Homes shortfall threat to South East LEP jobs target

Kent, Essex and East Sussex may lose up to £60 billion in economic output over the next 18 years because district councils in the area are not planning for enough homes, according to a new report.

Jobs: Lakeside shopping centre in Thurrock, Essex
Jobs: Lakeside shopping centre in Thurrock, Essex

The study, by consultancy Barton Willmore, looked at housing figures in the adopted or emerging local plans of all the authorities in the public-private South East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which covers the three counties.

Barton Willmore translated the business-led LEP's target of creating between 250,000 and 300,000 new jobs between 2011 and 2031 into a requirement of 20,000 to 22,000 new homes per year to provide for the resulting labour force growth.

But it found that the councils were planning for a total of just 14,200 homes per year, creating a shortfall of about 6,000 units per year compared to the LEP target.

The report states that the current plan will "fail to supply (housing for) the labour force necessary to support the South East LEP's ambition".

As a result of the labour supply shortfall - of about 145,500 jobs between 2011 and 2031 - the report says the LEP would lose economic output worth £60 billion over that 20-year period.

Barton Willmore also found that the latest government household growth projections produced a housing need for the area of just under 20,000 homes a year.

The report highlights the fact that the new draft online National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) states that local plan housing provision should match job growth figures to prevent "unsustainable commuting patterns".

The NPPG states: "Where the supply of working age population is less than the projected job growth, ... plan makers will need to consider increasing their housing numbers to address these problems."

LEPs have also been handed increasing responsibility for housing as a result of the government proposing to give them a share of the New Homes Bonus incentive that councils receive for every new home added to their council tax register.

Huw Edwards, Barton Willmore partner and report co-author, said: "As a result of the level of housing being proposed, these local authorities risk doing considerable harm to the prospects and plans for economic growth and recovery.

"Government is increasingly recognising the important economic role that housing can provide in stimulating and assisting in these growth plans, and the South East local authorities are failing to reflect these opportunities."

A South East LEP spokeswoman said it is preparing a strategic economic plan, as per government requirements, and one of its six draft priorities is "developing housing for economic growth".

She said: "As high demand increases housing costs and limits access to housing, the South East LEP will need to be mindful of the impact this has on future growth opportunities.

"It is vital that these do not become a barrier to future growth. We have strong projects, the right locations and the ambition and drive of local partners to ensure we address this."

Catriona Riddell, strategic planning convenor at the Planning Officers' Society, said that since the demise of the regional spatial strategies (RSS), there has been "no integration" between strategic economic planning, infrastructure planning and spatial planning of housing numbers. She said: "What you have emerging in the South East LEP area is a direct result of that disintegration of the spatial planning around housing numbers and the planning for economic growth the LEP is trying to do.

"The fact there's a disconnect is not surprising," she added. "For a local authority to go forward with a housing figure significantly below the employment growth they're expecting is not sustainable."

Riddell said it is also unclear what status an LEP economic growth strategy, including job targets, would have in the planning system.

But Janice Morphet, a visiting professor at University College London's Bartlett School of Planning, said: "Once LEP growth plans are approved, they will almost certainly be taken into account as they will be approved under European Union legislation."

Planning's first National Planning Summit, which will take place on 1 April 2014 in London and is sponsored by David Lock Associates, will focus on planning for economic growth. Contact for details


1. LEPs have been asked by the government to produce strategic economic plans as part of "growth deals" central government wants to negotiate with each partnership to access money from a devolved £2 billion-a-year Single Local Growth Fund. The Treasury said in June: "Areas will be expected to ... support pro-growth reforms including a coordinated approach to spatial planning."

2. The government has also asked LEPs and councils to implement local development orders (LDOs), which grant automatic planning permission for certain kinds of development in specified areas. In March, the government announced LEPs and authorities should "put in place bespoke approaches to land use planning ... including the use of LDOs for economically important projects".

3. Several LEPs have drawn up business-friendly planning protocols aiming to speed up and improve the planning application process. Coventry and Warwickshire and the Black Country LEPs are among those that have drawn up agreements that their constituent authorities have signed up to. These include commitments to make sure applications are dealt with as quickly as possible.

4. A few LEPs have embarked on drawing up spatial plans for their areas, including the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (which incorporates the LEP). The Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP recently published a draft version of its plan, which will include housing and employment site allocations.

5. Earlier this year, the government announced that LEPs would have increased responsibility over housing and consulted on proposals to pool £400 million from the New Homes Bonus to the growth fund. Announcing the proposals in June, the Treasury said the move would encourage LEPs and local authorities to "work together on economic development priorities, including housing".

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