Sajid Javid is still talking of fixing our broken housing market. The market isn’t broken: it’s reacting correctly to the broken planning system: supply is restricted, so prices go up.

Theresa May, Tory Conference 2017

Were Theresa May’s comments out of step with the NPPF’s true potential?

Source: REX/Shutterstock/James Gourley

The draft NPPF will do little to change that. The document has been re-ordered. Deck chairs have been rearranged. But fundamental flaws remain.

Local authorities are to co-operate to meet needs beyond their areas. But (with a few honourable exceptions, some not fully tried) the greatest consensus, especially in the south east, is that development should be on the other side of the borough boundary. Suggesting that authorities should take up their neighbour’s slack will only incentivise their neighbours to maximise the “slack” that they claim not to be able to accommodate.

Theresa May says she wants homes built more quickly, but also wants to stop developers “gaming the system” i.e. achieving planning permission.

Oliver Letwin has been commissioned to investigate whether major house builders are land banking planning permissions. Either no-one has told May and Javid this, or they have already decided what they want his findings to be. Mrs May talks of wanting developers’ build out rates taken into account. Will someone please tell her that planning permissions run with the land? And that some developers don’t build out: they take the risk of achieving a permission, and then sell the site to house builders who prefer to outsource that risk. Meanwhile the NPPF is to encourage both more smaller planning permissions, and also strategic planning.

The biggest constraint on new housing, is the Green Belt, but apparently this is still to be sacrosanct, with some limited concessions to allow affordable housing on brown field sites.

Starter homes – now “Entry Level Housing” – are to be prioritised; but retirement housing is not. Which is a pity: providing houses for down-sizers takes less land than building starter homes, but releases homes onto the market when people move out of them.

One good point: specialist housing (for students, the elderly, build-to-let, and self-build) are to be exempt from affordable housing. Perhaps there is hope…