Summary of Proposed NPPF changes

21 February 2023

Plan Making: Housing Need

The NPPF and associated guidance set a standard method for calculating the minimum number of homes which should be planned for in an area, unless exceptional circumstances justify an alternative approach. Any needs that cannot be met within neighboring areas must be taken into account. How housing need is addressed has proven to be controversial.

  • Standard method: The government is not proposing to alter the standard method, but will review the implications of using data from the 2021 Census (to be published in 2024) and provide guidance on characteristics that may justify use of an alternative method. Critically, however, the changes emphasize that the outcome is an advisory starting point only. In addition:
    • Where the resulting densities would be significantly out of character with the existing area, this could be taken into consideration, providing a reason not to meet need in suburban and rural areas.
    • LPAs would not be required to review or alter Green Belt boundaries solely to meet housing need in full – the option would still be available, if they could demonstrate exceptional circumstances.
    • Past “over-delivery” could be taken into account in establishing housing need.
  • Examination: The tests of “soundness” are to be amended so that plans do not need to be “justified”. The examination will assess whether the proposed housing target meets need “so far as possible” and the plan will be effective and deliverable. This will reduce the burden at examination. The new tests will not apply to plans that have reached pre-submission consultation, do so within 3 months of the NPPF changes taking effect or those at examination.

Decision Making: Housing Land Supply and Delivery

The NPPF sets requirements for a 5-year rolling supply of housing land, potentially with buffers of 5%, 10% or 20% to encourage LPAs to keep plans up to date. The presumption of sustainable development may apply on decision making if they do not. This underpins some applications on unallocated land – and concern that confidence in the plan-making system is being undermined.

  • Housing delivery and land supply tests: It is proposed that, where the plan containing the housing requirement strategic policies is less than 5 years old, a 5-year housing land supply need not be demonstrated and the buffers of 5%, 10% or 20% are to be removed. Historic oversupply can be accounted for in the 5-year housing land supply calculation. These changes are likely to make it harder to obtain permission for unallocated sites in the 5 years after adoption of a local plan, although only around 40% of authorities have adopted a plan in the last 5 years.
  • Status of neighbourhood plans: Where a neighbourhood plan is in force, the adverse impacts of conflicting development are currently likely to outweigh the benefits (and permission refused) where the plan is less than 2 years old, contains policies to meet the neighbourhood’s housing requirement and the LPA has a 3-year supply of deliverable housing sites and housing delivery of at least 45% over 3 years. It is proposed to extend the 2 years to 5 years, and remove the LPA requirement for a minimum housing land supply and delivery.
  • Slow build out: At present, an action plan is required where housing delivery falls below 95% of target, a 20% buffer is added to the 5 year housing land supply where delivery is below 85% and the presumption in favour of sustainable development applies for delivery below 75%. The 20% buffer requirement is proposed to be deleted and the presumption “switched off” if the LPA has sufficient permissions for deliverable homes to meet their annual housing requirement or, where their plan is over 5 years old, to meet local housing need, plus a contingency proposed to be set at 15%. An action plan will still be required.

The key outcomes appear likely to be more autonomy for authorities to determine whether to meet housing need in their area and to reduce the power of inspectors to challenge authorities’ justification for their approach on examination of plans and applications.

Transitional Arrangements and Plan Making

Where plans are submitted for examination or subject to Regulation 18 or 19 consultation (with a policies map and allocations), then it is proposed that LPAs need only demonstrate a 4 not 5 year housing land supply for a 2 year period from the changes coming into effect.

Assuming the Bill gets Royal Assent in Spring 2023, the government anticipates that plan makers will have until 30 June 2025 to submit plans under the existing legal framework and that such plans are to be adopted by 31 December 2026. Examination of new-style plans would be from October 2026. Where authorities have a plan which is more than 5 years old (and are not working to the above timetable), they will be required to prepare a new plan once the system goes live. Others will not be required to produce a new plan until the existing plan is 5 years old, so the latest date for production of a new-style plan is 31 December 2031.

To encourage continued plan making, the government intends that, where existing local plans become more than 5 years old during the first 30 months of the new system, the plan will be considered up to date for those 30 months. Where a plan has been found sound subject to early review and the Inspector requires submission of the updated plan within 30 months of the new system going live, the deadline will be extended to 30 months after the system going live.

Supplementary planning documents (SPDs) cannot be prepared under the new system – supplementary plans will have the same weight as local plans. Current SPDs are proposed to cease to have effect at the point at which the LPA is required to have a new plan in place.

January 09 2023

The New Prospectus published on 22nd December 2022 by DLUHC made it crystal clear with no ambiguity that LPA will not be required to review and alter Green Belt Boundaries.

Neighboring borough MDVC, which is already at Examination Stage, is also working to remove all Green Belt sites from its Local Plan. If MDVC, at a much later stage of Local Planning and would be much more costly and difficult to do so than EEBC, is working on saving the Green Belt, then there should be absolutely NO excuse for EEBC to continue a Regulation 18 with Green Belt sites proposed.

This is the approach taken by many other councils, Stockport, Horsham, Teignbridge to name a few. The proposed revisions to NPPF are simply too significant to be taken lightly, even at consultation stage.

We call for all Green Belt sites to be removed immediately from proposed sites ahead of 1st Feb, as otherwise EEBC would put unnecessary burdens on local residents and waste valuable time and resources by consulting on a plan that would soon no longer fit Government guidance.

In addition to peer comparison, the upcoming NPPF changes which are highlighted below, have removed ANY possible reasons to develop the Green Belt. Furthermore, we have serious concerns on EEBC’s budgeting as EEBC will need to set aside additional budget to consider developing Green Belt sites:

  1. LPAs are not required to review and alter Green Belt boundaries;
  2. The Standard method is an advisory starting-point to inform plan-making – a guide that is not mandatory;
  3. The Central Government will review the Standard method based on the 2021 Census in 2024;
  4. No need to demonstrate continually a deliverable 5-year housing land supply;
  5. Remove 5-year housing land supply buffers(Specifically for EEBC, Council no longer need to add the 20% buffer as a result of Housing Delivery Test);
  6. End of the presumption in favour of sustainable development (the so called ‘tilted balance’);
  7. There will be a NEW PLANNING SYSTEM by late 2024, therefore even if EEBC rushed through the Old Style Planning by June 2025, EEBC must start preparing a new Style Local Plan by Dec 2031. This means that for all the budget spent on this current Local Plan, it would be valid only until 2031, not the planned 2040;
  8. The deadline will be extended to 30-months after the new system goes live. This will ensure that local planning authorities are protected from the risk of speculative development while preparing their new plan;
  9. Emphasis on Food Security, protecting Grade 1-3a in the ALC(Agricultural Land Classification) Farmland from housing development. EEBC requires to conduct Agricultural Land survey if Farmland such as Downs Farm is proposed for development;
  10. Reflecting Transport Decarbonisation Plan, pursuing sustainable development with potential carbon assessment at local plan-level. This means car-dependent locations will be dis-encouraged; 
  11. There will be a National Development Management Policies(NDMP) so that Green Belt Protection will be upheld with statutory weight nationally, together with a policy explicitly encouraging town centres/brownfields development of housing.

Put in simple terms, LPA will be expected to not review Green Belt Boundaries and to protect farmlands. Central target number is advisory only, and the Standard method will be updated with 2021 census data. EEBC also will no longer need to add 20% to the advisory target. Local Plan needs to conduct carbon assessment for proposed sites reflecting Transport Decarbonisation Plan. Even if EEBC rushed through with the existing Local Plan, it will only be valid until 2031 instead of the expected 2040, so we will lose 9 years with the same amount of budget spent. We urge EEBC to follow with the new planning system now and remove any Green Belts sites from proposed developments to save tax-payers money. Central government will protect LPAs from speculative developments proposed by developers while the Local Plan is being prepared.

December 09 2022

Great news from Central Government’s Press Release on Amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. Key Points are the following:

  • greater protection for the Green Belt with changes to the NPPF. White Hall highlighted that “Green Belt protections will be strengthened, with new guidance setting out that local authorities are not required to review Green Belt to deliver homes.”
  • emphasis on brownfield first in order to protect greenfield development
  • the abolition of top-down housing figures acknowledging that they are “unrealistic”
  • greater involvement of local communities in planning and especially local plans
  • more control of the Inspectorate stopping developers obtaining permission through appeals against local opposition and in forcing local authorities to sacrifice Green Belt in Local Plans
  • strengthening neighbourhood plans
  • stopping land banking by introducing financial penalties for not building out when they have planning permission 

In summary, there is no reason for EEBC to recommend Green Belt development on its upcoming Draft Local Plan Regulation 18, to be published 1st February.

Full Press Release Below:

Communities put at heart of planning system as government strengthens Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill

The government sets out new measures in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to place local communities at the heart of the planning system.From:Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and The Rt Hon Michael Gove MPPublished5 December 2022

  • Following close working with colleagues, ministers set out next steps on the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill
  • Government announces new measures to strengthen commitment to building enough of the right homes in the right places with the right infrastructure
  • Housing targets remain, but are a starting point with new flexibilities to reflect local circumstances
  • Michael Gove asks competition watchdog for study on the housebuilding market
  • New penalties proposed for slow developers failing to build already-approved homes
  • Local authorities given power to promote brownfield development and wider review to promote brownfield development

Further measures to place local communities at the heart of the planning system will be set out by the government tomorrow (6 December 2022), delivering a number of commitments made by the Prime Minister over the summer.

The changes will be made alongside the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill as it progresses through Parliament and follow positive engagement with MPs and stakeholders.

The measures strengthen the government’s commitment to building enough of the right homes in the right places with the right infrastructure, ensuring the environment is protected and giving local people a greater say on where and where not to place new development.

Housing targets remain an important part of the planning system and the government will consult on how these can better take account of local density.

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove said:

We have an urgent need in this country to build more homes so that everyone – whether they aspire to home ownership or not – can have a high-quality, affordable place to live. But our planning system is not working as it should.

If we are to deliver the new homes this country needs, new development must have the support of local communities. That requires people to know it will be beautiful, accompanied by the right infrastructure, approved democratically, that it will enhance the environment and create proper neighbourhoods.

These principles have always been key to our reforms and we are now going further by strengthening our commitment to build the right homes in the right places and put local people at the heart of decision-making.

I’m grateful to colleagues across the House for their hard work and support to drive forward these much-needed changes to create a planning system that works for all.

Responding to requests from MPs, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove has also asked the Competition and Markets Authority to consider undertaking a market study on housebuilding. Buying a home is one of the most important decisions a family takes, with huge financial implications, so making sure this market is truly competitive and working in the interests of consumers is of the highest importance.

Many of the measures announced today deliver commitments made by PM Rishi Sunak over the summer. Green Belt protections will be strengthened, with new guidance setting out that local authorities are not required to review Green Belt to deliver homes. Brownfield land will be prioritised for development, with the government launching a review into how such sites are used.

Alongside measures in the Bill to tackle slow build out by developers, the government will also consider new financial penalties for companies failing to deliver housing despite having planning approval and give councils powers to refuse further permission across their area.

The Bill already includes power for councils to apply a council tax premium of up to 100% on empty and second homes in areas. But given concerns local people are often forced out of the market by short term lets, the government will go further by establishing a registration scheme for these properties.

The government will also consult on whether planning permission should be required for new short term lets, especially in tourist hotspots.

The government will ensure valued landscapes, such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Green Belt, remain protected through robust national and local planning policies.