Simplifying England’s Confused Strategic Planning Geography

Planning for Homes in the Right Places Page 22

every local planning authority produce a statement of common ground over the Housing market area or other agreed geographical area where justified and appropriate. It is proposed that the statement will set out the cross-boundary matters, including the housing need for the area

Very few existing strategic planning arrangements cover exactly housing market areas, which in any event are based on the 2001 census and badly need to be updated to be based on 2011 Travel to Work Areas.

In parts of England with many similar sized towns Housing Market Areas can be highly complex – for example Somerset has 11.   In many areas startegic planning arrangements need to cover more than one HMA, for example Banbury and Oxford in Oxfordshire.  Even in parts of the country with single dominant towns in an HMA this does not avoid the need for cross boundary arrangements.  For example right on the edge  of the new Cambridge TTWA (which a future HMA will be based ) is now Harlow – yet the main areas for expansion of Harlow are to the South in the London TTWA.  Another good example is Telford and Wrekin, outside the Greater Birmingham TTWA as the model trip end is Telford, but where the inspector said rightly that it need to accommodate some Black Country /Birmingham overspill.

What is worse although the government states that housing need exists at HMA level its consultation doesnt publish calculations by HMA, forcing complex GIS based recalculations.

This illustrates that strategic planning areas need to be defined with flexibility and pragmatism, and that cross boundary issues for cooperation will arise however they are defined.

Having looked at this in some detail in my MOAN model – where I will publish the spreadsheet today in a separate post, in the vast majority of cases county or combined authority boundaries will do just fine for strategic planning areas and for defining housing need. Only in a very few cases do they need to be adjusted where they widely diverge from Travel to Work Areas, in most cases there will be small areas at there edges in other TTWAs (such as the small part of Oxfordshire in the Swindon TTWA) but who cares.  As long as the requirements of the Duty to Cooperate are clarified to ensure that the needs of nearby land and policy constrained settlements are taken into account they will do.  Indeed in my mapping of areas for housing need – which I term Housing Planning Areas (HPAs) I have based on them always on counties (ceremonial) or combined authorities, with just a dew necessary adjustments as follows:

-Halton and Warrington assigned to Merseyside rather than Cheshire. as they fll within the St Helens TTWA and form part of teh Atlantic Gateway

-Cheshire and North Staffordshire merged as North Staffs looks toward Manchester and jointly plans with Cheshire as part of the ‘northern gateway’

-Part of Suffolk merged with Cambridge as falling within the Cambridge TTWA and the existing Cambridge Policy Area arrangements for assigning Housing Numbers

-Part of North West Essex merged with Herts (around Stansted) to enable joint planning around the London Stansted Cambridge corridor.

-Warwickshire merged with Coventry because of major overspill from Coventry.

-Leicestershire merged with Rutland, Rutland falls within the Peterborough TTWA but culturally much more an Midlands rather than East of England area.

This leaves 44 Housing and Planning Areas – which form a fabric for sub-regional planning.  These are not so different from the 65 areas from the Radliffe Maud report – with many of the HPAs being mergers of the Radcliffe Maud City regions (i.e. Kent is one rather than two).With the greatest discrepancies of historical counties being resolved through combined authorities none is going to argeu the toss – as they did then, whether Burton on Trent belongs with Staffordshire or Glossop with Derbyshire, ceremonial counties post 74 are good enough.




These areas can in turn be gathered into regions, such as the Midlands Engine, Northern Powerhouse etc.  In the South and South West I gathered them into regions based on rail corridors (Great Central – Oxford-Mk-Cambridge and London Stansted Cambridge Corridor), Southern, Great Eastern amd Great Western.