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Planning matters

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The need for evidence beyond Local Plan preparation
Moving into a new decade with a new Government and Brexit a firm reality, will no doubt bring changes but some of the challenges which have influenced the last decade will continue, not least the need to create long term sustainable communities with the opportunity for people to access the housing market.
Local Plan progress continues, albeit at varying pace, and is needed to support the delivery of new homes. The Government in their manifesto continued to give their support to delivering more than 300,000 homes by the mid-2020’s. This is despite the introduction of the standard method, introduced to drive national housing delivery, which has in some areas had the opposite affect and resulted in some local authorities reducing housing requirements despite retaining ambitious economic strategies.
In 2019 across the North East, three Local Plans went through their Examinations; Sunderland, Northumberland and County Durham. All of these emerging Plans identified a requirement above the standard method, albeit by a very nominal amount and lower than previous iterations of Local Plans (See Hannah Bickerdike's blog). The outcomes of two Examinations are not yet known but having attended both, it’s perhaps the spatial strategy which will come under greater scrutiny from the Inspectors through their reports, rather than the total amount of housing being brought forward given the introduction of the standard method. The amount and type of housing brought forward to support future housing delivery is also critical.
In the North East there remains significant variation in the strength and success of local housing markets with hotspots where demand is impacting upon local prices. Contrasted with other parts which continue to deal with low demand and the wider social issues which this brings.
The North East Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) (2018) recognises the need to address the under-provision of housing stock to meet demand and respond to demographic change. What is apparent is that it remains critical that the right homes are brought forward in the right places whether these are:
  • Executive homes to support the economic aspirations of knowledge-based businesses which have been identified as lacking within a particular local economy;
  • Affordable homes to meet the needs of lower income households;
  • New models of housing which meet the needs of new graduates keen to move on from student accommodation but aspire to the facilities that new Purpose-Built Student Accommodation has provided whilst they were studying; or
  • Identifying particular gaps in the market.
To do this effectively, there is a need for evidence – evidence which understands the dynamics and characteristics of the local housing market alongside future demographic change which will impact upon future demand. This evidence helps to shape future proposals which are well considered and can be robustly justified whether these are in alignment with local policy or enable an alternative to local policy to be considered. Understanding what type and mix of housing is required to meet future need is critical to delivering long term sustainable communities. This sits alongside areas where there is an over-supply of a particular housing type which is having a negative impact on the vibrancy and success of these communities.
Lichfields recently worked alongside one local authority in the North East to assess the future potential for the growth in an urban-living housing product to help diversify the existing housing market. Lichfields helped to assess the existing housing stock in terms of type and tenure within an identified boundary and worked with stakeholders to understand existing demand for this type of housing. Lichfields through analysis of future demographic projections, alongside analysis of the market sought to identify the extent of the potential future market.
The approach developed set out the future potential of this market and highlighted the wider socio-economic issues which would need to be tackled, alongside the housing issues to support the growth in this particular housing product.
The project utilised Lichfields skills in understanding housing market dynamics and the principles which underpin Lichfields' Sizemix product.
As Local Plans in the North East are adopted, the need for evidence continues, particularly where it involves justifying proposals which underpin the planning case for future housing development. Evidence is powerful and persuasive.
We are happy to discuss existing and future developments and your requirements.


Housing Delivery Test 2019: Yorkshire and the Humber
The Housing Delivery Test provides a snapshot of national and regional housing delivery in 2019 against the number of homes required over a rolling 3-year period. It also allows progress from 2018 to be monitored and changes predicted going forward. Crucially, it is more than just a monitoring tool and has serious implications for many districts in Yorkshire and the Humber, with escalating planning sanctions applied depending on the scale of any shortfall.

Yorkshire and the Humber Results

Key 2019 results for the Yorkshire and the Humber region published by the Government this month are:
  • 71% of Yorkshire and the Humber authorities are currently delivering sufficient levels of housing and require no action when measured against their housing requirement (defined as either the latest adopted housing requirement or the minimum annual local housing need figure/annual average household growth).

  • 2 authorities require an Action Plan.

  • 4 authorities require a 20% land buffer and an Action Plan.

  • The presumption in favour of sustainable development is not triggered by any Yorkshire and Humber authority.
Key Changes 2018 – 2019
Key changes within the region from 2018 to 2019 are:
  • Consequences have worsened for York with the authority falling into the 20% land buffer and Action Plan requirement from its previous ‘no action’ position.

  • Consequences have improved for Bradford, moving from 76% delivery and a 20% land buffer requirement in 2018 to 94% delivery and an Action Plan in 2019.

  • All other regional authorities remain within the same overall category as 2018, albeit some authorities have fared better than others.
Headline Messages for Yorkshire and the Humber
  • The majority of Yorkshire and the Humber authorities perform strongly, with some delivering housing significantly in excess of the 2019 45% NPPF footnote 7 threshold. Richmondshire achieved 863% of its (very low) requirement, Doncaster 209% and Wakefield 192%.

  • Housing delivery increased to some extent between 2018 to 2019 in most authorities. Harrogate’s delivery increased by 42%, Scarborough’s by 41% and Hull’s by 29%.

  • Several authorities continue to perform weakly and deliver insufficient levels of housing. York, Calderdale, Kirklees and North Lincolnshire are all required to apply a 20% land buffer to their five year housing land supply and produce an Action Plan; with results in Calderdale falling as low as 48%. Rotherham and Bradford must produce an Action Plan.

  • Housing delivery in York and Rotherham fell between 2018 and 2019, to 85% and 81% respectively, with York seeing a substantial decrease of 21%.

  • Authorities such as Kirklees, North East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire have seen limited growth between 2018 and 2019 but this may be insufficient to keep up with increasing NPPF thresholds which will rise again to 75% in 2020.
  • Overall, the region is performing above the average for England, although a number of the usual suspects continue to struggle. However, many authorities have been reprieved in the short term by the household projections producing lower estimates of local housing need for up to 2 of the 3 appraisal years and as a result of this, housing delivery is now outpacing local housing need figures in certain areas.

2020 Predictions

The NPPF footnote 7 housing delivery threshold, whereby the presumption in favour of sustainable development will apply for decision taking, will increase from 45% in 2019 to 75% in 2020. This could have serious consequences for several of the region’s authorities and could see them starting to lose control of speculative development in their areas. We cannot be certain how the 2020 HDT will look given that completions for 2019/20 may significantly increase/decrease for any given authority.  However, working on the basis that next year’s completion rate remains broadly in line with 2018/19’s, then the following implications for the Yorkshire and Humber region may occur:
  • Calderdale may slip into the presumption in favour of sustainable development, even if its Local Plan is adopted later this year with the current target of 790 dwellings per annum.

  • Kirklees, York and North Lincolnshire are likely to continue to require a 20% buffer but all may come very close to falling below the 75% ‘presumption in favour’ threshold.
In the longer term, authorities that cannot demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply and who are failing to approve sufficient levels of housing development to meet their local housing needs will see the implications of this reflected in Housing Delivery Test results in the years to come, with the penalties for non-Green Belt authorities in particular being far reaching.