PINS misses October deadline for assessing first housing land supply statements

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has missed a government-imposed October deadline for assessing the first three annual housing land supply position statements submitted by councils and has postponed issuing its recommendations until after the general election.

The Planning Inspectorate's head office in Bristol
The Planning Inspectorate's head office in Bristol

Paragraph 74 of the 2018 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) gave local planning authorities a new option to obtain ongoing confirmation that they meet its requirement for a five-year housing land supply.

Government Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) on housing supply and delivery was revised last year to state that authorities wishing to confirm their housing land supply for a year with an annual position statement must advise PINS of their intention to do so by 1 April. They had to submit a statement for review by 31 July of the same year.

"So long as the correct process has been followed, and sufficient information has been provided about any disputed sites, the Planning Inspectorate will issue their recommendation in October of the same year," the PPG says. 

"The local planning authority can then confirm their housing land supply until the following October, subject to accepting the recommendations of the Planning Inspectorate."

Fylde Borough Council, Mid Sussex District Council, and Wyre Council were the first three authorities to submit an annual position statement for review by 31 July, in accordance with the PPG. 

However, PINS is yet to issue its recommendations on the statements, which the councils must receive before confirming their housing land supply position, despite the government's PPG commitment to an October deadline.

A PINS spokesman said the recommendations would now be postponed until after the general election on 12 December.

The spokesman said: "This is a new area of work for the inspectorate and it has been necessary to appoint and train a pool of inspectors to consider the submitted annual position statements. The inspectors have been undertaking this alongside their other important casework.

"Two of the three submitted annual position statements in particular are quite lengthy and there is a significant amount of information to be considered. We are very much aware of the expectation set out in the guidance and will be working to minimise the delay as much as possible.

"More recently, the announcement of a general election to be held on 12 December, with the associated pre-election period of sensitivity, means that it would not be appropriate for the inspectors’ reports to be submitted to the councils within this period, we will endeavour to publish as soon as possible after the election period."

PINS announced in August that nine authorities had indicated their intention to submit an annual position statement by 1 April 2019. In addition to Fylde, Mid Sussex and Wyre, these were: Boston Borough Council; Durham County Council; North Devon Council; North Somerset Council; Sefton Council; and Torridge District Council.

Last month, PINS announced that it had halved a backlog of appeal cases since the start of the year, while appeal decisions hit another record high in the most recent quarter.

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