The Environment Bill 2019-21 has completed it Committee Stage in the House of Commons. This paper is a summary of what happened in the Committee and how the Bill has changed. It considers key Government and Opposition amendments. It is prepared in advance of the Bill's next stages (Report and Third Reading) scheduled for 26 January 2021.
The Government published its housing white paper, Fixing our broken housing market on 7 February 2017. Its publication was preceded by a statement in the House of Commons about it from the Secretary of State with contributions from a range of Members. The Government is consulting on the proposals in the white paper and responses can be submitted until 2 May 2017.
Planning for housing
As well as a range of policies aimed at helping to diversify the housing market and helping people to afford a home, the white paper also focusses heavily on changes that can be made to planning law and policy. The Library briefing paper, Planning for housing provides further information about the existing policies on how local authorities are expected to calculate their housing supply, as well as the circumstances in which they are expected to provide an extra buffer in their calculations.
The white paper also sets out that the existing protection for the green belt remains unchanged and emphasises that authorities should amend Green Belt boundaries only when they can demonstrate that they have examined fully all other reasonable options for meeting their identified development requirements. Further information on existing green belt protection is available from the Library briefing paper, Green belt.
Planning for the right homes in the right places
The first chapter of the white paper contains measures on “planning for the right homes in the right places”. Some of the key proposals under this heading include:
- A further consultation to be published on making changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) directing local authorities to prepare a statement of common ground, setting out how they intend to work together to meet housing requirements that cut across authority boundaries.
- Enabling spatial development strategies produced by new combined authorities or elected Mayors to allocate strategic sites for development.
- A further consultation to be published on introducing a standardised approach for local authorities in assessing housing requirements. The outcome will be reflected in changes made to the NPPF.
- Introducing legislation to allow locally accountable New Towns Development Corporations to be set up in order to better support new garden towns and villages.
- Revising the NPPF to make clear that plans and development proposals should make “efficient use of land and avoid building homes at low densities.”
Building homes faster
Another chapter of the white paper is concerned with “building homes faster”. Some of its key proposals include:
- Amending the NPPF to give local authorities the opportunity to have their housing land supply agreed on an annual basis and fixed for a one year period, in order to create more certainty about when an adequate land supply exists. Authorities taking advantage of this will have to provide a 10% buffer on their 5 year land supply.
- Increasing nationally set planning fees, and consulting further on allowing authorities that are performing well on housing delivery to increase fees further.
- A further consultation to be published on introducing a fee for making a planning appeal, so as to deter unnecessary planning appeals and reduce delay.
- Examining the options for reforming developer contributions (Community Infrastructure Levy and section 106 obligations), with an announcement on this expected in the autumn Budget 2017.
- Subject to further consultation large housebuilders would be required to publish aggregate information on build out rates.
- Seeking views on whether an applicant’s track record of delivering previous similar housing schemes should be taken into account by local authorities taking decisions on housing development.
- A further consultation on simplifying the completion notice process to allow a local authority to serve a completion notice on a site before the commencement deadline has elapsed, but only where works have begun, in order to dissuade developers from making a token start on work on site to keep the planning permission alive.
- Changing the NPPF to introduce a housing delivery test which will highlight whether the number of homes being built is on target. If delivery then falls below specified thresholds an extra buffer would be added onto the five-year land supply and further thresholds would then allow the presumption in favour of sustainable development to apply automatically.
Initial reactions to the housing white paper
A number of organisations have published their response to the white paper online. These include:
- Local Government Association, Councils respond to Housing White Paper, 7 February 2017
- London Councils, London Councils statement on Housing White Paper, 7 February 2017
- Royal Town Planning Institute, Housing White Paper: RTPI response, 7 February 2017
- Town and Country Planning Association, Government commits to a new generation of new communities, 7 February 2017
- Campaign to Protect Rural England, Housing White Paper: CPRE reaction, 7 February 2017
- Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Response to Housing White Paper, 7 February 2017
- Home Builders’ Federation, White paper reflects key role private house builders have in addressing ’broken housing market’, 7 February 2017
- National Housing Federation, Federation response to Housing White Paper, 7 February 2017
- Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners, NLP’s review of the White Paper, 8 February 2017
- Savills, What the Housing White Paper means for the planning system, 7 February 2017
Other documents published alongside the white paper
Alongside the white paper, the Government also published a number of responses to outstanding consultations and select committee reports. A new consultation on planning and affordable housing for build to rent was published and the Government also published the report submitted by the Community Infrastructure Review Group.
The Local Plans Expert Review Group response to select committee inquiry and summary of responses
- Government response to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee inquiry into the report of the Local Plans Expert Group.
- In September 2015 the Government asked the Local Plans Expert Group (LPEG) to examine what measures or reforms might be helpful in ensuring the efficient and effective production of Local Plans. The group reported and the Government consulted seeking views on the group’s recommendations. The Communities and Local Government Select Committee undertook a short inquiry into LPEG’s report. This document is the response to the select committee and contains a summary of the representations received on the LPEG’s recommendations.
Government responses to consultations on: implementation of planning changes; upward extensions; and the rural planning review
- Summary of responses to the technical consultation on implementation of planning changes, consultation on upward extensions and Rural Planning Review Call for Evidence
The rural planning review call for evidence sought views on how the planning system was operating in rural areas and invited ideas about how the planning system could be improved to support sustainable rural life and businesses. As well as providing a summary of the responses to this call for evidence and the Government’s response, the response document also seeks views on extending the thresholds for agricultural permitted development rights to help farmers, and on a new agricultural to residential permitted development right to help provide housing for rural workers.
The Government’s response also contains the formal response to the upwards extensions in London consultation which sought views on proposals to deliver more homes in London by allowing a limited number of additional storeys on existing buildings through a permitted development right, local development orders or development plan policies.
Finally, the Government’s response also contains the response to the technical consultation on implementation of planning changes which contained the detailed proposals to support certain provisions of the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
Changes to the NPPF consultation response
- Proposed Changes to National Planning Policy Framework (Dec 2015) – Summary of Consultation Responses.
This provides the government’s response to the consultation document which sought views on proposed changes to national planning policy. It covered the following areas:
- broadening the definition of affordable housing to expand the range of low cost housing opportunities
- increasing the density of development around commuter hubs to make more efficient use of land in suitable locations
- supporting sustainable new settlements, development on brownfield land and small sites and delivery of housing agreed in Local Plans
- supporting delivery of starter homes
Government response to select committee report on making changes to the NPPF
- The Government response to the Communities and Local Government Committee Third Report of Session 2015–16 on the Department for Communities and Local Government’s consultation on National Planning Policy.
Consultation on planning and affordable housing for build to rent
A new consultation was also published on Planning and Affordable Housing for Build to Rent. The consultation seeks views on planning measures to support an increase in Build to Rent schemes across England. This includes changing the NPPF to support and to increase the number of new Build to Rent homes, and the provision of Affordable Private Rent homes as the main form of affordable housing provision on Build to Rent schemes. The consultation closes on 1 May 2017.
Community Infrastructure Levy Review
The Government also published the final report of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) Review Group, Independent report: Community Infrastructure Levy review: report to government, which was submitted to the Government in October 2016.
The Government is committed to increasing housing supply. This paper considers key trends in supply in the UK and goes on to focus on some of the key barriers and potential solutions to increasing supply in England. It refers to proposals contained in the Housing White Paper (February 2017) and in Planning for the Future (August 2020) and has been updated to take account of subsequent developments. Historical supply statistics for the UK are provided.
There will be a Westminster Hall debate on the Towns Fund on Thursday 14th January 2021 at 1:30 pm. Paul Britsow MP will open the debate