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Planning Reform: A summary of The Housing and Planning Bill 2015

housing bill

Currently going through parliament is The Housing and Planning Bill 2015 which looks to implement a number of new measures to promote the development of new houses in the UK.

The Bill was issued on 15th October 2015 following a press release from the Prime Minister in which the Government’s ambition to build one million new homes by 2020 was presented.

The ambitions of the Housing and Planning Bill is being summed up by its political supporter as looking to turn “generation rent in to generation buy”.

The Bill is currently going through Parliament and will need to go through further readings in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as receiving Royal Assent before it becomes law. This means that, if successful, the likely date for the Bill becoming legislation will be at the end of 2016, or sometime in 2017.

The Bill presents a number of new measures which it plans to implement in order to achieve the target of one million new homes. These are entitled:
1. Starter Homes / Self Built and Custom Housebuilding
2. Rogue Landlords and Letting Agents
3. Recovering Abandoned Premises
4. Social Housing, and
5. Other changes to simplify and improve legislation on housing and planning in order to achieve this goal.

You can view the entire Bill here.

So what does this mean for planning?

Starter Homes / Self Built and Custom Housebuilding
The purpose of this part of the Bill is to promote the supply of starter homes in England.
A Starter Home under the Bill means a building that is:
• a dwelling
• available for purchase by first time buyers only
• is sold at a discount of at least 20% of the market value
• is sold for less than the price cap (Greater London this is £450k, outside of Greater London this is £250k)

Under the Bill, a first time buyer must be under the age of 40.

The Bill also gives local authorities the power to only permit new developments if the development meets the requirements for new starter homes.

In addition to this the Bill looks to make it a lot easier for people who intend to build their own homes. It proposes to do this by requiring local authorities to grant permission to developments on suitable services plots of land in areas where it is identified that there is a need for self-building / custom building. This will be subject to the specific details of each case however.

Local and Neighbourhood Planning
Another aim of the Bill is to make the neighbourhood and local planning processes quicker. It will allow the Sectretary of state the power to request that a development plan document is submitted to him for his own approval and it will provide for what intervention measures can be taken.

The Bill also requires that local authorities produce a register or map of all previously developed sites, known as brownfield sites, in their area which are suitable for housing development.

Planning Permission
The Bill also allows for the granting of planning by permitted development rights and by the Secretary of State when it is considered that a local authorities planning department is underperforming. Again, the realistic effect of this will be difficult to ascertain until the Bill becomes legislation, but this measure will most likely only effect major development projects.

The Bill will also aim to improve openness in the planning process, and as such the Bill includes new obligations on the local authority to include within the development officer’s report, details pertaining to any financial benefits that are likely to be obtained by the authority or a specific person as a result of the granting of the planning application.

Conclusion
As with all legislation it remains to be seen how effective any of these measured will be in achieving the Government’s aim for building one million new homes by 2020. However, it does demonstrate that the government is serious about housing and about promoting the development of new homes in England.

As for the local developer, or home builder, the proposals put forward provide good news in terms of the streamlining of developments through the planning process and shows that the government is keeping an eye on the performance of planning departments. However, there will be the requirement to provide discounted rates, and exactly how this will affect the developers themselves it is yet to be seen.

It would appear that planning for the development of brownfield sites is going to become almost automatically granted for residential developments which meet the Starter Homes requirements. However, conversely it will likely lead to developments which do not meet these requirements struggling to be approved, or having to alter their proposals, leading to further incurred costs in planning, and loss of income through reduced sale prices.

As for private residential developments, particularly those embarking on self-builds, the news is good, and the Bill implies that regulations will be loosened to help them achieve their goals easier and faster.

We will continue to keep an eye on the Housing and Planning Bill 2015 and will update as its progress through Parliament develops.

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