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Reaction to the Housing White Paper

Ian Anderson
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The Housing White Paper was launched today but has it delivered?

Ian Anderson, Partner, Planning and Development Consultancy, Cushman & Wakefield, comments:  

“Ministers had painted a picture of a landmark document, focused on fiscal and planning solutions that would provide the framework for housing policy for the foreseeable future. While there is a welcome move away from the ‘home ownership at all costs’ mantra towards a recognition that an increasing proportion of the population are likely to be forced into rent, a great many of the planning reforms which were trailed ahead of publication, including the potential to review previously sacrosanct Green Belt policy, haven’t made the final edit. The document as a whole seeks far greater political expediency with very much an eye to maintaining support in Tory heartlands and is underwhelming. 

“From the planning perspective at least, the White Paper does little to add anything new to realistically speed up the supply of housing. There should be a welcome for the recognition of the important contribution the rental sector makes to housing and the Government’s continued support for brownfield development. But the Paper offers nothing radical, and in some cases, seeks to impose or curtail present planning flexibility which may actually result in delays to the submission of planning applications and, in turn, a longer lead-in time to development.” 

Housing Assessments and Local Plans

“Forcing cash-strapped councils to produce quicker, more up to date housing assessments and plans at a time when they are ill equipped and under-funded to do so is really a kick in the teeth for those authorities who have cut planning teams to the bone, are struggling with the burden of producing new plans and in a great many cases, have been forced into ‘planning by appeal’ which further eats time, resource and budget. A more radical approach which hasn’t been explored could be achieved, with the pooling of resources across administrative areas to produce more strategic housing market reviews and allocations which would provide speed and certainty to the market: the Government has continually threatened it will ‘step in’ and assist, but this has failed to materialise and the White Paper puts the onus and pressure firmly back on the local authorities’ shoulders.” 

Supporting the Principle of Housing on Brownfield Land

“At face value, this is to be welcomed. However the language of the White Paper is drafted in very similar terms to that of the Planning Policy Framework. In reality therefore, this is unlikely to be anything other than a ‘material consideration’ in the determination of any planning application, and is unlikely to trump the primacy of development plans which in many cases protect brownfield land, notably industrial and employment land, from other forms of redevelopment either on policy or amenity grounds.” 

Reduction in time for implementation of permissions

“Reducing the time allowed between a grant of planning permission and the start of building from three to two years could perversely have an opposite effect. Many schemes evolve during the planning process and often between the outline and detail stages; according to the market, detailed site specific factors and other issues. It can also take significant time to produce the detailed documents associated with the final scheme and have these approved by a council. A reduction in time for implementation is likely to force housebuilders and developers to reassess making outline proposals and only push the button on seeking detailed planning permissions once they are satisfied all tangibles can be achieved, which could ultimately delay the submission of applications altogether.” 

Forced implementation / completion

“The ability for councils to serve completion notices has been in place since 1968 but is rarely used simply because it is beset with technical legal and property issues to the extent that serving one rarely has the desired outcome and often results in significant delays in time and resource, often in the courts. The reality is that once a planning permission has been implemented, which could be as simple as the proverbial ‘spade in the ground’ there is, in fact, very little an authority can do to force construction unless the planning permission or S106 has been structured in such a way to achieve effective phased development.  The Government suggests it will explore ways to simplify this, but it is likely to be beset by legal challenge. 

“Housebuilders and the Government are better placed in my view working together to deliver approved planning schemes rather than spending time and resource in the courts arguing over whether a scheme has been implemented promptly or the (in some cases very good reasons) why phased developments sometimes take longer to deliver than anticipated.” 

Standardised approach for Assessed Housing Requirements

“The White Paper commits the Government to publishing a recommended standardised format for assessing Objectively Assessed Needs (OAN) within an area for implementation by May 2018 – whilst this is welcome, 90% of Housing Assessments adopt a similar approach and this is unlikely to speed up the process significantly.” 

Government Housing White Paper on


Ian Anderson
Planning and Development Consultancy
Direct: 020 3296 2283
Mobile 0777 5906671