The 2018 NPPF is based on a requirement for new local plans to deal with viability at the plan making stage. A viability assessment of each site in every local authority area in the country.
We are reliably informed that, by way of training for this onerous task, local authority property departments are currently counting grains of sand in the Sahara, grading each one by size, weight and transparency.
The wonderful notion of the mandarins is that the viability of every development or potential development site can be assessed for viability and that this assessment will provide a reference for planning officers when any application is made. You really would struggle to make this up.
Especially when you consider that more than half of local authorities are still without a compliant Local Plan, six years after the introduction of the much less complex NPPF 2012.
While local authorities wrestle with this impossible task, viability assessments still need to be made at the application stage.
For viability, Paragraph 57 of the NPPF is the key, stating:
“Where up-to-date policies have set out the contributions expected from development, planning applications that comply with them should be assumed to be viable. It is up to the applicant to demonstrate whether particular circumstances justify the need for a viability assessment at the application stage.
The weight to be given to a viability assessment is a matter for the decision-maker, having regard to all circumstances in the case, including whether planning viability owners underpinning it is up-to-date and any change in site circumstances since the plan was brought into force.”
It is imperative that draft local plans, (if they are ever finished) are fully scrutinised by landowners and developers at the inquiry stage.
The authority will be required to keep local plans and the viability evidence within them up-to-date by reference to changing circumstances, especially changes in economic conditions.
Until the nirvana of completed local plans exists, it’s pretty much “as you were” in submitting viabilities. How viability is calculated is a different matter and I will discuss the changes in my next post.