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National and regional estimates of housing need in Wales
On 30 January 2019 the Welsh Government published its 2018-based national and regional estimates of overall housing need in Wales for 2018/19 to 2037/38. These estimates are intended to inform policy decisions, in particular in relation to the emerging National Development Framework (NDF) and future Strategic Development Plans (SDPs). However, Welsh Government has made it clear that the estimates are policy neutral and do not in themselves constitute housing targets. The national “central estimates” indicate a need for 8,300 additional dwellings per annum (dpa) for the first five years of the 20-year period (2018/19 to 2023/24), decreasing to an average of 3,600dpa during the last five years of the period (2033/34 to 2037/38). This slowing rate of growth mirrors that contained in the 2014-based household projections, which form the basis for the assessment. Excluding the existing unmet need element, the central estimates indicate a need for 5,417dpa between 2018 and 2038. By comparison, the previous estimates published by the Public Policy Institute for Wales in October 2015 indicated a need for 8,700 new homes per annum from 2011 to 2031. Does this mean that the need for new housing has significantly reduced? In our view, which seems to be echoed by Welsh Government policy statements, the answer is emphatically no! It is therefore important to understand the basis of these estimates and what they really mean for policy making. Table 1: National estimates of housing need: newly-forming households (5-year averages) Source: Welsh Government 2018-based estimates of overall housing need in Wales Five different scenarios are presented, based on different demographic and migration assumptions, with the national level of need ranging between 6,700 and 9,700dpa during the first five years. The central estimates for the three identified regions during the first five years (2018/19 to 2022/23) are: North Wales: 1,600dpa; Mid and South West Wales: 2,000dpa; and, South East Wales: 4,700dpa. Table 2: Regional estimates of housing need (5-year averages) Source: Welsh Government 2018-based estimates of overall housing need in Wales The Welsh Government has stated that the estimates will be reviewed “at regular intervals, as and when more up-to-date information becomes available”. However, at the time of writing Welsh Government is unable provide an indication as to when this will be. Methodology Following the approach pioneered by the Scottish Government in its Housing Need and Demand Assessment tool, the 2018-based housing need estimates have been calculated based on: Newly-arising need, as identified by the 2014-based household projections; and, For the first five years of the period only (2018/19 to 2022/23), existing unmet need, comprised of: a. Homeless households in temporary accommodation (Welsh Government homelessness data (June 2018)); and,b. Households that were both overcrowded and concealed (Census 2011). Figure 1: 2018-based housing need estimates: Methodology Source: Welsh Government Statistical Article (30 January 2019) / Lichfields Newly-arising need Whilst the estimates are identified as “2018-based”, they are actually derived from the 2014-based household projections. There are a number of concerns with the use of household projections as the basis for assessing housing need, principally stemming from their derivation from past trends. In the case of the 2014-based projections, the principal projection is based on trends experienced between 2009 and 2014. This data was therefore collected primarily during the recession years, which saw suppressed levels of household formation and reduced housing delivery. The 2014-based projections indicate a level of household growth that is 21% lower for Wales than the expected level of growth in the previous (2011-based) projections between 2014 and 2036[1]. The 2014-based projections also indicate a decline of 107,700 working age people (age 16 to 64) (5.6%). The direct translation of these household projections into housing requirements would therefore result in a smaller workforce and potential economic and social difficulties in future. While it is appropriate that the most recent household projections should form the starting point for housing need assessments in Wales, policy makers should recognise and seek to respond to the specific limitations of the 2014-based publication. In accordance with Planning Policy Wales (ed. 10) plan preparation should also take account of other key factors, including the alignment between housing and jobs, the need for affordable housing, and the objectives of the plan. In South East Wales, the Cardiff City Deal is seeking a step change to boost the local economy. A continuation of the past trends embodied in the 2014-based projections would be contrary to this strategy and could jeopardise delivery of the City Deal. It follows that housing requirement policies in the emerging NDF and future SDPs should seek to support the Welsh economy by providing a sufficient number of homes, and of a sufficient quality, to attract and retain skilled professionals and should not carry forward the recession-based trends in the most recent projections. Existing unmet need For the first time, the housing estimates take account of “existing unmet need”, i.e. existing households without a home of their own – but only for the first five years of the 20-year period. It is assumed that all of this unmet need, totalling 5,645 households, will be cleared within these five years. The Welsh Government has noted that unmet need figures will be updated when the overall estimates are reviewed. The Welsh Government has acknowledged that its assessment of existing unmet need is “likely to be an undercount”, as it does not encompass the full range of need for additional homes. In particular, it only includes concealed households where they were both concealed and overcrowded. Furthermore, single people are not identified as a concealed household under any circumstances, so any single person living in a shared household, for example with parents, or an older person living with an adult child would not be counted. This approach therefore underestimates the number of households in need of a home of their own. Even more troubling is the fact that the overcrowded and concealed household data is taken from the 2011 Census and is included as a number rather than a proportion of all households. These statistics are now dated. For comparison, we note that the total number of concealed families in Wales increased by 57% (+4,832 households) between the 2001 and 2011 Census[2]. While the Welsh Government’s inclusion of an element of unmet need in the housing estimates is to be welcomed, it is important to recognise that its approach significantly underestimates the actual level of unmet need. Tenure breakdown  The overall national and regional housing need estimates will be broken down by tenure in Spring 2019, to include the following sectors: Owner-occupier; Private sector rent; Below market rent; and, Social rent. We will be interested to see how the need for each of these tenures has been calculated and distributed. However, the crucial test will be during plan preparation to understand how these figures are applied in policy – and the extent to which they impact upon viability and deliverability considerations. [1] The common period covered by both sets of projections [2] Equivalent data from the 2001 Census on overcrowded and concealed households is not available.  


Major Development & Developments of National Significance Consultation Requirements in Wales (different but not so different)
The Lichfields Cardiff office has guided some of Wales’ biggest development schemes through the consultation and engagement requirements of major planning applications and Developments of National Significance (DNSs)[i]. This Q&A explores the differences and similarities between the two determination regimes. What are DNSs and Major Developments in Wales? ‘Major development’ includes residential development of 10 or more dwellings, or with a site area of at least 0.5 ha. For non-residential development it comprises sites with an area of at least 1 ha, those creating at least 1,000 sq m of floorspace, or waste or mineral development, unless it is classified as a DNS. Applications for major development are determined by the relevant local planning authority (unless they are subject to an appeal process). DNS development includes projects of a specified scale relating to land uses including airports, railways and electricity-generating stations (among others). A full list of DNS project and thresholds is set out in the ‘Specified Criteria’ Regulations[i]. Applications for DNS development are determined by the Welsh Ministers through the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) Wales, with the local authority being a statutory consultee. A DNS development does not have to be ‘major’ to be of ‘national significance’; it is solely dependent on whether the scale of development exceeds the thresholds set out in the Regulations. Client image: Valero/ERM What are the key differences between consultation and engagement for DNS and major development projects? Both are required to undertake a minimum level of consultation prior to submission however there are key differences in the length and nature of that consultation. DNS applicants are required to undertake pre-application consultation for 42 days. For major developments this is 28 days. DNS pre-application consultation must include the publication of a newspaper notice, as well as consultation with other ‘relevant persons’. The exact nature of consultation and publicity will vary depending on the proposal and it is expected that most DNS projects will exceed the minimum requirements. Post-submission publicity for DNS applications is undertaken by PINS Wales rather than the local planning authority. This includes a further newspaper notice, serving notice on adjoining owners or occupiers and a website. For major development applications a local authority would only need to publish a newspaper notice if the development is an EIA project, if it is not in accordance with planning policy or if it would affect a public right of way. DNS applications are determined by the Welsh Ministers though the relevant local authority is required to  submit a Local Impact Report. Community Councils and other interested local planning authorities may submit a Voluntary Local Impact Report. These are similar in nature to the Officer’s Report associated with major planning applications. What are the consultation challenges for DNS projects and major developments and how can these be overcome? Many of the challenges are similar between the two determination routes, albeit they are often amplified for larger scale developments. Below we look at some of the key challenges and how they may be overcome:   Ensuring Compliance: Understanding of the relevant legislative requirements is vital. This is applicable for DNS and major developments, but the complexity of DNS projects means this is particularly important and, if not undertaken correctly, could lead to considerable problems at the determination stage. Make sure that you have a project team that has a proven track record in the relevant consultation process. Timing & Frequency: Whilst DNS and major development consultations have mandatory elements, going above and beyond the statutory requirements can pay dividends. Ironing out as many issues as possible at the pre-application stage will allow the determination process to focus on the key issues; providing certainty to all and speeding up the decision-making process. Early and regular engagement can therefore have big benefits, but it is important that the engagement is meaningful. Misinformation & Proportionality: Due to the scale and complexity of major and DNS applications the risk of misinformation, or small issues becoming a major problem is a risk. The use of social media has increased the speed at which this can happen. Lichfields' Smarter Engagement Five Point Plan highlights the need for a consultation strategy to be shaped by an understanding of the various stakeholder groups relevant to the project. It is important that the team responds to potential issues at the earliest opportunity. Ignoring misinformation could compromise the project in the long run. Managing Volume: the scale of DNS and major development projects makes managing the volume of responses, reviewing and handling them in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) a significant task in itself. It is vital to have robust and efficient handling procedures in place. Value of face-to face contact: Neither regime makes it mandatory to meet consultees face-to-face however faceless consultation can fuel misinformation and misunderstanding (see above). Invariably there is a solution to a problem through face-to-face contact and explaining the proposed development. What tips would you specifically give to applicants for DNS and/or major development projects? Consultation is key! Think about consultation and engagement early in the process and allow sufficient time in the programme. Specifically for DNS projects, be mindful that the application must be submitted within 1 year of PINS Wales’ acceptance date of the DNS. Understand the relevant Regulations and what is required at each stage to avoid delay and the potential for future legal challenge. Make sure to use the correct consultation and notice forms. For DNS projects these are provided as Schedules within the DNS Procedure Order (NB. PINS Wales can provide these forms in English and Welsh on request). Only undertake mandatory pre-application consultation when you are ready. There is scope to vary the proposed development once the DNS or major development consultation has finished, however if substantial scheme changes are made the process may need to start again. Remember to include any secondary consents in the DNS application scheme/consultation. This includes Listed Building Consent, Conservation Area Consent and Hazardous Substances Consent, among others. Ensure that the consultation is accessible to all – including English and Welsh speakers (N.B. Lichfields can provide in-house translation services if required). Think of the mandatory pre-application consultation website as a tool for disseminating information as well as a consultation portal. This helps to keep everyone updated and encourages communities to become involved in the project. Image credit: Foster + Partners [1] Developments of National Significance, Welsh Government[1] The Developments of National Significance (Specified Criteria and Prescribed Secondary Consents) (Wales) Regulations 2016