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The race for a 5 year housing supply

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At Plainview Planning we are witnessing a depressing trend playing out across some Councils at the moment.

Many Councils are scrabbling around to demonstrate that they have a 5 year housing supply, but the motivation is often not to provide much needed housing, but instead to ‘gain control’ and be able to get back to refusing planning permissions.

Firstly, in our opinion, the NPPF does not suggest that the 5 year housing supply should be regarded as a ceiling or upper limit on permissions. As a recent Planning Inspector noted:

“On the basis that there would be no harm from a scheme, or that the benefits would demonstrably outweigh the harm, then the view that satisfying a 5 year housing land supply figure should represent some kind of limit or bar to further permissions is considerably diminished, if not rendered irrelevant. An excess of permissions in a situation where supply may already meet the estimated level of need does not represent harm, having regard to the objectives of NPPF.”

Secondly, a Council may have met their ‘target’ by allowing large allocations of 1000+ soulless dwellings, but then turn their back on smaller developments that could raise design standards in the local area just because its outside an arbitrary ‘settlement boundary’.  This is a depressing return to form, that contributed to the housing shortage in the first place, and can stifle smaller communities.

Developers, consultants and councils could all be blamed for focusing too much on the numbers game that is ‘5 year housing supply’. Let’s not forget that the core of the planning system is about achieving positive growth, and not simply about scrutiny.

As Greg Clark said back in 2012 – “Planning must be a creative exercise in finding ways to enhance and improve the places in which we live our lives” – let’s all move away from spreadsheets and arbitrary limits please.