Central Beds speeds up local plan process to avoid standardised methodology housing hike

A Bedfordshire authority is looking to speed up its local plan process to try to avoid a possible hike in its housing targets under the government's proposed standardised need methodology.

Central Bedfordshire: council wants to bring forward local plan adoption
Central Bedfordshire: council wants to bring forward local plan adoption

Central Bedfordshire Council has published a new timetable that would see its draft local plan submitted in March 2018 – seven months earlier than previously planned.

Ministers are currently consulting on proposals to change the process for assessing local housing need. In total, 156 authorities would see an increase in objectively assessed need (OAN) under the proposed formula. The average increase for these authorities will be 35 per cent, the government said last month.

The consultation ends next month and the new methodology is proposed for use on all plans submitted from 1 April next year.

A report the council's executive last week said Central Bedfordshire’s housing need figure using the new approach would be 2,553 homes per year.

"This represents a 60 per cent increase on our current OAN of 1,600 homes per annum and is far in excess of the average increase of 35 per cent across local authority areas nationally," said the report.

The report said that a full council meeting on 28 September, members voted unanimously in support of a motion to "robustly challenge the proposed methodology through the consultation process, on the basis that it is neither deliverable nor reasonable".

The report added that it was "considered prudent" for the council to limit the possible implications of the proposed methods coming into force.

"In the context of the potential impact of the revised methodology for housing need assessment, it is now proposed that a timetable that allows for submission of the local plan in March 2018 should be pursued.

"This would enable the council to retain its current published OAN of 32,000 homes which would be used as the baseline for developing a plan target."

The council's local plan page confirms the proposed timetable change. It says a consultation on the next version of the local plan will run in December 2017/January 2018, with submission of the local plan in March 2018.

Commenting on the motion to challenge the new standardised need figure, council leader James Jamieson said: "As a council, we're committed to sustainable growth, so that future homes will be built alongside the services, jobs, schools, road and rail infrastructure that our communities need [but] these proposals undermine our ability to deliver this for residents."

"Given our commitment to sensible and realistic planning it is deeply frustrating that officials from a government department have issued housing projections that are frankly ill informed, unreasonable and undeliverable.

"I am pleased that my colleagues from all political groups at the council have given me a clear mandate to challenge these flawed targets."

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