The Housing & Planning Act 2016 adopted last month brings in wide-ranging changes to the planning process in England. Planning magazine has provided an updated guide summarising the key points and sector views on their implications:
- "Starter Homes will just be a substitute for existing affordable housing," said POS immediate past president David Evans, adding that even the maximum taper period would do little to address concerns that they will fuel speculation and raise house prices. "Starter Homes will generate the demand for infrastructure without any funding for it," the POS has warned.
- Mike Kiely, Chair of the Board of the Planning Officers Society, highlighted the extra burdens that the neighbourhood planning measures could impose on local authorities. "These provisions involve tighter timescales and a much clearer duty to assist neighbourhood forums in preparing their plans. Although there is some support from the DCLG to assist with these additional costs, there is no certainty that this will continue. So this could become a very significant financial burden for those councils that enjoy high levels of neighbourhood planning activity in there are," he said.
- The strategic authority default plan-making powers could be a way of "bashing heads together and so overcome some of the barriers to getting a local plan agreed", said Catriona Riddell, strategic planning specialist for the Planning Officers Society.
- Planning Officers Society Board Chair Mike Kiely said the five-dwelling threshold for the Bownfield Registers could require councils to assess more sites because those larger than 0.25 hectares will have to be considered. "In a heavily built-up area such as London, this will add a significant number of sites to the SHLAA process. For instance, at my previous authority, the London Borough of Croydon, we calculated that a threshold of five units would add about 165 sites to the 129 larger than 0.25 hectares and already identified in the SHLAA. Additional resources for this work are not envisaged, so it would drain those from other planning functions and likely result in boroughs being unable to maintain an up-to-date local plan."
- Section 155 places a new duty on local authorities to consider the potential financial benefits of development proposals when considering whether to grant planning permission, with a view to persuading local people to voice support. Stepping up the duty could cause problems for councils in assessing the uplift, Planning Officers Society Board Chair Mike Kiely warned. "This is a very odd and burdensome requirement," he said.
- Planning Officers Society Junior Vice-President Steve Ingram warned that the government had not considered the implications of politically contentious applications being processed by alternative providers. He pointed out that even when applications are processed by council officers, "there can be all sorts of accusations flying around".
David Evans Mike Kiely Catriona Riddell Steve Ingram