Blog: 9 February 2017The White Paper and OAHN

Simon Macklen

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Simon Macklen

Research Director

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The Government has acknowledged a need for 225-275k new homes per annum to keep up with population growth and start to tackle years of under-supply. Whilst this range exceeds the 1m new homes target set by the Government over the course of this Parliament, it falls below the recommended minimum 300k homes concluded upon by the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs in its 1st Report ‘Building more homes

Highlighting a desire to develop a new standard methodology for objectively assessed housing need (OAHN), the White Paper does not introduce an immediate or short term solution to the issue of establishing local housing need. Once agreed, however, a new standardised methodology would aim to establish baseline housing need. Whilst the White Paper suggests the assessment will be able to depart from this standardised methodology, there would be an incentive for it to be used.

For the time being therefore, Local Planning Authorities will continue to fall back on the existing OAHN methodology contained within the Government’s Planning Practice Guidance.

So what does the White Paper propose?

New methodology Consultation

There is concern that “at the moment, some local authorities can duck potentially difficult decisions, because they are free to come up with their own methodology for calculating objectively assessed need’” and there is therefore a clear desire to develop a new standard methodology for this.

By April 2018, in the absence of an up-to-date local or strategic plan, the new methodology for calculating objectively assessed requirement would apply as the baseline for assessing five year housing land supply and housing delivery. Further consultation on this is proposed for 2017 but the White Paper places a clear focus on the following:

  • Address current and future housing market pressures
  • Consistency with the Country’s modern Industrial Strategy; and
  • Accounting for the needs of different groups, including older people.
 

Incentive

The White Paper is keen to incentivise the use of a standard methodology for preparing an OAHN, and whilst Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) appear to continue to be able to deviate from this (if they have a good reason), the Government is likely to factor in an authority’s application of the standardised approach[1] when allocating the £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund. Furthermore, LPAs will need to update their plans if their existing housing target can no longer be justified against their objectively assessed housing requirement, unless they have agreed a departure from the standard methodology with the Planning Inspectorate.

The link between homes and jobs to remain

The White Paper acknowledges that “Growing businesses need a skilled workforce living nearby, and employees should be able to move easily to where jobs are without being forced into long commutes”, a point which is considered critical to the success of the recently published Industrial Strategy.

The recommendations made by the Government’s Local Plans Expert Group (LPEG) however, included the removal of the need to test the balance between future job growth and housing supply. Therefore whilst the White Paper appears confident to accept many of the LPEG recommendations, there does appear to be hesitancy regarding the OAHN recommendations which are at odds with the White Paper’s focus on ensuring the success of the Industrial Strategy.

Duty to Cooperate

Finally, the Government proposes to consult upon changes to the NPPF requiring LPAs to prepare a Statement of Common Ground, setting out how they will work together to meet housing requirements and other issues that cut across authority boundaries.

 

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Housing White Paper, LPEG, Local Plans