The Times today (Tuesday 25 May) reported on inaccurate analysis by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), stating that rural areas will have a legal requirement to meet the new house building targets. They say this will put pressure on councils to accept more development of Green Belt sites and in areas of outstanding natural beauty.
This analysis is deliberately misleading. To compare housing delivery in different parts of the country based on Local Housing Need formula is to misunderstand the nature and purpose of these numbers. That’s not how they work – the numbers mentioned are a starting point for local councils to help them understand how much housing is needed in their area and are not legally binding. Put simply, it is a measure of an area’s housing need, against which councils must then consider their local circumstances and supply pipeline. Councils draw up a local housing target, taking into account factors including land availability and environmental constraints such as Green Belt.
Protecting the Green Belt is a priority and our national planning policy reinforces regenerating previously developed land, known as brownfield sites, and prioritising urban areas. The uplift in local housing needed within our biggest cities and urban centres in England will direct homes to where they are better served by infrastructure, and therefore protect our countryside. It also supports our wider objectives of regenerating brownfield sites, renewal, and levelling up.
Green Belt decisions will remain with councils and communities, ensuring they have influence over development, location and design.
This government is committed to levelling up all around the country. This includes the development of much needed new homes in both the north and the south of England. For example, a number of places outside of the South East have gone over and above to provide much-needed new homes in recent years, including:
- Bolsover: Current Local Housing Need: 224 | Three year annual average delivery: 278
- Copeland: Current Local Housing Need: 11 | Three year annual average delivery 134
- Darlington: Current Local Housing Need: 165 | Three year annual average delivery 414
- Hartlepool: Current Local Housing Need: 180| Three year annual average delivery: 274
- Redcar and Cleveland: Current Local Housing Need: 89 | Three year annual average delivery: 486
We have been clear that local plan policies should be informed by up-to-date assessments of the need for open space and sport and recreation facilities, and communities can designate Local Green Space to protect important green areas from development.
The government signed off the London Plan in Feb 2021 which is now set for the next 5 years. The local housing need uplift will, therefore, only be applicable once the next London Plan is being developed in 2026.
The Local Housing Need is simply a measure of need and we recognise that not everywhere will be able to meet their housing need in full – for example, where available land is constrained due to the Green Belt and an area therefore has to plan for fewer new homes. At the same time, there may be areas which want to be more ambitious in planning for more homes, and they should be able to continue this where appropriate.
Local Plans should cover a minimum period of 15 years. However, councils are able to review their plans for housing during this period, and to be clear, plans must be reviewed at least once every five years to take into account changes in circumstances and to ensure policies remain effective.
But the standard method is no longer a measure of local need. It is based on 2014 need redistributed because of a cap and arbitary urban redistribution. Also the Planning White paper said many times the revised method would be binding and not just a starting point, only for the minister to say in the response to the standard method consultation that oh you misunderstand us, its just a starting point. If its just a starting point what is the method to redistribute need that cant be met locally given the proposal to abolish the duty to cooperate.
This is dodging the political question. Does there need to be more housing in the countryside or less. If housing cant be built in some areas where should it be built? Can the MCHLG answer these questions in single paragraphs in terms non planners can understand?