Inspector cuts draft Scarborough housing target in line with government recommendations

Out-Law News | 27 Feb 2017 | 5:20 pm | 2 min. read

Housing targets included in a Yorkshire council's draft local plan have been cut by a planning inspector, in order to "take account of" up to date household projections by the UK government.

Inspector William Fieldhouse recommended that Scarborough Borough Council's plans to build 9,680 homes up to 2032 be cut to 9,450 homes in line with projections by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which were published during the plan's examination stage. The draft was produced based on 2012 household projections, although the council and others told the inspector that both projections "significantly understate" the area's actual need for new homes.

In his report (45-page / 396KB PDF), Fieldhouse said that the lower figure of 9,450 "would represent a substantial increase compared to build rates over the last decade", and that there was "little to suggest that a greater rise would materialise even if such an aspiration were deemed appropriate and justified".

"Achieving the proposed delivery rates would represent a very significant boost to supply in the borough and this would be likely to have beneficial effects in terms of house prices and affordability," he said.

The plan should also be amended to require the identification of sufficient land for 10,633 additional homes over the same period, or a 12.5% surplus over the revised housing requirement, according to his report.

Planning law expert Elizabeth Wiseman of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the inspector's conclusions could be contrasted with the government's recent 'white paper' on housing, and its proposals to fix England's "broken" housing market.

"The inspector's decision that it was necessary to reduce the housing targets so that the plan was compliant with DCLG targets was at odds with the views of the council and other representors," she said. "It was suggested that there were a number of factors that justified an inflation of the DCLG targets, which the council believed significantly understate the actual need for additional homes in the area."

The inspector considered that the revised housing targets reflected the objectively assessed needs, the economic objectives of the plan and the national policy objective of boosting significantly the supply of housing. However, in light of the housing white paper and the need to 'fix the broken housing market', it may be time to start setting targets that are more aspirational," she said.

"The criticism that local plans are not capturing the actual need for housing in the area or setting ambitious enough housing targets is something that we are regularly seeing. In particular, the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework has been criticised for pursuing conservative levels of housing and has been held by some to be a missed opportunity to develop the housing the city needs," she said.

Not enough local authorities planning for the homes that they need is one of three factors contributing to England's "broken" housing system, according to the government's recent white paper on housing policy. It intends to address this by making local plans easier to produce and more accessible; introducing a more standardised approach to assessing five-year housing requirements; and intervening where necessary to ensure that every community has appropriate plans for housing in place.

Scarborough Borough Council's local plan covers the area of the borough outside of the North York Moors National Pack, and sets out development management policies for the area up to 2032. Once adopted, it will replace the existing Scarborough Borough Local Plan from 1999 and will set policy against which planning applications and development proposals will be considered.