Blog: 11 February 2019Top Domestic Priority or Simply A Numbers Game?

Michael Knott

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Michael Knott

Planning Director

Reading office

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The record of success for achieving national housing targets set by Governments is poor. Previous targets having been missed and, owing to the lack of confidence in them, this largely goes unnoticed.  The current Government’s current national housing ambition of 300,000 a year by the mid-2020s – identified as their top domestic priority - is the latest such target. Many accept it is ambitious and will be challenging, and disappointingly, it is already under significant threat of being rendered unachievable.

Participating in the hearings of the New London Plan Examination last week, we led in making the case to establish an effective structure for strategic collaboration on how the likely substantial shortfall in housing within London will be met through Local Plan preparation across the wider South East. Acting on behalf of a Consortium (comprising Gallagher Estates (now L&Q Estates), Wates Developments, CALA Homes and Lands Improvement Holdings. Alongside the Home Builders Federation) the hearings, commenced in January 2019 and are scheduled to close in May 2019.

So far, detailed debate around housing need and supply has taken place, as has debate focused upon the lack of an effective structure for strategic cooperation between the Mayor and the local authorities within the Wider South East (WSE). On the Plan’s approach, which notably prevents Green Belt Reviews being undertaken within London, it is not credible to rely upon an unprecedented and dramatically increased rate of housing delivery within London. The consequence is that there could be a level of unmet housing need of approximately 30,000 homes a year. That’s about 10% of the Government’s national target.

At best, presently, heads are buried firmly in the sand. At worst, the Mayor and the WSE authorities are wilfully avoiding housing need being met in full, perpetuating the approach adopted through the Further Alterations to the London Plan (FALP)[1].

Emerging plans within the WSE are however, actively considering the potential to help accommodate unmet housing need from London. The Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge Growth Arc is one ‘close to home’[2]. Absent of explicit acknowledgement of a realistic estimate of unmet housing need within the New London Plan, or the Plan including an effective mechanism which is based upon future monitoring of shortfalls in housing delivery, such clear and present opportunities could be missed.

The Examination Panel is due to reach its conclusions on the Plan in Autumn 2019. This will include whether they accept the GLA’s case for London’s departure from the Government’s standard method housing need figure and, moreover, its assessment of an immediate doubling of housing delivery within London[3]. There is also the potential for Secretary of State intervention, which is a realistic prospect given his involvement in the Plan’s preparation thus far. Whatever the outcome, there will be wide-ranging implications. Having read the National Audit Office’s report, ‘Planning for New Homes', this sits squarely with the NAO’s key conclusion that MHCLG and government need to take the identified shortfalls in the planning system much more seriously and bring about improvement if they are to meet their ambition of 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s.

Alongside participating in the Examination, we have also encouraged the Secretary of State to carefully consider the consequences of the New London Plan and for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to be fully involved in securing effective strategic collaboration between the Mayor and the WSE authorities. After all, an effective outcome is critical to tackling housing affordability in the least affordable part of the country.

 

[1] See paragraphs 56-57 of the FALP Inspector’s Report.

[2] See pages 26-27 of ‘Partnering for Prosperity: A new deal for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc’ (NIC; 2018)

[3] Past annual average completions (2004-2018) – 32,347 dpa, compared with the GLA’s SHMA figure of 66,000 dpa.

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London Plan, New London Plan Examination, CAMKOX, UK Housing