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Affordable housing definition changed in revised planning framework

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The definition of affordable housing once again includes homes for social rent in the much-anticipated revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published hours before Parliament broke up for summer recess on Tuesday.

The new framework also details the introduction of a controversial housing delivery test that will report on the number of homes delivered, rather than planned for, in each area.

The government’s planning priorities, especially on fracking, the green belt, and the importance of high-quality housing design, are also detailed in the document.

A central theme of the new NPPF is the the “ambition” to build 300,000 new homes a year by the middle of the next decade, a figure that was last recorded in 1969-70, according to Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government statistics. The policy was first introduced in the Conservatives’ 2015 manifesto and was also published in the government’s 2017 housing white paper. The new NPPF guidelines see a total of 85 proposals transferred over from the housing white paper.

Other policies that have been taken from the 2015 manifesto include the need for councils to establish policies that “facilitate” the exploration and extraction of on-shore oil and gas development. The framework then lists the benefits of fracking on the economy, including over the increased “security” of UK energy supplies and the industry’s support for a “transition to a low-carbon economy”.

On the issue of green belt protection, the framework sets out that councils must now list the “high expectations and considerable evidence” before looking to change a green belt boundary. While the framework details that building in the green belt should be seen as “inappropriate”, it also details seven exceptions to this rule. These include “limited affordable housing for local community needs” and the “redevelopment of previously developed land” which neither impacts nor harms the “openness” of the green belt.

Other areas of importance for the government include delivering homes “where they are most needed”, based on the locations of existing affordable homes. According to the government, this will be supported from November 2018 by a new housing delivery test that will report on the number of homes delivered, rather than planned for.

Lord Porter (Con), chair of the Local Government Association, said the new housing delivery test “punishes communities for homes not built by private developers”.

”Councils work hard with communities to get support for good quality housing development locally, and there is a risk these reforms will lead to locally agreed plans being bypassed by national targets,” Lord Porter said and added it was “hugely disappointing” that the government had retained its national housing targets.

Lord Porter did, however, welcome the inclusion of social rent in the definition of affordable housing. The draft NPPF had been criticised by the LGA for its omission of homes for social rent, but that definition was changed in the final document.

According to the glossary, affordable housing for rent is now defined as where “rent is set in accordance with the government’s rent policy for social rent or affordable rent, or is at least 20% below local market rent”.

Lord Porter said: “It is positive to see social rent retained in the definition of affordable housing – as called for by the LGA - although the definition should be clearer in separating social rent from ‘affordable’ rent which is often not accessible for people on lower incomes.

“It is also encouraging to see moves towards greater transparency in the planning system, and measures that try to resolve the challenges in negotiating the number of affordable homes through the viability process. However, the new proposals fail to give councils the powers they need to ensure homes with planning permission are built out quickly, with the necessary infrastructure, in their local communities.”

Housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire said: “Fundamental to building the homes our country needs is ensuring that our planning system is fit for the future.

“This revised planning framework sets out our vision of a planning system that delivers the homes we need. I am clear that quantity must never compromise the quality of what is built, and this is reflected in the new rules.”



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