Planning reforms

Viewpoint - 19/02/2024

Planning in 2024: What to Expect?

Our planning consultancy team has highlighted the key changes to planning and development as we move through 2024.

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It can seem that the world of planning and development is constantly changing, with regular new and amended policy, guidance and legislation to digest. Now that 2023 is well underway, LSH’s Planning Consultancy Team have highlighted the key changes from the end of last year, and what to look out for as we move through 2024, to determine what may impact sites and clients in the development industry.

National Planning Policy Framework (December 2023)

The latest iteration of the NPPF was adopted in December 2023, providing the over-arching national planning policy for England, and there were some key changes that have got planning professionals talking… 

Housing Supply and Delivery 

Local Planning Authorities (LPA’s) are no longer required to identify and update annually five years’ worth of supply for specific deliverable sites if their adopted Local Plan is less than five years old, or if their adopted Local Plan identified at least a five-year supply of specific deliverable Sites at the time the LPA’s Local Plan Examination concluded. 

Where LPA’s have an emerging Local Plan that has either been submitted for examination or has reached Regulation 18 or Regulation 19 stage (including both a policies map and proposed allocations towards meeting housing need), it will only be required to identify a minimum of four years’ worth of housing.  

This change has caused confusion and the Government have now updated its national planning guidance to clarify that the revised NPPF’s new four year housing land supply target for Councils with advanced draft Local Plans, should be measured against a five year rather than four year housing requirement. 

It is worth noting that the results of the Housing Delivery Test (2022) were published in December 2023, providing an annual housing delivery score for all local authorities. Our previous article provides a more detailed overview of patterns of housing delivery in England.

Green Belt

As before, it continues that Green Belt boundaries can be reviewed or changed where Local Plans are being prepared or updated in ‘exceptional circumstances’, where these circumstances are fully evidenced and justified, but the key difference is there is now an explicit statement stating that there is no requirement for Green Belt boundaries to be reviewed or changed as part of the plan-making process. 

It is anticipated that these changes seek to incentivise plan-making and encourage LPA’s to explore development opportunities on brownfield land, as is evidence through the Government’s lasts announcement of a plan to boost brownfield homebuilding in England through further changes to the NPPF [announced on 13th February 2024]. Whilst incentivising delivery on previously developed land it remains unclear how these changes will work in green belt authorities struggling to deliver their identified housing need.  

Strengthening Planning Policy for Brownfield Development – LIVE CONSULTATION

Building upon the Green Belt changes made to the latest NPPF, the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities launched a consultation on the 13th February setting out a number of proposed policy changes aiming to encourage brownfield development.

The introduction of the brownfield development presumption is proposed to identify and tackle the under delivery of housing within major towns and cities across England. The proposal follows the recommendation set out within the SoS commissioned review of the London Plan to speed up the delivery of homes in the capital. DLUHC believes it to be important to role this recommendation our more broadly given the role major towns and cities play in creating jobs and driving growth across the country and the wider Levelling Up agenda. 

The consultation seeks views on two proposals:

  1. A National Planning Policy change through the introduction of additional text to Paragraph 129c) of the National Planning Policy Framework in order to:

    • Give significant weight to the benefits of delivering as many homes as possible, especially where it involves land which is previously developed; and,
    • Allow LPA’s to apply a take a flexible approach planning policies or guidance relating to the internal layout of development.

    The intent of the change proposed is to strengthen planning support for brownfield development, and further incentivises the effective and efficient use of       brownfield land. This would apply to all authorities.

  2. The introduction of a presumption in favour of sustainable development to previously developed land only for  the 20 major towns and cities subject to the Urban Uplift. The additional presumption would apply where the Housing Delivery Test score within those towns and cities falls to 95% or below. A change is proposed through the amendments to Footnote 8 of the National Planning Policy Framework to achieve this.

In addition and for London specifically, the consultation also seeks views on the current threshold of 150 residential units for referral of residential applications to the Mayor of London. The Government seeks though the consultation to ensure that it is set at the right level in order to ensure that the referral threshold adds value to the process of determining applications for potential strategic importance and does not inadvertently slow down or disincentives developments. 

The consultation began on 13 February 2024 and runs until 11.45pm on 26 March 2024 and comprises of a series of questions set out here.

Biodiversity Net Gain

As of 12th February, the long-awaited mandatory requirement for a Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) of 10% on all major development sites was officially enforced. This involves the delivery of schemes which result in a better quality, more diverse natural habitat than was on the site prior to development, achieved through delivery on-site, off-site, or through purchasing biodiversity credits as a last resort. For small sites of 1-9 dwellings or less than 0.5ha, this is expected to be enforced as of 2nd April 2024.

Exemptions to this requirement include development below a certain threshold, defined by development that does not impact a priority habitat, and impacts less than 25sqm of habitat, or 5 metres of linear habitats such as hedgerows; householder applications; self-build applications, and development ancillary to the high-speed railway transport network. 

Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 

The LURA received Royal Assent in October 2023, and provides a template or framework to guide future policy in England. Whilst updates and policies are being released gradually, the ambition of the LURA is to deliver more widespread, consistent policy to help reach targets such as net zero, sustainable development and housing delivery. This will be something to keep an eye on as we move through 2024, and guidance begins to be implemented. 


Although there is no date currently set for a general election, a change in leadership will likely have a significant impact on the planning system, as individual manifestos are reflected within national planning policy. For instance, how would Labour’s more pragmatic approach to the Green Belt translate into policy, and how will the ambitious targets for housing delivery be made by either Conservative or Labour? 

On a more regional scale, mayoral elections are due to take place in major metropolitan cities, with the Greater London Authority Mayoral election scheduled for 2 May 2023, and further elections across Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley and the West Midlands scheduled to be held on 2 May 2024. 


We will continue to monitor the impacts of the above proposals, working with developers, local authorities, and landowners to understand how they are affected, and how solutions can be reached to planning. 

If you have any queries in the meantime, please get in touch with our team below.  

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