21 Feb 24

The Government has launched consultations on changes to national policy to strengthen planning support for brownfield development, and further changes to permitted development rights (PDRs).

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said every council in England would be told that “they will need to prioritise brownfield developments and instructed to be less bureaucratic and more flexible in applying policies that halt housebuilding on brownfield land”.

It also claimed that the bar for refusing brownfield plans would also be made much higher “for those big city councils who are failing to hit their locally agreed housebuilding targets”.

Access the Government consultation here, it contains three proposals:

  • Changes to national planning policy “to give significant weight to the benefits of delivering as many homes as possible and take a flexible approach in applying planning policies or guidance relating to the internal layout of development”.
  • Changes to the way the Housing Delivery Test operates in the 20 towns and cities subject to the uplift in the standard method. “This would introduce an additional presumption trigger where their Housing Delivery Test score falls below 95%. In these circumstances the presumption in favour of sustainable development would apply to applications on previously developed land.” [The National Planning Policy Framework currently provides for a presumption in favour of sustainable development to be applied to a local authority where it scores below 75% in the Housing Delivery Test.]
  • Reviewing the threshold for referral of applications to the Mayor of London.

It closes on 26 March 2024.

DLUHC said the focus on brownfield land and urban development was “part of the government’s plan to take a common sense to delivering the housing that is needed, protect the countryside and Green Belt”.  

The Government’s Changes to various permitted development rights: consultation meanwhile contains the following proposals:

  • To provide householders with further flexibility to meet the needs of growing families and maximise the potential of existing homes, we are consulting on a number of changes to these rights. The consultation proposes changes which will enable householders to build larger extensions and provide further freedoms to construct outbuildings. 
  • To support the delivery of new homes, we are seeking views on whether the existing building upward rights can be amended to increase the scope of buildings that can benefit from the rights. We are consulting on changes to the demolition and rebuild right to increase the scope of buildings that can benefit from the right and allow for a larger rebuild footprint.
  • To provide further flexibility to households and businesses wishing to install electric vehicle charging outlets, we are consulting on a number of changes to the relevant rights. We are seeking feedback on whether permitted development rights should allow for units necessary for the operation of electric vehicle charge points such as equipment housing or storage cabinets. We are also seeking feedback on amendments to the permitted development right for air source heat pumps, including consulting on removing the limitation that they must be at least 1 metre from the boundary of the property.

This consultation closes on 9 April 2024.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “We pledged to build the right homes in the right places – protecting our precious countryside and building more in urban areas where demand is highest. Today’s package is us delivering on that.  

“We are sticking to our plan and are on track to meet our commitment to deliver one million homes over the course of this Parliament, and the changes announced today will deliver the right mix of homes across England.”

Housing Secretary Michael Gove said: “Today marks another important step forward in our Long-Term Plan for Housing, taking a brownfield first approach to deliver thousands of new homes where people want to live and work, without concreting over the countryside.

“Our new brownfield presumption will tackle under delivery in our key towns and cities – where new homes are most needed to support jobs and drive growth.”

The Government has also published the review of the London Plan, led by Christopher Katkowski KC of Kings Chambers. This also recommended a presumption in favour of brownfield development, suggesting that this might lead to between 4,000 and 11,500 additional homes per year in the capital. 

Katkowski said: “I am delighted to see the idea which I together with my colleagues on the London Plan Review came up with of a planning policy presumption in favour of delivering new homes on brownfield sites being taken forward on a wider scale as part of a suggested change to the NPPF. The inspiration for the brownfield presumption came from the NPPF in the first place and so it is good to see the idea being brought back to its roots as an additional lever to encourage the delivery of new homes. I see this as a worthwhile and welcome change.”

Responding to the announcements, Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Regeneration, Housing & Planning, said: “Boroughs are strongly pro-housing growth and doing everything they can to turbocharge building the new homes Londoners desperately need. These developments are almost always on brownfield sites.

“Although the planning system certainly needs to support building as much as possible, the system itself is not the core problem. London has a pipeline of 289,000 potential new homes that have received planning permission but have not yet been built due to other reasons. 

“There are several key factors holding back housebuilding in London, including insufficient capital funding and infrastructure investment, as well as construction skills shortages.”

Cllr Rodwell said boroughs were also concerned that the proposed further liberalisation of permitted development rights would undermine local democratic oversight and accountability in the planning process.

“Too often PDR has produced poor-quality accommodation, with no affordable housing, and loss of employment sites and negative impacts on London’s high streets,” he suggested.

Access the Government consultation here

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