Residential Planning and the NPPF

Number of new housing estates jumps by a quarter since planning reforms.
New figures reveal extent to which Government’s relaxation of planning rules has seen a significant rise in the number of large scale developments being pushed through. The number of large scale housing estates being pushed through by developers across England has soared over the past two years, according to the most extensive analysis ever of the Coalition’s relaxation of planning laws.

The figures are the most detailed and authoritative analysis yet that the Government’s relaxation of the planning rulebook has seen a significant rise in building across the country.
The report is also the first clear evidence of claims from campaigners that planning wars between developers and hard-pressed communities about unpopular new building are breaking out across the country.

approved planning applications in Cornwall

Number of Applications approved 2013

Separately, a Conservative peer and a key member of George Osborne’s inner circle said the Government should allow building on hundreds of square miles of greenfield areas, and order an urgent review of green belt rules.

Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise told The Daily Telegraph that ministers should increase the proportion of Britain which has been developed from 8 per cent to 9 per cent, equating to a further 808 square miles or the equivalent of 30 times the size of the city of Nottingham

The six-page report by Glenigan, which uses figures from councils and builders to analyse and forecast building trends, found evidence of a “substantial increase in both the number and the proportion of larger residential schemes securing planning approval over the last two years, with a smaller proportion of applications being refused or withdrawn”.

The report is the first analysis of the effect of the National Planning Policy Framework, which introduced a bias in favour of sustainable development, by comparing the two years before and after it was introduced at the end of March 2012. The reforms were fought by readers of The Daily Telegraph through its Hands Off Our Land campaign.

The study – “Residential Planning and the NPPF” – that English local authorities approved 194,700 planning applications in the year to the end of March – a nine per cent increase on the average number of approvals in the two years before the changes.

The biggest increase was among large residential developments where planning permissions for large schemes of 10 or more dwellings increased by a quarter from 3,956 in 2010/11 to 4,931 in 2013/14.

Over the same period the numbers of applications for large schemes which were withdrawn or refused also fell.

Permission was granted on 77 per cent of large schemes, “up significantly from the 73 per cent average approval rate seen prior to the NPPF in 2010 and 2011”.

Among smaller housing schemes – with between three and nine homes – the Glenigan research found that in the past financial year, 10,474 schemes were given planning permission, up 29 per cent on the average in 2010/11 and 2011/12.

Allan Wilen, economics director at Glenigan, said: “The rise in approval rates indicates the NPPF has begun to release more sites for development.

“However despite the rise in planning approvals, new housing supply continue to run below the potential growth in new households.”

Sir Simon Jenkins, the chairman of the National Trust, said the research was evidence that local developers were simply buying up “three fields and putting down 300 homes” on the edge of small rural communities.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “One of the big problems is that the housing decisions generated by the NPPF have been industrial scale volume housing which by its nature is insensitive to the rural economy and small villages.

“We need to build our new homes where they are needed – in towns and cities.”

The news comes as MPs from the Communities and Local Government committee prepare to start an investigation into the impact of the NPPF. The deadline for written submissions to the inquiry is May 8.

Clive Betts MP, the Labour chairman of the committee, said he was concerned by anecdotal evidence that most of the building was happening on greenfield sites, rather than previously developed areas of towns and cities.

He said: “What we need is analysis of the sorts of sites these are – whether they are brownfield or greenfield? All my instinct is there is actually a bigger percentage of applications going in on greenfield sites.

“That is a worry – and that is what we want to dig away at in the inquiry to find out if it is happening and if so why it is happening. Is the NPPF driving that? Are there things in the NPPF which we ought to be questioning?

Neil Sinden, director of Policy and Campaigns at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “We welcome an increase in housing supply, but we need the right type of housing in the right places.

“Unfortunately, our own research tells us much of this increase is driven by large scale greenfield developments being granted on appeal in conflict with local plans.

“In many parts of England, councils are being forced to accept major development against the wishes of local communities so they can meet top-down housing targets.

“We need more housing but the Government’s approach is undermining local planning. Ministers appear to be beginning to realise that there are serious problems with the impact of their planning reforms on the ground.

“They need to do more to ensure that we regenerate brownfield sites first and avoid unnecessary loss of the countryside.”

Nick Boles, the Planning minister, said: “Our country badly needs more homes, and we should welcome the fact that local councils have given permission for almost 200,000 new homes last year.

“We have safeguarded national Green Belt protection and abolished top-down Regional Strategies, protecting the countryside and empowering local communities.

“This shows that the Government’s long-term economic plan and our locally-led planning system is working. We’ve seen more than 1,000 communities swiftly take-up neighbourhood planning and the first plans now in place.”