We’re working to ensure reforms to the planning system help to maximise the delivery of new affordable homes, and consulting our members on the key priority changes needed.

Almost every new build affordable home has passed through the planning system, whether as part of a housing association-led development, or as an acquisition via Section 106.

National Planning Policy Framework

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published on 27 March 2012. It's the most important source of national policy on how the planning system should deal with housing. Revised in 2018, and edited further in 2019, it is supported by a set of guidance.

Local policy should interpret the NPPF according to local circumstances, including through the identification of housing numbers and development locations. Applications for planning permission should be assessed on this basis.

Planning in practice 

Simple in theory, planning is often complex and unpredictable in practice.

While planning legislation and policy is set nationally, there is variation in its application by more than 300 local planning authorities. This allows for local circumstances to be accounted for – but also means that successful navigation of the system requires both detailed knowledge of both national and local policy and practice.

Local policy should interpret the National Planning Policy Framework in a manner suited to local circumstances, including through the identification of housing numbers, development locations and the requirements to provide affordable housing.

Local plans should be prepared in each area, supported by adequate supplies of ‘deliverable’ housing land. Local planning authorities may also collaborate to produce strategic plans for their areas: in some places this is voluntary; in others it is a requirement of devolution arrangements.

Many areas do not have adequate local plans or policy in place, which makes it harder for officials, elected members and communities to manage development in their areas. An under-resourced system exacerbates these difficulties.

Housing associations often encounter difficulties when navigating the planning system. There is much good practice to be learned from, however, and we are working to promote a more consistent and positive experience of planning for its members.