Final planning framework only asks poor performing councils to allocate extra development land

The government has downgraded its expectations for councils to identify six years of land for housing in the revised version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), published today.

The NPPF says that councils now have to identify five years of housing land, plus an extra 5% to ensure competition for land in the planning system. Only those councils with a “persistent under delivery of housing” will be expected to identify 20% of land beyond the five year supply.

In the draft version published last summer, all councils were expected to identify a 20% buffer on top of the five year supply, which is effexctively six years worth of land, prompting concerns from environmental pressure groups.

Today’s final version, which introduces a presumption in favour of sustainable development in to the planning system, says that local authorities should identify and update annually a supply of specific deliverable sites “sufficient to provide five years worth of housing against their housing requirements with an additional buffer of 5%”.

It adds: “Where there has been a record of persistent under delivery of housing, local planning authorities should increase the buffer to 20% to provide a realistic prospect of achieving the planned supply and to ensure choice and competition in the market for land.

Richard Ford, planning partner at international law firm Pinsent Masons, said the changes were sensible. He said: “The final wording will of course need careful scrutiny. Immediate points to scrutinise include what constitutes a “good track record” for allocating land, which is the test to distinguish between authorities required to only have a 5 year housing supply plus 5%, rather than a 5 year supply plus 20%.

“I can see there will be some significant concerns at the local authority end on both these issues.”