Development viability in our national parks

National Parks - Dartmoor, Exmoor and New Forest

Development Viability in our national parks

In direct contrast to our work in densely populated urban areas such as London and Manchester, we have undertaken a number of viability studies in deeply rural areas including the National Parks of Dartmoor, Exmoor and the New Forest. In these areas the primacy of the natural environment is enshrined in policies reflecting the two statutory purposes placed on all National Parks as laid out in the Environment Act 1995:

  • to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage (of the National Parks); and
  • to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities (of the National Parks) by the public.

Through the 1995 Act National Park Authorities also have a duty to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities. The NPPF reflects these requirements giving the highest levels of protection to the conservation of the landscape and scenic beauty, along with conserving wildlife and cultural heritage in these areas (See NPPF para 172).  In relation to housing, the NPPF states that National Parks are not suitable locations for major developments (except in exceptional circumstances). However National Parks, as the local planning authority, must adhere to the generic guidance for housing and the provision of affordable housing. 

houses in a streetViability testing in these protected areas is primarily based on the smaller residential sites typical of delivery in National Parks, with a focus upon providing homes that are affordable to local people. For example, our recent viability study which informed the New Forest National Park Authority’s  (NFNPA) Local Plan was able to provide support for a 50% affordable housing policy on sites of 3 or more units and 100% on Rural Exception Sites. In addition, new market housing is restricted to 100sqm as a method of rebalancing the local housing market which has been skewed towards larger detached houses which do not meet local needs for smaller properties.

Inspectors found the Local Plan sound in their Report dated July 2019 and the Plan was formally adopted in August 2019. Three Dragons has now been appointed to carry out a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) study to look at viability headroom for a CIL. The results will inform the Authority’s board who will then make a decision on whether to adopt the levy in the New Forest National Park Authority.

The NFNPA’s Local Plan can be accessed here  and Three Dragons Viability assessment can be found here  (please scroll down to the Evidence Base link on the right of the NFNPA's Examination webpage).

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