Fixing our broken housing market is one of the Government’s top domestic priorities. The number of new homes built increased to 217,350—a 15% increase on the previous year—but we know there is much more to do. As one step towards this the Government are publishing today the new national planning policy framework, the Government response to the draft revised national planning policy framework and associated supplementary material. Consultation on the draft framework ran from 5 March to 10 May and the Government are grateful to all who responded—and in the light of comments received the Government have made important changes to this framework.
The new framework is fundamental to strengthening communities and to delivering the homes communities need. It sets out a comprehensive approach to ensuring the right homes are built in the right places and of the right quality, at the same time as protecting our precious natural environment.
Critically, progress must not be at the expense of quality or design. Houses must be right for communities. So the planning reforms in the new framework should result in homes that are locally led, well designed, and of a consistent and high-quality standard. Visual tools and design guides and codes promoted by the new framework will help create distinctive places. The framework makes clear that developments should be visually attractive and add to the overall quality of the area. To reinforce the message on design, it also states that planning permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area.
Equally, building more homes should not be at the expense of the natural environment—there is a balance to be struck between enabling development while also protecting the natural environment. Therefore the new framework also increases protections to ensure we leave our environment in a better condition than we inherited it. Specifically, it increases protection for irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland, and ancient and veteran trees so that any development that impacts these habitats would have to be “wholly exceptional”. It also gives greater clarity to the strong protections for the green belt. It makes clear areas should examine fully all other reasonable options before green belt boundaries can be changed. It also makes clear that authorities should plan for improvements to the environmental quality and accessibility of remaining green belt land. The framework goes further to clarify the importance of local wildlife sites in plan making and enhancing the existing environment.
The framework also provides local areas with more flexibility to make the most effective use of the land they have. This includes providing communities with a clear understanding of their local housing need through a new standard methodology. It supports first-time buyers and people in the private rented sector by introducing a new exception site policy and provides greater certainty for local authorities in the decision making and planning appeals processes. It introduces new protections for churches, community pubs and music venues that play such a vital role in communities and can support the local economy. And to ensure communities get the homes they have been promised, the framework provides greater clarity on the contributions that developers are expected to make, because they have a key role in delivery. A new housing delivery test will also measure delivery of homes, with consequences for under-delivery.
These are just some of the 85 reforms from the housing White Paper and the Budget, implemented in the new national planning policy framework. Together with other reforms and support the Government now look to developers, working with local planning authorities, communities and their representatives, and central Government, to meet the challenges of fixing our broken housing market.