Matthew Spry Litchfields Planning Matters – Full blog here, here are a few highlights
If the replacement for the Standard Method is a vacuum or some kind of ‘soft’ target, it will – despite all the talk of incentives and de-regulation – likely lead to a much-reduced level of housing provision.
Why? The current (2018-based) household projections envisage formation of just 164,000 new households each year (baking in trends of household suppression). In plan making, ONS local projections would likely be an influence for most LPAs. Whilst some might seek to exceed their figure, absent clear guidance on addressing market signals, affordable housing need or economic growth, most would see it as a maximum to then be moderated by perceived or actual constraints. If there was not an adequate mechanism for Green Belt review or addressing unmet need in our under-bounded, constrained big cities (Birmingham, London, urban South Hampshire, Leicester [not with a GB], etc) then output would be suppressed. If the ‘tilted balance’ policy (or five year housing land supply requirement) was not applied with force to areas with out of date local plans, we can reasonably expect the national total would fall well below 160K, perhaps down to 140K. …
At the most optimistic, one might see output in a ‘no-target’ world go as high as, say, 185K if there was a major funding and delivery effort to support brownfield regeneration akin to the early 2000s (and a strong market for the particular form of housing it provides), a permissive approach to other forms of housing development that was treated as windfalls and not to be offset against other planned provision, and a strong commitment to plan making.
Reflecting on this uncertain picture, it is worth turning to why housing targets have a role in plan making more generally….
A new approach to housing need must be accompanied by a reinvigoration of the evidential justification for housing supply as part of the solution to the housing crisis. Whether we need a headline national target is moot, but the role – identified by Barker and the NHPAU – of supply in addressing affordability, especially in the least affordable areas, would benefit from a refresh. This also can remind us that most comparable European countries – large and small, crowded or sparsely populated – regularly build many more homes per capita each year and are mostly the better for it. …
The concept of need and targets is only as good as the ability of the system to generate positive plan making; this means plans formulated at the right spatial scale to address strategic planning issues (duty to cooperate issues, constrained urban areas and the like), a streamlining of the plan-making system and its outputs to increase productivity (as suggested by the LURB), digitalisation of the process, better resourcing, and the right mix of carrots and stick for plan making bodies, including a political drive….
It is a false dichotomy to assume that planning focused on boosting supply must be at the expense of wider policy objectives around quality, design, place making, infrastructure delivery and securing net zero carbon, all of which can be part of the framework.