Tony Mulhall, RICS Associate Director:
The revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) attempts to give greater clarity to the planning process, and aims to clarify planning burdens earlier in the process rather than during applications and appeals. With the property sector consistently blaming the planning system for delay*, this is the Government saying… we have listened, we have acted and now it is up to you to deliver. In a way this is a litmus test for the entire development delivery model.
The intention is to bring more certainty to the planning process by settling development outcomes at the policy making stage. This signals a shift to a more prescriptive planning system in the UK with the government putting much more of an emphasis on local authorities pre-empting factors that could affect viability of sites, thereby reducing the need for wrangling at applications and appeals stages. The challenge will be for local authorities to accurately capture at broad plan levels, the complexities and distinctive characteristics of individual sites. Especially since the lack of skills in local authority planning departments have plagued attempts to effectively use the planning system for some time now. Government must recognise that to be this ambitious and bold in the planning stage and achieve value down the line, it must find ways to properly resource planning authorities.
While the policies are a step in the right direction the wording in parts is still confusing, which defeats the aim of providing greater clarity. Another challenge for government is to restore affordability without destabilising the housing market. This needs to be achieved while maintaining the business case for developers to develop and landowners to sell. Only time will tell how these policies will play out, however the lack of consistency with housing and planning across national and regional government structures, as well as the frequent changes of Housing Ministry leaders do provide concerns.
*RICS UK Construction and Infrastructure market survey