Local Plans – new guidance on Housing Numbers
We recently completed our response to the Calderdale Local Plan – Initial Draft consultation. We can expect another, Publication Draft in spring 2018. The Plan envisages almost 17,000 new homes being built by 2033, of which 70% would be in the Green Belt. This will have particular impact on the Brighouse and Rastrick area, where two ‘Garden Suburbs’ are proposed close to the M1 motorway; and also at Northowram and Shelf, which would effectively cause the coalescence of Halifax and Bradford. This is simply not realistic, because it intends that a sudden influx of additional, greenfield sites into the land supply will result in a rapid acceleration in housebuilding that will reverse long-term trends. In doing so, Calderdale’s success in achieving almost 70% brownfield development over the last twenty years will wither away. To make matters worse, the proposed new, large-scale developments in the Green Belt are not well-located for public transport and have low densities, meaning that they will waste land, induce road traffic and fail to respond to the challenges of climate change.
We are also about to go into the Public Examinations for the Kirklees Local Plan and the Leeds Site Allocations Plan. However, the ground has just shifted beneath them quite dramatically. The long-awaited government guidance on standardising the method of calculating housing requirements was published in September. The crucial difference is that housing need should be based on population-based projections, but without adding in the extra homes that local authorities want to attract to support job growth. They can still add this growth to their plan targets, but not the calculations of need.
To see an interactive map of the new figures, click here.
Applying the new guidance has a curious effect on the baseline for housing need: in Leeds, a 28% drop compared to the Local Plan target; a 28% drop in Calderdale and 24% drop in Bradford. (Wakefield sees a 32% drop, but its Local Plan is not under review at the moment). Yet Kirklees shows just a 1% drop. This would imply that Kirklees is not planning for additional job growth, which it certainly is; so this will undoubtedly be put under the spotlight at the Examination in October.
Meanwhile in Leeds we have just heard news that the Public Examination is to be delayed to allow the implications of the new housing figures to be considered.
Aside from the Kirklees figure, what do these new housing figures mean overall, if West Yorkshire’s numbers have fallen so dramatically? Essentially, the new figures are based entirely on where housing demand is now, based on historical trends – so there is a big skew towards London, the South-East and the Home Counties. Those areas are suddenly facing big increases in their housing targets, which will of course be controversial. On the one hand, we should welcome the new approach because it avoids inflating housing numbers on the back of the unachievable job-growth targets that CPRE has been persistently criticising. And this could save greenfield sites. On the other hand, the new approach shines a harsh light on the lack of any national strategy to prevent over-heating in the South and redistribute prosperity to the North. It’s too early to tell how this will play out.
(We must acknowledge the excellent work on Local Plans that has complemented our own, by Calderdale Friends of the Earth, Holme Valley Vision, Kirklees Community Action Network and Yorkshire Greenspace Alliance.)