We’re responding to the proposed planning reforms – and we need your help

Duncan Neish, 15 September 2020

You don’t have to work in housing or planning to know big changes are afoot in those areas of policy. The press has been full of stories about local control over planning and changes to housebuilding targets.

The government is consulting on two sets of proposals: firstly, on short-term changes to the planning system, and secondly, on longer-term reforms proposed in the Planning for the Future white paper.

Both sets of proposals come with opportunities but also considerable risks for affordable housing, as we’ve explained in our member briefing.

We’ve already highlighted these risks in conversations with the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, with the Prime Minister’s housing adviser, and with ministers and officials. While welcoming the government’s ambition to speed up planning, we’re clear there’s a lot of concern around the sector about some of the changes, particularly on the short-term changes to the current planning system.

We’re pulling together sector-wide responses to the two consultations, and the consultation on changes to the current system, which closes on 1 October, is our most urgent priority.

We have strong arguments to make against some of its more difficult proposals – but we need your help to illustrate them.

Reducing the Section 106 threshold

The proposal to increase the threshold at which affordable housing contributions can be sought under Section 106 from 10 homes to 50 homes is one of the proposals we’re challenging in our response.

To support our arguments, we’re looking for case studies in two key areas:

  • Real-life examples that show the importance of Section 106 contributions from developments of fewer than 50 homes and what the impact of losing them would be, particularly in rural areas. That’s not just the direct loss of Section 106 affordable homes but also the potential effects on land values.
  • Your experiences of working with SME builders on developments of fewer than 50 homes that include affordable homes. We’ll be making the case that affordable housing can moderate land prices for developers and help their cashflow, and we’d like to illustrate this argument with examples.

We’d also like to know any ideas you have about ways of supporting smaller builders without foregoing affordable housing contributions. Please get in touch as soon as possible with any case studies or ideas you’d like to share.

First Homes

First Homes for discounted market sale, and their potential to reduce the funding available for building truly affordable homes, remain a concern for many. The government has said that in future, 25% of homes secured through Section 106 will be First Homes. While this in itself is not up for consultation, we’ll make arguments about how the policy is implemented and how its effects on more affordable tenures can be mitigated.

We’ll continue pressing for flexibility at local level – so local authorities can seek the affordable homes needed in their areas. But we’d also like to know if there might be ways in which you might secure some benefit from First Homes. For example, through acquiring discounted Homes for conversion to more affordable tenures if they aren’t bought by qualifying local buyers (currently, the government proposes just to drop local connection requirements after three months).

Again, please get in touch as soon as possible to share your thoughts on these points.

There’s lots more in the two consultations to respond to, including the White Paper’s infrastructure levy, and we’ll be publishing a second blog in the coming weeks discussing some of these issues further.

To share your concerns, questions and contributions on any aspect of planning, please contact me.