Friday, 1 April 2016

"Councils need to do more to identify suitable brownfield sites and to protect their communities against the threat of undesirable development"

There are fears about where national housing policy is heading:
Futures Forum: The Housing and Planning Bill, 'an utter catastrophe' and the impossibility of providing affordable housing in East Devon
Futures Forum: "The proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework would further weaken the control of planning authorities over local development."

The Community Voice on Planning is urging for further submissions to be made to the Department of Communities and Local Government:
Community Voice on Planning | A National Alliance to provide communities with an effective voice on planning, enabling them to protect their greenfield and green spaces.

The Communities and Local Government Committee has just published its own report:

Committee calls for a comprehensive review of national planning policy

01 April 2016

A comprehensive review of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) should be carried out before the end of this Parliament, says the Communities & Local Government (CLG) Committee in its report, 'Department for Communities and Local Government’s consultation on national planning policy'.


The Committee's inquiry into the Department for Communities and Local Government's Consultation on proposed changes to national planning policy (PDF 495MB) found that there has not been sufficient robust, objective and evidence-based monitoring, evaluation or review of the National Planning Policy Framework (PDF 1.98MB) since its publication in 2012.
The Committee calls for an overall review of the operation of national planning policy to pull together the various significant pieces of work in this area, including the Local Plans Expert Group report, the Housing and Planning Bill, and the technical consultation on the implementation planning changes.

Chair’s comments

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, said:
"We welcome many of the proposals in the Government’s consultation. However, particularly at a time of significant change for the planning and housing sectors, it’s important that people are reassured that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) works effectively and that it supports sustainable development in their communities. The Government needs to ensure there is confidence in the planning system by carrying out a comprehensive review of the NPPF by the end of this Parliament".

Local authorities responsibilities

The Committee is clear that communities will not benefit fully from the NPPF unless their local authorities properly fulfil their responsibilities to publish and adopt Local Plans. The CLG Committee expresses disappointment that, four years on from the publication of the National Planning Policy, 17 per cent of local authorities still have not published Local Plans and 34 per cent have not yet adopted Plans.
Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, said:
"Councils need to do more to identify suitable brownfield sites and to protect their communities against the threat of undesirable development by getting an adopted Local Plan in place. The NPPF is designed to work side by side with local plans. It’s simply not good enough that 34 per cent of local authorities don’t have an adopted plan.
The Government needs to act to put an end to dawdling local authorities and indicate whether they will take up the recommendation by the Minister’s own Local Plans Expert Group, and we call on him to reconsider the recommendation made by our predecessor Committee that a statutory duty should be placed on local authorities to produce and maintain Local Plans".

Housing delivery test

The Committee welcomes the proposed housing delivery test to provide clarity about whether housing delivery in a local area is meeting identified housing need. However, the Committee believes that the proposed consequence of under-delivery – requiring local authorities to allocate more land for development – may not, by itself, mean that more houses will be built. The Committee calls for the Department to review the proposals, and identify the powers local authorities ought to have in order to require or encourage developers to build out sites in their areas.
The Committee supports the development of brownfield sites for housing where it contributes to meeting local housing needs, but asks for greater clarity about the definition of a 'brownfield sites' and about how a presumption in favour of development will operate alongside brownfield site registers and permission in principle arrangements.
Committee calls for a comprehensive review of national planning policy - News from Parliament - UK Parliament

The local press has highlighted the risks posed to "more profitable" greenfield sites:

Devon and Cornwall's green spaces at risk from 'opportunistic' developers

By Plymouth Herald | Posted: April 01, 2016 By Kate Langston

Are green spaces like this at risk?

Government planning policy is leaving Devon and Cornwall's green spaces open to opportunistic developers, a new report by MPs has warned.

According to the study, there is nothing to prevent developers from sitting on brownfield land until councils are required to free up "more profitable" greenfield. There is also little to guarantee more houses will be built on the spaces made available, it adds, with many councils still lacking local plans.

The damning report from the Communities and Local Government select committee calls for a full review of the Government's National Planning Policy Framework. Members say there has not been a sufficient robust evaluation of the policy since its introduction in 2012, and ministers must prove it can "work effectively" to support sustainable development.

The framework was designed to speed up the planning system and deliver more new and affordable homes. This included an emphasis on plans "conserving and enhancing the natural environment". However, the CLG committee has raised concerns about the lack of measures to prevent developers delaying work on challenging brownfield sites. And the MPs say they are "not persuaded" that the Government's new Housing and Planning Bill – currently progressing through Parliament – will address this.

"We have particular concerns about the risk that developers will delay developing brownfield sites because local authorities will be required to release more profitable greenfield sites if insufficient housing is delivered to meet local needs," the group writes. "The lower viability and higher costs of developing brownfield sites may be a deterrent for some developers. The Government should set out how its proposals will overcome the potential cost barriers to the development of brownfield sites, and the steps it will take to encourage the development of such sites in order to meet local housing needs."

The report also stresses that 34% of local authorities have not adopted a Local Plan setting out their strategic priorities for development, despite the 2017 deadline for submission. According to Government registers, Cornwall, North Devon, Torridge and West Devon councils are all yet to finalise their plans.

Chairman Clive Betts said local authorities should be doing more to identify suitable brownfield sites and protect communities "against the threat of undesirable development". And he said ministers need to act to put pressure on "dawdling" councils.

North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones said many of the issues highlighted in the report are mirrored by in his constituency. He said that the absence of a local plan has created a "vacuum" in the area for "opportunistic" developers. "I've been working with North Devon Council to help finalise our plan as soon as possible," he said. "As the CLG committee report shows, more than a third of all councils are in the same boat, so we do need to look at this. I also share the report's concern about possible development of greenfield sites. We must always seek to build on brownfield sites first. And it would help if developers actually built the homes they've been given permission for already, rather than sitting on the land hoping to increase its value."

North Devon Lib Dem councillor Brian Greenslade said he hopes ministers "will listen and act" on the recommendations of the report. "In my part of the Westcountry we have seen examples of 'land banking', and of developers merely obtaining planning permission without any intention of developing sites themselves," he said. "If the Housing Bill is passed... the planning proposals will simply give developers a open goal to get their development plans accepted, adding to the problem the select committee report has identified."

Devon and Cornwall's green spaces at risk from 'opportunistic' developers | Plymouth Herald
“Devon and Cornwall’s green spaces at risk from ‘opportunistic’ developers” say MPs | East Devon Watch

See also:
Futures Forum: Greenfield vs brownfield >>> "There are enough suitable brownfield sites for at least 1 million new homes."

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