Intervention and Housing Need

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) intervened in the Spelthorne local plan in late September. The housing minister, Rachel Maclean, sent a letter to the council blocking the authority from rescinding its emerging plan from examination. This was the first time in two years DLUHC has intervened, the last time being with South Oxfordshire. Maclean told the Conservative Conference last month that she “absolutely will” intervene in local councils that do not have a local plan.

But some councils progressing their local plans have questioned the housing needs numbers. These are based on the 2014 ONS figures but with the publication of the 2021 census results coucnillors have called the numbers into question. Some councils are introducing much reduced ‘local’ housing needs assessments.

One such council is Three Rivers which is about to submit a plan with 4,852 homes, as opposed to the 12,624 housing needs figure. Another is North Somerset which is considering a ‘locally derived’ housing figure 25% lower than the standard methodology figure.

DLUHC has not reacted to any of these as yet, perhaps waiting to let the respective inspectors review the locally derived figures and evidence base accordingly. But it is a big risk for those councils.

In other planning news, DLUHC published the list of the local authorities which have failed to meet government targets for the quality of planning decision-making. The latest statistics show that 13 authorities, six more than six months ago, are sitting above one of the government thresholds: those with the highest percentage (more than 10%) of major planning decisions overturned at appeal in the last two years.

Uttlesford, which is already in ‘special measures’ and had its planning powers withdrawn, is still 4th with 13%, but top is Fareham with 16.7%. Others in the top 10 include Chorley (15.6%), Lewes (13.2%), Basingstoke (12.5%), Three Rivers (12.5%), Charnwood (11.7%), Basildon (11.5%) and Bromsgrove (10.7%).

Welwyn Hatfield is 10th with 10.5% and Epping Forest is just outside at 11th with 9.6%. Others teetering on the threshold include Caste Point (9.1%), Wealden (9%), Tandridge (8.7%) and Tewksbury (8.6%).

The various league tables can be viewed on Planning(£).