CLA Explains: Housing White Paper

As Government finally publishes the Housing White Paper, CLA Public Affairs Adviser Oliver Strudwick explains the key elements of the paper relating to CLA lobbying.

1) Rural areas will benefit from Government acceptance of CLA proposals to amend national planning policy so as to promote thriving villages and small scale housing developments.”

Paragraphs 1.30-1.300 (p. 25-26) of the Housing White Paper state that the Government will seek to “amend national policy to expect local planning authorities to have policies that support the development of small “windfall” sites....” and “give much stronger support for sites that provide affordable homes for local people....”. CLA has long argued that small scale sustainable development at the edges of villages can provide the homes rural communities badly need without major development and in keeping with the unique character of villages.

2) Rural areas are particularly held back by Local Authorities having inappropriate and outdated Local Plans in place. That is why the CLA supports measures for Government to intervene, and the new requirement for updates every 5 years.

Paragraph 1.8 (p.23) sets out Government intentions to „strengthen expectations about keeping plans up-to-date. Plans should be reviewed regularly, and are likely to require updating in whole or in part at least every five years. The Neighbourhood Planning Bill proposes to allow the Secretary of State to require local planning authorities to review local plans and other local development documents at prescribed intervals. We will set out in regulations a requirement for these documents to be reviewed at least once every five years.’ Too many local plans either don‟t exist or are out of date; impacting on the ability of rural businesses to invest and the building of badly needed homes of all tenures in our rural communities. CLA has been calling on Government to introduce this as well as a suite of other recommendations made by the Local Plan Expert Group to make plan making made more efficient and effective.

3) The CLA will work with Government to clarify the ‘Build to Rent’ proposals to ensure it delivers the CLA’s ambition and unlock potential for a significant boost in affordable housing provision.

Paragraph 3.32 (p. 56) notes that the Government is ‘consulting on a range of measures to support more Build to Rent developments. One of their key proposals is to change the National Planning Policy Framework so authorities know they should plan proactively for Build to Rent where there is a need, and to make it easier for Build to Rent developers to offer affordable private rental homes instead of other types of affordable housing.’ CLA has been campaigning for landowners to be able to build and manage their own affordable houses. The perception that affordable housing in rural communities should solely be delivered through housing associations and local authorities must be challenged. This traditional approach is not building enough affordable homes in our rural communities to meet demand. Across the country, examples exist where landowners have built and managed affordable stock directly. Councils should encourage and work with landowners on these schemes to create truly community driven affordable homes at a local level.

4) The White Paper also provided important clarifications on Green Belt policy.

Paragraph 138 & 139 (p.28) reiterates the Conservative party’s manifesto commitment to protect the Green Belt. The National Planning Policy Framework already states that Green Belt boundaries should be amended only “in exceptional circumstances” when plans are being prepared or revised, but does not define what those circumstances are. The Government will amend the NPPF to tighten up rules around Green Belt boundaries.

Ross Murray said: “We welcome Ministers intention to clarify rules so that Green Belt boundaries should only be amended in exceptional circumstances. The experience of those living in the Green Belt is that boundaries are constantly changing as local authorities permit development on one area of Green Belt land, and then compensate by extending boundaries elsewhere. This can reduce economic activity in rural areas. We will work with Ministers to ensure that the policy changes proposed end this practice.”

5) The CLA has set out concerns about the negative impacts of a dramatic increase in administrative fees, both for applications and for planning appeals.

Paragraph 2.15 (p.37) states that “We will increase nationally set planning fees. Local authorities will be able to increase fees by 20% from July 2017 if they commit to invest the additional fee income in their planning department. We are also minded to allow an increase of a further 20% for those authorities who are delivering the homes their communities need and we will consult further on the detail.”

Ross Murray said: “We understand that planning departments are under resourced, but we can see big downsides of a 40% increase in fees for smaller applicants. It could well be counterproductive, stopping small developments being brought forward. This problem will be compounded by the risk of prohibitive appeal fees. We will urge Government to look closely at the impact of these fee hikes on rural developments.”

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