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Revised NPPF and Related MHCLG Announcments

Revised NPPF and Related MHCLG Announcments

Friday 22nd February 2019

A revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), published on 19 February 2019, makes a small number of updates to the NPPF published in July 2018.

These updates are limited to:

  • Footnote 37 has the addition of the wording, 'Where local housing need is used as the basis for assessing whether a five year supply of specific deliverable sites exists, it should be calculated using the standard method set out in national planning guidance'; and
  • Paragraph 177 now takes into account the European Court ruling (CJEU) in People over Wind and Peter Sweetman v Coillte Teoranta (12 April 2018) in relation to habitats assessment.

In the Annex 2: Glossary:

  • the definition of 'Deliverable' now makes clear that non-major sites with outline consent should be considered deliverable unless there is evidence to the contrary; and
  • the definition of 'Local Housing Need' now means that authorities assessing their local housing need for the purpose of plan-making are allowed to use an alternative approach to the government standard method in 'exceptional circumstances'.

The revisions are explained further in the Government response to the technical consultation on updates to national planning policy and guidance. This consultation response confirms that the government continues to think that the 2016 based household projections should not be used as a reason to justify lower housing need and says the government will be 'specifying in planning guidance that using the 2016-based household projections will not be considered to be an exceptional circumstance that justifies identifying minimum (housing) need levels lower than those identified by the standard method'.

However, the use of the 2014-based household projections, rather than the September 2016 based figures, will be short term only. It states that 'over the next 18 months we will review the formula and the way it is set using National Statistics data with a view to establish a new approach that balances the need for clarity, simplicity and transparency for local communities with the government's aspirations for the housing market'.

The government also published (on 19 February 2019) the Housing Delivery Test: 2018 Measurement.

Under the Housing Delivery Test criteria, it applies sanctions to all local planning authorities that, in the three years up to the preceding April, failed to meet 95 per cent of their housing requirement, with the severity of the sanction varying according to the extent of the underperformance. The results show:

  • 86 councils have delivered under 85 per cent, which means they have to now add a 20 per cent buffer to their land supply;
  • a total of 108 authorities, including the 86 mentioned, come under 95 per cent, and will now have to produce an action plan; and.
  • none have fallen under 25 per cent (and thus no authority this year faces the presumption penalty).

Overall, exactly two-thirds have this year escaped any penalty at all.

Finally, revised Planning Practice Guidance on assessing housing and economic need was subsequently published on 20 February 2019.

In summary, the new version of the guidance:

  • confirms the use of the 2014 based household projections when calculating housing need and says the standard method will be used for calculating housing need in all but 'exceptional circumstances';
  • provides revised guidance on when councils can diverge from using the standard method;
  • adds that 'any method which relies on using the 2016-based household projections will not be considered to be following the standard method as set out in paragraph 61 of the National Planning Policy Framework';
  • adds a new paragraph outlining how to apply a cap, which limits the increases in housing targets an individual local authority can face when calculating a housing need figure, in areas with a spatial plan;
  • adds a new paragraph stating that, 'where the minimum annual local housing need figure is subject to a cap, consideration can still be given to whether a higher level of need could realistically be delivered' and says that 'this may help prevent authorities from having to undertake an early review of the relevant policies';
  • includes a revised section outlining when it might it be appropriate 'to plan for a higher housing need figure than the standard method indicates'; and
  • includes a new section outlining how councils can assess requirements for employment land and predict future changes.