Consultation on 'quick fix' for calculating housing need, and changes to NPPF

08 Nov 2018

On the 26th October, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) announced a further consultation on the standard method for calculating local housing need, as well as minor changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The consultation is in response to the publication of the 2016 household projections which showed a slowing in household growth, and a subsequent reduction in ‘housing need’ to only 213,000 homes per annum (nationally), notwithstanding the Government’s commitment to delivering 300,000 new homes by the mid-2020s.

Councils across the country responded immediately, re-considering their emerging housing targets. Guildford Borough Council wrote to the Inspector following closure of their Local Plan examination, to state that a lower calculation of housing need should be adopted, and the proposed main modification rejected; the Inspector is currently considering whether to re-open the Hearings on this basis.

This new consultation is an attempt to deliver a ‘quick fix’ just one month after the publication of the 2016 projections, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to boosting national housing delivery. The consultation suggests that the 2014 household projections should be used in the short term, which would result in national housing delivery of c269,000 homes per annum - falling short of the Government’s target, but heading in the right direction.  Whilst this is an early blow to the Government’s attempt to streamline housing need calculations, it is important to note that projections are based on past trends, and the 2016 projections are based on a period where the housing market was not delivering a sufficient supply of housing, therefore forcing households to live together longer.

At the same time, the Government is reviewing a new formula for the calculation of local housing need which will be in place prior to the publication of the next set of projections. The aim is to create a transparent calculation which is not open to significant debate.  It is only a starting point for the calculation of housing need, but one that can only be reduced in exceptional circumstances; to achieve the Government’s national housing target will require aspirational Councils to go above and beyond the standardised method.

Proposed amendments to NPPF

The consultation also proposes minor changes to the NPPF, largely points of clarification, which will be welcomed by planning professionals.

More significant are the changes proposed in relation to developments requiring Habitats Regulations Assessment. Amendments were made to the NPPF following the ruling of the European Court of Justice in People over Wind, Peter Sweetman v Coillte Teoranta (“People over Wind”). The effect of the ruling is that appropriate assessment is required wherever there is a potential impact on a European protected site, regardless of mitigation measures proposed, although these can be applied to the assessment itself.

The revisions to the NPPF effectively disengaged the presumption in favour of sustainable development in such circumstances, which has been a particular blow to development in the home counties where a number of European protected sites exist (notwithstanding the ‘planning balance’ argument which can still be relied on!).

The consultation proposes further clarification, acknowledging that the intent of the changes were never to remove the presumption where the inclusion of mitigation was acceptable, and reinstating the presumption in favour of sustainable development where the appropriate assessment concludes that there will be ‘no adverse effect’.

To review the consultation in full, click through to the website here, or to discuss with a member of our planning consultancy team, please contact Katie Lamb.

Responses to the consultation must be submitted by 7 December 2018.

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