PPG updates: proactive Inspectors, housing standards and restored small sites’ guidance on s106 affordable housing

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PPG updates: proactive Inspectors, housing standards and restored small sites’ guidance on s106 affordable housing

PPG updates: proactive Inspectors, housing standards and restored small sites’ guidance on s106 affordable housing

Jennie Baker 20 May 2016
A great many revisions have just been made to national Planning Practice Guidance (PPG).

In addition to anticipated restoration of guidance relating to small sites and self-build not making affordable housing contributions, and the vacant building credit (VBC), there are amendments and new paragraphs related to:
  • the Duty to Cooperate;
  • housing standards;
  • the natural environment; and
  • neighbourhood planning.
Updated guidance on local plans includes the explicit encouragement of an Inspector working proactively with the local planning authority (LPA) – but it does not go so far (yet) as promoting the ‘early MoT’ recommended by the government-appointed Local Plans Expert Group.

The most important PPG revisions are, of course, the restoration of ‘policies’ relating to small sites not having to make affordable housing contributions, and to VBC.  Paragraphs 015, 016, 017, 019, 020, 021, 022 and 023 have all been restored with the same wording as when they were removed in August last year.  (The retained reference in para 016 to Article 2 of the DMPO 2010, instead of the current DMPO 2015, does not affect interpretation of the guidance.)
The guidance setting out the circumstances where small sites and self-build developments should not have to make s106 affordable housing contributions has been changed, to make reference to West Berkshire in the Court of Appeal and in effect says that  circumstances remain as at August 2015 (paragraph 031).  The same paragraph refers to the Court of Appeal ruling in that case giving ‘legal effect to the policy set out in the Ministerial Statement of 28 November 2014’. Another NLP blog considers the implications of that judgement.

Other changes to the PPG on ‘Planning Obligations’ reflect recent announcements:  sections 106BA and 106BC of the 1990 Planning Act (as amended), which provided an application and appeal procedure for the review of affordable housing obligations based on economic viability, were repealed on 30 April 2016.  The paragraphs of the guidance that referred to those provisions have been updated (paras. 009 and 011). They now explain procedural requirements for appeals under s106BC, which can still be lodged if the application under s106BA was submitted prior to the end of April 2016, and the appeal is made within six month of the decision (see the guidance for more details).

There are also very minor tweaks to the guidance on Rural Exception Sites, and pooled funding pots (paras 013 and 014)

As regards the changes to guidance on the ‘Duty to Co-operate’ (paragraph 006), there is a different emphasis on the role that Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and Local Nature Partnerships (LNPs) have in strategic planning – it is limited to assisting LPAs, and a Strategic Economic Plan is not a substitute for a local plan.

With regard to the optional, national technical standards for housing, a new paragraph (023) confirms that LPAs should accept evidence from a building control body or another LPA that a layout plan meets national space standards; the responsibility for checking that the built development conforms remains with the LPA however.  The reference to ‘another LPA’ anticipates the 2016 Housing and Planning Act’s pilots of local authorities competing with ‘alternative providers’ to process (but not determine) planning applications.

The PPG is also now clear that LPAs should not impose requirements for the security of individual dwellings (para 002), nor require additional information from applicants, such as the furnished layouts of dwellings, in order to assess compliance with the national, optional housing standards – this is for the ‘Building Control Body’ to determine (para 008).

The updates to local plans’ guidance essentially explain how an Inspector is expected to work with the LPA, in order to keep the local plan on track.  However, that process only starts after a local plan is submitted for examination (paras 004 and 022).

Neighbourhood planning guidance includes two new paragraphs on the timing of, and processes for updating a neighbourhood plan (paras 084, 085, and 086), and for amending errors to a neighbourhood plan (para 087).  The previous guidance regarding whether a neighbourhood plan can allocate additional or alternative sites to those in a local plan has been expanded, to note that blanket policies restricting development or settlement growth would be contrary to guidance on supporting sustainable rural communities (para 044).  And rural housing guidance now advises on the evidence required for a neighbourhood plan to allocate sites additional to those in a local plan (para 001).

For London, there is new guidance on short term lets that has been added to reflect amendments to legislation in May last year, which extended the maximum number of nights annually that most dwellings in London could be let out on a short term basis (from 22 to 90 nights).  The new guidance explains the legislative context (para 110), the enforcement procedure for properties in breach of the legislation, and explains that an LPA can request the Secretary of State’s approval of a direction removing the rights to short term let is removed (para 111)

Finally, there is one other small amendment, advising that there is advice available from Natural England and the Forestry Commission where proposals might impact on ancient woodland or veteran trees (para 022).