Out-Law News 1 min. read

Housing and planning minister clarifies government position on use of SHMAs

Housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis has written to Planning Inspectorate chief executive Simon Ridley to clarify the position of the UK government on the use of strategic housing market assessments (SHMAs) to inform housing policies in local plans.

Lewis said in the letter (2-page / 277 KB PDF) that SHMAs, prepared by the councils within a shared housing market area to help inform policies for local housing supply, provided important evidence that should be used in the local planning process but were “just the first stage in developing a local plan”. Lewis confirmed in the letter that councils could also “take account of constraints which indicate that development should be restricted”.

The minister said the results of SHMAs would be expected to be taken into consideration by councils preparing housing targets for their local plans. “The publication of a locally agreed assessment provides important new evidence and where appropriate will prompt councils to consider revising their housing requirements in their local plans,” said Lewis. “We would expect councils to actively consider this new evidence over time and, where over a reasonable period they do not, inspectors could justifiably question the approach to housing land supply.”

However, Lewis warned that the “untested” housing figures provided by SHMAs “should not automatically be seen as a proxy for a final housing requirement in local plans” and did not invalidate housing numbers in existing local plans.

“Councils will need to consider SHMA evidence carefully and take adequate time to consider whether there are environmental and policy constraints, such as green belt, which will impact on their overall final housing requirement,” said Lewis. “They also need to consider whether there are opportunities to co-operate with neighbouring planning authorities to meet needs across housing market areas. Only after these considerations are complete will the council’s approach be tested at examination by an inspector.”

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