Council slams government's proposed new housing need figure as 'virtually impossible' to meet

Horsham District Council has slammed the government's proposed changes to its standard housing need method, saying that its local annual need figure would almost double to 1,715 homes under the revised calculation.

Horsham town centre (Pic: Getty)
Horsham town centre (Pic: Getty)

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced a series of short-term proposed changes to the planning system in a consultation document, Changes to the Current Planning System.

These included a revised version of its standard method for calculating local authorities' housing need, which the MHCLG said would yield a national total of 337,000 homes a year.

But Conservative-led Horsham District Council in West Sussex said that using the revised standard method produces a housing need figure of 1,715 homes a year for the next 10 years compared to a current annual need figure of 920 homes. 

The council said in a statement that it “does not believe the house building industry can deliver 1,715 homes per year.”

“It is difficult enough already to find land that has few constraints for development and to absorb 1,715 homes every year would make that task virtually impossible,” it added. 

Horsham Council said it has consistently challenged the government over housing numbers and its “aggressive timetables” in relation to plan-making. 

It went on to say that it is currently preparing a local plan, which under government requirements is "needed by November".

"We have been trying for a considerable time to get answers from the government about a number of things as regards to the house build numbers that we are required to provide: no answers have been forthcoming,” said Tory councillor Claire Vickers, cabinet member for planning and development.

"We very much hope that as we are a good way through producing a new plan we can continue with that and thus put off for some years the imposition on the district of the sort of completely unattainable housing numbers that have now been proposed.”

The council said it will take legal advice on the status of its working plan if new legislation is introduced, and will also seek the views of its residents via an online poll before responding formally to the government’s ongoing consultation on the new targets.

The MHCLG told Planning: “A step change is needed in order to address decades of delivery of new homes not keeping pace with rising demand. To make homes more affordable, it is right to be clear about the homes an area needs.

“Our proposals will increase the supply of land available for new homes where it is needed to address affordability pressures, support economic growth and the renewal of our towns and cities.”

In March, Horsham Council called on the government to lift its requirement for local plans to be reviewed every five years to take into account the challenges being faced by local authorities during the coronavirus outbreak.

An analysis article examining the implications of the proposed changes to the standard method, including a consultancy's estimates of how it would impact on housing need levels for each English local planning authority, can be found here.

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