INDUSTRY NEWS: CHANGES TO THE STANDARD METHOD FOR ASSESSING LOCAL HOUSING NEED
The publication of new household projections by the Office for National Statistics has led to a significant reduction in the overall numbers generated by the standard method for assessing local housing need.
As a result, the government has published a technical consultation document setting out proposals to update Planning Practice Guidance to be consistent with its stated aims of ‘significantly boosting’ housing supply and achieving a national target of 300,000 new homes per annum.
The consultation also proposes clarifications of national planning policy on; housing land supply; the definition of ‘deliverable’, and when the presumption can be applied in relation to appropriate assessment.
The new household projections show a potential decrease in delivery of approximately 24% from 210,000 to 159,000 homes annually. When combined with affordability ratios, to form the standard method set out by Government in September last year, they appear to significantly underestimate the number of homes needed in some areas, particularly local authorities with severe affordability pressures.
The guidance on housing need assessment makes explicit that, ‘the Government is committed to ensuring more homes are built and are supportive of ambitious authorities who want to plan for growth’. It goes on to establish that the standard method is only a minimum starting point and circumstances may arise where actual housing need may be higher than the standard method figure.
The guidance also notes that the standard method for assessing local housing need is to be used as the baseline for housing land supply calculations where plans are out of date. The consultation notes that the NPPF is to be amended and updated planning guidance is to be published so as to clarify that whilst in exceptional circumstances authorities can use a justified alternative approach to the standard method for calculating housing need, this only applies to plan making rather than in the calculation of need in the determination of applications and appeals where the scale of housing land supply is relevant.
The definition of ‘deliverable’ has also been revisited and the government is proposing the following revised definition; ‘to be considered deliverable, sites for housing should be available now, offer a suitable location for development now, and be achievable with a realistic prospect that housing will be delivered on the site within five years. In particular a) sites which do not involve major development and have planning permission, and all sites with detailed planning permission, should be considered deliverable until permission expires, unless there is clear evidence that homes will not be delivered within five years (for example because they are no longer viable, there is no longer a demand for the type of units or sites have long term phasing plans); and b) where a site has outline planning permission for major development, has been allocated in a development plan, has a grant of permission in principle, or is identified on a brownfield register, it should only be considered deliverable where there is clear evidence that housing completions will begin on site within five years’.
Further guidance is promised in due course, ‘to provide more information on the way that sites with different degrees of planning certainty may be counted when calculating housing land availability’.
The consultation also proposes an amended paragraph 177 to read: ‘the presumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply where the plan or project is likely to have a significant effect on a habitats site (either alone or in combination with other plans or projects), unless an appropriate assessment has concluded that there will be no adverse effect from the plan or project on the integrity of the habitats site’.
Subject to consultation, the need for appropriate assessment will no longer be a bar to the presumption in favour of sustainable development applying.
The technical consultation on these issues is welcome, but the more interesting point is that the Government appears to be willing to consult on amending the NPPF; this is something that has previously been avoided and led to very significant and numerous challenges. Appropriately consulting and amending the NPPF, where required, is perhaps something that should be embraced if we are looking to achieve more planning permissions locally rather than through the inundated appeal system.
The deadline for consultation responses is 11:45 pm on 7th December 2018.
If you would like any further information or if you would like Rural Solutions to make representations to the consultation on your behalf please call James Podesta, Director of Planning, on 01756 796199 or email firstname.lastname@example.org