Now the Coaliton has finally published its National Planning Policy Framework, Building gathers together the sector’s views

The National Housing Federation has welcomed the long-awaited publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as a route towards a “simpler, speedier and more positive planning system” capable of dealing with the nation’s housing shortage.

Chief executive David Orr said clear planning rules that supported new developments with houses for all incomes and created new jobs were vital for economic growth. But he stressed that local-authority co-operation was vital.

“We are delighted the Government has listened to our call for rural exception sites to be encouraged as they provide such a high proportion of rural affordable housing,” he said.

“The NPPF also rightly puts the emphasis on creating mixed and balanced communities, crucially underpinned by a presumption in favour of sustainable development.

“There have been too many occasions where new homes have been poor quality, badly designed, inefficient and ugly. That’s why it is so important that the word sustainable is part of the presumption in favour of development. A great new housing development on the site of a previously derelict pub, office or factory adds to the local area.  

“Last year, housing associations and the Government committed to delivering 170,000 new affordable homes over the next four years. There are 1.8 million people on waiting lists for a home but the housing shortage can only be fixed with workable planning rules. The NPPF makes that possible, but the onus is now on local councils to maximise the planning system’s support for new affordable homes if we are to meet our acute and growing need for affordable housing.”

Taylor Wimpey chief executive Pete Redfern said a “complete rethink” of the nation’s planning system was urgently required and that the NPPF was potentially a step in the right direction.

“As a business, our objective is to create vibrant, positive developments that are attractive both to existing neighbours as well as new customers,” he said.

“If used positively by all participants, the NPPF can deliver a far more constructive, creative and open planning system that can benefit local communities, responsible developers, our economy and most importantly give future generations a high quality and affordable place to live.”

Robert Millar, land and planning director at housebuilder Cala Group, said the Government’s “proactive stance” on dealing with the housing shortage was to be applauded.

“The retention of the presumption in favour of sustainable development is a key step towards addressing this shortage and we hope local authorities respond positively by providing the much needed planning framework,” he said.

“[The] announcement goes a long way to removing some of the red tape that has been choking the planning system for years and, coming on the back of the NewBuy initiative, is a shot in the arm for the UK’s housebuilding industry and the wider economy.”

National House-Building Council commercial director Richard Tamayo said the organisation’s registration figures reflected the drastic need for more new housing, however he added that other challenges still existed - such as zero-carbon homes

“Under 115,000 new homes were registered with NHBC last year - a fall of more than 40% since the height of the market in 2007,” he said.

“At current levels, the industry is building less than half the number of new homes needed to meet the challenge of household growth in the UK.

 “The new planning framework and recently-announced first time buyers’ mortgage initiative are both important steps in empowering the private sector - the current engine of growth for housing numbers - to produce the volume of homes the country urgently needs.”

Malcolm Chumbley, head of land and development at consultants Cluttons praised the NPPF’s “common sense approach” and predicted it would “put pressure on councils to develop local plans which meet the social, economic and environmental demands in their areas”.

Nevertheless, he said it appeared that ministers had retreated from their earlier promises in a way that would be detrimental for the sector.

“If developments are in the public interest, it is presumed they should be permitted,” he said.

“We are very pleased the government’s common sense approach has prevailed and it has not succumbed to the fierce lobbying from other interest groups. It is now time to move on from the polarised debate and focus on bringing forward land for housing and for business which encourages economic growth.”

“Although the NPPF does indicate that planning authorities should normally approve planning applications changing commercial buildings to residential use, we believe the government back-tracked on earlier promises having caved-in to councils and their lobbyists.

“More could have been done to provide more housing, more quickly by allowing the very many empty commercial properties to be converted without the need for extra consents.”

More to follow…