Womble Bond Dickinson comments on the revised NPPF

The new revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPFF) was delivered and came into force on 24 July 2018. The Government’s response to the consultation on the revised framework notes that it has made a number of important changes in response to the consultation which closed on 10 May.

Kevin Gibbs Senior Counsel at Womble Bond Dickinson, comments on the revised provisions on viability assessments:

“It seems that the Government has stepped back from their stance back in March which provided that, ‘Where proposals for development accord with all the relevant policies in an up-to-date development plan, no viability assessment should be required to accompany the application.’ This means it would be difficult for developers to address changing circumstances and valuations once policies have been adopted. Strictly speaking the developer would be required to discharge obligations for contributions and affordable housing requirements set out in the adopted plan.

“In the finalised version of the NPPF a viability assessment may be justified for compliant proposals where a developer is able to demonstrate whether particular circumstances justify the need for a viability assessment at the application stage. However, the weight to be given to a viability assessment is a matter for the decision maker, ‘having regard to all the circumstances in the case, including whether the plan and the viability evidence underpinning it is up to date, and any change in site circumstances since the plan was brought into force.’ Therefore there does now seem to be a window to argue for a viability assessment to accompany a planning application where circumstances have changed since the local plan was adopted.”

James Garbett, Managing Associate at Womble Bond Dickinson, comments on the affordable housing provisions:

“The provisions and definitions relating to affordable housing remain largely unchanged from the March 2019 draft. The new definition retains the incorporation of Starter Homes, Discounted Market Sale Housing, and ‘Other affordable routes to home ownership’ as affordable housing, however express references to Social Rent and Affordable Rent tenures have been reinstated. As expected, the requirement to provide at least 10 per cent affordable housing on all developments of ten or more homes is subject to an exemption for Build to Rent and Purpose Built Student Accommodation schemes, as well as other schemes to provide specialist accommodation.

“The description of ‘Other affordable routes to home ownership’ has been partially tightened to require that ‘low cost homes for sale’ which meet the definition must be sold at a price equivalent  to at least 20 per cent below local market value. However much of this limb is likely to be open to interpretation by local planning authorities and developers pending the adoption of up to date local policies. For example, ‘relevant equity loans’ are not further defined, and there is no minimum period at which ‘rent to buy’ units must be let at an intermediate rent before being available for purchase. Importantly, there is no requirement for affordable housing provided under this limb to remain so in perpetuity unless public grant funding has been provided.

“The new definition of ‘Build to Rent’ is unchanged from the March 2018 draft, and is descriptive rather than prescriptive. The new NPPF confirms that ‘affordable housing for rent’ delivered through Build to Rent schemes need not be managed by registered providers, and so there is likely to be an increased role for local planning authorities in the monitoring and enforcement of affordable housing delivered under this tenure. The detailed polices in the Mayor of London’s 2017 Affordable Housing and Viability SPG are likely to remain the benchmark for LPAs controlling affordable housing delivered through Build to Rent schemes.”