Warrington cites standard method uncertainty as reason for latest plan delay

Warrington Borough Council is the latest local authority to cite the government's proposed changes to its standard method of assessing housing need as justification for a delay to its plan-making process.

Warrington Town Hall. Pic: Michael Ely
Warrington Town Hall. Pic: Michael Ely

The original version of the standard method was introduced in July's revised National Planning Policy Framework.

But its reliance upon household formation projections meant that, when the Office of National Statistics published much-reduced household projections in September, the standard method suggested much lower housing requirements for many authorities, therefore undermining the government's 300,000 per annum housebuilding ambition.

Last month the government consulted on revisions to the standard method, with a closing date for responses of 7 December.

Warrington Borough Council had been due to publish its draft local plan by the end of the year. But, in a statement released this week, it said it now had "no option" but to delay publication. It says it now anticipates that the draft plan will be published in March 2019, prior to a further round of public consultation.

In a joint statement, council leader Cllr Terry O’Neill and Judith Guthrie, the executive board member responsible for planning, said: "The government has moved the goalposts yet again and is making the process of producing the local plan more difficult both for us and other councils.

"We have made real progress in producing our plan, but this uncertainty around the housing figures is delaying our final decisions and it is compromising our ability to get on with the important job of setting out the strategic future for our Borough.

"This is just not good enough and we urge the government to move to provide clarity on this as a matter of urgency."

The borough previously put back the expected publication of the draft plan from this autumn until the end of the year on the basis that it needed to consider the implications of both the new NPPF and updated population projections.

Its review of its local plan follows the High Court's quashing of its adopted housing policies in 2015.

Last month, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council said that work on their joint local plan has been "put on hold to consider the publication of the new revised National Planning Policy Framework and changes to the new government standard methodology for assessing housing need".

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