The Economy, NPPF and Elections

Good and bad news for the economy: a further drop in inflation and interest rates held again are the good, but amendments to growth figures showing that the economy is perilously close to recession is the bad.

Economic performance


The outlook is that any recession is likely to be shallow and short-lived, bolstered by the prospect of reductions in interest rates as early as the spring. But the economy is not likely to move ahead until after the General Election, which could be in the spring or could be in the autumn (more likely autumn). Labour thinks it will be the spring, according to The Times (29 Dec). There may be some clarity after the Budget on 6 March, which promises pre-election give-aways such as a reduction in inheritance tax and greater incentives for first time buyers.

At long last the government’s response to the NPPF consultation has been published. Michael Gove MP left it late, choosing to make a speech on the last day of parliamentary business before Christmas (19 December). He has watered down housing delivery targets and introduced measures to ensure all councils have up to date local plans.

Confirming that housing targets were now officially ‘advisory’, he said that that this had always been the case. This was, however, “not a route to the evasion of responsibilities”. He was confident the government will meet the manifesto pledge of building 300,000 new homes per year.

Michal Gove added: “Local authorities must provide rigorous evidence justifying their departure from assessed housing needs. They must do everything to identify other lands suitable for development.

“While the planning inspectorate will respect well-made cases, it will not accept undershooting that is not firmly rooted in environmental or other safeguards. This is about sensitive adjustment in housing targets, not their abandonment.”

Labour immediately said it would reverse the changes to the NPPF on its first day in government. Building magazine (20 Dec) understands that if councils use the reforms announced to reduce their housebuilding targets, they run the risk of having to make their plans anew.

Joanna Aveley, the government’s chief planner, said: “…there will also be a ‘sister’ document (to the NPPF response) on NDMPs, which will sit above local plans and will create a framework for them, an overarching framework. That work is ongoing. You have to do these things in parallel. There will be two documents.”