Our MD Alexis De Pol is one of the experts discussing residential development in a recent edition of Lancashire Business View. Here’s his thoughts on how the planning process in Lancashire is delivering when it comes to new homes:
“The historical under-delivery of housing is a national concern, one which successive governments have sought to resolve. Since the 1970s the average completion rate in the UK has been around 160,000 new homes a year, though that crept up to around 217,000 in 2017. Nevertheless, current estimates are that the UK will need to start delivering closer to 300,000 dwellings a year to keep up with population growth and to tackle years of previous under-supply.”
Absence of Local Plans
Lancashire too will have to increase its delivery rate to meet its targets. Locally-produced housing requirement assessments indicate a current need for a minimum of 5,000 new dwellings per year across the whole of the county. But completion figures show that since 2008 actual delivery averages closer to 3,000 a year. While delivery is improving, a significant increase is going to be needed.
Some authorities have performed better than others, however it is worrying that the majority have been unable to deliver their annual requirement on a consistent basis.
The problem is not unique to Lancashire, and each area has its own issues. There are a variety of factors which affect housing delivery, However, the absence of up-to-date Local Plans which specifically allocate sufficient land for housing development has undoubtedly been a contributing factor in some local authority areas. Some councils also face politically sensitive decisions, such as the release of countryside land for development.
Policy v Public Opinion
Trying to balance the requirement to provide more housing against the views of the communities in which they will be built has been challenging. Policy versus public opinion often makes for a difficult, protracted and costly process which can result in developers increasingly having to go to appeal to secure planning permission. This slows the development of new homes, and the uncertainty it creates can also be a dis-incentive to many developers looking to make investment decisions. This is likely to have contributed to the historic under-delivery of homes within some parts of Lancashire.
While most Lancashire authorities have adopted or are in the process of producing and reviewing their Local Plans and site allocations, in many cases questions are being raised as to whether a sufficient buffer being provided to ensure a choice of sites. It’s inevitable that not all allocated and approved sites will come forward for development, as there are many other obstacles for housebuilders to contend with. Without adequate choice and flexibility, councils may find themselves still in a position where under delivery is a problem despite reviewing their Local Plans.
Land release required
For Lancashire to stand a chance of delivering its requirement, we need up-to-date and positive Local Plans in force, allocating sufficient and realistically deliverable housing land to meet demand. This includes a range of sites suitable both for volume house builders and medium / smaller developers. Planning authorities should also be prepared to apply flexibility in determining applications, especially where the housing need is not being delivered. A general speeding up of the planning process would also be welcomed.”