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Planning matters

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Housing Land Requirement – A very average approach
The Scottish Government recently amended Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) and introduced a new Planning Advice Note (PAN 1/2020 – December 2020). This was widely recognised as a move to avoid the tilted balance becoming a mainstay of the Scottish planning system and to direct the industry toward a standardised methodology for calculating the extent of a 5 year housing land supply (HLS) against housing land requirements (HLR). It was also acknowledged to be an interim intervention in advance of National Planning Framework 4 being approved, at which point it would be expected that these measures will be incorporated.


PANned: The existence or otherwise of an effective 5 year supply of land for housing
I’ve been watching an application for planning permission in my neighbourhood with interest. It’s a site I worked on years ago, before I moved to the area. An unsuccessful turn through the plan process alongside an application for around 1,400 dwellings led to an appeal against non-determination being made then subsequently withdrawn. The landowner and their development partner then opted to pursue a smaller development of 300 homes in the context of an apparent shortfall in the 5 year supply of effective land for housing. This again led to an appeal against the failure of the planning authority to make a decision. I haven’t had any professional involvement in this site in a long time. My interest stems partly from my history with the site, but predominantly in the hope that if it’s consented and developed then a pedestrian link to the adjacent train station might become more direct from my back garden. Selfless, I know. Earlier this week my interest piqued, but this time for professional reasons, as the appeal decision was issued. The reporter’s conclusions have shone a bright light on the implications of the Scottish Government’s Planning Advice Note 1/2020, which was issued as the industry broke for Christmas last year. 5 Year Effective Supply of Land for Housing The maintenance of an effective supply of land for housing remains a bone of contention to developers and planning authorities. The property industry has maintained for many years that the correct way to calculate whether a planning authority has sufficient land is to take the annual housing land requirement from the development plan, multiply it by 5 (representing the coming 5 years) and add on any under-delivery in previous years since the plan baseline as well as demolitions that have taken place in that time. This means that the amount of homes that were being planned for at the beginning of the plan period continue to be planned for throughout the lifetime of the plan, regardless of delays. The nature of this calculation and semantics around it have been played out for years during local plan examinations and planning appeals, with nary a consistent approach being established. In December last year, the Scottish Government sought to establish a standard calculation via PAN 1/2020. The PAN offers a simple calculation to work out the 5 year effective land supply requirement. “5 year supply of effective land requirement = (development plan housing land requirement / plan period) x 5 ” It’s as simple as that. No factor allowed to consider residual need built up as a result of under delivery since the plan’s baseline evidence was prepared, no allowance for demolitions, and indeed no allowance for over-performance in delivery. This is a very simplistic approach, but one which it was hoped would dampen some of the contention in planning for housing and bring clarity to the appeal process. The Decision Back to my neighbouring site. The appeal was dismissed and there were a number of reasons referenced, but the most striking was that in relation to the housing land supply. The reporter acknowledged that at the time the appeal was made, PAN 1/2020 had yet to be published, and agreed that using the residual method which takes into account under delivery in the early years of the plan period there was a shortfall in the 5 year effective supply. The total supply was 4.6 years, leaving a shortfall of 549 homes. However, using the PAN 1/2020 method, the shortfall vanishes and the same supply becomes something between 5.6 and 8.4 years’ supply (depending on how the HLR is calculated). The supply of land for housing hadn’t changed, nor had the housing land requirement in the development plan. The existence of a 5 year effective supply arose purely through the disregard of past completion rates and the fact that the land supply hasn’t delivered as it was supposed to. Some thoughts… Will this approach contribute to delivering much needed homes? It wouldn’t appear so. Or will it result in the same old sites being rolled forward in successive housing land audits with little to no impact on delivery? That seems to be the danger.  Under this method will the Housing Supply Target set at the beginning of a plan period definitely be delivered during the lifetime of the Plan?  It is no way guaranteed and would seem unlikely… This got me thinking and I am off now to look at the implications PAN 1/2020 might have for housing delivery in other local plan areas. Look out for some Lichfields research in the coming weeks which will explore this issue further and see what the implications are elsewhere in Scotland.    If this has piqued your interest and would like to discuss these matters with me please get in touch: Gordon ThomsonPlanning Director, Edinburgh07964912360