West Green Place West Green Place The Housing White Paper – Not Radical But Encouraging Picture 3

What Does It Mean?

The radical reforms first promised by Sajid Javid were absent from yesterday’s Housing White Paper however the sector should not be disappointed. Its contents strives to support densification, improve design quality and diversify the housing market. Whilst not radical, it is encouraging. It is anticipated that these changes will be brought about through revising the National Planning Policy Framework later this year.

Given that it is a national White Paper we were surprised at the number of times central Government explicitly referred to London rather than other growth regions like Manchester for example - overall devolution is only mentioned 3 times.

So what does it Mean for Major Schemes?

In line with the government’s commitment to boost home ownership, the government will require local authorities on major sites (10 units + /0.5ha+) to secure a minimum of 10% of all homes as affordable home ownership products (page 102). It is likely that the following schemes will be exempt from this policy – Build to Rent, supported housing, custom build & rural exception sites- but the government are seeking the sector’s view. The government also proposed to amend the definition of affordable housing, providing 8 variants of ‘affordable’ to be incorporated into the amended National Planning Policy Framework in due course. On larger sites, the Government ‘expect local planning authorities to work with developers to encourage the sub-division of large sites’ and ‘encourage greater use of Local Development Orders and area-wide design codes so that small sites may be brought forward for development more quickly’.

This could have interesting ramifications for large scale masterplans. This approach is only likely to be feasible on Greenfield sites; larger estate regeneration schemes are often informed by decant requirements. The government’s ambition to ‘divide’ the site up is likely to only add further complexity if applied to estate regeneration projects that are already ridden with numerous complexities.

The Government will also explore introducing a tiered approach to address housing under-delivery from November 2017, with strict thresholds in 3 years’ time. The presumption in favour of sustainable development will have additional emphasis where delivery falls below 65% of an area’s housing requirement. This could benefit bringing forward larger unallocated sites for development in under-performing authorities.

Is it Good News for SME's or those interested in Innovative Building Models?

For those interested in pursuing innovative and efficient methods, particularly small builders, there certainly is good news! The Government is clear that is wants to ‘support housing associations to build more, explore options to encourage local authorities to build again, encourage institutional investment in the private rented sector and promote more modular and factory built homes. We will also make it easier for people who want to build their own homes’ (page 15).  

As Offsite Professional of the Year we are very pleased that the Government recognises the role of off-site manufacturing to bring forward homes more quickly. To also speed up delivery the Government recognises the important role of small sites and states that ‘at least 10% of the sites allocated for residential development in local plans should be sites of half a hectare or less’, more good news for small builders that there will be sites in the pipe line.

And from a Design Point of View….?

It is promising that it talks about supporting higher densities particularly where there is a shortage of land (Page 88). The Government are also seeking views on what standards would be appropriate and the locations to which high densities should apply. How this is translated and implemented through planning decisions will be crucial. It suggests reviewing the Nationally Described Space Standard to support greater local housing choice, while avoiding a race to the bottom in the size of homes on offer. It also indicates that daylight considerations should be addressed in a more ‘pragmatic way that does not inhibit dense, high quality development’ (page 88). It also seems there will be more funding for local authorities to push design up the agenda. This is welcomed providing planning officers approach design with the correct mind-set for new developments.

Does it Provide Support for HTA Design’s Key Innovation Research Projects, Supurbia and Rooftop Development?

In short – yes! It proposes to amend the National Planning Policy Framework to give ‘greater weight’ to ‘using small undeveloped sites within settlements for homes, where they are suitable for residential development’.

In urban locations the government is keen too ‘avoid building homes at low densities’ encouraging Local authorities to ‘take a flexible approach in adopting and apply policy guidance that could inhibit’ high density schemes.

The Government welcomes ideas on how planning policy can encourage the innovative use of land, particularly in areas where demand is high and available land is limited. It cites London as an example which ‘is a relatively low-density city especially in its suburbs’, suggesting new permitted development rights could be used to encourage the innovative uses of land in areas of high housing need.

The Housing White Paper reiterates that the time has come to re-appraise the role that our outer suburbs play in the life of the city and to evolve a set of policies that support a process of sustainable transformation. The shift in thinking draws on ideas HTA began exploring through our ‘Supurbia‘ research in 2014. See our original publication here: Find out more at #Supurbia on February 21st at the NLA at 5.30pm. 


What’s Next?

The Government have asked for comments on its proposals by 2nd May 2017. The Government intends to publish a revised NPPF later this year.

We will be submitting our views and would encourage our clients, Local Authorities and developers to do the same!

If you want to know more about how the contents of the White Paper could affect you and your projects, please contact Riette Oosthuizen, Planning Partner at HTA (Riette.Oosthuizen@hta.co.uk). Our detailed review and response of the Housing White Paper will be available shortly.