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    Advice produced by The Planning Inspectorate for use by its Inspectors Planning Policy Statement 3 (Pps3): Housing

    1. In a written statement on 29 November 2006, Yvette Cooper, Minister for Housing and Planning, explained that the quantity of new homes needed to increase at the same time as an improvement in quality, and that there should be more affordable and family homes.
    2. To achieve these aims, DCLG published the final version of PPS3: Housing and a housing policy document on Delivering Affordable Housing.  The latter is intended to support local authorities and other key players in delivering more high quality affordable housing within mixed sustainable communities.  It explains how existing delivery mechanisms operate and should be read in conjunction with PPS3, although it is not itself planning guidance.  As PPS3 recognises the value of design codes to help improve the quality, value and delivery of residential development, DCLG and CABE have jointly produced Preparing Design Codes: A Practice Manual.  The guide does not set out new policy.
    3. The key policies of PPS3, as set out in Yvette Cooper’s written statement, are summarised as follows:
      • Local and regional planning bodies will need to take more account of affordability when determining how many new homes are needed in their area;
      • Local authorities will need to identify more appropriate sites for housing. Councils need to plan 15 years ahead, to ensure they have a rolling 5-year supply of sustainable and deliverable sites;
      • Stronger emphasis on improving the quality of design of housing and neighbourhoods. PPS3 makes it clear that local authorities should turn down poor quality applications;
      • Stronger environmental standards. Developers and planning bodies will have to take account of the need to cut carbon emissions as well as wider environmental and sustainability considerations when siting and designing new homes;
      • A new emphasis on family homes, with consideration to be given to the housing needs of children, including gardens, play areas and green spaces;
      • A continuing focus on brownfield land, retaining the national target that at least 60% of new homes should be built on brownfield land. Local authorities will need to continue to prioritise brownfield land in their plans and will need to set their own local targets to reflect available sites and support the national target. They will also need to take stronger action to bring more brownfield land back into use, supported by the new National Brownfield Strategy led by English Partnerships (as referred to in the Minister’s statement);
      • More flexibility for local authorities to determine how and where new homes should be built in their area, alongside greater responsibility to ensure the homes are built.  Local authorities will be able to set their own local standards for density (with a national indicative minimum of 30 dwellings per hectare) and for car parking.  They will also be able to set separate targets for different kinds of brownfield land where appropriate;
      • Stronger policies on affordable housing, so that local authorities will be able to require developer contributions to affordable housing on smaller sites where it is viable; and,
      • A stronger emphasis on rural affordable housing, so that local authorities and regional planning bodies will have to take greater account of affordability pressures in rural areas, and the need to sustain village life by providing additional housing that is sensitive to the area and the environment.
    4. Subsequently, DCLG’s Deputy Director, Joan Bailey, wrote to the Heads of Planning Service at LPAs and RPBs on 29 November 2006 drawing their attention to PPS3 and the housing policy document.  The letter highlights the approach to take to emerging plans, in particular for the RSS examinations for the North West and South East of England, and indicates the other documents that DCLG will publish.
    5. PPS3 Annex A indicates previous national policy advice and guidance cancelled on publication of PPS3.  However, any other guidance not listed remains extant unless specifically cancelled or superseded by new guidance.
    6. PPS3 should be read carefully and its relevance must be considered in all casework that impacts on the Government’s housing objectives.  It will become a material consideration in all planning decisions made on or after 1 April 2007.  In the meantime, PPS3 indicates a pragmatic approach in its application to emerging development plans and a transitional approach in making decisions on planning applications and therefore appeals.
    7. For emerging development plans, paragraph 6 makes clear that LPAs and RPBs should consider the extent to which emerging LDDs and RSSs can have regard to policies in PPS3 whilst maintaining plan-making programmes.  DCLG’s letter further re-iterates this and says that this should not be done at the expense of putting in place an effective policy framework for housing as quickly as possible and if changes are not practicable then an early plan review will be necessary (this will also be applicable to ‘transitional plans’, as although no specific reference is made to them progress towards adoption should be maintained).
    8. For making decisions on planning applications (and therefore appeals), paragraphs 7, 8 and 68 should be read together and in conjunction with DCLGs letter.  The effect of this is to allow LPAs until 1 April 2007 to assess whether they have, and can maintain, a rolling 5-year supply of deliverable land for housing.  After 1 April 2007, this will provide the context for making planning decisions.
    9. Paragraph 8 says that “Local Planning Authorities are not required to have regard to this statement as a material consideration when making decisions on planning applications until 1 April 2007”.  It goes on to say “However, this statement may be capable of being a material consideration, in particular circumstances, prior to this date”.
    10. Read in conjunction with paragraph 68, this enables planning applications that are already going through the system to continue to be determined in accordance with the development plan without the requirement to take PPS3 into account as a material consideration until 1 April 2007.
    11. But if necessary, and when again read in conjunction with paragraph 68, a decision-maker may now apply the national planning policies in PPS3 as material considerations if there are particular circumstances to indicate that the new policy is pertinent to the determination of the application.  However, given that LPAs will need time to assess whether they have, and can maintain, a rolling 5-year supply of deliverable land for housing, whether or not there is such a supply may not be a factor until 1 April 2007.
    12. Where Inspectors are dealing with appeals before 1 April 2007, they should first consider if they may be determined in accordance with the development plan.  If the plan does not accord with PPG3 and evidence has been based on demonstrating compliance with the national guidance then Inspectors should then decide if this is one of the principal issues affecting the outcome of the case.  If so, they may still proceed to a decision or recommendation provided they are satisfied there is no material conflict with the policies in PPS3.  Should the Inspector identify such conflict then it will be necessary to refer back to the parties before proceeding to decision or making a recommendation, unless the inquiry or hearing was conducted after the publication of the PPS and its relevance was raised in evidence.