The Government does not propose to proceed with the changes to assessing local housing need consulted on earlier this  year in the ” Changes to the Current Planning System”; but instead has published a revised approach to the standard method, which retains the method in its current form except for London and 19 of the most populated cites and urban centres.

The key change is to apply a 35% uplift to the standard method for Greater London and the 19 most populated cities and urban areas in England – Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Leicester, Coventry, Bradford, Nottingham, Kingston upon Hull, Newcastle upon Tyne, Stoke on Trent, Southampton, Plymouth, Derby, Reading, Wolverhampton and Brighton and Hove.

Three reasons for increasing home building in existing urban areas are set out including:

  • ensuring new homes can maximise existing infrastructure;
  • more opportunities may arise due to the profound structural change in the retail and commercial sector;
  • climate aspirations demanding that a spatial pattern of development reduces the need for high-carbon travel.

Pegasus Group welcome the focus upon major cities and the impetus to plan making which a consistent set of figures will provide. However, we are concerned that the changes fail to grapple with some of the fundamental problems inherent within the current method, particularly the continued reliance upon dated household projections which decrease over time. It is also clear that if the increased requirements for areas like Birmingham, London and Manchester are to be delivered there will need to be much greater reliance and strengthening of the Duty to Co-operate.

In brief, additional points to highlight are as follows. The full details can be found on the GOV.UK website.

  • Reflecting the desire to increase home building in urban areas, making the most of previously developed land  (maximising existing infrastructure, addressing the structural change in urban areas, reducing the need to travel).
  • The objective remains to delivery 300,000 homes per annum by the mid 2020s.
  • There is an emphasis on getting the “right” mix of homes, to help address affordability and the planning for specialist housing.
  • In considering how need is met in the first instance, brownfield and other under-utilised urban sites should be prioritised to promote the most efficient use of land.
  • Local planning authorities should co-operate on that basis, notwithstanding any longer-term proposals set out in the Planning for the Future White Paper.
  • It continues to use the 2014-based household projections
  • It continues to specify that the most recent affordability ratios should be used ensuring relevant market signals continue to play a role.
  • Retains the provision that caps increases in local housing need in each planning cycle at 40%, except for in areas where the cities uplift is applied.
  • Transition – no impact on the majority of authorities, emphasis on bringing forward Local Plans without delay
  • There will be transitional arrangements for those cities and urban centres delivering the additional cities and urban centres uplift. From the date of publication of the amended planning practice guidance which implements the cities and urban centres uplift, authorities already at Regulation 19, will have six months to submit their plans to the Planning Inspectorate for examination, using the previous standard method. In recognition that some areas will be very close to publishing their Regulation 19 plan, these areas will be given three months from the publication date of the revised guidance to publish their Regulation 19 plan, as well as a further six months from the date they publish their Regulation 19 plan to submit their plan to the Planning Inspectorate for examination, to benefit from the transition period.
  • In terms of 5 year housing land supply and for the purposes of the HDT (where strategic policies are more than five years old). Where this applies, the revised standard method (inclusive of the cities and urban areas uplift) will not apply for a period of six months from the publication of the amended planning practice guidance. After 6 months, the new standard method will apply.

For more information about the standard method or anything that has been covered in this article please contact, Senior Director Sarah Hamilton-Foyn, Executive Director Guy Longley or Directors Matthew Good and Neil Tiley.