view of the timbers in a new house build ready for the wall panels of plasterboard to be added.

Category: government and politics

On Tuesday, Housing Secretary Michael Gove unveiled the UK government's updated National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), as part of the Government’s efforts to increase the supply of housing in the country by improving the way local authority deal with the property development sector.

The NPPF aims to boost brownfield property developments, and introduce accountability measures for local planning authorities.

Local planning authorities’ housing targets to become ‘advisory’

Housing targets for local authority is set to become ‘advisory’ under the NPPF, Gove told attendees on Tuesday – reassuring them that:

It has always been the case that [housing targets] were supposed to be advisory for local authorities. But that principle has more often been honoured in the breach than in the observance.

Local authorities must provide rigorous evidence justifying their departure from assessed

housing needs. They must do everything to identify other lands suitable for development.

[…] This is about sensitive adjustment in housing targets, not their abandonment.

Despite this, he is confident Government will meet their target of 300,000 homes a year by 2025 – ‘once we get back to normal levels of interest and mortgage rates’.

Shadow minister Angela Rayner has said she intends to reverse the ‘advisory’ targets if Labour win office in the next general election, stating that Gove’s announcement of the NPPF is ‘truly through the looking glass’, arguing:

Despite all this tough talk, he and Rishi Sunak have stripped away every measure that would get shovels in the ground and houses built to appease their backbenchers.

We simply can’t be expected to believe that the government will take the steps necessary to get the homes built that Britain desperately needs

Local Planning Authority not compelled to allocate green-field land

According to Gove, the NPPF will eliminate the requirement for local authorities to allocate green-field land, or greenbelt land, to meet housing targets.

Michael Gove defended the decision by stating:

There are perfectly reasonable reasons to resist development if it is unattractive, if it is unaccompanied by infrastructure, if it dramatically changes the character of an area, if it harms the environment.

It is only right that local people should have the chance through the planning system to safeguard the environment and to protect the character of the places in which they live.

This marks a significant departure from traditional approach to property development, which critics had always said risked eating too much into green-field and greenbelt sights.

With a renewed emphasis on brownfield sites, Gove’s planning framework mitigates this.

Local planning authorities league table

Gove also revealed that the NPPF will see local authority league tables enforced.

Gove hopes that, much like in the education sector, league tables will increase competition across local authorities, and so drive up quality.

The tables will monitor metrics such as speed of response, approval rates, and delivery against targets.

He says:

At the Department for Education, I saw that nothing so concentrated the mind of leaders than sharper accountability, rigorous inspection and robust league tables. I will apply the same principles and approach to the performance of local planning

[…] We will make sure every local authority is held to account for delivery against its claim for the speed with which planning applications are processed, and also the rationality of their decision making.

Comments from the property development industry

Ian Fletcher, policy director of the British Property Federation, was critical of Gove’s announcement.

He told Property Industry Eye:

By changing how local authorities should assess housing need, the government is watering down its own national targets and creating more obstacles and delays to housing delivery. What is often overlooked is that if less land is allocated for housing, less land is likely also to be allocated for the commercial developments we need to create jobs and drive the economy.

These changes could have far-reaching consequences and undermine the government’s growth agenda.