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Housing industry lacks confidence in NPPF, fears planning process threatens delivery of homes, survey finds

A survey of developers and housing associations has revealed a lack of confidence in the ability of the government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to help the housing industry meet the UK's demand for new homes.14 Apr 2015

A planning expert has said the results reflect the uncertainty created by the "policy-lite" approach of the NPPF and the difficulty of boosting the country's housing supply while allowing local people a say in the location and scale of proposed development.

The survey (20-page / 6.7 MB PDF), by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO, found that 94% of respondents were not optimistic that the UK's demand for new homes could be met in the next two years. Only 29% of participants felt that the NPPF was helping to deliver new homes, with nearly 19% saying delivery was being inhibited by the Framework and 52% claiming it had made no difference.

Among the "major frustrations" with the NPPF reported by respondents were "how long the plan is taking to be embedded fully and the vagueness of it - particularly around sustainability and environmental issues", the survey said.

The greatest barriers to achieving the government's target of delivering 240,000 new homes per year were perceived to be the planning process and finding suitable or affordable land. The survey revealed strong support for the introduction of mandatory response times for planners and the release of surplus land by the government in order to boost housing figures.

Planning expert Iain Gilbey of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "This survey follows on from the Communities and Local Government Committee's report on its review of the operation of the NPPF in December and the government's response in February. Three years into the NPPF's life, the inherent tension between localism and the need to seriously upscale housing delivery – of all types, across the country - is becoming more apparent."

"Whilst neither the recent select committee review, nor this survey, recommend that the NPPF be torn up, it is clear that the 'policy-lite' approach characterised by the NPPF can create considerable uncertainties for local authorities, and homebuilders alike," said Gilbey. "It will be interesting to see whether the new government favours revolution or evolution, in taking the NPPF forward, after the general election on 7 May."

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