National News

The following long post is from the Staffs Parish Councils Association, it’s about an upcoming White paper on house building and also impacts on Neighbourhood Plans:

Jonathan Owen, NALC CEO, writes…

Housing white paper

On 8th February the government published their long-awaited white paper on housing; Fixing our broken housing market sets out the government’s plans to reform the housing market and boost the supply of new homes in England. As well as a range of policies aimed at helping to diversify the housing market and helping people to afford a home, the white paper also focusses heavily on changes that can be made to planning law and policy, with proposals including:

· Making sure every part of the country has an up-to-date, sufficiently ambitious plan so that local communities decide where development should go;

· Simplifying plan-making and making it more transparent, so it’s easier for communities to produce plans and easier for developers to follow them;

· Ensuring that plans start from an honest assessment of the need for new homes, and that local authorities work with their neighbours, so that difficult decisions are not ducked;

· Making more land available for homes in the right places, by maximising the contribution from brownfield and surplus public land, regenerating estates, releasing more small and medium-sized sites, allowing rural communities to grow and making it easier to build new settlements;

· Maintaining existing strong protections for the Green Belt, and clarifying that Green Belt boundaries should be amended only in exceptional circumstances when local authorities can demonstrate that they have fully examined all other reasonable options for meeting their identified housing requirements;

· Giving communities a stronger voice in the design of new housing to drive up the quality and character of new development, building on the success of neighbourhood planning;

· Providing greater certainty for authorities that have planned for new homes and reducing the scope for local and neighbourhood plans to be undermined by changing the way that land supply for housing is assessed;

· Boosting local authority capacity and capability to deliver, improving the speed and quality with which planning cases are handled, while deterring unnecessary appeals;

· Supporting housing associations and local authorities to build more homes;

· Improving neighbourhoods by continuing to crack down on empty homes, and supporting areas most affected by second homes;

A measure which particularly caught my eye is on simplifying developer contributions secured via Section 106 agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). The independent review of CIL and its relationship with Section 106 planning obligations was published alongside the white paper and found that the current system is not as fast, simple, certain or transparent as originally intended; the government has said it will examine the options for reforming the system of developer contributions including ensuring direct benefit for communities, and will respond to the independent review and make an announcement at Autumn Budget 2017. As you know our manifesto contains an objective to ensure communities benefit financially from development and we have been pressing the government through the Neighbourhood Planning Bill. Our chairman Cllr Sue Baxter is meeting Lord Bourne (DCLG’s minister in the House of Lords) next week and this is one of the issues we will be raising with him.

I was also encouraged to see proposals to support neighbourhood planning such as making further funding available to neighbourhood planning groups from 2018-2020 and amending planning policy so that neighbourhood planning groups can obtain a housing requirement figure from their local planning authority to help avoid delays in getting a neighbourhood plan in place. Both are issues NALC and councils have raised and I’m pleased the government have listened and taken action on our concerns.

The Government is consulting on the proposals in the white paper and responses can be submitted until 2nd May 2017; we will be submitting a response and our consultation briefing will be circulated early next week seeking views and comments from our councils and county associations.

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