The draft revised NPPF – the importance of small sites

The government released the draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) on Monday 5th March. The last time there were proposed changes to the NPPF was back in 2015.

Our review of these draft revisions have identified some really exciting changes which should benefit smaller landowners and developers. These include:

1) A clear acknowledgement that small sites can make an important contribution to meeting the housing requirement of an area, and are often built-out relatively quickly. To promote the development of a good mix of sites “local planning authorities should ensure that at least 20% of the sites identified for housing in their plans are of half a hectare or less”.

2) Windfall sites are now defined as “sites not specifically identified in the development plan”. Back in 2012 the NPPF definition suggested that such sites should normally be previously developed. Paragraph 69 in the new NPPF also includes direct support for encouraging windfall development.

This is a very useful clarification given that so many of our clients are looking to develop windfall sites. Such sites are vital to the variety and delivery of housing stock.

To further help small sites there are also several flexible affordable housing options proposed.

These include:

1) Discounted market sales housing- This is a new inclusion in the definition of affordable housing. It means that market homes sold at a discount of at least 20% below local market value can be classed as affordable housing. There would need to be provisions in place to ensure housing remains at a discount for future eligible households (eligibility is determined “with regard to local incomes and local house prices”). This could really open up innovative provision of affordable homes and remove the need to involve Registered Social Landlords.

2) Entry level exception sites- Paragraph 72 is going to be important for many of our smaller clients with edge of settlement sites. “Local planning authorities should support the development of entry level exception sites, suitable for first time buyers (or those looking to rent their first home)… These sites should be outside existing settlements, on land which is not already allocated for housing”.

3) Rural exception sites- these can now have a “proportion of market homes” as opposed to “a small number” as set out in the 2012 NPPF. Again, this is a nod towards unlocking smaller unallocated sites. Couple this with discounted housing and suddenly many more sites may now have a chance to secure planning permission.

Consultation on the draft revised NPPF is ongoing and will close at 11:45pm on 10 May 2018, with a view to the draft being finalised by the summer. You can see the consultation in full here

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