Councils with up-to-date local plans could be expected to provide neighbourhood planning groups with a housing need figure for their plan areas, while councils without an up-to-date local plan could use a ‘simple formula-based approach’ to supply such a figure, a consultation document has proposed.

A consultation document published today by the government says that neighbourhood planning groups “wishing to plan for the housing needs for their area face a number of problems” including that, “where there is an up-to-date local plan, some neighbourhood planning groups may not have been provided with a housing figure in the local plan as a starting point for developing their neighbourhood plan”.

It also says that, where there is no up-to-date local plan, “neighbourhood planning groups may need to employ external consultants to estimate housing need for designated neighbourhood plan areas” which can be “costly for voluntary neighbourhood forums, and can discourage some communities from neighbourhood planning”.

To tackle this, the consultation proposes to make clear in planning guidance that authorities may provide specific housing need data for neighbourhood plan areas “by making a reasoned judgement based on the settlement strategy and housing allocations in their plan, so long as the local plan provides a sufficiently up-to-date basis to do so”.

“Where this happens, we would not expect the resulting housing figure to have to be tested during the neighbourhood plan’s production, as it will be derived from the strategy in the local plan and must be in general conformity with its strategic priorities”, the document says.

Where a local plan is out-of-date, the document says that the government is proposing to set out in guidance “a simple formula-based approach which apportions the overall housing need figure for the relevant local authority area/s, based on the latest figures calculated under the new standard approach … to the neighbourhood planning area”.

It says that the proposed formula “is simply to take the population of the neighbourhood planning area and calculate what percentage it is of the overall population in the local planning authority area. The housing need figure in the neighbourhood planning area would then be that percentage of the local planning authority’s housing need”.

Source: Michael Donnelly, Planning Resource, 14 September 2017

Local Comment:  If this proposal is adopted, it will finally unblock our neighbourhood plan work on housing need for the Birkenhead & Tranmere Neighbourhood Area. – Philip Barton