Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Planning Inspectorate forcing revisions to avoid drop in housing supply

Councils ordered to boost housing in local plans

The government’s Planning Inspectorate is ordering councils to increase their housing numbers in local plans to avoid a major plunge in supply.

Figures from the Planning Inspectorate obtained by Inside Housing reveal the majority of councils that have had plans rejected by the inspectorate were told this was because they had not allocated enough homes for predicted population growth.

The figures show 12 out of 17 councils that submitted their plans to the inspectorate more than six months ago and have still not had them approved, have been forced to amend either the number of homes or the data used to allocate housing numbers.

The news is likely to fuel criticism that the coalition’s localism agenda will lead to fewer homes being built than under the previous government’s central housing targets, which set out plans for long-term house building across eight regions.

The 342 councils in England have until 1 April to comply with the new planning regime. So far, 157 councils have had plans approved by the inspectorate, 36 councils have plans under examination and 149 have not yet submitted a plan at all (see box: In numbers).

The inspectorate confirmed that almost all councils make some revisions to local plans before approval.

The 12 authorities told to revise their plans over the past six months include Ryedale Council and Bath and North East Somerset Council.

Tim Ball, cabinet member for homes and planning at Bath and North East Somerset, said reviewing housing numbers and data involved ‘huge council resources’. He added: ‘We had a £100,000 budget last year just to look at this issue.’

The council was asked by an inspector to amend the plan to ‘facilitate more housing than currently planned and/or to enable some of the planned housing to be delivered sooner’. Its draft core strategy suggested building 11,000 homes by 2031.

Robin Shepherd, partner at consultancy Barton Willmore, said: ‘Very few councils are saying they’ll go for full growth… because it isn’t politically advantageous to do otherwise.’

He added that localism was off to a ‘bad start’ as communities believed they had control over development and ‘suddenly there’s a check that [councils] have to go through’.

In numbers

  • 342 - number of councils in England
  • 46 per cent - proportion of English councils with approved local plans
  • 44 per cent - proportion of English councils which have not yet submitted a local plan

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