Seasonal changes

Seasonal changes

David Bainbridge, Partner Bidwells, reviews some of the seasonal changes in planning for housing development.

International migration was lower but continued to be the main driver of the UK population growth, estimates released by The Office for National Statistics (ONS) in June showed. The ONS provides household projections which are an indication of the number of additional households that would form if demographic trends continue. These household projections are one of the main considerations for the calculation of housing requirements.

The seasonal changes in planning for housing development are not new but they will shape the scale and pace of housing delivery for years to come.

The return to business at Westminster following the Summer Recess heralds the start of seasonal changes in planning for housing development. The standard methodology for the calculation of housing requirements has been hotly anticipated as it will inevitably tamper with the draft methodology consulted on last year to look towards delivery of 300,000 homes a year in England.

Household projections

The 2016-based household projections in England released by ONS in September will influence the housing numbers, but one should not assume that the trends will continue to be upwards. The growth in population decreased for all four home nations and unsurprisingly England continued to see the highest rate of growth.

What was surprising is that London, which was the fastest growing English Region to mid-2016, saw its growth rate roughly half – whereas the East Midlands had the fastest population growth and Leicestershire experienced the fastest growth. Leicestershire is an attractive and accessible County and one relatively free of planning policy constraints being unaffected by Green Belt and such like.

Housing delivery

In November, all Local Planning Authorities are required to publish figures on housing delivery in their areas under the Housing Delivery Test (HDT), which was brought in under the National Planning Policy Framework.

The HDT looks back over the previous three years but the outcome will result in some Local Planning Authorities having to publish an action plan to assess why there has been a shortfall and to identify actions to increase delivery in future years.

This could result in steps being taken to increase the supply of land for housing through a combination of reviews of Local Plans and granting of planning permission for sustainable development. 

Land value capture

Sir Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, is due to report on the Committee’s review of the effectiveness of current land value capture methods including through the planning system.

Much written and oral evidence has been provided on this matter and sides of the debate remain as polarised as ever. There had been suggestion that the Government could look to capture more of the increase in the value of land when planning permission is granted for housing development. However, Kit Malthouse MP, Minister of State for Housing, has indicated that Government intervention is unlikely.

Iain Stewart, MP for Milton Keynes South, who is the Government’s champion for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Corridor was expected to report on his findings and recommendations ahead of the Budget but his recent move to the Whips Office has cast some doubt over this. Reporting on the Corridor was intended to inform the Government’s response to the National Infrastructure Commission’s report on this nationally significant area.

Autumn Budget

There have been some suggestions that The Autumn Budget might be brought forward to maximise time between publication and the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union in March 2019. More than ever the Budget must create conditions to stimulate investment and growth not least as housing development is an important part of the UK’s Gross Domestic Product.

Help to Buy has helped housing sales and hence output in many areas of England and is set to continue until 2021. This form of Government financial support for home ownership will be a hard habit to break and so expectations are for transitional arrangements or a replacement package of measures to address fears of a dip in sales.


David Bainbridge, MRTPI, Partner, Planning at Bidwells, has 20 years’ planning experience. He has successfully delivered planning permission and land allocations for residential, industrial, leisure and mixed-use developments. David is a former Chair of the East Midlands Royal Town Planning Institute, having qualified in 1999.

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