Housing and economic land availability assessment

The DCLG has amended and added to National Planning Practice Guidance for councils on identifying appropriate land to meet development needs.

The guidance states how councils should use their Local Plan, drawing on protections in the National Planning Policy Framework, to safeguard their local area against urban sprawl, and protect the green lungs around towns and cities.

The guidance explains that, once established, green belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional cases, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan.

It also states that housing need – including for traveller sites – does not justify the harm done to the green belt by inappropriate development.

The measures aim to reinforce the action taken by the government since 2010 to protect the green belt. This includes:

  • abolishing top-down regional strategies
  • selling surplus brownfield land for redevelopment
  • introducing more flexible planning rights so empty and underused buildings can be brought back into productive use.

Councils should consider how they will protect and preserve important sites in their area, especially green belt sites. Other considerations include:

  • sites of special scientific interest
  • areas of outstanding natural beauty
  • heritage coastline
  • national parks and the Broads

The guidance includes the following questions and responses:

Do housing and economic needs override constraints on the use of land, such as green belt?

The National Planning Policy Framework should be read as a whole: need alone is not the only factor to be considered when drawing up a Local Plan.

The Framework states that local planning authorities should, through their Local Plans, meet objectively assessed needs unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the Framework taken as a whole, or specific policies in the Framework indicate development should be restricted. Such policies include those relating to sites protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives, and/or designated as sites of special scientific interest; land designated as green belt, local green space, an area of outstanding natural beauty, heritage coast or within a national park or the Broads; designated heritage assets; and locations at risk of flooding or coastal erosion.

The Framework makes clear that, once established, green belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan.

Do local planning authorities have to meet in full housing needs identified in needs assessments?

Local authorities should prepare a Strategic Housing Market Assessment to assess their full housing needs.

However, assessing need is just the first stage in developing a Local Plan. Once need has been assessed, the local planning authority should prepare a strategic housing land availability assessment to establish realistic assumptions about the availability, suitability and the likely economic viability of land to meet the identified need for housing over the plan period, and in so doing take account of any constraints such as green belt, which indicate that development should be restricted and which may restrain the ability of an authority to meet its need.

Date: 06/10/2014 Date of publication

Author: DCLG

DCP link: This item updates DCP section 4.251

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