18 May 2016

The new Housing and Planning Act 2016

Dan Humphrey, senior solicitor, takes a look at the key provisions of the newly introduced Housing and Planning Act 2016.

A significant piece of planning legislation has recently become law; following the culmination of a time-consuming discussion (described in the media as ‘parliamentary ping-pong’) between the House of Commons and House of Lords. Eventually, the Housing and Planning Bill, subject of many debates in Parliament between October and May, became the Housing and Planning Act 2016 on 12th May 2016.

The Bill was initially promoted as an opportunity to have 1 million homes built by 2020, and to increase home ownership. Every few years, successive governments implement an Act like this to incorporate planning reforms. Whilst the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act remains the key piece of legislation, it is now supported by the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act, the Planning Act 2008 and the Localism Act 2011.

Back to the new Act; it has notable breadth, professing to cover 'housing, estate agents, rent charges, planning and compulsory purchase.' Here's a summary of some key provisions:

1. Discounted "Starter Homes" for first-time buyers
The Act includes a general duty on planning authorities to promote 'Starter Homes', which will be available at a discount of 20% or more to first-time buyers aged under 40. We await more detail via Regulations as to how this will work, and there is much anticipation as to how or indeed whether, it will work alongside the current Affordable Housing policies and regimes that local authorities operate, or in their place.

2. A duty on local authorities to keep land registers
This appears self-explanatory; in an effort to give local government an obligation to keep a more formal record of the land in its area. Again much will depend on the Regulations issued by the Secretary of State. Such registers should assist developers looking to acquire land, although how non-compliance will be dealt with is unclear.

3. Impact on local authority housing/Right to Buy
The controversial Right to Buy issue probably merits a blog of its own. The provisions in this Act are accompanied by a duty upon local housing authorities to consider selling its interest in any vacant higher value housing; in other words to consider disposing of high-value council properties if vacant.

4. Measures designed to positively impact the speed of the planning system, including Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO).
These include efforts to streamline the CPO process, and powers to enable central government to step in if necessary during the Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plan making process. Although each appear designed to assist, they may cause concern that they counter the previous local devolved approach. Perhaps central government is unhappy with delays in local plan-making?

The Act is very new and wide-ranging so shortly colleagues will also comment upon the likely impact of measures relating to landlords, tenants and housing, particularly those measures impacting on rogue landlords.

In the meantime, if you have any queries about how these changes do contact me or any of my colleagues.

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