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 North West 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.
The Greater Manchester Regional Plan has been progressing through its examination since February 2022. Currently none of the 10 council areas within the Greater Manchester Combined Authority have a local plan that is less than five years old, the most recently adopted local plan being that of Rochdale Council, which was adopted in October 2016. Should the Greater Manchester Regional Plan be found sound, and adopted, Greater Manchester (with the exception of Stockport, who have opted out of this process) will have an up-to-date development plan.
On Merseyside, Liverpool and St. Helens both have an up to date development plan, having adopted new policy at either end of 2022. A new development plan for the Wirral was submitted to PINs in October 2022 and will now be likely to carry some weight in decision making. The development plans for both Knowsley and Sefton are currently out of date, having been adopted in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
In Cheshire it’s only Halton that is able to demonstrate an up to date development plan, having adopted new policy in February 2022. Warrington is on the path to having a current development plan, having submitted a new plan to PINS April 2022. In Cheshire East, Cheshire West, and in Chester the development plans are out of date having been last adopted in 2017 and in 2015 respectively.
In Cumbria, three of the five local authorities have not refreshed their plans within the last five years and have no emerging policy in the pipeline (Allerdale; July 2007, Carlisle; August 2016, South Lakeland; October 2010). Copeland adopted their development plan in May 2013 but they submitted a new plan to PINS in September 2022, which is now likely to carry some weight for decision making. Eden adopted a new development plan in November 2018, which is currently less than five years old, however, within the next six months the development plan will be out of date here too.
Of the 14 Councils in Lancashire only five (Burnley, Fylde, Lancaster. Rossendale, Wyre) have development plans that have been reviewed within the last five years, and two of these (Burnley, Fylde) will become out-of-date within the next six months, although Fylde has already had their replacement policy found to be sound by PINs. Only Blackburn with Darwen has got to the point of submitting a new policy to the inspectorate with the remaining authorities lacking both current and substantially developed emerging planning policy.
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 60%, 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.
Within Greater Manchester Bury LPA has only been able to demonstrate 52% housing delivery and so applications here are subject to the ‘tilted balance’ in favour of sustainable development. Bolton and Trafford LPAs were not able to demonstrate above 80% of their necessary housing delivery and so have had a buffer applied to their housing delivery targets. Meanwhile, Oldham, Tameside and Stockport have been below 95% of their housing delivery target and have therefore been required to prepare an Action Plan to outline how they will improve their delivery.
All the councils in Merseyside were able to demonstrate over 100% housing delivery in the 2021 HDT results.
In Cheshire it’s only Warrington that has been unable to demonstrate satisfactory housing delivery with the 2021 HDT results showing just 72% and allowing the presumption in favour of sustainable development to be in play for planning applications in this area.
All the councils in Cumbria were able to demonstrate over 100% housing delivery in the 2021 HDT results.
In Lancashire it’s only Rossendale that has been unable to demonstrate satisfactory housing delivery with the 2021 HDT results showing just 57% and allowing the presumption in favour of sustainable development to be in play for planning applications in this area.
Five Year Housing Land Supply (5YHLS) is a measure of an LPA's 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.
Only 40% of the Greater Manchester authorities are able to demonstrate the necessary five years of housing land supply (Manchester, Rochdale, Salford, Wigan). The remaining six authorities are not able to demonstrate sufficient land supply to prevent the presumption in favour of sustainable development to kick in.
All the councils in Merseyside are currently able to demonstrate over five years of housing land supply.
In Cheshire it’s only Warrington that is currently unable to demonstrate satisfactory housing land supply with just 3.9 years, which allows the presumption in favour of sustainable development to be in play for planning applications in this area.
All the councils in Cumbria were able to demonstrate over five years of housing land supply.
In Lancashire it’s only Lancaster (2.6 years) and Chorley (3.3 years) that are currently below the threshold of five years of housing land supply, allowing the presumption in favour of sustainable development to be in play for planning applications in these areas.
If you've enjoyed the data insights about strategic land in the North West, check out our other planning reports for the region below:
- North West: Land Constraints
- North West: Determination Periods and Application Approval & Overturn Ratio
- North West: House Price Growth & Affordability