Will the Housing White Paper solve the Housing Crisis?

 On 7 February 2017 the Government published its much anticipated Housing White Paper. Whilst we welcome the recognition of the extent of the supply problem and the commitment to tackle the entire process from site finding to delivery, the range of proposals set out fall short of the transformational measures needed to properly address the housing crisis, and could have unintended consequences.


The measures are broadly aimed at planning authorities and aim to make the system work better, but are by no means a “developer’s charter”.


 From April 2018 a new methodology for assessing 5 year housing land supply is to be introduced. We welcome this as it should help to narrow arguments on supply calculations. However, the Government will merely “incentivise” councils to use the new approach and it will apply as the baseline only in the absence of an up-to-date plan. This appears to be a missed opportunity.


There are number of measures intended to assist with putting up-to-date plans in place. These include changes to the evidence base required to make this more proportionate to the plan being examined. A commitment is given to intervene in plan production “so that communities in the areas affected are not disadvantaged by unplanned growth” and to ensure that a local plan review occurs at least once every five years, however, little detail is given on how these arrangements will operate in practice.


Government intends to strengthen their commitment to re-use previously developed land, promote higher density housing in urban locations and continue its support for new settlements including legislating for new town development corporations to be set up. It remains to be seen whether any new town proposals will be successful in the South East, and how far our client’s (mainly rural) land may be seen as “previously developed”.


Government has reinforced its existing commitment to protect the Green Belt whilst highlighting the need for limited policy changes to identify where boundaries may be amended in “exceptional circumstances”. We are working with clients in the Green Belt and will be considering the definition carefully.


The Government proposes to streamline planning condition discharge and simplify developer contributions and acknowledges the need to reform CIL, although fails to identify any CIL proposals. Of course many local authorities have not yet introduced CIL, and it has not generally been welcomed where implemented.


Much of the focus, however, is on the introduction of measures aimed at holding developers to account. These include the need for developers to provide more build out information, the ability of a local authority to consider the likelihood of a site being developed when deciding whether to grant planning permission, the possible reduction of the life of a planning permission from 3 to 2 years and the simplification of the process to withdraw planning permission where work has stopped and there is no prospect of completion. These appear to overstate the significance of the issues and may have unintended consequences (many clients will have good reasons for not implementing a planning consent within 2 years).


The various components of the White Paper proposals will be the subject of a number of consultation exercises, changes to national policy and primary and secondary legislation. We will be better able to advise clients on the likely success of these measures once this level of detail emerges.


Broadly we welcome the measures to boost housing supply but note that more could have been done to achieve the radical level of reform needed to deliver the required 1 million new homes in England by 2020.


For more information or advice please contact Oliver Harwood ( or 01342 410122).

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