Housing Land Supply

What is the starting point for the five-year housing supply?

The National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) sets out that local planning authorities should identify and update annually a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years’ worth of housing against their housing requirements. Therefore local planning authorities should have an identified five-year housing supply at all points during the plan period.  Housing requirement figures in up-to-date adopted Local Plans should be used as the starting point for calculating the five year supply. Considerable weight should be given to the housing requirement figures in adopted Local Plans, which have successfully passed through the examination process, unless significant new evidence comes to light. It should be borne in mind that evidence which dates back several years, such as that drawn from revoked regional strategies, may not adequately reflect current needs.

Where evidence in Local Plans has become outdated and policies in emerging plans are not yet capable of carrying sufficient weight, information provided in the latest full assessment of housing needs should be considered. But the weight given to these assessments should take account of the fact they have not been tested or moderated against relevant constraints.  Where there is no robust recent assessment of full housing needs, the household projections published by the Department for Communities and Local Government should be used as the starting point, but the weight given to these should take account of the fact that they have not been tested (which could evidence a different housing requirement to the projection, for example because past events that affect the projection are unlikely to occur again or because of market signals) or moderated against relevant constraints (for example environmental or infrastructure).

How should local planning authorities deal with past under-supply?

The approach to identifying a record of persistent under delivery of housing involves questions of judgment for the decision maker in order to determine whether or not a particular degree of under delivery of housing triggers the requirement to bring forward an additional supply of housing.

The factors behind persistent under delivery may vary from place to place and, therefore, there can be no universally applicable test or definition of the term.  It is legitimate to consider a range of issues, such as the effect of imposed housing moratoriums and the delivery rate before and after any such moratoriums.

The assessment of a local delivery record is likely to be more robust if a longer term view is taken, since this is likely to take account of the peaks and troughs of the housing market cycle.

In the past there were two methods of calculating the “five year land supply”, the ‘Liverpool’ method and the ‘Sedgefield’ method. The Sedgefield method meant including any shortfall from previous years in the first 5 years quota of houses planned under a Local Plan.  The Liverpool method allowed a planning authority to spread the previous shortfall across the whole new Local Plan period.

The New NPPG states clearly that “Local planning authorities should aim to deal with any undersupply within the first 5 years of the plan period where possible.  Where this cannot be met in the first 5 years, local planning authorities will need to work with neighbouring authorities under the ‘Duty to Cooperate’.”

Local planning authorities should also put in place their own monitoring arrangements in relation to relevant local indicators which could include:

  • housing and employment land and premises (current stock) database;
  • housing and employment permissions granted, by type;
  • housing and employment permissions developed by type, matched to allocated sites;
  • housing and employment permissions for development of sites where change of use is involved;
  • housing and employment land and premises available and recent transactions;
  • housing and employment premises enquiries (if the authority has an estates team);
  • housing developer or employer requirements and aspirations for houses and economic floorspace;
  • housing waiting lists applications;
  • the market signals.

Some local planning authorities have been allowed by Government, since the NPPF came into force, to adopt plans providing for less than their ‘objectively assessed (as determined by population projections) need. These authorities, which in all cases cover large areas of nationally protected land such as Green Belt, AOMB or National Park.’ (Nathaniel Litchfield and Partners. Objectively Speaking: 12 months of applying housing targets in Local Plans: a review of examinations. April 2013)

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