Proposed Abolition of the Housing Land Supply Requirement Could Inundate Speculative Application

by Akeem Iginla

According to a Conservative MP, the proposed scrapping of the requirement by Local Authorities to maintain five years housing land supply with an up-to-date local plan according to the published Government Levelling Up policy paper, may lead to a “deluge of speculative developments” prior to the legislation being adopted.

Under the current system, if authorities are unable to demonstrate five years supply of deliverable sites, the National Planning Policy Framework’s (NPPF’s) “presumption in favour of sustainable development” applies.  This renders the housing policies in their local plan out of date, making them more vulnerable to speculative applications.

The Conservative MP for North Wiltshire, James Gray, warned that developers may take advantage of the existing regulations in advance of the changes being implemented.  As he puts it, if developers were notify of this change coming into effect in a year’s time, or that the local plan might well take a few more months or a year to complete, the consequences is that it will give rise to a deluge of speculative developments that will be difficult to stop, until such time as the law becomes active.

The Minister of Housing, Stuart Andrew MP, confirmed that the proposal to scrap the five year housing land supply requirement for Local Authorities with an up-to-date local plan, stipulated in the policy document published alongside the Bill would for all intent and purpose be within the legislation. He also noted that, where an area has no up-to-date local plan, there would be no need for it to prove that it has a five years land supply to stop speculative development happening.

In a related development, the Housing Secretary, Michael Gove MP, gave a swipe at Planning Inspectors who he accused of operating “counter” to ministerial wishes in relation to local plans and speculative appeal decisions, promising to ensure that steps will be taken so that they do not impose unrealistically high housing need figures on local communities.

He further noted the introduction of legislation and changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will subsequently end abuse of the five-years land supply rules and ensure that if Local Authorities have sound plans in place, there cannot be such speculative development.

Gove further noted that even as they democratise and digitise the planning system, the Conservative Government will be able to see that the Planning Inspectorate ensures that every plan reflects what local communities believe in.

However, critics of the Government considered Gove’s plan to rein in the Planning Inspectorate powers giving back to local authorities more control over planning as mere rhetoric as this is not in the proposed Bill.

In his response to the Government critics, Gove had promised to work constructively with backbenchers across the political divides to ensure that the Bill was strengthened. He had never witnessed a piece of legislation introduced to the House that could not be improved in the Committee. He further suggested that more time was required to see how a revised NPPF and NPPF prospectus would impact further amendments to the Bill as in one or two areas of the Bill, there are placeholders, where more work is needed to be done.

Gove had previously told a select Committee hearing late last year that PINS sometimes lacked “sophistication” in handling local housing requirements and for not taking “reasonableness” into account which reflects a mechanical attitude from his own development.

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