefit the Land Registry’s customers, such as people buying or selling their home.

Bidwells will provide further information on the Bill as it progresses.

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