Following a ministerial statement in March and the more recent launch of the Housing and Planning Bill through its parliamentary journey towards the Statute Book, the key planning initiatives can be summarised as relating to:
• Neighbourhood planning
• Local planning
• Planning in Greater London
• Local registers of land and permission for development in principal
• General planning permission
• Nationally significant infrastructure projects
• Urban development corporations

But of all the initiatives in the Bill, it is that relating to affordable housing which is making the most strident headlines across the national press. The Bill will give the power to the Secretary of State to legislate that a planning authority can only grant planning permission for new houses if the starter homes requirement is met.

So what is the definition of a starter home? The Bill states this to be a newly built home that has to be sold to a first time buyer under the age of 40, with a discount of at least 20% off the market value. Our reading of the Bill is that it will cap starter home sale prices in the provinces to £250,000 and across Greater London to £450,000. The Bill is a little thin on any more detail, though some clarification can be taken from the March ministerial statement, where we learn it is the intention of the Government that these starter homes can be sold at full market rates after five years. What a gift to those defined as first time buyers – though this clarification does not currently form part of the legislation.

The Bill has a considerable journey to complete before becoming law and there will be a number of opportunities through our elected representatives and for those in the other house to seek amendments. However, the Bill is a clear indication of the Government’s quite radical agenda to encourage the delivery of one million new homes by 2020 and to return to that Tory flagship policy of encouraging greater home ownership, albeit limited to the young this time.

The delivery of more traditionally defined S106 affordable housing will undoubtedly be impacted without any complimentary initiatives to also assist local authorities and housing associations to pick up the slack in social housing development.
It does appear to us that the Bill requires much finessing also relating to transitional provisions, the relationship with the CIL regulations, regional devolution initiatives and a linked transfer of planning powers.
The other day a spokesman for DCLG said: “The Bill would boost councils’ ability to build homes people need by devolving powers to Mayors, reforming rules around brownfield sites and supporting neighbourhood groups to deliver homes where needed.”
The Initiatives must be commended in terms of encouraging greater flexibility regarding housing delivery across all tenure types. However, much more careful thought is required to the detail of the initiatives and regarding their consequences concerning the growing need for more traditional forms of affordable housing.

John Foddy Managing Director FoddyConsult