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Neighbourhood plans not delivering housing, suggests research

Words: Laura Edgar
Neighbourhood planning / Shutterstock: 144653342

Neighbourhood plans are not supporting government ambitions to meet the housing need, with fewer than half containing allocations for new housing in their communities, according to new research.

Local Choices? Housing Delivery Through Neighbourhood Plans finds that 40 per cent of the 330 neighbourhood plans considered contain allocations for new housing, with half of these new allocations.

Matthew Spry, senior director and head of economics at Lichfields, who conducted the research, said: “Our research shows 60 per cent of plans do not contain a housing figure or site allocations, which suggest that local communities are placing greater emphasis on other planning issues such as the protection of local infrastructure, services and green spaces.”

According to the planning consultancy, the lack of housing allocations is in part down to the “tardiness” of the local planning system, with “less than half” of local authorities outside London having local plans in place.

Spy said neighbourhoods are delivering housing growth at the local level, thanks to “positively prepared strategic local plans”, something the government is focused on ensuring are in place.

Report stats:

  • 542 neighbourhood plans have been made
  • 1,969 areas have been designated to make a plan
  • 35 per cent plans are in the
    least deprived areas
  • 4 per cent of plans are in the most deprived areas
  • 40 per cent of neighbourhood plans contain a housing target and/or make allocations

“Even then, neighbourhoods would have to vote for higher growth. It is only in those instances where Neighbourhood Plans can be said – with certainty – to be seeking to deliver additional homes.”

The research suggests that since the 2011 Localism Act, which provided for neighbourhood plans, only 15 of the 330 plans reviewed opted for more housing than a corresponding local plan.

It also notes that neighbourhood plans are primarily located in the South East, the West Midlands and the East Midlands.

Although 55 per cent of neighbourhood plans are coming forward ahead of local plans, Lichfields said up-to-date local plans with clear housing targets are the key to delivering growth.

“In the absence of a housing requirement, local communities may choose not to allocate sites for development due to local community priorities or lack of community appetite,” Spry explained.

“This will impair a council’s ability to boost the supply of housing. Those neighbourhood plan areas with robust housing allocations are those following the stipulations of a local plan.

“This continues to highlight the importance of local plans setting the strategic policies for areas.”

    Local Choices? Housing Delivery Through Neighbourhood Plans can be found on the Lichfields website (pdf).

    Image credit | Shutterstock