Planning policy changes produce mixed reaction


The revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is pivotal to the government’s efforts to tackle the ’broken housing market’. Julie Liddle runs the rule over some of the key changes

Farmers and landowners face wide-ranging implications as a result of radical changes in national planning policy.

The revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) involves different methods for evaluating housing requirements, scrutinising delivery and assisting development, while maintaining Green Belt.

The government believes the changes will help achieve its aim of seeing 300,000 new homes built annually by the mid-2020s. In 2017 217,000 homes were constructed – the highest increase in England’s housing supply for nearly 10 years.

What are the main points of the new system?

Among the most far-reaching changes bound up in the revised NPPF is the implementation of a Housing Delivery Test.

This took effect from November 2018 and aims to increase numbers of homes delivered in local authority areas, as opposed to numbers planned for. The test also brings the potential of penalties for councils that repeatedly fail to deliver sufficient housing supply.

Other key elements of the new NPPF include support for the conversion of rural houses into multiple occupancy homes, encouraging the conversion of agricultural buildings for residential use, and backing for new rural homes for farmworkers and their families under the rural exception rules.

In addition, the changes will mean planning decisions will enable greater growth and expansion of businesses, continued Green Belt protection, and an affordability requirement for all properties on entry level exception sites.

Why some people are unhappy with the revised regime

Some in the agricultural and rural economy sector have applauded changes to the presumption in favour of sustainable development, as well as core planning principles, requirements for planning authorities to collaborate, and alterations to the local plan process.

However, the new-look NPPF is not without its critics and some rural landowners are concerned about the lack of flexibility, which they fear could restrict their ability to address the rural housing shortage.

Among them is the CLA, whose president Tim Breitmeyer believes the criteria for entry level exception sites will result in less land being made available for much needed rural homes.

It is clear that exception sites should have an open market housing element as the new rules requiring all homes to be affordable on these sites will deter landowners from bringing land forward because the incentive of including market-value homes has been removed.

Calls for a more farming-focused policy

Many stakeholders want to see the government ensure the revised NPPF addresses current and future needs of farming and rural communities in all parts of the country.

The NFU believes the main planning policy document should contain a stronger farming focus, to value farmland and ensure farmers have greater choice when exploring ways of using their land and buildings going forward.

As with all major policy changes, time will tell whether or not concerns will materialise. In the meantime, we and other stakeholders will monitor developments and report back.