Groundbreaking NPPF update backs community led housing

Home K Policy and Campaigning K Groundbreaking NPPF update backs community led housing

Our chief executive, Tom, shares an update on the planning policy and leasehold reform in England that the CLT Network and our members have been lobbying for. This includes good policy news from the NPPF and positive steps towards and a CLT exemption in the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill.

Dare I bring you good tidings, as the year draws to an end?

At our AGM in November I shared a brief update on our campaign this year for three key asks of government for England – to introduce CLT-friendly policies into the planning framework, enable CLTs in unparished areas to get the ‘neighbourhood share’ of the infrastructure levy, and to renew the community housing fund (CHF). We have also kept our campaign on leasehold reform on a slow burn awaiting the next draft legislation.

The news on the CHF hasn’t been good. Frustratingly, for the second year proposals from DLUHC didn’t make the final cut in the autumn statement. Looking at the projected expenditure limits for future years, the outlook for any sort of revenue-based grant programme from government is bleak – in midwinter, but perhaps we will change that in the spring?

There are glimmers of light from our new growth lab, with three ventures closer to securing the finance to roll out replicable CLT models for rural projects, high street renewal and suburban densification.

We’re commissioning a major new study of how else government might finance community led development which we aim to publish in the spring.

There should also be good news in the new year on leasehold reform. The Government has published a new Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill, and will try to get it through before the upcoming general election. Most of the bill aims to stamp out abuse of leasehold, but we are always concerned to protect the ethical and essential use of leasehold by CLTs.

The bill in its current form carries forward the exemption that allows CLTs to charge ground rents – in this case, exempting CLTs from the clause that would use lease extensions as a trigger to force ground rents to ‘peppercorn’ levels.

The government is expected to table an amendment to ban leasehold houses, and I’m fairly confident that it will exempt CLTs. I’m also hopeful that the government will table an amendment to exempt CLTs from leasehold enfranchisement, a longstanding ask to avoid CLT homes being lost through the back door.

I’ll be lobbying bill committee members and other MPs in the new year as it progresses through the various parliamentary stages. I recently joined a meeting that Yorspace CLT organised with their MP, Rachael Maskell, to explain why they need to keep using leasehold. I’m happy to join other CLTs in meeting MPs, particularly the more outspoken critics of leasehold, to ensure there is wider parliamentary support for our case. You might want to write to your MP explaining why this matters to your CLT, and share our evidence submission so they can be fully briefed on the current bill.

But the best news of all has come just before Christmas.

This time last year, our lobbying led the government to consult on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework to help community led housing.

Over 2023 I met with Gove, the last-but-one housing minister Maclean, and various officials. I also gained the support of others with influence over ministers and officials. And of course many of you wrote to MPs to make the case.

Today the government has published the new NPPF which introduces our revolutionary ‘community-led exception site’ policy. This gives CLTs a unique way to get planning permission on sites not allocated for housing. The wording is not quite what we asked for, so I’ll be taking a closer look in the new year and we’ll do a briefing for members on it.

The new NPPF also picks up three more of our asks: a definition of ‘community-led development’ to give councils more confidence in developing local policy for CLTs; a requirement for councils to seek opportunities for small sites to support community-led development; and a requirement that local policies and decisions planners generally support rural community-led development that meets local needs.

This isn’t just about getting planning permission more easily. It also gives you an extra edge when negotiating with landowners and developers. By selling to, or partnering with, a CLT they have a clearer path to planning permission.

Stay tuned for more policy news as we hear it.