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What does the future hold for Local Plans?

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Local Plans were introduced to create planning policies and identify how land is used. But so far, local authorities have struggled to get going with them.

The Government’s aim was for every area in England to have an adopted Local Plan by the deadline of April 2017. They removed regional planning bodies, which undertook a lot of this work originally, and passed the responsibility down to individual local authorities or – as is more common now – a group of local authorities within Housing Market Areas.

But as the deadline fast approached, and with many local authorities still nowhere near completing their plans, then Secretary of State Greg Clark became concerned. As a result, the Local Plans Expert Group (LPEG) was created to find ways to make Local Plans more efficient and effective.

What are the problems?

The report created by the LPEG goes into a number of reasons why it has been so hard to get Local Plans off the ground. But one of the main reasons surrounds how to assess an area’s housing needs.

As part of the plans, each local authority was tasked with creating Objectively Assessed Housing Needs targets – or OANs – through a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMAs).

But the LPEG found these processes were slowing down the creation of Local Plans. The logistics behind OANs is poorly understood as, in some respects, they’re artificially created targets. But the bigger problem has been that they force local authorities who wouldn’t normally work together to come together on the issue of housing.

Where the issues magnify is with greenbelt designations, especially if the designation is in one local authority and not in the other. That tends to result in some tense discussion under the Duty to Cooperate, with the greenbelt side often saying they can’t accommodate their housing need and asking the non-greenbelt area to take some of their housing.

In the three to four years since this situation came about – effectively since the launch of the National Planning Policy Framework – very little new housing has willingly been accepted by one local authority on behalf of another.

And that’s the problem; unmet housing need is escalating, particularly in the South East and across most of Southern England. This is partly down to the failure of the Duty to Cooperate, but also because of the tortuous process of creating OAN and SHMAs between less-than-consenting partners.

Lack of resources

The Government recognises that many local authorities are facing severe resourcing difficulties. On-going grant reductions are hitting planning more so than other sectors as it’s not a front line service.

Many local authorities don’t actually have the technical expertise within the council to deal with issues like SHMAs and OANs. While some larger authorities do, smaller ones are being forced to hire expensive national consultants to do the work for them.

To create an OAN involves many processes, starting with demographic projections. Then you add in economic activities forecasts. Areas that do well economically have a higher housing need. Then you add in affordability, which is a highly sensitive area.

All of this work is undertaken in length by consultancies costing local authorities large sums of money and is prolonging the whole process.

The LPEG report

In the LPEG report, which was submitted to the Government back in April, a streamlined OAN process was recommended to help free up some resources.

Alongside this were a number of other recommendations including reducing the amount of consultation stages needed.

The LPEG believes that, taking advice into account, a properly-resourced local authority could prepare a Local Plan within two years. In reality, some local authorities have taken more than seven years so far.

A select committee was established at the end of July to look into the report in more detail. The first output from this committee was a letter from Clive Betts MP to Current Secretary of State Sajid Javid asking when the report would be considered.

The jury is still out on the report’s recommendations. It’s currently before the government and is also available online. It has been broadly welcomed by the public planning sector and the amenity and civic amenity groups, but has caused ructions with some private sector consultancies.

What if the deadline isn’t met?

Sajid Javid is considering what measure should be taken against poorly-performing local authorities. But there is no sign – at the moment – the deadline will be extended.

New opportunities for housing developments and economic development are not coming forward in some places as the whole planning process has stalled. This runs the risk of planning via appeal and could lead to unwanted developments in unwanted places.

Whether Sajid Javid will stick by Clark’s original deadline or take on board any of the suggestions in the LPEG remain to be seen. But the time pressures are cranking up and the deadline is fast approaching.

 

Original article by Strutt & Parker http://www.struttandparker.com/knowledge-and-research/what-does-the-future-hold-for-local-plans

Our Architectural Assistant wins university competition

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Gareth Roberts, one of the Architectural Assistants at Rural Solutions, along with two fellow students have won a competition run by Leeds Beckett University to design a new research centre at the University’s Headingley campus.

Gareth, along with Nick Wright and Danny Wallace, who all studied Architecture at the University won with their proposal for a new Sustainable Technology and Landscape Resource Centre.  ‘The Potting Sheds’ will house both research and teaching space and is due to be completed in 2017.

Joining the Rural Solutions Architecture Team in June 2014, Gareth takes the lead in many of our projects and has developed strong skills and experience in rural architecture.

1819000_The-Potting-Sheds

 

Success at appeal for village residential scheme

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Rural Solutions Planning and Architecture teams had success at appeal last week after a residential project in a Norfolk village was approved.

The outline application for 12 new dwellings with retention of a pond and public open space was recommended for approval but was refused at committee resulting in the appeal.

In the appeal decision the Inspector documented a number of key points with regard to rural sustainability:-

  • “When taken together these 3 villages contain a wide and sufficient range of services and facilities, and, because of their closeness, it is reasonable to expect residents of one of the settlements to have easy access to and make use of services in another.  While employment opportunities nearby are limited that could be said of much of rural Norfolk, and of itself it is not sufficient to render this location inappropriate.”
  • “Not only is the pond to remain but it would be open to public access, and along with the surrounding land, it would be subject to a maintenance regime.  The scheme would therefore enhance and secure the site’s role into the future.”
  • “New dwellings here in the form suggested need not be unduly intrusive or discordant.”
  • “The Council accepted it did not have a 5 year supply of deliverable housing sites.”
  • “The scheme would have social benefits as it would be providing 12 houses or so, including some that were affordable, in a Borough with an acknowledged shortfall in both.  There would also be economic benefits for the village as well as for the neighbouring villages, resulting not only from the construction phase but also from the spending of future occupiers …. would assist in safeguarding local services and community facilities in this group of villages.  Finally, there would be environmental benefits stemming from the improved management of the pond and the provision of public access.”

Cornwall neighbourhood plan that bans second homes passes referendum

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A neighbourhood plan that proposes banning the building of second homes in a Cornwall seaside town has been overwhelmingly approved in a referendum.

The St Ives neighbourhood plan, which includes a primary residence proposal that has been attacked by planning minister Brandon Lewis, was backed by 83 per cent of voters in yesterday’s poll on a turnout of 42 per cent.

However, it has emerged that the blueprint has been the subject of a legal challenge from a developer.

A Cornwall Council spokesman said: “The council has received notice that RLT Built Environment Limited is seeking permission to judicially review the council decision to support the publication of the St Ives Neighbourhood Plan and put it to a referendum in St Ives.

“We are confident that the correct process has been followed in this case and will be fully defending this claim.”

The draft neighbourhood plan includes a policy that says new homes should only be granted planning permission if the occupant’s primary residence is in the town, rather than as a second home.

Another policy requires that at least 40 per cent of new builds of two or more units are provided as affordable housing to meet local need.

About 25 per cent of the parish’s housing stock is second homes, according to St Ives Town Council, the body producing the plan.

Planning minister Brandon Lewis told Planning in a statement in November 2014 that the second homes ban was “totally inappropriate”.

He said: “National planning policy is clear that councils should plan for a mix of housing and any planning conditions must be reasonable and enforceable.”

The St Ives plan passed examination last June. Examiner Deborah McCann approved the primary residence policy with modifications, though she said it gave her “considerable concern”.

In her report, she said: “After much deliberation and on balance I have concluded that due to the adverse impact on the local community/economy of the uncontrolled growth of second homes the restriction of further second homes does in fact contribute to delivering sustainable development.”

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “We are not commenting on the St Ives neighbourhood plan as we are aware a legal challenge has been launched against it.”

The St Ives vote was one of 17 neighbourhood plan referenda that took place yesterday across England.

The others were: Loders, Eccleshall, Ashurst Wood, Birdham, Hartford, Bishops Lydeard & Cothelstone, Tangmere, Tarporley, Newton Abbot, Helsby, Wisborough, Neston, Milland, Waters Upton, Bentley, and Newport Pagnell.

 

Original article taken from Planning Resource online – available here.