Castle Point now in worse performing 20% LA’s – the Local Plan Clock is Ticking!

Now that the expectation that Local Authorities must complete their Local Plans by the end of 2017, has been made official, it was interesting to note the confidence of Castle Point’s CEO and Local Plan Task and Finish chairman that CPBC will be complying.

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Up until now the Local Plan process in the Borough has been one of abject failure!

Now, being continually reminded that our daft New local Plan, is only for consultation purposes, serious decisions will need to be made.

No changes to the daft New Local Plan consultation are apparent through the extended “deliberations” of the Task and Finish group. It will be surprising if a much altered version is put before full council to consider. No doubt the council’s consideration will be accompanied by the warning that failure to approve and progress will lead to the announced Government interference. This in itself may lead the council to approve for Examination a version only slightly edited.

Otherwise if the council reject, does the CPBC constitution allow Cabinet to take control and approve?

Doubts remain in educated circles, of the ability of our local authority in reaching the deadline. having fallen so far behind we find it hard to argue.

Key CPBC Local Plan milestones are as follows:
Issues Consultation (Reg 18)             Jan-Mar 2012
Draft Consultation                               Jan-Mar 2014
Submission Consultation                    Jul-Aug 2014
Submission                                         Sep 2014
Examination                                        Dec 2014
Inspectors Report                               Feb 2015
Adoption                                             Mar 2015

You will obviously need to ignore the schedule above as by now we should be preparing for final Examination. What it does show is the number of months expected to be required during a smooth running process.

Given that it is not scheduled for the recommended version of the local plan to go before full council until December 2015, a very smooth and agreeable approval appears necessary.

A situation that would appear unusual for our local authority members.

What will upset local residents is that recent Local Plan making has led to a 25% increase in the numbers contained within the “housing pipeline.” The average per local authority pre-March 2012 being 573 homes rising to 717 homes per year following Plan adoption. This should raise some concern locally.

However the Government threat comes with the proviso that they will involve themselves, with Plan making, by working with “local people,” by which we assume the local authority cabinet, God Help Us All!

The Government release reads;

Councils must produce local plans for new homes in their area by 2017 – or the government will ensure, in consultation with local people, those plans are produced for them.

  • Landmark Housing and Planning Bill will help deliver government ambition of one million homes by 2020
  • Councils must produce local plans for new homes by 2017 – or government will ensure plans are produced for them
  • Government confirms measures to deliver 200,000 Starter Homes, offer 1.3 million tenants the Right to Buy and cut red tape to boost home building

While 82% of councils have published local plans – which should set out how many homes they plan to deliver over a set period – only 65% have fully adopted them, and there are still almost 20% of councils that do not have an up to date plan at all.

Today, the Prime Minister is making crystal clear that he expects all councils to create and deliver local plans – making sure they take action to help reach the government’s ambition of delivering 1 million homes by 2020.

The Prime Minister unveiled the proposals ahead of the publication of the Housing Bill which will help deliver 1 million homes by 2020 – a key part of the government’s pledge to deliver security, stability and opportunity to the British people.

The bill spells out a series of further proposals to boost homebuilding and home ownership, including:

  • new affordable Starter Homes – a new legal duty will be placed on councils to guarantee the delivery of Starter Homes on all reasonably sized new development sites, and to promote the scheme to first-time buyers in their area. The government is also announcing today that local authorities will be able to bid for a share of a £10 million Starter Homes fund – part of a £36 million package to accelerate the delivery of starter homes – by helping councils prepare brownfield sites that would otherwise not be built for starter homes.
  • automatic planning permission in principle on brownfield sites – to build as many homes as possible while protecting the green belt

The Prime Minister said; “Councils have a key role to play in this by drawing up their own local plans for new homes by 2017. But if they fail to act, we’ll work with local people to produce a plan for them.”

Local plans

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) – which reinforced the role of local plans – was introduced in 2012 as a way of cutting back on red tape and endless planning documents to focus on what people care about: local roads, schools and homes that meet their needs.

In their plans, councils are required to produce an annual trajectory of how many homes they plan to build in their area – usually over a period of around 15 years. They must also be reviewed regularly – usually every 5 years – and give local people more of a say on where new developments go and what they look like.

And they clearly work – before March 2012 the average number of homes planned for by local authorities stood at 573 per year. Our reforms put local plans and housing delivery at the heart of the planning system. This has helped fuel the housing pipeline with those local plans published after the reforms containing on average 717 homes per year – a 25% increase.

Following today’s announcement, if councils fail to produce and bring into force an up to date plan for new homes by 2017, we will work with local people to ensure one is drawn up. Ministers will shortly be bringing forward further details of how best to intervene when councils have failed to get started on their plans.

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2 responses to “Castle Point now in worse performing 20% LA’s – the Local Plan Clock is Ticking!

  1. The Council published a draft New Local Plan in 2014 for consultation purposes which set out a housing target of 200 homes per annum. However, this target has been the subject of much objection through the consultation process.

    The NPPF states at paragraph 216 that only limited weight can be afforded to proposals in a draft plan where they are the subject of objections that are unresolved. Developers in particular objected to the findings of the TGSE Strategic Housing Market Assessment which does not follow the methodology in the Planning Practice Guidance to identify the objectively assessed need for housing in the sub-region.

    In the absence of a plan to which weight can be attached, and to provide a robust assessment of housing need, the housing target should currently be based on the household projections published by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

    These are trend based, and consequently vary over time. The recently published, 2012-based household projections indicate a need for 285 homes per annum for each year in the period 2012 to 2037. Consistent with the NPPF, this is considered to be the starting point for calculating housing need in the borough, in the absence of a plan and a robust assessment.

    Castle Point Council planning officers knowing that to attempt to push through the CPBC NLP plan using far outdated evidence will be the plans downfall. In the interim the plan seems to be progressing through the regeneration process in which developments that would not stand up to the scrutiny of examination, are being passed outside the examination forum.

  2. Steve, thanks.
    Problems with a hurried, or pressurised Local Plan is that it will be poorly supported. In CPBC case this poor support may come from residents and part of the council membership and also the interpretation and support of the evidence base (remember the Core Strategy fiasco).
    Once the Plan is published for Examination that is when developers legal teams become involved. CPBC have been consistent with their housing need total, 200dpa, however this figure was set many years ago and have not reflected recent population growth numbers.
    The use of constraints is unevidenced, flood risk having apparently no effect.
    Much has been muted that a change in the Local Plan is possible within the timeframe, so far no signs of any single policy impact has been achieved.
    There is the distinct possibility that housing need numbers will be set far higher than developers will physically achieve, this should form part of the policy making. This may well lead to under development allowing reserved development areas coming forward and lesser suitable / sustainable sites being developed out of their Plan term.
    Editor

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