New planning rules expected to be announced this week

Local authorities will not have to set aside greenbelt land to meet future housing needs under new planning rules expected to be revealed later this week.

Housing secretary Michael Gove is reportedly poised to publish the delayed National Planning Policy Framework as early as tomorrow (Thursday).

The policy is anticipated to give councils the power to reduce the number of homes they must build if development will significantly alter the character of their area or damage the greenbelt, as well as exempt them from building homes on prime agricultural land.


Source: Conservative Party

Housing secretary Michael Gove is reportedly set to announce the revised NPPF later this week

Ahead of the expected announcement, a spokesperson for the Home Builders Federation (HBF) criticised the package of policies as a “NIMBY’s Charter”.

“If the proposals are to be formalised, no matter how ministers try to package this, it is a capitulation to a NIMBY faction of the Conservative Party,” he said.

“Removing the requirement for local housing needs assessments and allowing councils to build as few homes as they wish will see housebuilding in some areas collapse.

“The overriding outcome of these measures will be fewer new homes, worsening housing affordability and a huge loss of investment in jobs.

“Ministers seem intent on finding ways to prevent development, an approach that will have ramifications for many years and threatens to lock a generation out of home ownership.”

The revised NPPF has been in development for over 12 months, with more than 26,000 engaging in a consultation earlier this year.

Initial proposals were criticised by the housebuilding sector and were widely viewed as an effort to appease rural Conservative constituencies ahead of the general election.

Gove reportedly made a deal in early December 2022 with backbench Tory rebels, led by former environment secretary Theresa Villiers, who had threatened to scupper the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill unless local housing targets were abolished.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak admitted in April that the decision to change tack on planning was taken after “thousands” of Tory councillors and activists raised concerns.

>>See also: Gove’s retreat into nimbyism spells political trouble for the Tories

The compromise reached would keep housing targets, set through the “standard method” for calculating housing need, in place in an advisory form, removing the ability of the planning inspectorate to hold local authorities to meeting them.

A report by planning firm Lichfields predicted 77,000 fewer homes would be built per year if the reforms as initially proposed came into force, although the government rejected the consultant’s claims.

Earlier this year, Redrow founder Steve Morgan described the move to make targets advisory as “putting the loonies in charge of the asylum”.

There will be “dozens if not hundreds of [local authorities] who will turn their back and who will pacify the NIMBY lobby and get away with it,” he said.

According to the HBF, more than 60 local authorities – including Gove’s own – have already paused or withdrawn their local plans in the anticipation that they will no longer be held to targets set by the standard method.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities has been approached for comment.