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Latest Government figures suggest 432 new homes a year are needed in Gloucestershire

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Sajid Javid MP, the Secretary of the State for Department of Communities and Local Government, has launched a consultation on a number of proposals to reform the planning system to increase the supply of new homes and local authority capacity to manage growth.

A key part of this consultation includes proposals for a new standard method for calculating local authorities’ housing need, which follows on from proposals in the housing White Paper published in February 2017.

Subject to the outcome of this consultation and the responses received to the housing White Paper, the Government intends to publish a draft revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in early 2018, with a view to publishing a revised NPPF in spring 2018.

The proposals within the consultation will have a wide ranging impact on planning policy, and the proposed new government housing targets could stand to change our perception of housing need across England.  For example, in our own Gloucestershire current government revised figures suggest 432 new homes a year will be needed.

What is the current method for calculating housing need?

The current method of calculating housing need requires local planning authorities to employ independent consultants to prepare a strategic housing market assessment (SHMA), but these reports often use different and inconsistent methods to assess housing need.

It can cost local planning authorities around £50,000 to prepare a strategic housing market assessment, which could equate to an overall cost to the sector of over £3 million per year. Because of a lack of consistency in the methods used, there are no guarantees that the housing need figures are watertight.

This has exacerbated existing pressures on the planning system, leading to a costly and time-consuming process which lacks transparency and ensure that planning through appeal still prevails.  

What are the benefits of the proposed new method?

The housing White Paper argued that a standard approach to assessing local housing need will increase transparency, certainty, should speed up the planning system and the time taken to prepare Local Plans.

The Government’s standard method seeks to be:

  1. an easy and transparent process;
  2. based on publicly available data;
  3. be realistic and reflect the actual need for homes in each area.

Their proposed approach to a standard method consists of 3 components – a starting point of a demographic baseline, which is modified to account for market signals, with a proposed cap to limit any increase an authority may face when they review their plan.

How does this impact you:

First and foremost the consultation is open to everyone and details of how you can respond are below.

But in the short term many councils are going to have to find more sites to meet local housing need and this could present an opportunity for landowners and developers.

As our own MD, Ian Woodward-Court, comments:  

In the long run a standard methodology makes a great deal of sense. Should the methodology be adopted as currently proposed then many councils will be scrambling to find suitable sites for allocation. This potentially represents an opportunity for landowners and developers to promote their sites. On the flip side, communities that are concerned about additional housing may want to consider preparing a neighbourhood plan. Such a plan will still need to provide adequate housing allocations, but should provide local communities with a greater say in where local homes are built”.

Looking at the consultation proposals, the general consensus in the Plainview office is that this is a positive step from a government who have finally started to get the wheels moving on delivering their housing White Paper proposals.

About us:

Plainview Planning consists of a small but experienced, knowledgeable and dynamic group of planning consultants. We add value to a wide range of schemes, from housing developments to commercial new builds, enforcement cases and local plan reps. Contact the team via enquiries@plainview.co.uk to see how we can best assist you.

Consultation details:

The consultation will run until Thursday 9 November 2017.  All responses must be received no later than 23.45 on the 9 November.  For more information, see here.