On 19 December 2023, the government announced the long-awaited update to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). These updates are the result of the December 2022 NPPF consultation brought about by the levelling-up and regeneration bill with the aim of developing national policy to better support levelling up.
The levelling up and regeneration bill received Royal Assent and became law on 26 October 2023 and became The Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act 2023. The three primary objectives of the act are to:
- Set frameworks for levelling up – placing an obligation on the government to report annually on progress
- Devolve power, and enabling it to be done efficiently, giving local leaders power to regenerate their communities
- Give local communities more tools to bring about regeneration, including through a planning system placing beauty, infrastructure, democracy, the environment and neighbourhoods at the heart.
Planning reform is a major part of the act, constituting around two-thirds of it. We know that this is an important time for housing and have been eagerly awaiting to see how this will manifest. With the NPPF being at the centre of all decisions made around housing delivery it is a key piece of legislation we have been eagerly anticipating.
The December 2023 statement, titled; ‘The Next Stage in Our Long-Term Plan for Housing Update’ identified a number of key changes that will be implemented in the new NPPF to facilitate the delivery of housing whilst also protecting the ‘environment, heritage assets and our high streets’. In the words of the government:
“In summary, the new NPPF will:
- facilitate flexibility for local authorities in relation to local housing need;
- clarify a local lock on any changes to Green Belt boundaries;
- safeguard local plans from densities that would be wholly out of character;
- free local authorities with up-to-date local plans from annual updates to their five-year housing land supply;
- limit the practice of housing need being exported to neighbouring authorities without mutual agreement;
- bolster protections from speculative development for neighbourhoods that develop their own plans;
- support self-build, custom-build and community-led housing; and
- cement the role of beauty and placemaking in the planning system.”
Despite many housing professionals still processing the news of the changes and taking the time to understand them, the various reforms listed above show much promise for local planning authorities being able to make more localised decisions and use best judgement to meet the housing needs of their communities. The link to levelling up is also clear as we see more power and responsibility given to local government to best deliver for their residents.
At Cambridgeshire ACRE, we are particularly keen to see how the increased support for small sites and community-led development is going to shape our work. With our work on rural exception sites and community-led housing showing a wealth of enthusiasm for community focused solutions, we are hopeful this will make it possible for a greater number of Cambridgeshire communities to benefit from affordable homes.
You can read the government statement in full or view the latest version of the NPPF using the links below:
Cambridgeshire ACRE has a clear strategic commitment to help rural communities deliver the homes that their local residents need, whether through use of rural exception site policy or through community-led schemes such as community land trusts or cohousing developments. Anyone who would like to explore these ideas further with us, it welcome to get in touch via our website.