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Consultancy urges Welsh councils to adopt policies that recognise lack of five-year supply

Words: Roger Milne
New houses / iStock

Planning consultancy Lichfields has urged planning authorities in Wales to follow the lead of Monmouthshire Council, which has recently decided to endorse a policy that specifically recognises its lack of a five-year housing land supply.

This move comes in the wake of the Welsh Government's decision to suspend – for an undetermined period of time – paragraph 6.2 of TAN1, the technical advice note that deals with Joint Housing Land Availability Studies.

The paragraph said that “considerable weight” should be given to applications for residential schemes in the absence of a five-year supply “provided that the development would otherwise comply with development plan and national planning policies”.

Planning minister Lesley Griffiths had claimed that some councils were facing a rise in speculative applications for sites not allocated for development in local development plans (LDPs).

“This is generating uncertainty for communities and is to the detriment of the plan-led system,” she said.

Monmouthshire Council objected to the minister’s move and has now gone a step further, following a report from officials.

The consultancy explained: “It came as Monmouthshire Council is facing several ‘challenging issues’ around housing affordability and economic growth, and in light of the fact that the existing local development plan will expire by December 2021 (and current projections show that the council will be almost 1,000 homes behind target).

“Accordingly, the two available options were either to give ‘no weight’ to the lack of five-year housing land supply, retaining a strict plan-led approach, or to give ‘some weight’ to the lack of a five-year housing land supply, taking a more ‘outcome-focus’ approach.”

At a meeting, councillors opted for a policy that gave ‘appropriate weight’ (not ‘considerable weight’, as recommended) to the lack of a five-year housing land supply when considering planning applications for residential development on unallocated sites.

Development proposals would have to be acceptable in planning terms, and 11 ‘ground rules’ must be adhered to, including in relation to affordable housing provision, and spatial location.

Lichfield associate director Helen Ashby-Ridgway said: “At least one council has taken a positive and convincingly argued decision to give appropriate weight to its lack of its five-year land supply in response to cabinet secretary Lesley Griffiths’ July 2018 decision to disapply paragraph 6.2 of TAN 1.

“Using a set of ‘ground rules’, Monmouthshire Council recognises its responsibilities to plan for sustainable development and to work towards the goals of the Well-being of Future Generations Act (2015).

"Lichfield hopes to see other Welsh planning authorities following suit.”

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