The NPPF starts to bite … Local Plan Housing Allocations
Two northern councils have run into problems with their core strategies relating to housing land supply and whether they should include an extra 20 per cent buffer of land for homes.
The Inspector examining Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council’s Local Plan has suspended proceedings for six months as he said he had “significant doubts” about its attempt to demonstrate an adequate supply of deliverable housing land.
Meanwhile, Hull City Council has asked for a six-month suspension of its Core Strategy examination as it has also been challenged by the Inspector over housing land supply.
The new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) says that councils should maintain a five-year land supply with an extra five per cent buffer, although this should be 20 per cent where there is “a record of persistent under-delivery”.
In both cases the Inspector has said that a buffer of 20 per cent is required due to past under-performance.
It is understood that the Inspectors are basing their assessments on housing completions. This has led some to argue that this is an unfair basis on which to assess Council performance as it takes no account of the current economic climate under which house-builders and not building anywhere near to the number of houses they were before the financial crash. They argue that whilst there may be an undersupply of housing, proper account should be take of permissions that have not been implemented. However form a purely practical perspective, people can only live in completed houses and an unbuilt permission is useless to someone in need.
The Home Builders Federation has said that most councils should consider using a 20 per cent buffer as few have delivered on housing and they must be realistic about the types of sites the market can bring forward.
The Royal Town Planning Institute has said that the suspension of Wigan Council’s examination was an example of the NPPF biting and showed that councils have to take the buffers very seriously.
The thrust of these two decisions leaves developers in an interesting position. Potentially, shortfalls in delivery might open the door to arguments for new permissions being obtained. The arguments to support such positions will usually require specialist help and are not likely to be straightforward. In particular, council annual monitoring reports are not likely to give all the answers and specialist Freedom of Information requests may have to be made to get the evidence needed.
As you would probably expect us to say, if you think you might need help with this, contact the team at Prism!