A RURAL VIEW OF ROBERT JENRICK’S ‘PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE’ REPORT
In this month’s budget the Chancellor indicated that Robert Jenrick, Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government would be announcing ‘major reforms to simplify the planning system’. Some measures have been announced in the ‘Planning For the Future’ Paper that are predominantly ‘urban centric’ but recent changes that are of interest to our rural clients are listed below.
SUPPORTING COMMUNITY AND SELF-BUILD HOUSING
Support for those who want to build their own homes to find plots of land and help parish councils and neighbourhood forums who wish to build a small number of homes to allow their communities to grow organically, providing homes for the next generation and those wishing to downsize.
We welcome this as it is in line with many of our clients’ thinking. Estates can offer a range of housing to help build sustainable communities and crucially deliver relevant and appropriate solutions for their communities. We recently documented the various opportunities in our Rural Housing Advice Note.
REVISE THE NATIONAL PLANNING POLICY FRAMEWORK (NPPF) TO EMBED THE PRINCIPLES OF GOOD DESIGN AND PLACEMAKING
This will make clear that high-quality buildings and places must be considered throughout the planning process. The framework will expand on the fundamental principles of good design to define what is expected of local authorities and developers to support the creation of beautiful places.
We have long argued that design is fundamental to creating places where people want to live as well as sitting comfortably within the existing environment. All too often, planning departments and, in some cases, developers’, default to ‘local vernacular’ as guidance for design which often leads to a lower quality product. The Government’s new emphasis on quality design is welcome and local authorities should be prepared to embrace it. The Government’s ‘Building Better, Building Commission is encouraging in sentiment, but we would be wary of the influence of local communities in terms of design. Using community influence in order to shape housing requirements is to be encouraged but ‘design by committee’ inevitably leads to mediocrity.
INTRODUCE A FUTURE HOMES STANDARD (FHS)
From 2025, the FHS will require up to 80% lower carbon emissions for all new homes.
We are committed to using the best possible methods in insulation and ways to lower carbon footprint in our new build design. Furthermore, some of our clients are driving schemes that are ‘autarky’, which are totally self-sufficient.
We currently have a number of planning applications for new and larger replacement dwellings where demonstrating low carbon design is central to the arguments we are running in support of development. Increasingly, the carbon neutrality and efficiency of housing is a key material consideration in planning applications, this is particularly relevant to local authorities who have declared a Climate Change Emergency.
In a recent appeal determined by the planning inspectorate in February the inspector paid particular attention to this matter when finding in favour of the applicant by granting planning permission.
RENEWING OUR COMMITMENT TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING
In the Budget we announced a £12 billion investment in Affordable Homes including building more social rented homes.
Our clients in the rural sector are well placed to provide flexible and easily accessible land for affordable housing across different product types and tenures. These include Affordable, Shared ownership and Affordable rented. The Government should be encouraged to explore this opportunity further with particular reference to estates being best qualified to act as ‘Housing Provider’.
Key to successful affordable housing in rural settlements is to deliver land efficiently, understand the local demand, provide appropriate product and, most importantly manage the portfolio with a deep understanding of the community. No sector is better placed to do this than rural estates.
For the moment, Mr Jenrick has not directly referred to the issues facing the rural sector, however, the direction of travel in his thinking is positive and we hope that the longer-term reforms he will implement will be positive for our clients and the sustainability of rural settlements and communities.