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10/04/2017

Report: 43% of councils yet to publish draft local plan

Words: Laura Edgar
New towns / iStock

New research has suggested that 36 per cent of planning authorities have seen a local plan through examination to adoption, but 43 per cent have not even published a draft local plan.

The report, by planning consultancy Lichfields, considers the progress of local plans under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) since it was launched five years ago.

The inability of some councils to make progress with their local plans could expose them to government interventions announced in the housing white paper, the consultancy warned.

Planned and Deliver notes a number of policies included in the housing white paper that might have implications for plan making and delivering planned housing, such as the housing delivery test.

Statistics in the report

161 local plans examined or submitted for examination since the introduction of the NPPF

105 local plans found sound with 36 per cent of local planning authorities boasting an up-to-date local plan against the NPPF

30 per cent of sound plans subject to an ‘early review’, all related at least in part to housing matters

71 per cent of early reviews subject to a deadline or time limit, with eight local plan areas already missing that timescale

23 tools and tests Lichfields have identified within the housing white paper that could help improve plan-making

The research also suggests that in aggregate, adopted post-NPPF local plans, when combined with the London Plan, are not providing for sufficient housing to match the number of homes implied by household projections. The shortfall could be 3,945 dwellings per annum. This is without the consideration of improving affordability.

Lichfields said that with many plans yet to be prepared in locations with restrictive policies, including policies relating to the green belt, there is likely to be a need for upward pressure on housing requirement figures in emerging and next generation plans.

Matthew Spry, senior director of Lichfields and an advisor on the Department for Communities and Local Government Local Plans Expert Group in 2016, said: “As it has been from the beginning, the major factor slowing the local plan process is the debate and disagreement over housing numbers. Indeed, almost half of plans found sound have needed to adjust their housing targets before making the grade.

“Our research has identified 222 local authority areas (56 per cent) may fail these tests and face the consequences of needing an action plan or application of a 20 per cent buffer on their five year land supply.”

The government is currently legislating to make having a plan a statutory requirement. If a council does not have an up-to-date local plan, the government may intervene by directing a local planning authority to review its existing plans or directing councils to prepare a plan.

Spry said: “Despite some frenetic plan making activity over the past 12 months, our research shows that getting these plans to formal submission remains over the horizon for many areas.

“There are clear signs that the prospect of the housing white paper’s reforms has caused a hiatus, but with net housing completions reaching almost 190,000 last year despite poor plan coverage, it is perhaps better to apply one comprehensive set of reforms now, rather than have constant tinkering.”

Planned and Deliver can be found here (pdf).

* Lichfields formerly operated under the name Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners. The name Lichfields came into use on 14 February 2017.

Image credit | iStock

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