New rules that introduce a presumption in favour of planning applications if too few homes are built in a local authority area will reward developers for their failures, it has been argued.
From November, councils will have to pass a “housing delivery test” to avoid being stripped of the right to decide where homes should be built.
The test forms part of the revised national planning policy framework (NPPF), which aims to help the government to achieve its pledge to accelerate housebuilding from 217,000 homes in England last year to 300,000 a year by the mid-2020s.
But the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) described the introduction of the test as “a speculative developers’ charter”.
It told the Times the new guidance would allow developers to benefit from their own failures to build homes already approved.
At present, councils allocate areas for housing in local plans and can reject applications outside those areas.
Under the new test, each council will have a target for new homes and if developers build less than 75% of that number over three years, they will benefit from a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”.
Matt Thomson, the CPRE’s head of planning, said: “The revised NPPF embeds the principle that if housebuilders fail to deliver, the local plan is declared invalid, leading to open season for developers. This is a perverse incentive for developers to not build. The government has promised councils powers to make development happen, but there is no indication of what these powers will be.”
James Brokenshire, the Communities Secretary, claimed the rules would make it easier for councils to challenge inferior and unattractive development.
“This revised framework sets out our vision of a system that delivers the homes we need,” he said. “Quantity must never compromise the quality of what is built, and this is reflected in the new rules.”
Tim Willis, planning partner at Shoosmiths, the law firm, told the newspaper the new rules protected the green belt by introducing a tighter test which directs development to non-green belt alternatives.
The revised NPPF states: “Development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists.”
Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust’s chief executive, said greater protection for ancient trees was “a victory for common sense and a huge step forward, although effective local enforcement will be key”.
The overhaul to the NPPF was announced by the government in March as providing “a comprehensive approach for planners, developers and councils to build more homes, more quickly, in the places people want to live”.
The government said more planning permissions need to be fast tracked into homes for first-time buyers who are locked out of the housing market and the older generation who need homes designed to their needs.
The planning reform package is part of a wider package of housing reforms, building on the £5 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund announced to help unlock new homes in areas with the greatest housing need.
DMZ thinks the potential unintended consequences of the new test are a shame, as the majority of developers are keen to do their bit to boost home ownership among young people. They just need proper incentives from the government.