2 June 2016
Housing and Planning Act 2016

After being announced in October 2015 The Housing and Planning Act 2016 received Royal Assent on 12 May. The Bill is now an Act of Parliament (law), and with 145 clauses and 11 schedules is a significant piece of legislation. 

The key clauses of the Act are considered below.

Starter Homes

A starter home has been defined as a new dwelling, only available for purchase by qualifying first-time buyers (under the age of 40), at a price which is at least 20% less than the market value; and which is less than the price cap of £450,000 in London and £250,000 elsewhere.

All local planning authorities (LPAs) in England must now carry out ‘relevant planning functions’ with a view to promoting the supply of starter homes. One clause confirms LPAs will only be allowed to grant planning permission if specified requirements relating to starter homes are met. These requirements will be set out in secondary legislation, however a recent consultation suggested a 20% requirement for starter homes will apply to most areas.

The Act doesn’t clarify whether the delivery of starter homes will take precedence over the traditional forms of affordable housing. Affordable housing policies within current Local Plans will need to be updated to be in compliance with the requirement for promotion of starter homes.

Neighbourhood Planning

The SoS can set regulations to prescribe the time periods within which LPAs must undertake key neighbourhood planning functions and at the request of a parish council or neighbourhood forum responsible for neighbourhood planning in an area, can intervene in an LPA’s decision on whether to hold a referendum on a neighbourhood development order or plan proposal.

Local Plans

A power has been introduced to allow the SoS (or mayor of London where appropriate) to direct LPAs to amend local development schemes. There is also a power for the SoS to give direction to the examiner of a Development Plan Document (DPD), such as asking the examiner to suspend the examination, to consider specified matters, to hear from specified persons, or take other specified procedural steps. In addition to this, the SoS can direct that a DPD is submitted to the SoS for approval.

Permission in Principle and Registers of Land

The aim of Permission in Principle (PiP) is to give upfront certainty on the basic suitability of a site for a particular development, allowing matters of technical detail to be agreed subsequently. PiP can be given through a development order that can grant permission itself or provide for the granting by a local planning authority.

A development order is a ‘qualifying document’ that indicates the relevant allocations and any prescribed particulars that should be adhered to in the development of land. The Government’s intention is for qualifying documents to include DPDs, neighbourhood plans and land registers, and that they will limit particulars to location, uses (which must be housing led) and the amount of development. The PiP would be granted at the time the qualifying document was adopted or made or revised.

The SoS can now require LPAs responsible for deciding applications for housing development to compile and maintain a register of particular types of land suitable for housing development. When deciding on sites to be included in the register, the LPA must have regard to the development plan, national policies and advice in addition to any guidance from the SoS.

The option to apply directly to the LPA for PiP is intended for applications for minor development (fewer than 10 houses).

Once PiP is granted, an application for technical details' consent (much like reserved matters) must be made;  the Government intends to consult on the details of the application process for this in due course.  Secondary legislation is required to confirm the details of how the majority of this initiative will work, including the description of land and any criteria the land must meet for entry into the register.

Planning Permission and Performance

Planning applications for certain scales of development (likely to be major) are now allowed to be made directly to the SoS where the LPA has been designated for not performing adequately in the determination of applications for major development.

The concept of a “planning freedoms scheme” is introduced, which would disapply or modify specified planning provisions in order to facilitate an increase in the amount of housing in the planning area concerned. LPAs would have to request the SoS to make a scheme for their area, and the SoS would have to be satisfied that there is a need for a significant increase in the amount of housing.

Planning Obligations and Affordable Housing

The SoS has the power to make regulations which restrict or impose other conditions on the enforceability of planning obligations which relate to the provision of affordable housing. This could, for example, restrict the enforceability of affordable housing related planning obligations on sites of a certain size, or development of a specific nature, and will be linked to the ongoing consultation on starter home regulations.

With regards to Section 106 disputes, the applicant or LPA may now apply to the SoS to appoint a person to produce a report advising on appropriate terms for a Section 106 agreement where there has been disagreement.

Alternative Provision of Processing Services

The SoS may, by regulations, provide for temporary arrangements in particular areas in England to test the practicality and desirability of competition in the processing (but not determining) of planning applications.

Secondary legislation will set out detail on where in England the pilot schemes will take place, the types of applications that will be applicable and further practicalities.


There are a number of exciting initiatives in the Act but, as with much of primary legislation, the devil will be in the detail.  The requirement for the provision of starter homes adds an additional obligation on developers, however the concepts of PiP and alternative processing could result in quicker consents. HOW Planning will be actively monitoring the implementation of the Act and the introduction of relevant secondary legislation as well as keeping tabs on Councils' reaction to the Act to ensure our clients are ahead of the game in taking advantage of new opportunities.

If you have any queries, please do get in touch.


Louisa Fielden
T: 0161 831 5882 E:
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