Planning Changes, an Opportunity for Affordable Housing?
The government this week published the revised National Planning Policy Framework
The government's 2010 decision to condense 1000 pages of planning guidance into a 50-page National Planning Policy Framework was always likely to provoke anxiety and criticism (as well as support) from a range of organisations. And so it proved. For many, there was (for some there still is) a fear that the changes amounted to a 'developer's charter'.
The government says that following consultation it has 'tightened up' the published National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). A specific reference to encouraging development on brownfield sites has been included, for example, to address the widespread fear that Greenbelt development protections were being threatened. In addition, the NPPF is underpinned by a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’. But what does the government mean by sustainable development? The answer is outlined in the opening NPPF pages in a definition that echoes that of the United Nations: ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’
And a key ‘need’ from a rural perspective is affordable housing. The draft planning framework floated the idea of removing the Rural Exception Site policy. This policy allows local authorities to grant planning permission on sites that would not normally be given development permission, on condition that they meet a demonstrated local affordable housing need. The Oxfordshire Rural Housing Partnership has used the RES policy to build 400+ homes since 2003.
It is to be welcomed that the finalised NPPF retains the RES policy. However, the NPPF also gives Local Authorities the power to allow ‘some market housing’ on Rural Exception Sites to ‘facilitate the provision of significant additional affordable housing to meet local needs’. ORCC’s Rural Housing Enablers know that there are many landowners who are unwilling to sell their land at lower RES values. Might the policy change make development more appealing to landowners if the price they can expect for their land increases as a result of some market housing now being permitted? Or could this situation lead to land-price inflation, making it difficult for not-for-profit Housing Associations to afford the land (to build the affordable homes) in the first place?
These are the very early days and such questions remain to be answered. However, ORCC and its partners in the Oxfordshire Rural Housing Partnership will be using the NPPF opportunity to seek fresh discussions with landowners. After all, every avenue should be explored to help meet the crisis in rural affordable housing.
The full National Planning Policy Framework can be found here.
Tags: Rural housing Rural sustainability