National Planning Policy will undermine Government housing strategy03 May 2017
We've called on the Government to make a fundamental change to the National Planning Policy Framework in order to fast-track the delivery of much needed new homes in town centres.
In its response to the Government’s white paper, Fixing our broken housing market, Revo argues housing should be designated as a ‘main town centre use’, to enable more homes to be delivered in the urban locations where people want to live. The organisation, which led the national debate on the Future of the High Street, also argues that the Government is failing to recognise how homes in town centres are vital to rejuvenating town centres, alongside retail and leisure uses.
Ed Cooke, Chief Executive at Revo, said:
“National planning policy, which does not identify housing as a main use in town centres, is totally out of step with modern urban living, and needs urgent reform if we are to meet the very ambitious housing targets in the Government white paper.
“As the lead organisation on the Government’s High Streets Restructuring Working Group we are firm believers that new homes must be delivered in town centres; primarily because this is where many people want to live, but also because it will support retailers, boost the night-time economy and help create vibrant and sustainable communities.
“According to the National Planning Policy Framework, indoor bowling alleys and drive-through restaurants are preferred uses in town centres, which underlines how incompatible current planning policy is with housing policy.”
Revo also calls for Government to intervene to ensure all areas have a Local Plan in place. Currently just 36% of towns have an agreed Local Plan, which according to Revo means there is a lack of coherent thinking in where and how housing should be delivered. The organisation is advocating for the creation of a national body funded by Government, which provides local authorities with additional resources to develop Local Plans that are fit for purpose.
Revo also welcomes the Government’s support for densification in urban locations, arguing that a more pragmatic approach to building upwards is essential in London and major regional cities in order to address the housing shortfall.
Summary: Key recommendations in response ‘Fixing our broken housing market’
1. Amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework
At present, in regards changes to the NPPF, residential is not identified as a ‘main town centre’ use – which could be explored given the changing nature of urban centres. The provision of housing in our centres will not only assist in addressing the housing shortage but also potentially have the added benefit of providing accommodation for employees working in the respective centre, thereby alleviating the need for in commuting/pressure on infrastructure.
2. Delivery of effective Local Plans
Proposals to make sure “every part of the country has an up-to-date plan” and “simplifying the plan making process” are supported by Revo. This is an important issue not just for housing delivery but also for the wider development industry. Progress on local plan preparation since the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has been slow and on its fifth anniversary only 36% of local planning authorities in England have an updated ‘strategic level’ local plan in place.
It is clear that strategic planning and vision is vital to solving housing supply and other issues that face our built environment. There is clearly a gap as we know that many local authorities do not yet have up-to-date Local Plan’s in place and struggle to resource and evidence this. We believe there is a place for a dedicated resource to help support local authorities. Whilst we recognise the role of ATLAS and the Planning Advisory Service for specific schemes, government could consider an agency dedicated to holistic strategic plan-making and other facilities such as research and capacity modelling.
3. Densification of town centres and building upwards
Revo supports proposals to make “better use of land for housing by encouraging higher densities, where appropriate, such as urban locations.” Acknowledgement of the scope for higher-density housing in urban locations that are well served by public transport (such as around railway stations); that provide scope to replace or build over low-density uses (such as retail warehouses, lock-ups and car parks); or where buildings can be extended upwards by using the ‘air space’ above them – is welcomed.