Inspector questions Cheshire East's local plan housing evaluation method

Out-Law News | 10 Jul 2014 | 5:38 pm | 1 min. read

An independent planning inspector has raised concerns about the method used by Cheshire East Council to calculate the area's objectively assessed housing need in its emerging local plan strategy (LPS).

The draft Cheshire East local plan strategy (LPS) was submitted to the secretary of state for communities and local government for examination in May. The Council's latest housing need assessment was based on 2011 interim projections from an online toolkit that uses statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The appointed planning inspector, Stephen Pratt wrote to the Council (4-page / 52 KB PDF) on 11 June raising his initial concerns in relation to the documents, evidence and representations provided with the LPS. The inspector asked the Council to clarify why it had identified a potential housing land supply for almost 50,000 dwellings in its strategic housing land availability assessment but had limited its housing supply delivery target to "over 27,000 homes by 2030".

The inspector raised concerns about "the adequacy and methodology of the Council's objective assessment of housing needs in terms of the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework" and questioned the validity of the Council's projection of the ten year interim projections forward to 2030 without adjustment for recent trends or local factors.

"The Planning Policy Guidance confirms that DCLG household projections should be the starting point when estimating housing need, but these projections may require adjustment to reflect factors affecting the local demography, and recognises that household formation rates may have been suppressed historically by under-supply and worsening affordability of housing and will therefore need to reflect the consequences of past under-delivery of housing," wrote the inspector.

The inspector also questioned why the Council had not considered 2012-based figures from the ONS in its housing assessment and asked for clarification on the allocation of employment land, the release of Green Belt land and the spatial distribution of development under the draft LPS.

The inspector asked the Council to prepare a briefing paper addressing the matters raised in his letter by 18 July. A pre-hearing meeting is scheduled for 24 July and examination hearings are due to commence on 16 September.