Hampshire council says it will "tear up" draft local plan over standard method

Fareham Borough Council has announced that it will "tear up" its draft local plan and start again due to a 30 per cent increase in homes required by the government's new standard method for calculating housing need.

Hamble Estuary, Fareham. Image by Anguskirk, Flickr
Hamble Estuary, Fareham. Image by Anguskirk, Flickr

The council’s draft local plan identified the need for 3,300 homes up to 2036, and was originally timetabled for submission this autumn.

But the council said that attempts to secure assurances from housing secretary James Brokenshire that the document could proceed in its current form have failed.

The council claims that the new standard method, which was introduced in July's revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), increases the borough's housing need by 30 per cent.

As a result, the council says the draft plan would not meet the borough's need and it needs to find space to allocate more housing land.

In a statement, announcing that the authority is "set to tear up" its draft local plan, the council said there is "ongoing confusion" over housing need across the country.

Is pointed to the government's announcement that it will consult on revisions to the standard method by late January 2019, while new household projection were published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) last month, which indicated a much lower level of household growth compared to previous figures.

In addition, the ONS said it would publish further revisions to the projections in December 2018.

The council said it currently has "approximately a five-year housing land supply", but expressed concerns about the new housing delivery test, which comes into force next month.

The test, also introduced in the new NPPF, assesses each council's record of delivering new homes over a three-year period against its local housing requirement. Penalties are applied to councils that fall below certain thresholds, including adding a 20 per cent buffer to their housing land supply figure if they fail to delivery 85 per cent of their requirement.

Fareham Council said it "expects to fail this new retrospectively applied test, which will result in a significant and immediate 20 per cent increase in the council's five-year housing land supply requirement".

Fareham's executive council leader Seán Woodward said: "'I am extremely disappointed that we have not been able to secure the necessary protection that would have allowed us to continue with our existing draft local plan.

"Without that protection we will have to effectively rip it up and start again to include the government's extra housing numbers – once there is final agreement about what they actually are."

In response, housing minister Kit Malthouse MP said: "We recognise that councils are putting in place plans to build the homes their area needs.

"We have offered to help Fareham Council prepare and submit their local plan before January, in line with their own published timetables.

"If they meet the deadline, they will not have to comply with the new criteria in our planning rulebook – but if there is a significant delay they will."

An MHCLG spokesman pointed out that councils have a transition period finishing at the end of January, under which they can submit their local plans for examination using the 2012 NPPF's policies, and therefore would not require using the standard method.

The spokesman added: "We have been in regular contact with Fareham Council during the transitional period. In July, the Housing Minister wrote to them and offered to arrange an advisory visit with a Planning Inspector to help them meet their plan timetable.

Fareham is the latest of a number of councils to announce changes to their draft local plans in the wake of both the standard method and new household projection figures.

Earlier this month, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham announced that work on a revised draft of Greater Manchester's spatial plan "can't proceed" until the government publishes details on how it proposes to adjust its new standard method for calculating housing need.

More details on Fareham's draft local plan can be found here.

Note: this story was updated at 10am on Monday 22 October to add a comment from the housing minister and MHCLG

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