Nigel Hawkey, a Planning Consultant at Fuller Long, explores how draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) could potentially offer scope for more small scale development in England.

It is well established that overall housing supply continues growing at an unprecedented rate. However, small scale builders are still producing fewer homes today than during the depths of the 2008-9 recession. According to the Home Builders’ Federation, the decline has been occurring steadily over the years, with the number of small construction firms today being around 80% less than it was during the 1970s.

The government appears to be recognising this imbalance, and the positive contribution that smaller scale development can make to boosting overall supply; paragraph 69 of the recently revised NPPF identifies that small sites can “make an important contribution” to the housing requirements of an area, and can often benefit from quick delivery.

The draft now also seeks at least 20% of housing sites in local plans to be of half a hectare or less, and encourages local authorities to take other initiatives including support for windfall opportunities and encouraging the subdivision of large sites to help speed up delivery. The draft revised NPPF also highlights the contribution that developers of smaller sites make. It emphasises that small sites don’t place undue strain on the existing infrastructure, and can be developed relatively quickly, with developers readily able to employ local people.

These proposed changes in the NPPF are a significant departure, and local authorities may be concerned that adherence to this defined threshold could delay local plan preparation. The alternative, therefore, might be a broader approach whereby the % figure is replaced with a specific number, either of sites or dwellings, according to the local authority’s own particular circumstances.

At a broader level, small developers no doubt also wish to secure better access to development finance. An important initiative is Home England’s Home Building Fund, introduced in 2016. With a threshold of five units, and relatively flexible arrangements, this offers potential for greater funding certainty and assistance for the developers than its predecessor schemes.

Fuller Long has had considerable success over the years in dealing with multiple small and medium scale developments  helping our clients manoeuvre through the planning system effectively and efficiently. Examples include the development of four detached residential dwellings in Surrey, three detached properties in Wakefield, a 25 affordable housing scheme at Kenton Court in South London, and Ceres Court, a 40 family housing scheme in Kent.  

If you are a small developer in search of the right consultants to help realise the potential of your proposed schemes, Fuller Long can be of service to you. To contact us and find out more about our services, please do not hesitate to call 0808 164 1288 or email us at