National Planning Policy Framework Forensics #11 Housing Mix and Affordability

Ill deal with the remaining housing issues in this section.

The draft doesn’t deal with Gypsies and Travellers or travelleing show-people at all. Can we presume that the proposed revised circular will be rolled in

Housing Mix

Current national policy in PPS3 paras 23

Developers should bring forward proposals for market housing which reflect demand and the profile of households requiring market housing, in order to sustain mixed
communities. Proposals for affordable housing should reflect the size and type of affordable housing required.

And 24 – though 24 is confusingly worded, a lot seems to have got confused in the editing. How exactly does it apply differently for large and small sites?

The NPPF by contrast states that local planning authorities should:

  • plan for a mix of housing based on current and future demographic trends, market trends and the needs of different groups in the community (such as families with children, the elderly, disabled people);
  •  identify the size, type, tenure and range of housing that is required in particular locations, reflecting local demand;

Note ‘local planning authorities should’  so if there is a S78 appeal where there is not yet a ‘local plan’ does the new ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ mean that no mix is required.  National policy should call a spade a spade if a mix is required it should say so.

It doesn’t need to say both market trends in the first bullet point and local demand in the second.  The absence in the second bullet of PPS3s ‘the profile of households requiring market housing’ could be taken as implying that the correction of market imbalances is less important.

It is entirely unclear that once a preferred mix is identified if that mix isnt provided whether a scheme could be refused.

The omission of ‘Proposals for affordable housing should reflect the size and type of affordable housing required.’ could see a return to developers only providing small sub-market or intermediate units even if the main need was for larger affordable family homes.  A big step backwards.   This phrase should be retained.

Affordable Housing

I’ll compare the draft with PPS3, as amended last week, and ‘Delivering Affordable Housing Policy Statement, Communities and Local Government, November 2006

The NPPF draft says

where affordable housing is required, set policies for meeting this need on site or through commuted payments with the objective of creating mixed and balanced communities. These policies should recognise the advantages of using commuted payments to improve and make effective use of the existing housing stock.

There is no reference to the setting of targets (PPS3 para 29).  Can authorities set targets, or only site targets now?

No longer any reference to setting targets for different types of affordable housing.  So would the familiar London 30/20 split policy be prohibited?

No reference to the ability to specify the size and type of affordable housing.  The only reference is to size of units overall.  Of course the size of affordable units needed may be completely different than for general market housing.

No reference to the ability to set out the range of circumstances in which affordable housing will be required i.e. thresholds.  It is right to let LPAs decide this.  But a sentence is needed to make this explicit.

Current PPS3 states

In seeking developer contributions, the presumption is that
affordable housing will be provided on the application site so that it contributes towards creating a mix of housing. However, where it can be robustly justified, off-site provision or a financial contribution in lieu of on- site provision (of broadly equivalent value) may be accepted as long as the agreed approach contributes to the creation of mixed communities in the local authority area.

Rather than a presumption against commuted payments we now have a presumption in favour. As the biggest issue is shortage of land at low price for affordable housing this could lead to a lessening of affordable housing provision with monies instead used for improving the existing stock. This is not an ‘advantage’ it only to the advantage of existing households. Planning is about meeting the needs of new households. The purpose of planning obligations is not to substitute for existing welfare expenditure but to provide new development and infrastructure. If this is permitted why not use CIF/S106 to pay for school meals? This section has to go.

No reference to rural exceptions site policy. It is right to let lpas decide the precise mechanism of provision in rural areas and allow flexibility. But at least a sentence is needed of the need for plans to provide for the special needs of rural settlements, and allow for unpredicted projects coming forward driven by neighbourhood imitative. The reference before only to site targets could be read by some to ruling out such provision.

The essence of paras 48 and 49 of delivering affordable housing should be retained – preventing conditions which prevent choice of affordable housing supplier.

The essence of para 78 of delivering affordable housing should be retained – mortgagee in possession and cascade conditions.  Even today many lpas have delivery models which make it difficult to get mortgages.

The essence of Para 91 of this should be included:
The Housing Corporation will use financial appraisal tools to help ensure that it receives value for grant from section 106 sites, ie that grant delivers additional benefits and does not artificially inflate land prices. An economic viability tool used by the Housing Corporation for this purpose is available from their website at:

Otherwise public subsidy will not be effective it will raise land prices. There also needs to be a sentence on alternative options if no subsidy is obtained.

It is to be expected that the revised definitions of affordable housing and its sub-types agreed last week will be included in the consultation draft NPPF.

The revised PPS3 seems to have responded to consultation concerns that intermediate sub-market housing needs to meet the definition of affordability.  The definition seems strangely similer to several affordable housing SPDs I have written.

National Planning Policy Framework Forensics #10 Housing Site Assessment, Allocation and Management

The NPPF requires LPAs to

prepare a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment to establish realistic assumptions about the availability, suitability and the likely economic viability of land to meet the identified requirement for housing over the plan period.

The role of SHLAAs is essentially the same as current PPS3 where the treatment of the subject is somewhat scattered, but there is a subtle change in terminology. Para 54. defined deliverability in terms of availability, suitability and acheivabiliy. Which was confusingly different from the availability, suitability, viabiliy troica of PPS6, and had a confusing definition of achievability – when it really meant availble within 5 years.

Added reference to viability, puzzling ommitted before, is welcome as and ties into the ‘developability’ definition in footnote 21. It would be onerous however to expect local planning authorities to examine the viability of sites in the 10-15 year slot, especially as sites may not be known for that period, they might not yet have been released. Clarification that the test applies differently for the deliverable, developable and 10-15 year periods is needed. The current draft oddly includes a reference to viability in the 5-10 year period but not the 0-5 year period.

Ill compare the relevant sections of PPS3 and the draft NPPG side by side.

use an evidence-base to ensure that their Local Plan meets the full requirements for market and affordable housing in the housing market area, including identifying key sites which are critical to the delivery of the housing strategy over the plan period; set out in Local Development Documents their policies and strategies for delivering the level of housing provision, including identifying broad locations and specific sites that will enable continuous delivery of housing for at least 15 years from the date of adoption [refs to RSS]–Identify those strategic sites which are critical to the delivery of the housing strategy over the plan period.– Show broad locations on a key diagram and locations of specific sites on a proposals map.
identify and maintain a rolling supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years worth of housing against their housing requirements. The supply should include an additional allowance of 20 per cent to ensure choice and competition in the market for land; Drawing on information from the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment andor other relevant evidence, Local Planning Authorities should identify sufficient specific deliverable sites to deliver housing in the first five years
identify a further supply of specific, developable sites or broad locations for growth, for years 6-10 and, where possible, for years 11-15; Identify a further supply of specific, developable sites for years 6-10 and, where possible,For years 11-15. Where it is not possible to identify specific sites for years 11-15, broad locations for future growth should be indicated.
not include windfall sites in the first 10 years of supply, or in the rolling five-year supply, unless they can provide compelling evidence of genuine local circumstances that prevent specific sites being identified. Any allowance should be realistic having regard to the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment, historic windfall delivery rates and expected future trends In determining how much land is required, Local Planning Authorities should not include sites for which they have granted planning permission unless they can demonstrate, based upon robust evidence, that the sites are developable and are likely to contribute to housing delivery at the point envisaged.Allowances for windfalls  should not be included in the first 10 years of land supply unless  Local Planning Authorities can provide robust evidence of genuine local circumstances that prevent specific sites being identified. In these circumstances, an allowance should be included but should be realistic having regard to the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment, historic windfall delivery rates and expected future trends.
To be considered developable, sites should be in a suitable location for housing development and there should be a reasonable prospect that the site is available for, and could be viably developed at the point envisaged. To be considered developable, sites should be in a suitable location for housing development and there should be a reasonable prospect that the site is available for, and could be developed at the point envisaged.Once identified, the supply of land should be managed in a way that ensures that a continuous five year supply of deliverable sites is maintained i.e. at least enough sites to deliver the housing requirements over the next five years of the housing trajectory
Illustrate the expected rate of housing delivery through a housing trajectory for the plan period.

Paras 60-67 of PPG3 entirely missing.

 illustrate the expected rate of housing delivery through a housing trajectory for the plan period and, for market housing,  set out a housing implementation strategy describing how they will maintain delivery of a 5 year supply of housing land to meet their housing target;

Paras 60-67 of PPG3 elaborate

We can see there are some subtle but major changes here:

  • No reference to 15 years from date of adoption, would be a helpful clarification
  • The addition of reference to rolling supply is helpful, was only implicit before.
  • A 15% extra rule – rather than 20%, has been applied informally by government regional offices for some time.  To ensure flexibility.  This is the key issue that sites might not come forward and need to be replaced.  You get some choice and competition at 75% and lots more at 5,000%, not a good justification.
  • Inspectors typically ask for ‘1 or 2 years spare supply’ which is about 14%.  However this tended to apply to the whole 15 years.  It only here refers to the first 5, and by implication it will apply to the developable tranche when it slides forward, but what about the third?  Very confusing why not just apply it to the whole 15 year supply.
  • Key sites which are strategic is better English than strategic sites which are strategic.
  • You can now include broad locations in years 6-10, and not just 10-15.  How curious.  This could mean lpas only having a 5 year supply on a proposals map.  This rapidly dates and is a retrograde step.   Sites for housing could shrink.  I remember from Jersey which only had a 5 year supply (outside the uk system) it had a 10 year plan with a 5 year supply, used in in three and adopted 2 years after its base date.  5 year supplies and not 15 year plans mean that arguments about housing becomes a 100% full time obsession with the local authority, with endless short term choices and compromises and no long term strategy.  Being cynical is the intention for LPAs to identify too little land so the ‘presumption in favour’ comes into play – i.e. a planning free for all?
  • The reference to sites granted PP was helpful and should be maintained, otherwise it will be argued a lot on appeal.
  • On windfall ‘robust’ is replaced by ‘compelling’.  Maintaining the non-inclusion of windfalls is a good thing.  Windfall inclusion creates insuperable double counting problems.

Managed Release?
No reference to ‘plan, monitor, manage’ in the draft.

Only to a ‘housing implementation strategy’ and only then to market homes, how curious.  Should early phases not expect affordable then?  Is this a cover for cuts?  Developers will interpret this to mean it is acceptable to push back – for them hopefully forever -affordable phases and units.

No reference to the need for actions to be taken if delivery doesn’t work out – a plan b.  This was important in PPS3 and should be maintained.  It only needs a sentence.  Is the assumption that the reponses to a shortfall will be appeal led?

No reference to previously developed land trajectories, a silly idea at the best of times and only relevent to a small minority of authorities than in the main have developed there own ways of dealing with this issue.

No reference to PDL at all or a preference to developing it.  Well as almost the only PDL left with the redefinition is industrial which will soon all go for housing – often without the need for PP, the implication that a priority for PDL isnt needed and the only housing land left will all be greenfield.  Im sure the CPRE will have a field day with this.

National Planning Policy Framework Forensics #9 Assessing Overall Housing Requirements

At first sight the sections on this (oddly split between pages 9-10 and 32) seem like a simple edit job with no fundamental change in methods.  It is the operation of the tools though, by whom, meeting what needs, and to what ends that create uncertainty.

Strategic Housing Market Assessments remain, however the footnote gives an utter non-definition as ‘an important part of the evidence base’.  Annex C of PPS3 was little better, giving a list of items to include in one not what one is for.  No wonder the public and council dispare of the 3 or 4 letter acronym ridden world of planning.

I would suggest a definition and statement of purpose as follows:

Strategic Housing Market Assessment should be undertaken – which are studies to provide evidence on housing requirements for development plans over the plan periods.

They should express the full spectrum of housing of likely need and demand for all types of general market and affordable housing, and any specific housing requirements of  different groups;  as well as the distribution of this across the study area. Where housing market areas cross administrative boundaries joint working will be required.  

The assessments should assess the factors driving need and demand, in particular forecasts of economic growth and change and how this will effect population change (including migration) and changes in the number and type of households.  Any variation from the latest assumptions of national bodies (such as the ONS) should be fully justified by evidence from local and regional observatories.

The assessments should also assess the impact of different levels of housing provision on future house prices and affordability. 

The outcome will be an assessment of the scale and mix of types of housing required in the plan or plans covered.

It will be acceptable to present a range of options providing:

  1. The assumptions on economic growth are compatible with the growth agenda as set out in the NPPF, and in annual ‘Green Book’ Statements;
  2. The assessments avoid unecessarily restrictive assumptions about the availability of housing for workers moving to or from an area for work purposes, and
  3. The levels of housing would be, as far as possible, at least sufficient to maintain housing affordability  at 2010 levels, adjusted for purchasing power parity, over the plan period.

The recommendation or options should be set out as the total number of net additional dwellings required, over the full plan  period, expressed as a housing trajectory.  

This recasting attempts to counter a number of difficulties:

-Better narrative structure, definition up front, outputs at end.

-Whose projections, there is a need to set up a proper medium for negotaiting down from sub-national projections in the absence of regional planning bodies,  This is highly unclear at the moment.

-You dont plan to meet a projection, you plan to meet a forecast.

-The key driver, economic growth, appears nowhere in the current draft section.  The interrelation between the growth agenda and housing numbers is a key point of confusion for many authorities making them wonder if they need to start the evidence loop from the beginning.

-In the absence of the NHPAU the need to assess the impact on housing affordability and prices.  In the absence of the Housing Green paper I have suggested a new 2011 benchmark for housing affordability.  Without such a benchmark there can be no guarentee that the ‘backlog’ of housing requirements will ever be cleared.

-Tenure should not be a planning issue.  Affordability and the freedom to make a choice from a range of innovative housing offers should be.

-It is the spectrum of housing needs that matters, the definition of affordability is secondary.  This is the danger of defining affordability by the latest trendy intermediate tenure.  Developers will want all of that and nothing else, especially if the implied discount on full market price is only 10% and not 50%.

-The suggested section is designed to counter the kind of response some authorities, like Hampshire and Hertfordshire, adopted in the early 90s, a ‘no growth agenda’ designed to reduce housing numbers.  They are also designed to provide clarity on whether or not it is acceptable to present a range of options on housing and economic growth numbers.  Of course you cant assume you neighbours will all take the slack- but I deal with that in a future section on the duty to cooperate.

-Makes it clear that the latest official projections are the basis for forecasts, not 5 year old ‘option a s’

Comparing to the equivalent sections (paras 32-35) of PPS3.  The noticeable ommissions are reference to the NHPAU and RSS.  This of course leaves gaps in translation and interpretation, some of which I have tried to fill above.

The next section will look at site assessment.

National Planning Policy Framework Forensics #8 Housing Objectives

Ill now turn to the topic specific sections. These are set out in the NPPF in terms of land use requirements to be anticipated in development plans.

Each local planning authority should ensure that the Local Plan is based on adequate, up-to-date and relevant evidence about the economic, social and environmental characteristics and prospects of the area. Local planning authorities should ensure that their assessment of and strategies for housing, employment and other uses are integrated and that they take full account of relevant market and economic signals such as land prices.

Curiously the term ‘proportionate’ used earlier is not used.

Compare PPS12

Evidence gathered should be proportionate to the job being undertaken by the plan, relevant to the place in question and as up-to-date as practical having regard to what may have changed since the evidence was collected.

The up to date ‘as practical’ is a key qualifier, as is ‘relevent to place’.

Onto housing, comparing with PPS3, including the proposed change to the definition of affordable housing and the implementation of the change to the definition of previously developed land.

The Government’s key housing policy goal is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity of living in a decent home, which they can afford, in a community where they want to live. (pps3 para 9)

This comes of course from the Housing Green Paper ‘Homes for the Future’

PPS3 had a number of second tier housing objectives in para 10:

  • High quality housing that is well-designed and built to a high standard.
  •  A mix of housing, both market and affordable, particularly in terms of tenure and price, to support a wide variety of households in all areas, both urban and rural.
  •  A sufficient quantity of housing taking into account need and demand and seeking to improve choice.
  • Housing developments in suitable locations, which offer a good range of community facilities and with good access to jobs, key services and infrastructure.
  • A flexible, responsive supply of land – managed in a way that makes efficient and effective use of land, including re-use of previously-developed land, where appropriate.

Compare the objectives from the NPPF

The Government’s key housing objective is to significantly increase the delivery of new homes. Everyone should have the opportunity to live in high quality, well designed homes, which they can afford, in a community where they want to live. To achieve this objective, the Government is seeking to:
• significantly increase the supply of housing;
• deliver a wide choice of high quality homes that people want and need;
• widen opportunities for home ownership; and
• create sustainable, inclusive and mixed communities in all areas, including through the regeneration and renewal of areas of poor housing.

Surprisingly the headline objective is almost exactly the same.  The only shifts in the text is deletion of the word ‘decent’, so presumably decent homes are not an objective; and the emphasis on increasingly supply, in the previous sentence.  A sentence im sure Gorden Brown would have added had he thought of it.

The ‘significantly increase the supply’ is critical though in terms of from what to what. Lets say a development plan is at pre-submission stage. Lets say they cannot demonstrate a significant increase in supply from the existing development plan (including the RSS). Should then the SoS issue one of his new Certificates of Conformity. Lets say the SoS declines to – if so the submitted plan is unlikely to be found unsound on this issue. Therefore housebuilders will be watching these certificate of conformity reports, and the justification in them, like hawks. If the SoS issues a Certificate of Conformity contrary to his own policy – of significantly increasing the supply of housing.

Should the measure of increase be a years out of date existing plan when the 2008 based 2010 issued household projections show more – what is the baseline for increase.

For example lets take Cornwall. Does it judge it can have a bit more than the old local plans and structure plans added up but a bit less than the HH projections?

Lets say it picked a figure in between, the certificate issued and their was a JR.

A defence to that would be if the SoS could demonstrate that their would be housing elsewhere to make it up – although that would be hard to justify in a peninsula that comprises its won housing market. Where is this housing to be Devon, Somerset, Bath, Bristol, where housing targets are falling every week?

Does the need for growth trump localism here?

Pickles has therefore set himself a huge beartrap. If you are increasing housing supply well – wheres the beef?

In the meantime it would be very unwise following royal assent and adoption of the NPPF to submit an development plan which showed a decrease in housing compared to the sub-national breakdown of the 2010 household projections. I fear again local planning authorities will sit on their hands and not publish revised housing figures until the matter is clarified.

The ‘increase in housing supply’ should be explained in a footnote for clarity e.g.‘The government defines an increase in housing supply as that at least sufficient to meet the increase in number of allocated dwellings in a housing market area as identified in a Strategic Housing Market Assessment, based on the 2008 based household projections (sub-national breakdown), or any subsequent replacement.’

The affordability objective has been watered down and a widening home ownership objective added in. So should home ownership be widened irrespective of affordability – is the government pro-sub-prime?

The two need to go together to make sense.

You will note of course that re-use of previously developed land for housing would no longer be a priority. I will deal with this in a subsequent post looking at the management of housing supply.

National Planning Policy Framework Forensics #6 Core Planning Principles

This will be a short post as I will deal with most of these principles in the topic specific sections which follow which highlight key policy changes/ommissions in those areas.

This is a curious section. Halfway between objectives and key policy principles. The intention seems to be to follow the concept of core policies from development plans, but it doesn’t quite scan at the moment as it is an odd mix of objectives, operational principles and policies. Their is also some duplication with earlier and later sections. Better editing should resolve this.

local planning authorities should be proactive in driving and supporting the development that this country needs. They should make every effort to identify and meet the housing, business, and other development needs of their areas, and respond positively to wider opportunities for growth;

So if im sitting in West Devon District, say, would it not be unreasonable to ask – how much of the 260,000 houses per annum the country needs should we be providing? How much does the country need.

A local authority can make a good hash of how much housing it might need if only locals continue to live there, but if it serves a wider national employment/growth function – like say Milton Keynes did – how far should a local authority step forward to meet this. That everyone should step up to the plate is a weak argument as there would never be enough infrastructure spending to go around. Deciding where major growth areas should go is an issue of strategic choice and there always needs to be a mechanism of ‘wider than local’ planning to resolve this. One where the SoS is involved as many central government revenue streams will be involved nationally or through devoloved agencies or privatised utilities.

The reference to responding to wider opportunities is welcome – but this is not localism. It is regionalism in its widest geographical sense, looking at a decision at a wider scale above the local mosst appropriate for that decision.

Seen from this perspective the pickensian system is not one of replacing regional planning – so long as there an SoS doesnt abolish him or her self there will be regional planning – rather it is complicating, obsuficating and slowing it down through forcing decisions to be made in a ‘cats fighting in a bag’ manner.

to get the most out of their available land, local planning authorities should:
-promote mixed use developments that create more vibrant places; and
-encourage multiple benefits from the use of land in urban and rural areas, recognising that some open land can perform many functions (such as for wildlife, recreation, flood risk mitigation4, carbon storage, or food production).

New and welcome – influence of the RSPB I think.

planning policies and decisions should always seek to secure a good standard of amenity for existing and future occupants of land and buildings

Critical backstop missing from national planning policy since the DB days. particularly important given the ‘presumption in favour…’ etc.