The new Bill on Housing and Planning had its first reading in the House of Commons yesterday. So at last we have a clearer view of how some of the ideas on changes to the planning system that have been aired by the Conservative Party could come into effect.
Of particular interest to people involved in planning are the clauses on
Starter Homes - defined as a new buildings (or part of a building) purchased by a first-time buyer under the age of 40, sold at a discount of at least 20% of the market value, and sold for less than £250,000 (outside of Greater London). Regulations can be introduced to cover various matters, such as adding other criteria on who is able to qualify for a starter home or specifying restrictions on the sale or letting of these homes. The regulations could also require planning authorities to require starter homes (either on-site or through financial contributions) when they are granting planning permission for certain types of residential development.
Self-Build Homes - the basis of the changes here are to make sure that local planning authorities grant enough sites for self-build and custom housing to keep paces with numbers of eligible people on their register. The timeframes for Councils to do this will be set out separately in regulations.
Social Housing sales - introducing the mechanisms for affordable housing providers to choose to offer a right to buy to their tenants at broadly the same discounts as for council houses. At the present time we don't know how many Dorset properties could be sold off, as not all social housing providers may want to participate.
Neighbourhood Planning - to streamline the process for designating neighbourhood areas at the start, and for organising the referendum and 'making' of the plan at the end. Details to be set out in regulations. Neighbourhood Forums can also ask to be notified about planning applications in their area (this is something Parish Councils have been able to request for some time).
Permission in Principle and Local Registers of Land - this section of the Bill lays the foundations for regulations to require planning authorities to keep a register of certain types of sites in their area, and for development orders to be made for these types of site (potentially through changes to national permitted development rights). The idea behind this is to enable small brownfield sites to be given ‘in principle’ permission for new housing (although technical details would still need to be approved locally). How these sites will be identified is not clear, but there is scope for the regulations to require consultation as part of forming the register. There may be more detailed requirements in the regulations on what type of brownfield (or other) sites will be suitable. There is also the provision to have regard to the development plan – so, for example, if a site is allocated for another use, the 'in principle permission' would not automatically apply. The scope of these proposals could of course be widened beyond brownfield sites if this Bill is passed, and could also work for neighbourhood development orders.
The answers provided by the Bill inevitably lead to more questions, as a lot of the detail is to be fleshed out in the regulations, which have yet to be published. The Bill may well be subject to changes along the way. It doesn't include any mention of small site affordable home exemptions, which there was some speculation about following the recent changes in this field (which I should probably blog about in another post!)