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"Arc of co-operation" needed to stave off housing crisis

Words: Roger Milne

Local authorities around London must form an “arc of co-operation” to prevent a shortfall of 160,000 homes in the south of England by 2018, a new report by real estate adviser Savills argues.

If they fail to jointly plan new housing in a way that acknowledges cross-boundary house-buying and travel patterns, the housing crisis in the south will intensify.

In Planning: Countdown to the Election, Savills predicts that within just four years, the region could be 21 per cent short of its housing requirements forecast by the TCPA.

With England requiring 240,000 homes per year, this amounts to some 152,900 homes per year across London, the South East, East of England and the South West.

Overspill from London to “key migratory” areas is a particular problem that local authorities will have to deal with, said Charles Collins, associate director of planning at Savills.

According to their analysis, even though London Mayor Boris Johnson has pledged 42,000 new homes a year for London, this is still 7,000 short of the capital’s anticipated needs. This means that local authorities around London will have to accommodate the surplus population – but few have factored this into their calculations.

“Following the abolition of the Regional Spatial Strategies, many local authorities have produced their local plans largely in isolation, paying little proper regard to the housing needs of neighbouring LPAs,” the Savills report asserts.

Collins added: “Boundaries between local authorities are set historically and don’t really reflect housing market trends and travel patterns. The London housing market is huge and in some ways extends as far west as Bristol.

“In doing your local needs assessment you cannot just shut the doors off to the fact that you are in a wider context.”

The RTPI’s head of policy and practice, Richard Blyth, challenged the Savills assessment, saying that while their figures were “robust” their analysis was missing the view of the local authorities themselves.

“It’s equally arguable that outer London should take into account the needs of towns that are now in the green belt,” he said, adding: “This begs the whole point that there isn’t a forum in which we can have the discussion properly.”

Blyth also acknowledged that stronger connections were required between national and local planning. “We [the RTPI] will be recommending and proposing something to take place instead of the duty to cooperate,” he said.

The figures

According to Savills, of the 50 local authorities within the assessed area with an adopted or advanced stage post-NPPF local plan, just 15 were planning to deliver more homes than under the previous planning led regime.

Even though 102 (69 per cent) claimed they have more than five years’ worth of land and 61 per cent said they had  more than 5.25 years’,“recent appeals have exposed the fact that claimed supply figures are often less robust when scrutinised in detail.”

In the local authorities most likely to be affected by London overspill, most have set themselves housing targets below these required. In Brighton, for example, the planned housing falls some 732 houses per year below TCPA projections; in St Albans it is 356, in Guildford 264.

By comparison, in areas where demand is lower and there is a higher proportion of affordable housing, there are relatively high numbers of houses planned. Thurrock’s target is set 262 beyond its forecast requirements, Dartford’s an impressive 719. Overall, however, the shortfall across the south of England will amount to 152,900 houses per year.

Savills argues that what is needed to relieve the housing problem are new towns and greater co-operation between local planning authorities to spread housebuilding fairly and proportionately.

“It is only by creating genuine new places which combine new jobs with quality of life, good design and good transport choices that we can hope for public support,” the report says.

It goes on: “Savills believes we need a more coordinated approach which looks beyond local authority boundaries, rather than the current ‘patchwork’ system which is only tested and enforced too late in the plan-making process. Savills is calling for LPAs around London to form an ‘Arc of Co-operation’ when producing their local plans.”

Said Collins: “I can’t see anything that’s obviously trying to reapportion growth across the country. The NPPF isn’t a spatial plan.”

London’s migration zone: The pressure points




Locally planned levels of housing vs. need

(against a target of delivering 1.04% of existing housing stock)

Brighton and Hove




Epping Forest




St Albans








Windsor and Maidenhead












Tunbridge Wells


Mole Valley


Three Rivers




East Hertfordshire


South Bucks












Epsom and Ewell


Reigate and Banstead








Welwyn Hatfield












Source: Savills Residential Research