The UK's planning system is multi-faceted and there are many aspects that developers need to be aware of when operating in a specific region.
In this section, we take a look at how LPAs are performing across the East of England and the Humber in regard to local plan status, housing delivery and Established Five Year Housing Land Supply (5YHLS).
Local Plan Status
Paragraph 11(d) of the NPPF makes it clear that where an authority does not have a up-to-date development plan (i.e. less than five years old), the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ kicks in and councils must approve applications unless ‘any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework [the NPPF] taken as a whole’.
This significantly lowers the bar for demonstrating that a development is acceptable and should be approved - so knowing if the development plan is ‘in-date’ is important for development proponents.
Of the 45 LPAs in the East of England region, 18 of them have a local plan that is older than five years, with three more on course to become out of date in the next three months. A further six councils have no record of having adopted a local plan.
Just 16 LPAs in the entire region (35%) have a local plan that they would be able to fully rely on to direct development to the right place.
Housing Delivery is a measure of an LPA’s performance that measures historical housing delivery against their accepted housing need. It is measured annually in data published by the Department of Levelling Up Housing and Communities. If an LPA cannot deliver at least 95% of its housing need in a year then they must prepare an Action Plan detailing how delivery will be improved in subsequent years. If they fall below 75%, then future applications are subject to a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ (AKA ‘the tilted balance’), meaning that there is a much higher bar for refusing applications thanks to paragraph 11(d) of the NPPF.
13 of the 45 councils in the East of England were not able to demonstrate adequate housing delivery in the last published HDT results. If you’re in Basildon, Brentwood, Broxbourne, Castle Point, East Suffolk, Epping Forrest, North Hertfordshire, Southend on Sea, St. Albans, Three Rivers, Thurrock, Watford, or Wellwyn Hatfield, it’s the historic delivery of housing that’s undermining the effectiveness of the local plan.
Established Five Year Housing Land Supply (5YHLS)
Five Year Housing Land Supply (5YHLS) is a measure of an LPAs performance that looks ahead to their capability to deliver housing in future. Each LPA is required to maintain a rolling stock of 5 years’ worth of housing land, based on their accepted annual housing need. Failure to demonstrate an acceptable housing land supply will result in the presumption in favour of sustainable development (or tilted balance) being applied, which makes it very difficult to justify refusal of planning applications.
Five year housing land supply is a moveable feast, with councils changing their claimed land supply, or having it changed for them when an appeal decision is made, all the time. At the time of writing there were 19 of the 45 councils in the area that were unable to demonstrate an adequate supply of housing land to prevent the presumption in favour of sustainable development from undermining the full provision of their local plan.
Presumption in Favour
As outlined above, if any one of these metrics (age of local plan, housing delivery, or housing land supply) is not adequate, then the presumption in favour of sustainable development kicks in. In the East of England, one or more of these triggers is met in 32 of the 45 LPA, meaning that the presumption in favour of sustainable development currently applies in over 70% of the region, which is bad - but still better than the national average.
If you've enjoyed the data insights about strategic land in the East of England, check out our other planning reports for the region below: