Inspector recommends Cambridgeshire council adopts higher standard method-based housing target

A planning inspector has suggested that a council adopt a higher homes target based on the new National Planning Policy Framework's (NPPF's) standard housing need methodology rather than a lower figure based on a 'collaborative' local approach.

Ely, East Cambridgeshire (pic: Holly Hayes via Flickr)
Ely, East Cambridgeshire (pic: Holly Hayes via Flickr)

East Cambridgeshire District Council submitted its draft local plan for examination in February.

The document set a housing target of 10,835 homes over for the plan period of 2016 to 2036 .

The draft plan said that, if the council had used the then-proposed standardised method for calculating housing need, the area’s housing target would have gone up to 11,960 homes over the plan period.

The new method, first revealed last September, is based on household formation projections that are adjusted to reflect housing affordability, and then subject to a 40 per cent cap on any increase above current annual requirements.

But according to the draft local plan, despite the emerging new method, "the council must still take into account what it agreed in 2013 when the Cambridgeshire authorities, plus Peterborough, signed a ‘Memorandum of Cooperation' to support a coherent and comprehensive growth strategy across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough between 2011 and 2031".

It said that this "collaborative approach was undertaken as part of the requirements of the duty to co-operate as set out in the Localism Act 2011".

"East Cambridgeshire District Council continues to support that agreement and maintains it for this new Local Plan for East Cambridgeshire ... As such, this new local plan plans for 10,835 new homes, between 2016-2036", the draft plan said.

The document added that the target "clearly demonstrates the council’s commitment to the national policy desire to boost the supply of homes".

But in a letter outlining her findings regarding the first stage of the plan’s examination hearings, inspector Louise Nurser concluded that it would be a "sound approach for the standard method to be used to set the objectively assessed need for housing within East Cambridgeshire at a minimum of 11,960 dwellings between 2016 and 2036".

Nurser described part of the evidence base for the draft plan’s housing target as being of "considerable vintage", and said she was "not convinced" that it would be "appropriate to continue to attribute significant weight" to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough memorandum of cooperation.

Ahead of the second stage of the plan’s inspection, the inspector has asked the council to confirm it is "confident in terms of housing supply that it can provide for and deliver the increased housing requirement".

An annex to last week's revised NPPF states that local plans submitted before 24 January - exactly six months after its publication - will be examined against the 2012 framework and only those submitted after that date will be tested against the new document's policies.

East Cambridgeshire District Council has been asked for comment but had yet to respond at time of publication.

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