Overwhelmed by the scale of development in Essex? Here we help you understand quite what is going on
Many of us are aware that the natural beauty of our glorious county of Essex is threatened like never before. We experience it through the constant grind of cement-mixers and bulldozers, but sometimes the bureaucratic process is not so clear. Here CPRE Essex planning expert Michael Hand casts some light on what is driving the current onslaught.
Essex is under relentless and unparalleled pressure to accommodate significant growth, in particular to meet the demand for new housing.
However, many developments are concentrating on three- and four-bedroom executive homes and not enough ‘affordable’ housing is being delivered.
Other parts of the South East are experiencing similar pressure for this unprecedented growth in housing, driven by the ‘housing crisis’ and associated government policy to increase the delivery of new homes by setting higher targets for local authorities to meet.
There are only parts of the county where CPRE Essex has active groups; because of the immense pressure on the countryside it’s really important for similar representation in other areas.
In this respect, CPRE Essex is only really able to submit formal comments on planning applications where we have active members. As guardians of the countryside, local members have a key responsibility in upholding the core values of the organisation and defending the beauty of the county against poor-quality and inappropriate new developments.
There are 14 Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) in Essex and in most Local Plans have not been adopted.
This void in the planning framework has resulted in opportunistic and speculative applications (by companies such as Gladman Developments Ltd) seeking to exploit councils’ inability to demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land.
The effect, already adverse, has been exacerbated by a recent change by the government to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) through publication of a revised version on February 19.
Key changes include an amendment to specify that 2014-based population projections will provide the demographic baseline for the standard method of calculating local housing need rather than the lower 2016-based household projections, which could be used as a reason to justify lower housing need.
This clarification followed the publication of a major revision of the NPPF on July 24, 2018, which, inter alia, clarified the definition of ‘deliverable’.
To be considered deliverable, sites for housing should be available now, offer a suitable location for development now and be achievable with a realistic prospect that housing will be delivered on the site within five years.
As a consequence, it may be harder for LPAs to provide a five-year housing-land supply, as for example Local Plan allocations cannot generally be used in the calculation, except where “clear evidence that housing completions will begin on site within five years” exists.
The 2018 revision also introduced the Housing Delivery Test for LPAs, a failure in delivery of which kick-starts the “presumption in favour of sustainable development”.
The first round of Housing Delivery Test results was published in February this year, with 108 councils falling short and 86 required to add more land for housing to Local Plans as a result.
For a number of authorities, this confirms the need to apply a 20 per cent buffer to their housing requirement, with potential ramifications for their ability to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply.
A result of these changes is that speculative applications will still be common practice in the future – and that is why CPRE Essex needs to build a strong presence to monitor and respond to inappropriate development proposals.
Monday, May 13, 2019