Top industry executives and consultants meet civil servants to argue against second draft of planning rules

Housebuilders are to present their case against the latest draft of PPG3, the government’s guidance to council planning departments, at a meeting with the ODPM this week.

Housebuilding executives, housing consultant Roger Humber and Karen Cooksley, partner of law firm Bevan Brittan, will set out their concerns at a meeting with officials. The meeting follows a seminar in London last week where more than 30 housebuilders and planning consultants debated the issues.

The draft of PPG3, which is now out for public consultation, is the second revision of the guidance. The first caused concern because it would have given planning authorities powers to dictate the size, type and affordability of affordable and market homes.

There are fears that the rerevised draft also gives planning authorities too much power. “The proposals are widely viewed as being just as prescriptive as those in the leaked draft,” says Humber.

In addition the second revised draft does not incorporate recommendations made by economist Kate Barker in her review of housing undersupply. The government plans to work these into a further revision of PPG3 this summer.

Key changes in draft PPG3 are:

  • Local authorities are required to create local housing assessments that will set out housing needs and demand in their area.
  • It demands that a broad balance of housetypes should be provided on larger sites to create mixed communities. It defines larger sites as not below 60 dwellings or 2 ha.
  • The level at which affordable housing has to be provided on a site is lowered from the current scheme or site size of 25 dwellings or 1 ha (outside inner London) to a site of 15 dwellings or 0.5 ha.

At its meeting this week the housebuilders will point out that:

  • Guidance on local housing assessments has not been published with the draft PPG3, so the industry has no knowledge of what data will be collected, how local authorities will use the data and how they will draw their conclusions from it.
  • As a result there is concern about the practicability and effects of local housing assessments, and about the fact that they will provide a snapshot of the housing market that will not be responsive to sudden changes in market conditions.
  • The 60 unit/2 ha threshold is too rigid, as it does not consider the context of a site.
  • Lowering of the threshold for the provision of affordable housing to 15 unit/0.5 ha sites could make some sites unprofitable to develop.
  • There are clash points between different policies. For example, some emerging regional spatial strategies are demanding set percentages of social rented housing, but this clashes with the draft PPG3 approach of basing policy on local housing assessment.
  • Under the present draft of PPG3, circular 6/98, which provided for affordable housing, has been replaced with a more prescriptive regime. But housebuilders would like to see some elements of circular 6/98 retained.

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The development of PPG3

  • 2000 Government introduces PPG3. The guidance is most significant for increasing housing density levels.

  • July 2003 ODPM publishes two consultation papers on revisions to PPG3. One looks at influencing the size, type and affordability of housing.

  • September 2004 Leaked details of PPG3 reveal plan to give local authorities powers to dictate the size, type and affordability of housing.

  • January 2005 ODPM publishes second revision of the draft PPG3 for consultation.

  • 15 April 2005 Consultation period on draft PPG3 closes.