Over the years, much Government effort has gone into trying to speed up the planning process and make it more efficient with one aim in mind – building more homes.
The Housing and Planning Act 2016 sought to boost house building by introducing a new planning consent called Permission in Principle (PIP). Furthermore the latest revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) announced in early March 2018 seek to further refine policy to better assist in facilitating more housing delivery.
Some of the changes introduced are designed to separate the decision making on issues of principle – such as land use, location, and amount of development – from technical detail such as what the buildings will look like. The aim is to give certainty up front that the principles of a plan are acceptable before developers and landowners have to spend on costly technical matters. A PIP must be followed by an application to agree the technical details of the scheme before the applicant has full planning permission and work can start on site.
Currently, outline planning permission gives applicants some certainty, subject to later agreement of reserved matters. However, with outline permission, a Local Planning Authority (LPA) needs more clarity up front on the technical details before they can issue planning permission. This comes at a cost to applicants, who are asked to invest in technical detail early on, without any guarantee of success.
PIP can be designated by the LPA or Neighbourhood Plan forum through qualifying documents. A PIP can also arise through the brownfield register or can be granted following an application made by a developer.
As of 1st June 2018, if there is a site on the brownfield register or one elsewhere which the LPA is likely to consider as an acceptable location for development, either the landowner or his/her agent can apply for a PIP on up to 10 housing units. This could be a much better process for our clients, particularly smaller developers and private individuals.
PIPs will remain valid for different time periods: a designated PIP will lapse after five years and a PIP that has been granted following an application will lapse after three years.
Practical implications of PIPS going forward:
- Speeds up the planning process
- Reduces risk for developers/applicants
- Gives developers the confidence to invest in the technical detail of a scheme
- Reduces burden on small developers
In practical terms there are concerns about LPA resources and their ability to administer PIPs. LPAs have to go back and review allocated sites, which will involve vast amounts of work. Similarly, the ability of LPAs and Neighbourhood Plans to assess housing density levels. This could result in schemes which have a much lower density on a site than that which could be reasonably achieved.
Not only this, but where PIPs arise from brownfield registers, viability may be a concern for developers given the unforeseen constraints that may arise from brownfield land, such as contamination mitigation.
For those of our clients that have brownfield sites which may be suitable for inclusion within a brownfield register, or which could be suitable for an application for a PIP, this does provide a low cost alternative for increasing the development potential of their land.
Garden towns and villages provide the big numbers
The idea of garden cities is nothing new: Letchworth Garden City was built from 1903 and Welwyn Garden City was built from 1920. The Government has spent more than £300 million on what it called the first “proper” garden city in nearly a century at Ebbsfleet in Kent. Otterpool Park has now been designated as a garden town in Shepway with about 12,000 units due to come forward over the next decade. In December last year, the Government published draft regulations to amend the New Towns Act 1981. Garden towns and cities featured heavily in the autumn budget, and a new prospectus has been published inviting expressions of interest from areas wanting to bring forward a garden town. In 2017, the Government allocated funding to a further 10 garden towns and 14 garden villages across England to help fast track projects. The aim is to provide large scale housing projects via sustainable new developments designed in a holistic way.
A garden town is a development of more than 10,000 homes. Garden villages are smaller settlements of between 1,500 and 10,000 homes. There are becoming an increasingly popular approach to help Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) meet their significant housing targets, especially in areas where there has been substantial under-delivery for many years. They are particularly useful in heavily constrained green belt areas where an authority can choose to address most of their housing provision in a single site, so that only one large release of green belt land is required rather than many across the district.
They can address infrastructure in a much more efficient way, designing developments around new infrastructure rather than being constrained by old transport and development patterns, many of which have been in place since before the car.
The key constraint is of course the time it takes to bring forward development on this scale, and the forward funding of the infrastructure upgrades (often required before the development of any housing) can cause issues and delays. Meanwhile, many LPAs will be falling further behind with their housing delivery so they remain open to speculative applications in areas they would not usually consider suitable or sustainable.
South East Garden Village Proposals
The image opposite shows a plan of the South East with areas that are considering garden towns/ villages. This type of development can offer huge opportunities for major landowners or consortiums of landowners who think their land may be in a location suitable for a new garden village/town. Batcheller Monkhouse is already working with a consortium of landowners to promote a site for a new garden town, many more are likely to come forward across the South East in coming years. This makes land promotion and representations to emerging Local Plans increasingly important.
For more information please contact:
Kirsty Castle MRTPI AIEMA