Is it time for planning authorities to embrace modern methods of construction?

Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) present a real opportunity for local planning authorities to meet many of the targets set out in their Local Plans, particularly those relating to the rate new homes are delivered and environmental performance of new homes. 

However, developers will be aware that few planning authorities are proactively encouraging the take up of MMC.  Despite the benefits MMC can offer, many authorities appear either not to have considered it or have left its adoption to to the market. 

MMC adoption

How planning authorities engage with design is critical to encouraging the adoption of MMC.  This is not helped by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which in paragraph 128, states:

Design quality should be considered throughout the evolution and assessment of individual proposals. Early discussion between applicants, the local planning authority and local community about the design and style of emerging schemes is important for clarifying expectations and reconciling local and commercial interests. Applicants should work closely with those affected by their proposals to evolve designs that take account of the views of the community. Applications that can demonstrate early, proactive and effective engagement with the community should be looked on more favourably than those that cannot.

For pre-manufacturing forms of MMC, the current policy is problematic. Reconciling issues of what is achievable and cost effective in terms of manufacturing, with the views of the local community and the local planning authority may introduce uncertainty in terms of costs and threaten the viability of a project.    

Cause for optimism?

Developers have cause for optimism, however.  The Government's White Paper, 'Planning for the Future' (which we have written about here) proposes the introduction of local design codes to provide greater certainty for developers.

The White Paper proposes that local plans should identify any site or area-wide requirements that would sit alongside a locally produced design code.  Introducing clarity and certainty on design requirements from the outset, rather than allowing it to evolve following submission of the application, would provide greater certainty for developers wishing to innovate by taking advantage of MMC. 

We will provide further updates on the proposed changes to the planning system once the Government's response to the White Paper is published.  In the meantime, please contact one of our planning specialists if you would like discuss the planning changes on the horizon and what they may mean for your business.

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