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How Politics of Planning Feeds Local Authorities

by Will Gordon on January 5, 2024 No comments

In the complex world of planning and development, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) stands as a critical document that sets out the government’s planning policies for England. It provides the guidance within which local and neighbourhood plans for housing and other development can be produced.

As part of a DevAssist report, we investigate these local and neighbourhood plans and determine what impact they may have on the subject property and the likelihood of development occurring in the surrounding area. This extensive policy framework not only influences the shape and growth of our communities but also plays a pivotal role in the financial dynamics of local authorities.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into how the politics of planning, as articulated in the NPPF, can have a substantial impact on local authorities and their resources.

Understanding the National Planning Policy Framework

The NPPF, first introduced in 2012 and subsequently revised, serves as the government’s framework document for planning and development in England. It sets out the principles that should underpin all local and regional planning decisions, offering a unified approach to development and land use.

While Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have their own separate planning frameworks, the NPPF is of particular significance in England, where most of the population resides. This framework has been updated several times since its inception in 2012 and the latest of which came in September 2023. Outlined within this document is the requirement to support the government’s objective of significantly boosting the supply of homes.

Part of this requirement is for the Local Planning Authorities to identify and update annually a supply of specific deliverable sites. This supply should be sufficient to provide a minimum of 5 years’ worth of housing against their housing requirement set out in adopted strategic policies. Alternatively, the supply should be measured against their local housing need where the strategic policies are more than 5 years old.

Feeding the Local Authorities: The Financial Implications

The politics of planning is a multifaceted concept that touches upon numerous aspects of local governance. One of the most tangible impacts of the NPPF on local authorities is financial. Here’s how it feeds into their resources:

  • Planning Fees and Income: Local authorities are often responsible for processing planning applications and collecting fees from developers. The NPPF’s emphasis on streamlining the planning process can lead to an increase in the number of applications. More applications mean more fees collected, which can boost local authorities’ revenue.

 

  • Infrastructure Funding: The NPPF emphasises the need for sustainable development and the provision of infrastructure to support new developments. Developers must contribute towards infrastructure projects in the vicinity of their developments. This can result in substantial sums of money flowing into local authorities for infrastructure improvements, benefiting the community. Our DevAssess Premium and DevCity report will identify infrastructure projects in the area including rail, road and utilities.

 

  • Section 106 Agreements and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL): These mechanisms, outlined in the NPPF, enable local authorities to negotiate with developers to secure financial contributions for community benefits and infrastructure. This can include funding for schools, healthcare facilities, and transportation upgrades.

 

  • Housing Delivery: The central government sets ambitious housing targets, and local authorities are expected to meet them. Successfully meeting these targets can lead to additional central government grants and incentives, providing further financial support.

 

  • Influence on Local Taxation: Effective planning can contribute to a vibrant local economy, potentially increasing property values and, subsequently, council tax revenue.

 

Challenges for Local Authorities

While the NPPF can provide financial benefits to local authorities, it also presents challenges:

  • Resource Constraints: Managing a higher volume of planning applications and associated infrastructure projects can strain the resources and capacity of local planning authorities. This can lead to delays in determining planning applications and further compounding the pressure on housing targets.

 

  • Balancing Interests: Local authorities must navigate the delicate balance between promoting development and preserving the character of their communities, often facing opposition from residents and interest groups. Considerations and guidelines for development in conservation areas, in the vicinity of listed buildings or within specific policy areas should be in place. The relevant authorities must determine applications for planning permission in accordance with the development plan.

 

  • Infrastructure Costs: Developers contribute to infrastructure costs (through the CIL and S106 Agreements). Although local authorities may still need to cover part of the expenses, which can be a financial burden.

 

Conclusion

The National Planning Policy Framework plays a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of urban development across England. Its politics of planning have a direct impact on local authorities, both in terms of revenue generation and resource management. While it presents opportunities for financial gain, local authorities must also grapple with challenges in delivering sustainable and balanced development for their communities.

In some cases, this has led to the complete restructuring and merger of several local authorities. The NPPF underscores the complex relationship between national policy and local governance, emphasising the need for collaborative, strategic planning that benefits all stakeholders. In the case of housing delivery, a lack of a demonstratable housing supply at a local level would lead to the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

All of our reports at DevAssist take into consideration whether the Local Planning Authority has a demonstratable five year housing supply. This enables us to decide what risk to attribute to identified sites and the likelihood of development occurring in the area.

If you would like to find out more about how DevAssist can help you, please contact us today by calling 01342890010 or emailing info@devassist.co.uk

Will GordonHow Politics of Planning Feeds Local Authorities