White paper planning changes proposed

14th February 2017

If you are a land owner or housing developer the Government's Housing White Paper plans will affect you, say planning specialists at Knight Frank in Sheffield.

The Government has unveiled its plans to fix the 'broken' housing market in a white paper covering 104 pages. It includes the speeding up of planning approvals, the prevention of developers to land bank and support to deliver more homes to rent. Sophie Watkin, partner at Knight Frank in Sheffield said: -The Government is also proposing to cut the time local authorities have to approve planning applications from three years to two. -To do this, they're offering local authorities an incentive: up to 20 per cent more money if they commit to spending it on planning departments. -The proposals could probably do with being more driven to bring about significant change, but it is a step in the right direction. If this can be shown to deliver real improvements in planning, then it would make a good case for further increases along the lines the white paper suggests. The consultation runs until May 7 and includes giving councils powers to pressurise developers to start building on land they own. Details of the housing White Paper include: Forcing councils to produce an up-to-date plan for housing demand Expecting developers to avoid "low-density" housing where land availability is short Encouraging the extension of buildings upwards in urban areas Reducing the time allowed between planning permission and the start of building from three to two years Using a £3bn fund to help smaller building firms challenge major developers, including support for off-site construction, where parts of buildings are assembled in a factory A "lifetime ISA" to help first-time buyers save for a deposit Maintaining protection for the green belt, which can only be built on "in exceptional circumstances" Introducing banning orders "to remove the worst landlords or agents from operating" Banning letting agents' fees The Government says at least 250,000 new homes are needed each year to keep pace with demand and councils and developers need to "get real" to the scale of the challenge. It also declared its commitment not to build on green belt land, and promised to discourage builders from land banking as well as confirming it would release more publicly owned brownfield land for development. Sophie added: -Part of its plans to stop firms land banking - where land is bought but not developed for years as house prices and land values rise - include the proposal that personal ownership details will be made publicly available on the Land Registry. -This would allow those sitting on empty homes and undeveloped land to be named. Justin Gaze, Knight Frank's joint head of residential development, added: "The White Paper is a comprehensive report. It illustrates an understanding, which has been arguably a little lacking in some recent policy and legislation, that all parts of the development market are interdependent, and that they can, and will, affect each other and ultimately the number of homes being built. "There are some positive suggestions within the White Paper, especially recognition that housing need must be realistically measured, across all age groups and tenures, a fundamental first step if the housing shortage is to be addressed. "A review of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is also welcome, as this system has become a burden on development, instead of streamlining payment for infrastructure as it was intended. "The importance of development in established and sustainable locations already well-served by infrastructure where there is a high housing need shouldn't be overlooked. But the fundamental tension between the need for new homes and the resistance to development seen in some communities is unlikely to be completely unravelled by the suggestions in this report. "A continuing concern is the cost of planning, which could be seen to be impacting the country's SME builders and adding further delays to development sites being brought forward. "While we await the outcome of the consultation to the White Paper, it is worth remembering that the development market is just one part of the wider housing market that the Government calls 'broken'. The pressure on the delivery of new homes, which make up less than 1% of housing stock annually, is emphasised in a market where the availability of second-hand stock to buy is so constrained, a trend which is exacerbated by the current stamp duty regime. For further advice on planning issues contact Sophie Watkin at Knight Frank on 0114 272 9750.

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