A new report says “objectively assessed housing need” is actually forcing English councils to release far more greenfield land than their future needs require and a change in planning guidance is needed.
CPRE’s new research has found that strategic housing-market assessments produced by local authorities (SHMAs) are inaccurate, inflated and unreliable. They say housing figures produced by SHMAs are not being balanced with sensible planning for infrastructure, consideration of environmental constraints, and realistic assessments of what housebuilders will be able to deliver. The report found that in effect the guidance asks local authorities to base their plans on aspiration rather than need. Read their interesting Report Summary on Objectively Assessed Need.
Brownfield Briefing’s response:
English local planning authorities have been assessing local housing requirements 30% too high and 50% above average build rates, according to a new analysis.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England commissioned an analysis of council methodologies to determine the so-called “objectively assessed housing need” introduced under the National Planning Policy Framework in 2012.
Housing Vision and Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design found huge unnecessary releases of greenfield land for housing, lack of clear guidance, subjective calculations and a lack of concern for land availability and environmental impact.
“The current process is not only highly damaging to our countryside and the environment in general,” said head of planning Matt Thomson. “It is also damaging to community well-being and extraordinarily frustrating for local people.” He said the Government is taking a top-down approach through its planning inspectors and the threat of expensive appeals to impose and enforce housing targets – despite ministers calling for more localism.
“Instead, we need to see a more accurate definition of community need at the heart of all local plans, and more consideration for environmental concerns and land availability,” he said.
“Councils should not be penalised for failing to meet implausible ambitions for growth over and above actual housing need.”
It found that, in 54 local plans approved in the past two years, the average housing requirement was 30% above Government household projections and 50% above average build rates. Only seven of the 54 targets took environmental factors into account.
In Oxfordshire the strategic housing market assessment demanded an extra 100,000 homes by 2031, three times national population growth and requiring two cities the size of Oxford. In North Somerset the communities secretary has recently approved an inspector’s recommendation to raise an already raised housing target from 17,000 to 21,000 despite AONB and flooding constraints.
In the year up to June, 242,000 homes were given planning consent, but starts were only made on 136,000. But local authorities where building falls below five-year targets can be forced to allow greenfield sprawl whether planned or not. Brownfield Briefing 16 Nov 2015