Central Beds submits local plan ahead of new NPPF to avoid housing numbers hike

Members of Central Bedfordshire Council last night voted to submit their local plan for examination before the government's new housing need method comes into force, after officers warned this would cause a 60 per cent rise in its homes requirement.

Pic: Peter O'Connor, Flickr
Pic: Peter O'Connor, Flickr

The plan, which will now be formally sent to the secretary of state on Monday, sets out proposals for 20,000 new homes in the area up to 2035.

An officers' report submitted to councillors said the government's proposed new standard housing need assessment methodology would have meant a sharp rise in the number of homes the council would have to plan for.

The report states that the annual homes figure for Central Bedfordshire generated by the standard approach was 2,553 homes per annum, which "represented a substantial 60 per cent increase" compared to the current housing need figure of 1,600 homes per year and "was far in excess of the average increase of 35 per cent across local authority areas nationally". The council's current delivery rates are nearly 1,800 homes a year, the report said, "so this would represent a very significant step change". 

It goes on to say: "Even if this number of homes were planned for in a local plan, they could not practically be delivered on the ground due to lack of skilled labour, materials and potentially land banking by developers.

"There are also very grave implications for five year housing land supply if this new [objectively-assessed need] were to be in place." 

The new methodology is set to come into force with the final publication of the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) this summer.

Last September, the council voted to submit the plan for examination seven months earlier than planned to avoid having to use the new standard method. 

The number of homes in the plan is a third lower than the figure of up to 30,000 new homes proposed in an earlier draft, which the council consulted on last summer.

According to the report, the overall target in the latest plan is 39,350 homes, which includes the objectively-assessed need of 32,000 homes plus Luton’s residual unmet need of 7,350 homes. "This gives rise to the need to plan for up to 20,000 new homes at a range of scales in addition to delivering the growth that is already committed," the document states.

The local plan includes proposals for new villages of up to 5,000 homes at Marston Vale, 1,500 east of Biggleswade plus town extensions of 4,000 homes north of Luton and 2,000 homes east of Arlesey.

Growth in existing towns and villages, will only be supported "where services can support it", the council said.

According to the report, the authority plans to review the plan within six months of its adoption, in order to assess the impact of decisions made on infrastructure relating to the proposed Oxford-to-Cambridge growth corridor. The corridor was proposed as a location for significant housing growth in the government's Autumn Budget last year.

Nigel Young, the council’s executive member for regeneration, said: "We believe we now have a robust, well-considered and well-evidenced plan that will be taken to public examination."

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