Is our plan led system working in terms of planning?
Planning should be a positive tool used to form strategies which accommodate for growth in the population and therefore housing and business. It is also a management tool which includes controlling and directing resources. Ultimately it balances acceptance and rejections of planning applications based on the factors contained in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
Although the NPPF is relatively new (2012), the plan led system has been enshrined in planning for the last twenty five plus years. The Planning Act 2004 confirms that the determination of an application must be made in accordance with the plan (unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
The plan-led system has changed a little as it used to be a top-down system i.e. National Policy, then Regional, County and then Local. Now it is considered on the basis of Parish Council, Local and then National. So you could say that the local authority is in charge of their own destination which makes you wonder why as many 30% of local authorities don’t yet have a plan even though they have had 12 years to make one! In any event, where there isn’t a plan, the NPPF presumption in favour of development applies.
It is thought that 40% of the local plans that are in existence don’t accurately reflect projected housing growth. However the Government has announced in the White Paper, new proposals for the calculation of housing supply, so even the local authorities with plans, could have obsolete ones.
Let’s not forget there are other things that affect development, not just the planning sector. We have issues with inflation and interest rate rises. There is an ageing population which governments didn’t plan for and that requires different housing needs that we haven’t experienced before. There is an undersupply of housing. There are wider influences such as Brexit, Trump and general uncertainty with a weaker Government. There is also social change and maybe revised policies to come following things like the Grenfell fire.
In conclusion is the plan led system working? We think the answer is yes and no. The fact that Local Authorities are not providing up to date plans is not acceptable. Why does this matter though? Well the lack of a plan means utility companies and infrastructure leaders cant plan and housing planning applications can often be contested leading to delays in getting permissions through. Changing political markets does make this difficult though because as we mentioned the housing White Paper probably means that those plans which are in place are going to be obsolete.
At Michael Parkes Surveyors we are a diverse firm with departments in management, agency and valuation as well as planning and my colleagues also see the other economic conditions as being a factor in poor housing supply. Whilst the Local Authority is not necessarily doing their job, money is a big issue. The Chancellor, Phillip Hammond is keen to support our economy in general allowing people to save for deposits. He stated in his budget today that he believes in assisting SME housebuilders and training young people in construction. He also announced £44 billion capital funding and loans to support the housing sector to boost skills and give financial incentives by the mid 2020’s. Although not the £50 billion Sajid Javed called for, this is reported by The Chancellor as the biggest boost since 1970. 95% of all First time Buyers will benefit from the cut on stamp duty for first homes up to £300,000
For more information please call Pieter De Villiers, RTPI, Director of Planning for Michael Parkes Surveyors Ltd 01634 294 994