Will further changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) hinder smaller sites and their prospect of gaining planning consent?

23rd August 2018 | Written by Oliver Bussell

Oliver Bussell, Planning Partner

The final version of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was finally published at the end of July. In draft form it had required councils “to ensure that at least 20% of the sites identified for housing in their plan are of half a hectare or less.” That has been watered down considerably in the final version moving 20% down to 10% and half a hectare up to 1 ha. And there’s a get-out clause for councils who can show “strong reasons why this 10% target cannot be achieved.”

Of course this is not ideal for those with smaller sites because it gives less prominence to their land and a lower likelihood in theory that it will be identified, or consented. 

On the other hand the target originally proposed was prescriptive – and very high. It would have required significant – and, local authorities claimed, disproportionate – resource for a relatively low return in terms of houses delivered when compared to larger sites.

I’d suggest that targets have to be achievable if they are to mean anything – and having a small sites target is a good thing in itself. Mark Presland of Sibley Pares comments that historically, “we have noticed a considerable swing locally to larger strategic sites delivering the vast majority of new houses and there are numerous good quality local developers that have struggled to get planning on smaller sites. We welcome this movement in the NPPF which should provide local developers with a greater opportunity, as they tend to develop more distinctive schemes with character that can only be beneficial to an area.”

The owners of small sites should also remember the biggest change brought about by the new NPPF: the housing delivery test. From November this will measure the number of homes actually built against housing need. Those authorities that fail to meet that housing delivery target will be penalised with the introduction of a presumption in favour of development where delivery misses the target. So the deliverability requirement could mean that smaller sites have attractions all of their own to local authorities!

Oliver Bussell is lead Planning Partner at Rix & Kay. For more information e. oliverbussell@rixandkay.co.uk