With the NPPF enjoying its second Birthday and the DCLG about to commence its work and Gelnigan publishing a report on its impact lets look at the impact the NPPF has had in four paragraphs – exactly as we predicted here as it turns out.
1. Regional Strategies are abolished, housebuilding collapses to its lowest level since the 1920s, local planning authorities take 10s of thousands of homes out of local plans following confusing messages from politicians.
2. To compensate the NPPF allows a free for all – to compensate for the loss of strategic sites (especially those in Green Belt reviews) developers target premium sites on the edge of villages. Sir Simon Jenkins told the Telegraph local developers were simply buying up “three fields and putting down 300 homes” on the edge of small rural communities….”One of the big problems is that the housing decisions generated by the NPPF have been industrial scale volume housing which by its nature is insensitive to the rural economy and small villages.’
3. But with the NPPF now requiring LPAS to meet objectively assessed need in full – or get your neighbours to accept it, plans have to be revised back again to include much more housing and loss of Green Belt and with no system in place to distribute it where there are strategic opportunities. Garden Cities dont happen because no authority wants to be a martyr for others. Neighourhood plans are approved in small numbers and dont lead to any increase in housebuilding because the decisions on where to allocate large amounts of new housing is not and cannot be taken at a neighbourhood level.
4. The collapse in funding for affordable housing has the impact of rendering many brownfield sites unviable as it was a hidden state subsidy for brownfield sites outside the wealthy south east. Without this developers target greenfield sites saying brownfield sites are no longer viable. After many years you may find a gradual slow increase in housebuilding – even the NPPF though has only lead to a 4% increase in Large Site residential approval rates at enormous costs in terms of sprawl. The NPPF has tried to solve a development planning problem with a development control solution – and that never works. You just get appeal-led chaos – a planning civil war.
The answer – just read Sir Peter Halls new book. Good Cities Better Lives. Not just in Europe but around the world every jurisdiction that has its planning sussed – from Singapore to Abu Dhabi to Curitiba to Vancouver – follows much the same formula. My own firm advises many of them just setting out developing modern planning systems – even the most unlikely regimes are now more open to ideas than Nick Boles and George Osbourne. You first have a national planning strategy setting out where development infrastructure and transport goes. Then you use the tax system (probably a land tax) to incentivize development. Then you ensure that your system is plan led and not developers led and that to avoid nimbyism and corruption you place planning decisions out of politicians hands (the evidence shows in many countries that if you don’t you can have good quality but small numbers of completions and plans take 2-3 times as long to get through – look at Sweden, the UK etc. if you don’t believe me) whilst ensuring widespread consultation and enabling locals to plan and build facilities at the community level. Then you ensure all major development is masterplan driven and this masterplanning is driven and approved by the planning authority. Finally you ensure that you balance large projects with many opportunities for small self build, preferably on land you give to those who can’t afford to buy land. You can’t have an entirely zoning and subdivision based, or entirely development control based system as neither can fully scale by themselves to ensure sufficient housing completions at quality, given the limited numbers of planners. If you want to look at a good case study of a country that has screwed up its planning system over 50 years go to England.