Industry insiders claim fresh draft of Planning Policy Guidance 3 still gives too much control to local authorities

Housebuilders have warned the government that they are still unhappy with a revised version of the controversial Planning Policy Guidance 3.

Last month the ODPM published a new round of consultation on Planning Policy Guidance 3. This had caused fury among housebuilders in its first draft because it would have enabled local authorities to dictate to them on size, type and affordability of their developments.

The original draft read:

“Local authorities should reject developments that conflict with the objective of achieving a better mix of housing – in terms of the size, type and affordability of housing.”

However, observers who have gone through the fine print have raised fears that the new draft exposes firms to the same dangers as before.

It reads: “Applicants must demonstrate and justify how they have arrived at a particular mix of housing having regard to development plan policies.

If … the local planning authority considers that the proposal for a site does not constitute sufficiently the objective of creating mixed communities, then it is entitled to refuse the application.”

These proposals have potential problems for all concerned

Pierre Williams, HBF

It was thought that the second draft would encourage co-operation between the government and the industry, by involving housebuilders in drawing up housing market assessments for local areas.

But insiders fear that even with industry consultation, the assessments could be exploited by councils, who will be able to use the revised wording to block new development. One source added that involving housebuilders in setting up housing market assessments was akin to “the condemned man being consulted on the best rope with which to hang himself”.

Pierre Williams, communications director at the House Builders Federation, said the HBF saw the new PPG3 proposals as less onerous, but cautioned the industry to keep abreast of the issue.

He said: “These new proposals do have potential problems for all parties concerned. We appreciate that PPG3 is all about getting densities up, but there are local authorities that want to use it to stop development going ahead, by using it to throw out applications on spurious grounds. The clearer the guidance, the better.”

Building is to organise a high-level debate on the issue, set to be held 16 March. Housing expert Roger Humber will chair the event, and a panel including Karen Cooksley, a partner at law firm Bevan Brittan, and planning consultant David Lock will be present. Jeni Fender, the ODPM’s planning policy adviser, could also attend.