Planning Update | Household projections

Planning Update | Household projections


David Bainbridge, Partner, Bidwells, looks at the recent ‘household projections’ statistics and argues that they should not be interpreted as housing requirements.

The Office for National Statistics 2016-based household projections in England, released in September, caused some ripples in the planning and development world. The projections showed a significant decrease in households in some locations leading to calls for reduced housing requirements and less green fields to be built on. A notable example is Oxfordshire where some of the projections to the year 2036 show a 40% reduction.

These projections are just part of the methodology for calculating housing requirements and hence should not be interpreted as the actual housing requirements.

As if looking to pre-empt the mischief-making, the Government announced on 1st October yet further measures intended to speed up the planning system in their quest to see delivery of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

These projections are just part of the methodology for calculating housing requirements and hence should not be interpreted as the actual housing requirements.

Part of the solution to the planning system is the amount of time spent and uncertainty over housing requirements as Local Planning Authorities up and down the land seek ‘the right figure’. 

Delays in methodology

Despite the positive announcement, the Government has indicated that the new standard methodology for calculating housing requirements might not be published until the end of this year, or possibly not until 24th January 2019.

This is the 6-month anniversary of publication of the new National Planning Policy Framework and the deadline by which LPAs must submit Local Plans for examination to be tested under the old NPPF. 

A significant consideration being whether the housing requirements will increase or decrease when the new housing methodology is published.  As the 24 January deadline is currently fixed and there is no certainty over publication of the standard methodology this seems like an unlevel planning field.

The Budget

The Autumn Budget has been set for 29th October to make best use of time up to withdrawal from the EU in March 2019. The Budget last year included an entire chapter on housing including infrastructure provision.

A positive announcement on measures to aid delivery of housing will be welcome, including the Help to Buy initiative.

Seek approval

Another planning measure brought is the requirement for LPAs to seek the approval of applicants in respect of planning conditions that need to be agreed prior to the commencement of development. This is an area many developers find frustrating at such a critical stage in the process and whilst the measure is not a silver bullet it sets the right discourse.

Speculative development, a phrase often used in a pejorative sense, has been curtailed in some areas where housing land supply requirements are sufficient or the target has been reduced. Such challenge applications can often result in planning appeals and where successful add to the source of land for housing development.

A speculative application for development this year can be new homes next year.  A fact infrequently commented on by objectors to sites in for planning.

The prospect of appealing non-determination or refusal on unallocated sites is not exactly appealing as the most recent stats show an average wait of 59 weeks for appeal decisions where the procedure is an inquiry.

The winds of change in planning for housing development continue to blow but the cob-webs remain stubborn in some areas.

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