The Local Housing Delivery Group (LHDG), A government-commissioned working group, has called for simpler, more consistent local standards for house building.
The LHDG, which was set up last year after the housing minister Grant Shapps asked the house building sector to help the Government deliver more homes, is made up of a number of bodies representing local government and house builders, and has a mandate to review how local councils can develop sustainable and viable local plans that is line with the guidance in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
The LHDG has recently published its Guidance on Local Plan Viability, which aims to provide practical advice for planners on how local plans can address the viability of residential land in their area. It recommends that a “residual land value approach is taken when assessing the viability of plan-level policies” (page 25 of the report).
The guidance contains a definition of “viability”, which differs from that contained in the NPPF
“An individual development can be said to be viable if, after taking account of all costs, including central and local government policy and regulatory costs and the cost and availability of development finance, the scheme provides a competitive return to the developer to ensure that development takes place and generates a land value sufficient to persuade the land owner to sell the land for the development proposed. If these conditions are not met, a scheme will not be delivered.” (Page 6)
Although the guidance focuses on residential development, its principles should apply to any form of development that the Local Plan seeks to deliver.
Although the Government has not yet officially endorsed the guidance, it has welcomed the recommendations. The guidance also has the backing of the Planning Inspectorate and the Planning Officers’ Society, with the Home Builders Federation and Local Government Association (members of the LHDG) pledging to discuss the application of this guidance with their members.
Sir John Harman, Chairman of the LHDG, concluded that the guidance “demonstrates what can be achieved through the voluntary collaboration of the industry when addressing a key challenge – planning the further supply of new homes. I believe the resulting advice on viability will be invaluable for planning practitioners as they seek to balance sustainable development for local communities with realistic returns for landowners and developers.”