Tory Minister Nick Boles has told a district councillor that developments should not be considered based on ‘hypothetical scenarios’ and a new guide will help assess the future need for housing.
This follows a letter from Horsham District Councillor Roger Arthur who has been in correspondence with MP Nick Boles and PM David Cameron about the ‘unrealistic’ five year housing supply for the district.
The Secretary of State for Planning wrote to Mr Arthur stating that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) should take into account ‘market signals’ and the Local Development Framework (LDF) should be ‘realistic’, ‘aspirational’ and ‘deliverable’ when considering housing proposals.
But the district is currently behind its five year land supply target set by the Government, which is based on the Office of National Statistics (ONS) population growth projections.
Councillors have raised concern on numerous occasions at Development Control Committee Meetings that refusing a n application could lead to an appeal, which could in turn lead to the incurrence of costs by the Planning Inspectorate.
In 2012, the district council was ordered to pay substantial costs relating to a failed appeal against plans to build up to 102 homes in Henfield.
Mr Arthur suggested two alternative housing targets for the LDF, which would take into consideration past experience and population growth in the area, but Mr Boles said it would be ‘imprecise’ when estimating housing figures.
“It would not be profitable to establish a methodology nationally for the calculation of housing figures based on two separate trajectories and this would lack certainty for communities and be imprecise in taking account of local circumstance,” said Mr Boles.
The Tory Minister also said that the Government is currently assessing development needs in the draft National Planning Practice Guidance.
Quoting a paragraph from the draft, Mr Boles said: “Any assessment of need should be realistic in taking account the particular nature of that area (for example geographic constraints and the nature of the market area).
“Assessing development needs should be proportionate and does not require local councils to consider purely hypothetical future scenarios, only future scenarios that could be reasonably expected to occur.”
But ‘hypothetical future scenarios’ could be further air traffic pollution or drainage issues, which residents have attributed to previous development approvals across the district.
In a response to Mr Boles’ letter, Mr Arthur said that the five year land supply target is ‘unattainable’.
“Gross Domestic Point (GDP) would have to average 6 per cent per annum (pa) for 20 years to meet the 650 pa target, which is clearly unattainable. That is because the 650 pa district target is based on the latest ONS population growth projections and has not been adjusted for a realistic GDP growth rate.
“I hope to put these points to a Planning Inspector, but unfortunately he/she is likely to continue working to ONS population projections, unless you instruct the Inspectorate otherwise.”