"The bar has been lowered for some areas which have a made Neighbourhood Plan and it looks set to be lowered where the Government concludes a growth deal with local partners."
The question of what sites are deliverable for calculating housing land supply has played out on planning applications and planning appeals across the country since the National Planning Policy Framework was originally published in March 2012.
Current paragraph 47 of the NPPF requires Local Planning Authorities to identify and update annually a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years’ worth of housing against their housing requirements plus appropriate buffer. Whilst this remains relevant the bar has been lowered for some areas which have a made Neighbourhood Plan and it looks set to be lowered where the Government concludes a growth deal with local partners.
Deliverable is defined under footnote 11 of the NPPF and includes that sites should be available now, sites should be in a suitable location for development now and there should be a realistic prospect that housing will be delivered on the site within five years. Sites with planning permission should be considered deliverable until permission expires unless there is evidence to the contrary. There is no further definition of deliverable under the Glossary in the current NPPF.
The practice of LPAs seeking to satisfy the paragraph 47 requirement can vary significantly. At one end of the spectrum some apply a relatively narrow definition to include only sites with planning permission where the evidence points to a realistic prospect of delivery within five years. At the other end some include sites which do not have planning permission for example sites identified in evidence base documentation such as a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment.
Both approaches have been accepted following legal challenges and ultimately it is for the decision-maker to decide whether contested sites are deliverable or not following consideration of the policy guidance and interpretation of legal judgments. However, the definition of deliverability and application of it looks set to change.
Paragraph 68 of the NPPF Consultation Proposals includes a requirement for Strategic Plans to identify a supply of specific deliverable sites for years one to five of the plan with appropriate buffer and paragraph 74 includes an almost identical requirement for LPAs to identify and update annually a supply of specific deliverable sites. Proceeding paragraphs of the consultation explain more about the buffer and practical measures to monitor and act on the findings.
The key aspect of the consultation for measurement of deliverability of sites is found in the new definition of Deliverable in the Glossary at Annex 2.
The definition includes the qualification that sites with outline planning permission, permission in principle, allocated in the development plan or identified on a brownfield register should only be considered deliverable where is clear evidence that housing completions will begin within five years. This could be seen as a presumption that only sites with detailed planning permission are to be considered deliverable unless clear evidence indicates otherwise.
When brought in the new NPPF will result in LPAs having to consider their supply sites especially where sites do not currently benefit from a detailed planning permission. For some authorities this could result in a reduction in supply which could be a perfect storm if combined with an increase in housing requirements because of the new methodology for calculating housing requirements.
Owners of land with development potential, land promoters and the house building industry will welcome the new draft definition as it could create opportunity for planning applications on sites not allocated for housing under the presumption in favour of sustainable development. Authorities who have widened the net to capture as many sites as possible within their supply might not welcome this tightening of the approach.
Consultation on the NPPF ends on 10 May 2018 and so there remains time in which to respond. The new definition could benefit from examples of clear evidence as demonstration of deliverability and the Government should explain this in an update to the Planning Practice Guidance.
As with any new approach time is needed for this to bed in and to be tested. The new definition and its application will be challenged through the planning system and through the legal system but for now the proposed change should be welcomed as a step in the right direction.
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