Three messages for ministers on standard method proposals

Responses to the government's proposed standard approach to assessing local housing need have welcomed the proposal as enabling a speedier process of plan preparation, but there are concerns that it fails to take account of aspirations for economic growth in parts of the country.

The Department for Communities and Local Government's offices in central London
The Department for Communities and Local Government's offices in central London

Here are three messages to emerge from responses to the government's consultation on the proposed formula, which closed last week:

1. Groups are concerned that the proposals could undermine the Northern Powerhouse

Several responses to the consultation voiced concerns over how the proposed methodology would affect different parts of the country. The Planning Officers Society said that, in much of the Midlands and most of northern England, the method results in reduced housing needs. Property industry lobby group the British Property Federation, meanwhile, warned that the method could undermine the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine initiatives by reducing the number of homes that are needed "due to figures that are from a period of historic economic difficulty".

2.Planners warn over plan to stop using housing market areas as units for housing assessment

In its response to the consultation, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) warned that there are "difficulties" in "losing" the housing market area approach to assessing need and "placing such a focus on 'need' originating in specific local authority districts". "It is not clear why an entire county like Wiltshire (a unitary authority) should be a sensible basis for housing need assessment, but not a county like Leicestershire simply because it happens to be divided into districts," the RTPI's response said.

3. Formula could lead to developers 'cherry picking' sites, planning officers warn

In its response, the Planning Officers Society said that, where local planning authorities prepare plans geared to the new need calculation, "it will lead in some areas to very large differences between the amount of land allocated and the actual take-up". The response continued: "The consequence of this is that builders will cherry pick sites. This will happen not just within local planning authority areas, but between one area and another. Authorities in areas which are considered less attractive by housebuilders could find they have ample land allocations but little actual housebuilding."

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