The national and local press is always full of stories about new housing developments on green fields and arable land, while the increase in land value can be dramatic. But can you benefit from this? Let us explain how.
Check the Local Plan
The planning system in England and Wales is supposed to be ‘plan led.’ That means it is a legal requirement for every council in England and Wales to have an up-to-date Local Plan to guide development over a 15 to 20 year period. This sets out the rules for exactly what can be built where.
If you want to get planning permission on your land, the first thing to do is check what the Local Plan says about your site.
If it is identified for development, or falls within the boundary of a town or village, any application for development is likely to be supported by the Council.
That would be unusual for an agricultural site though. More likely is that the site will be identified as an area of countryside or an area of Green Belt where development would be prevented. So what can you do then?
Change the Plan!
If the policies in the Plan would stop development on your site, then you can try to change the policies so they would allow development.
As each Plan is supposed to last for a fixed period, councils periodically produce a new one. That process is complicated and takes a long time so all the detail won’t be covered here. But in summary, to prepare this new Plan, the council gather together evidence on the need for housing, economic growth and environmental issues, amongst other things, and decide how their policies need to change to reflect that evidence.
The changing population structure in the UK means it is usually the case that more new homes are needed and that there aren’t enough available sites to accommodate them all. When that happens, the council must consider greenfield sites and farm land. Much of the suburban housing in Britain was originally delivered in this way, although the process is now more tightly controlled than it has been in the past.
The next step for the council is to identify exactly which sites should be developed. This process involves gathering more evidence about all the potential development sites, to answer three key questions:
- Is the site suitable for development?
- Is a development on the site achievable, or are there issues that would prevent it being built?
- Is the site available for development; has the owner indicated that they would sell?
The council then try to pick the combination of sites that would give the best balance of development overall. Whilst Green Belt sites are sometimes identified for development this way, other countryside sites are normally given preference.
This whole exercise is carried out openly, with frequent opportunities for local residents, land owners and developers to comment on the council’s approach.
That gives you the opportunity to promote your land to the council as a potential development site, usually by submitting your own evidence to show how your site meets those three criteria. Gathering the necessary evidence is expensive (it can cost £300,000 or more) but once your site is formally identified for development, you could submit an application at any time.
If your site isn’t allocated in the Local Plan, and you can’t wait until the next time the council review it, there is another way you could potentially secure planning permission. Check if the Local Plan is actually achieving its original aims.
Is the Plan working?
When a Plan is first put in place, it is intended to deliver a minimum number of homes across the whole of the plan period. To monitor progress against that target, the government has made it a requirement for every council to be able to demonstrate a ‘five-year housing land supply.’ That means that councils should be able to identify where all the homes they need for the next five years are going to be built. Usually, those sites must already have planning permission.
If a council can’t demonstrate an adequate supply of new homes, then its Local Plan clearly isn’t working. In other cases, the period that the existing Plan covers might have come to an end without a new one being but in place. That old Plan will be ill suited to ensuring an appropriate level of development continues to be delivered.
In both those cases, a council’s housing policies are considered to be out-of-date. Planning applications are therefore judged on whether they are for sustainable developments, rather than whether they meet all the policy requirements in the Local Plan. That means that greenfield, agricultural sites that are next to an existing town or village are often considered suitable for development.
Councils can be resistant to this approach as they feel they are losing control over where development is located. But it is a central aim of the planning system to significantly boost the supply of housing to help address the housing crisis we currently face. Consequently, even where councils oppose applications like this, they are frequently over-ruled at appeal.
The main downside with this approach is that it doesn’t work for Green Belt sites – they are protected even when a council is struggling to meet its housing requirement. Getting planning permission on those sites requires a different approach, which we have covered in another blog post that you can read here.
How can we help you?
The Strategic Land Group has built its reputation on securing planning permission for new homes on farm land that is close to existing settlements. Usually through a combination of promoting land through the Local Plan process and monitoring the housing supply position, we secure those consents entirely at our own cost and our own risk. Our return is a share of the residential land value when the site is sold.
If you have a site that you think might be suitable for housing development, please get in touch and we’ll give you our advice entirely without obligation.
Image courtesy of Smabs Sputzer on Flickr.