1st edition guidance note, March 2021
Tony Mulhall MRICS
Associate Director Land Professional Group
RICS has published a new guidance note: Assessing viability in planning under the National Planning Policy Framework 2019 for England.
This guidance note is intended to help professionals working in planning and development to apply the government’s national planning policy for England, which is currently focused on delivering 300,000 dwellings per annum. The government is trying to balance the need to deliver local plan objectives that affect us all with ensuring land for development comes forward. It has prescribed a way to assess viability for this purpose and helps professionals in the sector to do this faster and more transparently. It also responds to Judge Holgate’s suggestion that RICS produce additional guidance in this area of practice.
This is not just important for professionals, but for members of the public too. Financial viability assessments provide key information to enable decisions to be made on how much affordable housing and community infrastructure may be deliverable in an area. This happens either when local plans are being prepared or decisions are being made on planning applications.
Previously viability mainly took place at the development management stage, when planning applications are submitted and being decided. The government wants to have most financial viability assessments conducted when the local plan is being made, rather than at the planning permission stage. By doing so, it intends local polices to inform landowners and developers about the extent of planning obligations related to development in the area, so that these costs are taken into account in setting the price paid for land.
This is national planning policy for England and the RICS guidance note adheres to the government’s required approach. This includes the methods for establishing benchmark land value and the standardised inputs required for planning purposes in the government’s Planning Practice Guidance 2019.
This guidance note was produced by a working group which, in addition to RICS members, consisted of representation from the RTPI, the Planning Officers Society, the Law Society, the GLA and the Valuation Office Agency. During the course of developing the guidance, we also received valuable feedback from the planning and development sector through our informal and formal consultations.
‘This is a very good example of the sector coming together during a difficult period to produce professional guidance on delivering essential infrastructure and affordable housing.’
Simon Radford, FRICS, Chair of Working Group
Planning policy is constantly evolving, and the government is in the process of completely reforming the planning system. This will include changes to the way development contributions will be calculated. Implementation of this reform will take some time and there will be a transition period. In the meantime, this guidance note will continue to apply, along with our mandatory requirements for carrying out viability appraisals for planning purposes, found in the Financial viability in planning: conduct and reporting professional statement.