Exclusive: Government aiming for revised standard method consultation to be out by Christmas

The government is aiming to publish a consultation on changes to its standard method of assessing housing need before Christmas, but it may not be out until 24 January next year, the housing minister has said.

Housing minister Kit Malthouse in his interview with Planning. Pic: Julian Dodd
Housing minister Kit Malthouse in his interview with Planning. Pic: Julian Dodd

Malthouse revealed the news in an exclusive interview with Planning published today. During the wide-ranging interview, the minister also said that:

  • the combination of the new household projections and the standard method of assessing housing need has produced "crazy" results

  • the government will respond to responses on its consultation on the future for developer contributions by Christmas

  • The government is hoping to announce its next step in action against the three councils facing local plan intervention by 24 January  

The standard method was introduced in July's revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

However, for plan-making, the NPPF's transitionary period means that its policies, including the standard method, do not apply to local plans that are submitted for examination before 24 January next year.

In July, the government announced that it was considering reviewing the standard method in light of the then forthcoming (now published) Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2016-based household projections, to ensure that progress towards its 300,000-homes-a-year target was not impeded.

The projections, published last month, showed a 24 per cent drop in household formation compared to the previous 2014-based figures, resulting in dramatic falls in housing need in many areas when factored into the standard method.

In the interview, Malthouse said the government was "a bit taken by surprise by the numbers", adding that some "crazy" results showed some strong growth areas with a zero housing need.

Malthouse said he has "concerns" about the new projections' implications for housing need figures because they "don't recognise pent-up demand".

The ONS has based its projections on past trends from a "period of particularly low household growth", he said, which might put "an artificial constraint" on future expansion.

Though the minister would not be drawn on any additional factors his department is considering adding to the standard method, he said it was examining the relevance of growth in household density during the period the projections are drawn from.

He added: "It may be that we have to add other dimensions to the targets, such as growth in the number of people per household."

Malthouse insisted the ministry wants to provide clarity as soon as possible with a consultation on draft proposals. He said: "It would be great to get it sorted out this side of Christmas and certainly before January 24."

After the interview, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) confirmed that plans submitted from 25 January onwards would be expected to use the current standard method, including the latest household projections, for their housing need assessments.

It also said its consultation on the revised standard method "will include details of when we expect the revised method to take effect and any transitional arrangements".

In the interview, Malthouse also revealed that the government was aiming to publish its response to a consultation earlier in the year on revising the developer contributions system by Christmas, but it may announce some of the measure in the Autumn Budget later this month.

On the ministry's programme of local plan intervention - which has seen three councils subject to a MHCLG team's scrutiny of their plan preparation process - Malthouse said the government is still "considering the options" with 24 January a deadline for further action.

A workshop session on the new National Planning Policy Framework's standard method for assessing housing need, led by David Roberts, team leader (planning for housing need, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) will take place at next week's Planning for Housing conference. For full details and to book your place, click here.

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