In a consultation published on Friday afternoon, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced that it intends to publish a new version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to accommodate a series of proposed changes to the document.
The consultation also proposes short-term revisions to the standard method formula, the framework's definition of deliverability and a response to a landmark European Court of Justice ruling on habitats earlier this year.
The consultation document states that exceptions to using the standard method for assessing housing need should be only be allowed in plan-making rather than for decision-making, including determining applications and appeals.
According to the document, paragraph 60 of July's revised NPPF together with a definition of "local housing need" in the framework's glossary "allow authorities to use a justified alternative approach to the standard method for calculating housing need, in exceptional circumstances".
But the MHCLG says using an alternative approach to the standard method "is intended to apply only when strategic policies are being produced" in plan-making, "rather than inviting alternative approaches and calculations of need in the determination of applications and appeals where housing land supply is a relevant matter".
To "make this clear", the MHCLG says it proposes "making two minor amendments" to the NPPF text, as follows:
- Amending footnote 37, to add at the end: "Where local housing need is used as the basis for assessing whether a five year supply of specific deliverable sites exists, it should be calculated using the standard method set out in national planning guidance".
- Amending the definition of local housing need in the glossary to: "The number of homes identified as being needed through the application of the standard method set out in national planning guidance (or, in the context of preparing strategic policies only, this may be calculated using a justified alternative approach as provided for in paragraph 60 of this framework)".
Under the NPPF, councils are required to maintain a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites, or else face the presumption in favour of sustainable development.
The proposals come after a number of consultants and authorities expressed concerns about the impact of the standard method on authorities' five-year housing land supply positions, particularly in the wake of new household projections that created much lower calculations of housing need and therefore longer land supply positions.
The July NPPF also allowed councils to fix their housing land supply position for a year.
The consultation closes on Friday 7 December 2018. The Technical consultation on updates to national planning policy and guidance can be found here.