Concern other councils will follow as south west pilot drops 5,000 homes
Local plan testbed slashes homes target by a third
One of the first tests of the government’s reformed planning system has resulted in house building targets being slashed by more than a third.
Weymouth and Portland Council and West Dorset Council jointly produced a local plan for their area as part of the new planning regime. Between them they cut house building ambitions by 5,000 homes.
The government’s national planning policy framework, which was published in March, abandoned regional targets and handed local councils much more control over house building numbers in their areas.
Councils have until March 2013 to ensure their plans fit with NPPF objectives. Weymouth and Portland and West Dorset were chosen by the government to feed back to civil servants on how they put their plan together. Similar tests are being carried out in each of the nine English regions.
The councils’ draft local plan was published on 1 June and is currently out for consultation. It contains a lower target for homes built each year than targets set by the previous regional spatial strategies.
The local plan will provide the development strategy for both local authority areas to 2031 and is due for adoption in September 2013.
Under the RSS targets, West Dorset was due to build 625 homes per year, but the new local plan sets a target of 470. Weymouth and Portland was originally due to build 280 homes each year, but is now set to build 160. Over the plan’s 18-year period, this amounts to around 5,000 fewer homes than the 16,300 homes originally proposed.
Jamie Sullivan, principle planner at Tetlow King, said: ‘It’s disappointing to see a testbed area for new-style local plans continue the trend of declining housing targets in the south west, particularly given the acute housing affordability problems in the two local authority areas.’
The local plan acknowledges that the level of growth is ‘significantly lower than what has been delivered in the past in Weymouth and Portland’ but is roughly in line with previous years’ growth in West Dorset.
Hilary Jordan, spatial and community policy manager at Weymouth and Portland Council, said the figures were in line with predicted household growth published by the Office for National Statistics. The document said the number was lowered to ‘safeguard our special environment’.
Cameron Watt, head of neighbourhoods at the National Housing Federation, said the body was ‘concerned’ that other councils would reduce their housing targets.
The news came as the core strategy for Central Lancashire became the first to be approved under the NPPF by the Planning Inspectorate on Monday.
In numbers: house building targets (per year)
regional spatial strategy target for West Dorset Council
local plan target for West Dorset Council
regional spatial strategy target for Weymouth and Portland Council
local plan target for Weymouth and Portland Council