Research from the town planning consultancy has revealed the disparity between the stated housing supply of local authorities in the North West, and the number of homes definitely in the pipeline, as almost 50% can’t demonstrate a five-year housing supply.
According to Indigo, while 67% of councils in the North West report that they have more than five years’ supply of houses, in reality only 41% do, and 10% have no up to date information.
Local authorities are heavily relying on homes that don’t yet have planning permission to make up the pipeline, with 91% incorporating residential developments that are yet to be approved into strategies. Almost 70% use schemes without permission to make up at least one year of their five-year plan to provide enough homes for the area.
These figures are higher than the national average, as 88% throughout the UK rely on homes without permission.
The Government has stressed the importance of local plans in helping to deliver 1 million homes by 2020, and has proposed additional powers to ensure that all councils get them in place by 2017.
Demonstrating a ready supply of housing land, of at least five years, is a key component of the housing element of councils’ Local Plans.
If a Local Plan is not to be up to date because the council cannot show it has five years’ supply of housing land, permission can be granted, using the presumption in favour of sustainable development in the National Planning Policy Framework. However, this can result time-consuming and costly appeals and public inquiries, and is not a sustainable route for housing delivery.
Simon Neate, chairman of Indigo Planning, said: “The task ahead of local authorities in the next two years is huge. From a standing start, local plans take at least two to three years to deliver, including two or more rounds of consultation and an examination. Even those with work well underway will find it a challenge to complete everything on time when resources are so stretched.
“In itself, the plan-led system is right. It means that areas can shape their own future and new development can be delivered in a way that meets the local population’s needs and constraints.
“But after years in which some authorities appear to have attached less importance to the need for this process, very few are meeting their housing targets.
“This does mean that housebuilders and developers can target certain parts of the country in the knowledge that without adequate plans in place their proposals might have a greater chance of approval.
“But local authority planning departments are often too stretched to determine applications in time and the government should address this if it wants to speed up the building of new homes over the next five years.”