More housing promised in latest Budget

The Government’s Autumn Budget has prioritised three major themes as part of a renewed push for more housing with an increased target of building 300,000 more homes per year. These are:

  • £15.3billion of new financial support for housing over the next five years;
  • Planning reforms, many of which have been foreshadowed in the housing white paper; and
  • Improved support and innovation funding in the construction sector of over £2million.

The headline measure that has arguably generated the most amount of discussion is the increase in the liability threshold for stamp duty land tax (SDLT) to £300,000 for first-time buyers for properties of £500,000 or less. However there are some new and interesting proposals for planning:

  • A proposed consultation on the removal of previously allocated land in local plans if there is no prospect for a planning application being made;
  • The reiteration of the Government’s policy to begin interventions in areas where the local authority has failed to put an up-to-date local plan in place;
  • Consultation on a new policy for planning permission to be granted for homes on land that hasn’t been allocated in the local plan provided a high proportion of those homes are offered as ‘first-time buyer’ homes (excluding land in the green belt);
  • A renewed emphasis on increasing housing density in urban areas and near transport hubs will be the subject of consultation together with “greater support for the use of compulsory purchase powers”;
  • Possible policy changes to support the conversion of retail, employment and/or unused retail space into housing; and
  • A consultation on the introduction of permitted development rights to demolish commercial buildings for housing.

In terms of infrastructure funding, the Government has baulked at abolishing the Community Infrastructure Levy entirely, but policy changes – including the reversal of the prohibition on pooling Section 106 planning obligation contributions – suggest the levy is to be allowed to wither on the vine for complex development. For simpler developments there is the potential for more complex rate setting: rates may be set by reflecting the uplift in land values between a proposed and existing use with a faster turnaround for examinations.

The Government has mooted a new layer of statutory levy for combined local planning authorities. The Strategic Infrastructure Tariff (SIT) would be designed to assist the funding of strategic and local infrastructure. To speed up build out, the Government is strengthening the housing delivery test, re-emphasising small site delivery and will consult on removing the exemptions from the deemed discharge rules that apply to planning conditions.

The announcements in the Budget are in addition to a raft of other planning reforms which are in the pipeline, not least the reforms proposed in the housing white paper and the revision and the publication of the National Planning Policy Guidance in the Spring of 2018.

For further information on the impact of the Budget on the planning industry, or to discuss any planning-related issue, please contact Matt Gilks or another member of Thrings’ Planning team.

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