Revised nppf – what does it mean for housebuilding?

Screenshot 2024 01 02 at 11 34 44

Revised NPPF – What does it mean for housebuilding?

The highly anticipated revised NPPF was finally published on 19 December 2023. Quite fittingly given the new focus on beautiful buildings and high-quality design, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities chose to announce the imminent publication, as part of the second phase of the Long-Term Plan for Housing, at the headquarters of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP stated that tackling the five main reasons people object to new housing – low quality design, lack of supporting infrastructure, lack of democratic control over new development, environmental concerns and lack of a neighbourhood community or sense of place - would speed up the planning system, and that the changes should incentivise Local Authorities to adopt up to date Local Plans and deliver the planned-for homes. The vital importance of planning and the central role of planning professionals in shaping communities was also underlined – which we certainly agree with! But what are the changes likely to really mean for housebuilding

Housing requirement calculation

The NPPF confirms that the standard method of assessing housing need is the basis on which communities should plan for new homes. However, it stresses that this is an advisory number to be balanced against local considerations such as Green Belt or other areas of environmental, heritage or aesthetic importance, which may reduce the housing requirements. Alternatively, meeting housing need from neighbouring areas or economic growth requirements may increase the requirement. Rigorous evidence is to be provided for any departure from the assessed housing need and all efforts must be taken to identify land suitable for development. Local Authorities are directed to meet as much of its area’s need as possible – although they are not obliged to review green belt sites for allocation - and a duty to co-operate with neighbouring authorities to meet unmet need remains in place.

Incentives for Local Authorities to adopt up-to-date Local Plans

The NPPF now incentivises early adoption of robust plans by removing the requirement to annually update the housing land supply where a Local Plan is up to date (either adopted, or reviewed and found not to require updating, within the last 5 years) and provided a Five Year Housing Land Supply from the date of adoption. Please note this only applies to new applications and cannot be retrospectively applied to existing applications.

Seven Local Authorities - St Albans, Amber Valley, Ashfield, Medway, Uttlesford, Basildon, and Castle Point – have been issued with a direction requiring them to provide a timetable for production of a Local Plan within 12 weeks.

In all other cases, the presumption in favour of sustainable development (the ‘tilted balance’) will now only apply to Local Authorities who do not have a plan made or reviewed in the last 5 years and cannot demonstrate a 5YHLS. However, for a period of 2 years from publication, this is reduced to a 4YHLS where a Local Authority has either submitted a Local Plan for examination or has reached Regulation 18 or 19 Consultation Stage, and the Local Plan includes both a Policies Map and proposed allocations towards meeting housing need. A buffer is now only applied where the Housing Delivery Test shows delivery below 85%.

The Housing Delivery Test has been updated in terms of penalties for failing to meet housing delivery requirements – below 95% leads to an Action Plan, below 85% triggers the need for a 20% buffer to be applied to the housing land supply calculation if the Local Plan is not up to date and 75% means that the tilted balance will apply to all housing applications. The 2022 results show that an additional 20 local authorities are now subject to the presumption in favour of sustainable development as a consequence of their poor housing delivery, taking the total to 59.

Neighbourhood Plans

Neighbourhood Plans are also strengthened such that the tilted balance is unlikely to apply to any application in a Neighbourhood Area where the Neighbourhood Plan is less than five years old, and which contains policies and allocations to meet its identified housing requirement (as set out by the local authority). This entirely replaces the previous provision in relation to a Neighbourhood Plan under 2 years old being protected provided there is a 3YHLS.

Other policies to support housing delivery

When establishing housing need, Local Authorities are now required to consider retirement housing, housing with care and care homes. New policies also encourage bolstering supply by the greater promotion of small sites for self- and custom- build homes, and the use of Permission in Principle applications for small and medium sites. A new policy for Community Led Development has been introduced, but curiously Entry Level Exception Sites have been removed from the NPPF and instead a footnote directs us that First Homes Exception Sites continue to be policy under the Written Ministerial Statement dated 24/05/21 – the reason for removing it from the NPPF is not clear.

The importance of prime agricultural land used for food production is now a specific consideration. There are also new policies promoting the ability to create upward extensions using mansard roofs, and to adapt existing buildings to improve their energy efficiency. The special circumstances of island communities are recognised.

The NPPF now also places more emphasis on the need for beauty, sensitivity to the existing built environment and place-making in new developments. Design Codes can be adopted to resist over-densification of areas of defined character, and a new public body – The Office For Place – has been set up to work on these. More detailed conditions on design and materials are also encouraged.

When does this come into effect?

The policies in the NPPF are material considerations which should be taken into account when dealing with applications from the day of its publication.

Anything else?

In addition to the changes to the NPPF, new league tables were published to demonstrate the performance of local planning authorities against statutory determination targets. Two Local Authorities - Chorley and Fareham – were designated for poor quality decision making. The use of Extension of Time agreements, which conceal true performance data, is to be subject to consultation in due course. Details of how many applications are refused by Planning Committees against Officer advice, and how much each Local Authority has had to pay out in Costs Claims, will also be published.

Extra funding is also being put in place, in addition to the recent increase in planning application fees, to better resource Local Authority planning services, and to support Local Development Orders being implemented in suitable locations. A ‘supersquad’ team to intervene and unlock major housing developments was announced. Changes to the operations at the Planning Inspectorate were also referred to, but there is no further detail as yet.

What’s next?

Some further changes were also hinted at – including a new Infrastructure Levy and Biodiversity Net Gain Tariff, a three-month review of Statutory Consultee response times, changes to planning for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, a National Policy Statement on Energy and National Networks, consideration of how the arrangements for Judicial Review impact on delivery, and further steps to drive forward urban regeneration schemes – so there is more to come next year!


The full speech can be found here -

Revised NPPF -

Housing Deliver Test 2022 results -

Planning application statistics -