Oxfordshire to get 'bespoke housing delivery test measure' under government deal

The government has published further details on housing deals for Oxfordshire, the West of England and Greater Manchester, including news that the Oxfordshire deal will see the county given a 'bespoke housing delivery test measure'.

Oxford: housing deal agreed
Oxford: housing deal agreed

The draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) confirmed government plans, first announced in the Autumn Budget, to introduce a tougher housing delivery test for councils to meet in November 2018.

The test is intended to assess housing delivery - measured using official figures for net additional dwellings over a three-year period - against councils’ housing requirements.

The test imposes sanctions for councils failing to meet their housing requirement, including applying the NPPF’s presumption in favour of sustainable development at specified thresholds.

The draft revised NPPF states that the presumption in favour of sustainable development would apply if the local planning authority demonstrates "substantial under-delivery measured against the housing delivery test" of below 25 per cent from November 2018, below 45 per cent from November 2019 or below 75 per cent by 2020. This would be measured against the housing requirement for the previous three years.

Last year, Oxfordshire’s six councils signed up to a provisional accord under which they committed to a housing target in return for additional government infrastructure funding. This was subject to agreement between the councils and the government on a delivery plan.

The councils’ side of the deal consists of producing a joint statutory spatial plan (JSSP) by 2021 that will support the delivery of 100,000 new homes between 2021 and 2031. For its part, the government has agreed to provide £150 million for infrastructure to unlock housing sites, to be paid in £30 million instalments over the next five years, plus £60 million for affordable housing and £5 million to boost plan-making capacity.

This delivery plan has been published today. It sets out further detail on the deal, including news that the government will deliver "bespoke housing delivery test measures for Oxfordshire", which will apply for three years following the submission of the JSSP for examination.

The document says that "the rates for November 2018 and November 2019, which are 25 per cent and 45 per cent, and which trigger the presumption in favour of sustainable development would remain as set nationally, but the figure from November 2020 would be a bespoke Oxfordshire figure subject to the submission of the JSSP by March 2020".

It adds that the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) "will work with Oxfordshire districts to agree the levels for the bespoke delivery test for local consultation".

The document also says that for the duration of the development of the JSSP "a three-year [housing] land supply will be applied in Oxfordshire, subject to local consultation".

A MHCLG spokesman confirmed that the agreement was now formally agreed between ministers and the Oxfordshire councils. 

The government has also published details on an outline interim housing package for the West of England, covering Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset councils.

This includes £3 million of government funding " to establish a strategic delivery team to progress large sites for housing development".

A statement from MHCLG said that the funding package would "help to nearly double the number of new homes being delivered historically, increasing from around 4,000 homes to 7,500 homes a year".

The authorities are already taking forward plans for a joint statutory spatial plan.

The outline interim housing package document says the initial agreement is the "next step in developing a housing deal for the West of England, with the full deal to be agreed later in the year".

Elsewhere, the government has published an "outline of a prospective housing package for Greater Manchester".

Under the outline package, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority commits to deliver 227,200 homes between 2015/16 and 2034/35 "and ensure the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework reflects this".

It says that the second draft of the GMSF "should be published in June, with publication of the plan in early 2019, submission in summer 2019 and adoption in late 2020 subject to the examination process".

The government’s commitments include to progress four Housing Infrastructure Fund bids and to provide a land fund of up to £50 million "to provide support for the remediation of brownfield land for housing".

The outline agreement says that the Greater Manchester Combined Authority will now agree a delivery plan with government and Homes England by the end of May 2018.

The agreements follow a similar deal agreed with the West Midlands last week to support plans to deliver 215,000 homes across the region by 2031.

Today’s announcement also included news that Housing Infrastructure Fund bids, from a further 44 areas across England had been shortlisted to move to the "co-development stage, where government officials will work with these areas to further develop their bid and assess the projects".

MHCLG said that the 44 bids are for "high-impact infrastructure like key roads, rail links and schools with the potential to deliver over 400,000 homes".

Successful bids will be announced from autumn 2018 onwards, the department added.

In January, the government announced the first 133 council-led projects that will receive a share of £866 million from the £5 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund.

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