Town planning – Six opportunities for 2018

Change is on the horizon for the world of planning, much of it geared towards house building. This will bring with it opportunities for landowners and developers, but also forward-thinking parish councils and local communities.

These anticipated changes have kept the Plainview Planning Team on their toes, and provided fodder for plenty of inhouse planning discussions and debates, the outcome of which can be seen below with our overview of the 6 key town planning opportunities to look out for in 2018.

1) The new NPPF

As promised in the Housing White Paper, the government is planning to publish a new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and recent reports suggest that the consultation draft of the new framework will be published by spring 2018. If it is anything like the original NPPF there will be a period of “settling-in” whilst planners, councils, inspectors, lawyers and judges debate the correct interpretation and minutiae of the new policies. As ever, such flux can be a time of opportunity for those that move quickly.

2) Emerging Local Plans 

During 2018 there will be 238 Local Authorities that will either be undertaking public consultation on their Local Plan, or will have their Local Plan assessed and reviewed through an Examination in Public by the Planning Inspectorate. Early involvement from landowners, developers and businesses can help shape the Local Plan, especially if efforts are strategically coordinated and informed and persuasive representations are made. A full list of the relevant Councils is available here. 

3) Small housebuilders and developers

The autumn Budget made clear that the government intends to support small and medium sized developers. Early in 2018 expect to see policy that requires local authorities to bring forward at least 20% of their housing supply as small sites. The hope is that this will speed up the building of new homes and increase competition in the house building market.

In London there is already support for small developers and landowners, and the emerging new London Plan makes clear that small sites should play a much greater role in housing delivery, including custom, self-build and community-led housing schemes. An example of this support is seen in proposals to implement a presumption in favour of small housing developments (defined as those between 1 and 25 homes) in London. Target sites include:

(1) infill development;
(2) residential conversions/extensions within 800m of transport hubs; or
(3) upward extensions.

The Draft New London Plan is currently out for consultation until 02 March 2018 and following examination, it will likely be published in 2019. The draft Plan will be a material consideration in determining applications and will likely carry more weight following its examination towards the end of 2018.

4) Growing support for build to rent

The recent government consultation on increasing the number of new Build to Rent homes suggests that such development will become ever more popular. Such schemes provide a relatively low-risk and predictable income stream, which is well suited to the needs of investors such as pension funds. A number of our team at Plainview Planning, were busy working on an innovative Build to Rent scheme in East London throughout 2017 (see here).

5) A new definition of isolated homes

As previously reported, we expect to see the judgement in Braintree District Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government start to filter into more logical planning decisions on sites that are wholly sustainable but just fall the wrong side of an arbitrary settlement boundary. If you have had permission refused in the past it may be worth revisiting your scheme to see if Braintree has improved your chances.

6) Rumblings of Land Value Capture

There is growing interest from government in trying to capture more of the significant uplift in land values that is generated from planning permissions. Such a move is fraught with political difficulty, but “austerity” plus a “housing crisis” could provide the economic backdrop necessary for a big shift. The Housing White Paper in 2017 shied away from too much detail, but expect some form of new land value capture in the next 2 to 3 years. If you’ve got a development site, now is the time to move on it.

If there is a single message to take from the up and coming changes to planning in England, it is to act sooner rather than later. Be it Local Plan representations, new developments in urban or rural settings or simply ascertaining the feasibility of building on your land – early action will be key. Interesting times lie ahead, but with the right planning support and strategy we can help you navigate them effectively and productively. Contact us via to see how we can best assist.