Is there any longer a role for ‘jobs led’ local plan strategies?

There was a time when national policy required housing and employment strategies in local plans to be integrated. Not any more.

Although the NPPF requires a ‘boost’ to housing and strategic targets are set as a minimum there is no requirement to consider any more than that set out in the standard method, in which employment plays no role any more according to the latest guidance.

It seems no longer to be an option to set a minimum significantly larger than a normal buffer because of the text ‘unless exceptional circumstances justify an alternative approach which also reflects current and future demographic trends and market signals.’ from para. 60.

Frequently local plans used ‘jobs led’ as opposed to ‘housing led’ approaches in SHMAS. LEPS frequently produce economic/industrial strategies that propose large scale economic growth – notably the West Midlands. Housebuilders frequently state that not enough housing is proposed because the employment growth is not matched by housing growth.

Although it is a vain prospectus to try and match housing and employment growth with any degree of precision in the long run they must run in broad tandem. Housing growth areas like new towns always saw employment growth lag and them rely for many years on commuting as service sector growth required large populations. People move in the first place to areas because of job opportunities or to retire. If employment and housing get out of sync you are embedding longer distance commuting – likely car based and high carbon. This is particularly the case with the arc, where the definition of the problem is the massive jobs and housing imbalance in Cambridge and Oxford. The TTWA for Cambridge has massively increased in a decade – now absorbing the Harlow TTWA. If you only meet the standard method you will be forever have to run to catch up with affordability as there wont be enough houses to match the new jobs. The housing and economic growth from new jobs and new housing will add to the spending power of those in the housing market, but at a greater rate than the rate of change of supply – hence housing affordability will still go down and commuting distances, and carbon outputs from non decarbonised transport will be higher than they would have been in a jobs led strategy.

Therefore if the Government is serious about the Arc they should not just consult on a purely standard method + land constrained areas overspill target for the area – as per the NIC report, but an alternative high growth ‘jobs led’ scenario where economic growth in the arc was not constrained. Indeed internally I can reveal the department developed their own bespoke method for the Arc which has never been published.

Something has gone wrong somewhere in the governments strategic planning thinking. Strategic planning is no longer a dirty word, but it is not true strategic planning if the amount of housing is fixed without without any thought or coordination with the strategic planning of employment.

These Endless Refusals on Sites Allocated in Development Plans Shows there is no Logical Case Against Zoning

Hardly a day goes by these days without another decision overturned on appeal against a refusal of a site in a local authorities development plan.

There is only one distinction in law between a planning system based on discretion and one based on zoning. That is in a zoning system the zoning system gives consent as of right to one or more levels of detail of the schemes design. They dont prevent consultation or discretion, they simply give some finality to proceedings, finality concluded when all consents and permits are granted. Frequently a zoning plan only gives consent to a sites land use, quantum of development and some limited parameters. Other matters are subject to consultation and/or design control. Where form based codes (design codes in English parlence) are in place they can often drill down another level, permitting the gneral layout and form. For these parameters not in the zoning code discretion is required, as it it for most sites in most rural areas which few zoning codes in the world cover.

The only real objection to stopping zoning is to give the right to object and frustrate on matters to which the public will has already decided and made a democratic decision on. This is a right to frustrate a right to stop an enablement of the right to be a NIMBY on battles already lost and to go against the democratic will of the majority to promote the interests of an awkward squad of an enabled minority.

Lets be honest the majority of objectors to zoning are of this enabled antidemocratic minority. If you want to object to the form of a zoning system, its nuances and legal mechanisms, its structure and best practice, then do so, but hardly any of the discussions on zoning are of this form.