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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.


Secretary of State insists on using the standard method to calculate housing land supply in Doncaster
Since the Government published the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) last year there have been a trickle of appeal decisions which have grappled with the intricacies of interpreting the NPPF and PPG in respect of the implications of the standard methodology for calculating a local authority’s housing requirement[1]. The Government’s intention was that the standard methodology should be applied in respect of assessing 5 year housing land supply immediately and local housing needs assessments based on the standard method should be applied in respect of strategic policy making as of the 24th of January this year. There are a few notable post revised NPPF appeal decisions regarding 5 year housing land supply including; Bamber Bridge in Preston[2] (August 2018) and Deerlands Road, Wingerworth in North East Derbyshire[3] (November 2018). However, the messages were ultimately confusing; the Inspector at Bamber Bridge suggested the standard method was subject still to a level of uncertainty, stating at paragraph 44 ‘Government guidance indicates the new methodology for assessing housing needs is incomplete and so it would be premature to make and rely upon such an assessment’ and the Inspector at Deerlands firmly stood behind the standard method in assessing 5 year housing land supply and noted the ‘clarity and consistency’ that the standard method provides. An all too common position of uncertainty has emerged in respect of the standard method which was ultimately introduced to simplify and expedite the process. However, on the 5th of February Hallam Land Management learned that their appeal regarding the Land East of Mere Lane, Edenthorpe, Doncaster had been allowed by the Secretary of State (SoS), who accepted his Inspector’s recommendation[4]. When determining the call-in application, the Secretary of State (SoS) has concluded that the standard method is the approach which must be applied in respect of assessing 5-year housing land supply. Ironically, the appeal (which started in September 2017 and concluded in January 2018) closed its September 2017 sitting on the day the Government published its consultation on the standard method, within ‘Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places’. There was a lot of evidence and examination of housing need in Doncaster at the Inquiry when it resumed in January 2018. Despite the Inspector’s report (1st November 2018) containing a detailed discussion of the debate, the SoS concluded in respect of the 5-year housing land supply position at paragraph 14 of his decision: “While he notes that the applicant has used an alternative approach to calculate the figure, the Secretary of State considers that the standard methodology should be used, in line with the Framework. Using this, the Secretary of State considers that Doncaster Council’s annual requirement is circa 600 homes per year, and that based on forecast levels of supply, they can currently demonstrate over 10 years supply of housing land” This decision clearly follows the transitional arrangements identified in the NPPF in respect of assessing 5-year housing land supply against the standard methodology and is clear how the Framework should be applied, in the current circumstances. Despite the 5-year housing land supply argument being superseded by the Government’s new approach in respect of assessing local housing need during the Inquiry, the appeal for Hallam Land Management in Doncaster was allowed. This is because the Inspector and the SoS determining that key policies of the Unitary Development Plan are out of date and that the tilted balance in respect of sustainable development stated in paragraph 11 of the Framework applies; an extremely long-winded wait for a great result.   [1][2] APP/F2360/W/18/3198822[3] APP/R1038/W/17/3192255[4] APP/F4410/W/17/3169288