Conservative MP Caroline Nokes writes ahead of her Westminster Hall debate on National planning policy and housing targets.
The constituency of Romsey and Southampton North, in common with many others in the South East, faces enormous challenges to strike the right balance between housing growth and protecting green spaces from inappropriate development. The task is made harder by a determination by some developers to play the system, and, after having secured planning permission, waiting years before building out their schemes.
I do not pretend Test Valley is unique in facing the challenge of a five year housing land supply which appears to be a somewhat movable target, and I have noticed how successive developers seek to demonstrate their rivals’ schemes are, for whatever reason, undeliverable, only to then appear to struggle to deliver their own when it is granted permission, usually on appeal. Of course, there will always be some planning reasons why schemes are not developed at the rate initially predicted, but these should not be commercial reasons, where sites are delayed or developed only painfully slowly. In many cases these tactics can simply be a ploy to prove the local authority does not have a five year supply, thus improving the chances of yet another speculative site being granted on appeal.
Test Valley currently has granted as much as seven years of planning permissions, yet slow build rates, or in some cases no building at all, mean that each and every speculative application can point to the rate of delivery and suggest there is not a 5 year supply. In some cases we have even seen developers arguing against themselves, that a site they previously had demonstrated would be more deliverable than a rival’s, now for whatever reason is not, so they need to bring forward yet another one.
Ministers need to find innovative and interesting ways to offer the carrot and wield the stick, so that sites, once granted planning permission, are not “land banked”. Developers need to be encouraged to get on with building homes, and prevented from manipulating and influencing the 5 year supply numbers to their own advantage. It is nobody’s best interest that planning permissions are not built, if granted they need to be built at a good rate, to provide homes, allow communities to develop and to prevent a situation where greenfield sites are repeatedly targeted by developers, knowing that eventually if they build their other sites slowly enough, an Inspector will feel obliged to permit yet another scheme.
The debate could usefully point to the incentives recently enacted in the ROI