A recent appeal decision has highlighted how a change in national planning policy could impact on the ability of councils to show they are delivering enough homes.
Five-year housing land supply
By now we all know the importance placed on councils being able to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply. Without it, local planning policies are considered out-of-date and decisions are made based on national policies instead. This has been a critical route to securing planning permission in recent years.
To count towards that five-year supply, homes have to be “deliverable.” The original National Planning Policy Framework was a little vague when it came to defining what that meant. The result was a slew of contradictory appeal decisions culminating in a High Court judgement, known as St Modwen. The judgement essentially concluded that many types of site – those with both detailed and outline planning permission plus local plan allocations – should be assumed to be capable of delivering in the next five years unless there was evidence to the contrary.
This interpretation made it somewhat easier for councils to show they had a deliverable five-year supply.
The revised National Planning Policy Framework
When the revised Framework was published this summer, it changed the definition of “deliverable”. The new wording, tucked away in Annex 2, seemed to make it somewhat harder to demonstrate that sites were deliverable. Only small sites and those with a detailed permission were presumed to be deliverable.
At the end of September, the planning appeal decision in a case in Mid Suffolk provided the first evidence of how this new definition will be applied in practice. It makes good reading for developers.
Writing about sites with outline planning permission, the inspector observed “the onus is on the Council to provide the clear evidence that each of these sites would start to provide housing completions within 5 years.”
The implications of this new definition
This is a significant shift. No longer is it acceptable for councils to assume sites are deliverable unless it is proved otherwise. Other than sites with a detail planning permission, there is no longer an “automatic right” or inclusion in the supply. Instead, the council must engage with applicants and land owners and gather evidence that sites are deliverable.
The same is true for allocated development sites, those on brownfield land registers and those with permission in principle – the revised Framework groups them all together.
Many councils rely heavily on sites like these for their housing land supplies. While they will still have an important role to play in ensuring housing is delivered, councils will need to work harder to demonstrate that they will actually deliver.
That information gathering is likely to prove relatively simple once councils get into the swing of it – but it will result in some sites being discounted, reducing housing supplies. For a time, at least, it is also likely to cause significant reductions in the deliverable housing supply of some councils while they gather the evidence they need.
This post also featured in Planning magazine.
How we can help
As a specialist land promoter, The Strategic Land Group has a wealth of experience in securing planning permission for new homes. Working in conjunction with land owners, we deliver planning consent on their sites at our cost and risk. Our return is a share of the value of the site once it is sold – so if we don’t succeed, it doesn’t cost you anything.
If you know of a site that might be suitable for our approach, get in touch today for a free, no obligation assessment.