If You Meet Objective Need You Shouldnt Be Found Unsound

Im becoming more and more worried by Local plans which meet objective housing need, but which are still being found unsound.  I’ve been meaning to write about this for sometime but until recently it was only a theoretical possibility, recently we have had both Eastleigh and Uttlesford fall into this category.

The beauty of OAN is in theory wholly objective independent body could calculate it. Indeed we would have gained I think 4 of the last 10 years of plan making if this had been the case. The trouble is the NPPF adds a host of subjective add ons without definition of scale etc.  These being ‘market signals’, the affordable ‘boost’ and employment balance.

How long is a piece of string, you cant combine the objectivity fo OAN with vague concepts like ‘market signals’.  You have the ridiculous sight of the Uttlesford inspector making a figure up of 10% to reflect these.  ‘Boost’  in Uttlesford you would have to triple housing numbers to meet need in full, this should be an option not a requirement.  The one difficult issue is employment balance.  To my mind it can easily be incorporated in OAN if you maintain realistic assumptions about maintenance of levels of non out commuting in the light of economic development.   So when we finally revise the NPPF lets make the formula

Need= OAN    and not

Need = OAN + a number the inspector makes up.

One thought on “If You Meet Objective Need You Shouldnt Be Found Unsound

  1. Having been involved in both examinations there was a need to increase supply above the baseline demographic need in order to address issues of affordability generally and assist with ‘affordable housing’ provision more specifically. I tend to agree, however, that consideration of market signals and employment considerations and deciding how one might respond to this does tend to introduce a subjective element. However, I consider that the inspectors in both instances were right to invite both councils to consider a figure (they haven’t imposed it – the councils need to go and explore this issue some more) because neither council considered it was obliged to address the problem of housing affordability, despite this being an objective of Government policy. The reluctance of councils to address issues of affordability is just the planners way of saying that this is an issue beyond the scope of town planning. In which case we may as well give up with the discipline.

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