RSS FeedRSS Feed

Developers should move fast before the planning rules change again6th June 2014

Property developers should get applications in while the going is goodThere have been seismic shifts in planning in the past 12 months as housebuilders and developers are back with a vengeance. Previously stalled schemes are being reviewed and new developments are being pushed through.

The launch of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was clearly the start of the shift as it simplified the planning process and gave developers all the tools they need for generating greater housebuilding and getting more challenging schemes approved on greenfield land. However, the government soon realised this wasn’t enough and the new Help to Buy scheme was launched. This combined with an improving economy turned the heat up on local councils and as proposals started to flow through from housebuilders, what has caused the greatest shift is the duty of local authorities to cooperate and grant approvals.

Having revoked Regional Spatial Strategies after the last election, the Coalition, in line with its Localism agenda, left councils to make up their own minds on housing requirements. Left to grapple with the fundamental difficulties of developing these plans, local authorities either arbitrarily cut their housing figures or stalled thinking about it because it was too much of a political hot potato.

Developing on greenbelt land is always going to court controversy, but clearly the government recognised the importance of the construction sector to the UK and how housing can make a quicker and bigger impact to the bottom-line than waiting for huge infrastructure projects, such as HS2 to get off the ground.

As a consequence, the Localism agenda and the supposed bottom-up planning decisions have become more top down again. Moreover, local authorities are being actively encouraged to renegotiate the best possible deals (for developers) in terms of affordable housing and other 106 agreement contributions to unlock schemes and make them viable for development."

The result of the changes have been that local authorities have been virtually powerless to resist planning applications on well located greenfield land where they cannot demonstrate a five year housing supply. This is proving difficult for a lot of local authorities, as the NPPF requires their development plans to deliver 'objectively assessed' housing growth.

This is amplified by the fact that the Housing growth figures are produced by the Office for National Statistics and the most recent projected housing growth levels are often greater than those imposed by the previous Regional Planning Authorities and the only way to deliver these figures is to build on greenbelt land.

Whilst this creates a problem for local authorities it's an opportunity for housebuilders. The greatest resistance to new development is seen in the most affluent areas, but the Planning Inspectorate is overturning planning refusals to increase housing numbers in these areas and driving more applications through the system.

This doesn't mean developers are just running roughshod over local authorities though. What hasn't changed is the talking and deliberation that takes place in developing proposals. Since the Localism Bill came into force, the planning process prioritises greater local influence on plan making and decision taking. Significant levels of consultation with local communities will continue to help to deliver new schemes. Objections cannot however be sustained on subjective grounds. ‘Not in my back yard’ is not a credible objection; the 'presumption in favour of sustainable development' as outlined in the NPPF is pivotal.

A recent success story has been Birmingham based Nurton Developments (Quintus) Ltd's, multi-million pound ‘new community’ in Burton, which gained a resolution to grant outline-planning approval subject to a Section 106 agreement, which is currently being negotiated.

The Secretary of State has confirmed that the application will not be 'called in' and Branston Locks, as the development will be named, will create up to 2,500 new homes together with 50 acres of employment land designed to create up to 3,000 jobs over a ten-year period.
It is a clear example of the NPPF working and the local authority engaging effectively with the developer, to reach a satisfactory conclusion for all concerned. We hope that the people of Burton will see the proposed development as an opportunity to deliver a new community, which will be truly sustainable and act as a positive influence on the area's future when completed.

However having observed this shifting position, all this may alter as a changing political landscape could mean trouble for developers and housebuilders if they don't get their planning applications considered soon.

The current government will be faced with the dilemma of whether to continue to push housing with the hope it will boost the wider economy, or row back for fear its popularity is too adversely effected as developments are proposed in greenbelt areas. This could slow down the planning process once again and with a general election less than 12 months away in 2015, my advice would be to get applications in while the going is good.

About the author

Elle Cass, JLL, BirminghamElle Cass is a Chartered Town Planner and specialises in Planning and Development Consultancy work, based in JLL's Birmingham office.

Recent Headlines

Click here for more news stories...

Commercial Property Events

Have you any commercial property events you'd like to tell us about? It could be networking, exhibitions, seminars, industry lunches or sporting fixtures. We will list them for free. Just email with the following details: Event name, date, time, venue, cost, booking info and a brief description of the event.

Commercial Property Jobs

To list your property job vacancies on Property News. Email:

Sign up to our free e-alerts for all your property news and views.
Follow Property News on Facebook Follow Property News on Twitter Follow Property News on Google+ Follow Property News on Linkedin Property News RSS Feed