Tag Archives: westminster briefing

Out From Behind Bars(well)

Gavin Barwell has finally admitted that the Government won’t enforce the early 2017 deadlineMedia engagement for Local Plans. Barwell’s admission, made in an interview at MIPIM, has been hotly tipped as the deadline looms and many Tory authorities seemed to be at threat.

Speaking yesterday, he said, the government needed to complete the consultation on a common assessment for housing need, along with the revisions to the NPPF.  These are not expected to be complete until the end of this Parliament – May 2020 – an extension of three years.

This recent statement is in marked contrast to Barwell’s earlier pronouncements, where as late as October last year he said that government would be sticking to its early 2017 deadline.

It appears that the government is attempting to row back from this earlier commitment.  The practicalities of the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG)taking over the production of Local Plans was always problematic.  In addition, given the number of authorities not having their plans in place, it was never clear how the government would enforce this decision, or decide which LPAs to target.  The belief was always that Labour authorities would be targeted but with so many Tory authorities struggling it became inconceivable that they could be entirely ignored.

Even though this immediate pressure has been taken off local authorities in this position, they still face pressures to put in place up to date local plans.  Without a local plan or five year housing land supply in place, planning increasingly takes place by appeal, something most officers (although perhaps not members) would wish to avoid.

Mr Barwell gives a speech today in which he should further clarify these remarks. We will watch with interest.

Housing White Paper Finally Unveiled

Make no mistake, a shift in focus from home ownership to affordable renting is a hugely significant shift in Conservative party policy. Even the title of the Housing White Paper, ‘Fixing Our Broken Housing Market’ is an admission from the government that more needs to be done to tackle the so-called housing crisis. In his statement to parliament, Communities Minister Sajid Javid emphasised that not enough houses have been built for decades. That may be true, but this White Paper perhaps isn’t the bold new approach to planning we were promised.

The emphasis of the White Paper is to speed up the pace of development, introducing a ‘use it or lose it’ approach to ‘landbanking’ developers who do not act quickly to develop the land they own through Completion Notices.

Javid also welcomed new approaches to housebuilding, such as the option to build pre-fabricated houses off-site, an idea which is already being progressed. Perhaps more interestingly he also hinted at a tougher approach to local authorities’ local plans – announcing that plans must start from an honest assessment of their housing needs and ensure that neighbouring local authorities work together to ensure difficult decisions are not ducked. The start of this process is a consultation on a standard methodology for assessing housing need which will then lead to a “housing delivery test”. We have yet to see if this will make a difference.

As with every housing minister over the past 20 years, Javid argued that the planning process must be accelerated. He announced a number of small measures designed to help slim down the process and make it more transparent. A much trailed theme was to tackle onerous planning conditions while at the same time exploring an ominous sounding “new approach to how developers contribute to infrastructure”.

He also announced measures to deter unnecessary refusals at committee  by introducing a fee to the authority if the appeal is successful. Even when permission is granted, it can be too long before local people benefit from new housing therefore Developers will be encouraged to complete new homes as quickly as possible with possible penalties for under delivery.

Nevertheless, the government has ducked the difficult decision on Green Belt in the face of opposition from within its own ranks and the special circumstances clause remains intact. Instead, Javid has proposed the focus should be on increased density within existing settlements and new communities. This was praised by a number of Conservative MPs (mostly representing rural constituencies) during the debate following the announcement of the white paper, however several Labour MPs (broadly urban based) said that it may be necessary to build on parts of the Green Belt in order to meet the housing need in some areas.

Javid used the opportunity to re-announce the £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund designed to support infrastructure improvements to new communities. This will be matched with a range of measures to make it easier for both developers and local authorities to build more houses, however these would come with conditions to hold them to account. For example, although local authorities will be given extra powers to facilitate more housebuilding, they will also be expected to demonstrate how they are using these powers through a new housing delivery test.

Immediate reaction to the white paper was certainly mixed, with some saying the plans do not go far enough to tackle homelessness or increasing rents in the private rented sector. Indeed, the first response to the paper from Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning, John Healey, was ‘Is this it?’. Perhaps the most damning criticism of the package has even come from former Conservative housing minister Grant Shapps who claimed that the plans ‘won’t make much difference’.

A summary of all the policies announced in today’s white paper can be found here.

The White Paper in full can be accessed here.


Westminster Briefing: Housing and Planning

Transforming Generation Rent into Generation Buy: The Housing & Planning Bill, Starter Homes & Affordable Housing

Thursday 18th February 2016: 11.00am – 3.30pm (including networking lunch)110 Rochester Row, Victoria, London

Confirmed Speakers Include:

  • Mike Kiely, Chair, Planning Officers Society
  • Andrew Taylor, Chief Executive, Sutton Housing Partnership
  • Tim Baldwin, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers
  • Robin Tetlow, Chairman, Tetlow King Planning
  • Tony Crook CBE FAcSS FRTPI, Emeritus Professor of Planning, University of Sheffield
  • Trevor Pask, Researcher, De Montford University
  • Nick Wood-Dow, Deputy Chairman, Chelgate (event chair)


The supply of affordable housing for sale is a big political issue the Government is determined to do something about. The Housing & Planning Bill, currently making its way through parliament, legislates for two of its key measures in response; the introduction of a new class of ‘Starter Homes’ available at discount to first time buyers under the age of 40 and the extension of the Right to Buy to Housing Association properties. Reactions to these and other measures have been mixed with concern among some that prioritising homes for sale will have an adverse impact on the supply of affordable homes available to rent. Additionally, much of the detail about implementing the policies will come in secondary legislation at a later date.

Join Westminster Briefing on 18th February for an early look at how the Housing & Planning Bill measures will be delivered and the affects they will have on the provision of affordable homes both to rent and buy.

Key Issues to be Addressed Include:

  • A legal duty on local authorities to promote the supply of Starter Homes
  • Reporting actions taken to meet the new duty
  • Regulations requiring Starter Homes to be included on all reasonably sized sites
  • Section 106 agreements and their part in delivering the new homes
  • Reconciling centrally set targets with the localism of the NPPF
  • Accessing new Government funding
  • The impacts of Starter Homes policy on the affordable housing mix
  • Right to Buy, its impact on ownership and making sure rental stock is properly replaced
  • News powers for the Sec of State & changes to be made in secondary legislation

The Event:

The morning session will provide an up-to-date brief on Housing & Planning Bill measures for Starter Homes and Government plans to increase home ownership.

The afternoon will focus on how the reforms will impact the supply of affordable rental homes.

Who Should Attend?

Anyone with an interest in affordable housing, including: local government housing officers; planning officers; elected members; Housing Associations; developers; & solicitors.

Booking & discount

For further information and to book, please go to the Westminster Briefing website. For a 15 per cent discount enter CHELGATE2016 in the Discount Code box at the bottom of the registration page.