Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Jam Tomorrow

Everybody in the industry knows that we are not building enough homes and most commentators will accept that this is for a myriad of reasons: from mortgage availability to actual capacity in the industry. Many will state that the Planning system is at least partly at fault for not approving sufficient building plots in the right locations.

A current greenfield scheme in Aslockton Notts.

A recent scheme in Melbourne Derbyshire

Within the planning profession  there is considerable confusion on how you measure housing land supply availability. Published articles (e.g.research by Indigo Planning in 19th June edition of "Planning") considered that many Councils in South-East England seriously over estimated their 5 year land supply position. This was put down to differing interpretations from the "National Planning Practice Guidance" (NPPG) on whether the "Liverpool" or "Sedgefield" methods were appropriate and equally whether a 5% or 20% buffer for previous under-delivery was correct. 

Essentially the "Liverpool" method states that any housing shortfall should be evened out over the whole of the remaining Plan period, typically 15 years; while "Sedgefield" says the shortfall must be resolved in the next five years. The latter is much more in the spirit of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF): "To boost significantly the supply of housing" as encouraged in para. 47.

However, for me the reality is much more invidious, as there is a third method. I call it the "housing trajectory" one.

Take two Core Strategies recently adopted in West Northants and Rushcliffe, Notts in December 2014. In the former the approved housing trajectory in Daventry District proposes sites for only 400 homes in 2014/5, but by 2019/20 this rises to 1020 plots. Meanwhile in Rushcliffe the figure for 2015/16 is only 408, but for the five years 2018 to 2023 exceeds 1000 for each year. This helps your current 5 year land supply evaluation considerably as there is a much lower target now! The actual demand calculations are based upon the same requirement each year, but the supply is varied by being back loaded in these areas.

This back loading may be for perfectly legitimate reasons; most notably the desire to create large urban extensions; but let us not kid ourselves that in the interim we are attempting "to boost significantly the supply of housing." We are doing the opposite.

The issues involved in the supply of housing are much more complex than arguing over how to measure the supply of land. However, it would certainly help if the NPPG could provide a clearer steer on what I would say are the three, not two, methods of housing supply calculation: "Liverpool", "Sedgefield" and "Housing Trajectory". And it would also help avoid substantial repetitive debate at many planning appeals.

Peter Wilkinson