Debate is already raging over whether the Paper represents the “radical vision” for housebuilding, as claimed by the Government.
Critics will say that the Paper repeats well-worn ideas such as more high-density building on brownfield land and a failure to make any dent on the Green Belt, considered sacrosanct by many Conservative supporters. Indeed, many of the proposals have been foreshadowed by previous announcements.
Local authorities’ reactions are likely to be mixed. On the one hand, there is the ability to increase resources through levying higher planning application fees, encouragement to use powers to speed up development (including through compulsory purchase powers) and opportunities to partner the Government in bringing forward housing developments; on the other hand, they will be concerned about the housing delivery test to monitor their progress against housing targets with real consequences of under-delivery, the Government’s tough talking on local plan production and more intervention in their assessment of local housing need.
As for developers, many will lament the failure to look more seriously at the option of Green Belt release and there will be concern about the somewhat unrealistic proposal to require the speedier implementation of planning permissions. However, developers will welcome the further initiatives to speed up the planning process and in particular the stricter requirements on local authorities in terms of planning for their local housing need and the production of Local Plans. In addition, the attempt to diversify the housebuilding market will be welcomed by most of the industry and institutional investors will be greatly encouraged by the moves to recognise BTR within the NPPF and to embrace affordable private rent as a means of addressing affordable housing requirements on BTR schemes.
These proposals are not “radical” but they are comprehensive and sensible. The stakes are high; in her foreword to the Paper, Theresa May cites the “broken housing market” as “one of the greatest barriers to progress in Britain today”. The Government is clearly correct to say that there is “no one single magic bullet” to boost housing supply, and on balance, the package of proposals set out in the Paper should, when taken together, go some way towards both stimulating housing delivery and addressing affordability.