The term ‘housing crisis’ is one that we have unfortunately had to accept will exist for some time. We now live in a generation where people in their mid-30s to mid-40s are three times more likely to be renting than 20 years ago, with many unable to ever own a home. The shortage of homes across the country is likely only to worsen as a result of the impact on housing delivery due to the Coronavirus.
There have already been strong calls from the public and private sector for Westminster to allow planning permissions to be extended following the coronavirus outbreak, something already rolled out in Scotland. An industry publication quoted that ‘more than 1,000 projects, including over 14,500 homes, are at risk from their permissions expiring in the next three months’.
The planning and development industry are hopeful that when Parliament returns from recess on the 21st April, legislation to address the issue will be swiftly rolled out. If not, the cost and delay of reapplying for current consents will further exacerbate the problem and housing delivery pipeline.
Local Planning Authorities are equally eager for Parliament to act, given the importance of major planning consents in meeting five-year land supply figures. The concern in not meeting 5-year land supply figures and opening the door to the National Planning Policy Framework’s ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ argument, is clear to see. Six local planning authorities having indicated their intention to submit an Annual Position Statement seeking to confirm they have a five-year land supply.
Draft statements will now need to be issued to the Planning Inspectorate by the 31st July and if confirmed, cannot be challenged until 31st October 2021. The list of Local Planning Authorities who have sought to secure their five-year land supply positions includes; Wyre Council, Flyde Borough Council, Milton Keynes Council, South Kesteven District Council, Stockton on Tees Borough Council and Sunderland City Council. These Councils will of course be relying on projected delivery rates, requiring the Planning Inspectorate to ensure the rates are robust and also likely, are a fair projection of the impact of coronavirus.
The position is further underlined by a recent appeal which was dismissed in Wokingham Borough Council. In reaching her decision, the Inspector noted that ‘it did not seem unreasonable that the appellant had argued the effects of the pandemic on local housing construction rates would be felt for a three to six month period and, because of this, 168 homes should be removed from the authority’s housing trajectory which supports its five year land supply position’.
The Planning for the Future policy document published shortly after the budget by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, announced that ministers would be reviewing the formula for calculating local housing need. Almost certainly a review of the housing delivery test will now also need to be undertaken to address the slow down of housing completions as a result of coronavirus. This surely presents a golden opportunity for Government to put in place strict measures to boost delivery and encourage an upturn in activity following the coronavirus crisis. Ironically, it may take the current crisis to bring about real action in addressing the long existing housing crisis.
For more information please contact a member of our team.
Jamie Wallace, Associate