Yet again tweaks to guidance via letter being used as a proxy for the now almost weekly policy changes to the NPPF. This time in a letter to the planning inspectorate.
Brandon Lewis is clearly learning on the job and its not a pretty sight.
Strategic Housing Market Assessments
I am writing to ensure our existing policy position on emerging evidence in the form of Strategic Housing Market Assessments is clear.
We have set out in our recent guidance that a Strategic Housing Market Assessment is just the first stage in developing a Local Plan and councils can take account of constraints which indicate that development should be restricted
The extent of constraints will be justified on a case by case basis for each Local Plan, depending on particular local circumstances, within a housing market area. Many councils have now completed Strategic Housing Market Assessments either for their own area or jointly with their neighbours. The publication of a locally agreed assessment provides important new evidence and where appropriate will prompt councils to consider revising their housing requirements in their Local Plans. We would expect councils to actively consider this new evidence over time and, where over a reasonable period they do not, Inspectors could justifiably question the approach to housing land supply. However, the outcome of a Strategic Housing Market Assessment is untested and should not automatically be seen as a proxy for a final housing requirement in Local Plans. It does not immediately or in itself invalidate housing numbers in existing Local Plans.
Councils will need to consider Strategic Housing Market Assessment evidence carefully and take adequate time to consider whether there are environmental and policy constraints, such as Green Belt, which will impact on their overall final housing requirement. They also need to consider whether there are opportunities to cooperate with neighbouring planning authorities to meet needs across housing market
areas. Only after these considerations are complete will the council’s approach be tested at examination by an Inspector. Clearly each council will need to work through this process to take account of particular local circumstances in responding to Strategic Housing Market Assessments.
As you are aware, the Secretary of State can recover appeals, for example where he considers that they raise issues of national importance. This is important to support the application of relevant policies at national level.
I have highlighted what is new. Clearly the implication was the last ad hoc and not consulted on revision was not clear.
The old guidance made it celar that the SHMA was just the first step, what is new is the assumption that LPAs should be given time to assess evidence. Previously I have recommended ton this blog that 1 year was reasonable after new HH projections to complete a revised SHMA.
The reference to Green Belt being a ‘policy constraint’ and the DTC making up shortages from constrained housing is a slight reigning back from the last set of guidance and really should have been their from the outset. It makes it clear that the constant is not an absolute one, that policy needs to be supported by evidence and if you keep a GB constraint you make up the need elsewhere.
But there is still a black hole. Following the Hunstan and Solihull cases it is clear that the NPPF is a radical break which made local plans not meeting OAN in full out of date overnight. Though the new letter makes it clear that LPAs need reasonable time to consider new evidence many plans were out of date even with old evidence. The Planning inspectorate could usefully seek clarification on what to do in those circumstances, and secondly how to calculate on S78 appeals the 5 year supply (especially with RS withdrawn) given that ministers are no saying that you cant automatically rely on SHMA numbers on a district by district basis. If you cant claculate the 5 year supply, how can you apply para 14 of the NPPF.
Brandon Lewis is making it up as he goes along, one fix creating ever more problems requiring ever more fixes.
He gives the impression of not liking the central plank of the NPPF, using 5 year targets as a punitive stick to get LPAS to adopt local plans meeting OAN in full. He would much rather they were ‘slow coaches’ and didnt rock the bopat with new housing supply and green belt release until after the election.
If he doesnt like this then he should just scrap or amend para. 14 and not mess everyone around.