So, what does the White Paper say about housing targets and what will change?
The key proposal is for new centrally set ‘binding’ housing targets for each local authority which they will then be required to meet through land allocations in the new Local Plans. How does this change things? We already have a ‘standard method’ for calculating housing numbers, however, this method calculates a local authority’s housing need and is only the starting point for Local Plans. It is not a binding requirement. Figures can be revised up, for example to accommodate growth from a neighbouring authority, or down, to take account of land constraints such as Green Belt etc and this debate over the final number tends to dominate Local Plan examinations. The White Paper proposes to remove this debate from the process to speed things up, provide certainty and ensure the Government’s ambition for 300,000 new homes per year is distributed across the country and delivered.
How will the new housing targets be calculated?
In short, we don’t know. All the White Paper says is that the new standard method will take into account factors such as the size of existing urban areas to accommodate new housing, the level of affordability and land constraints within an area etc. Alongside the White Paper, the Government has produced a Changes to the Current Planning System consultation which, amongst other things, proposes changes to the current standard method for calculating housing numbers, however, this is not the same as what is being proposed in the Housing White Paper as this formula does not factor in things such as land constraints and is not a binding housing requirement. The White Paper seeks views on how this may be achieved.
For further discussion on housing numbers in the White Paper, have a look at Zack Simons’ interesting blog available here: https://www.planoraks.com/posts-1/national-housing-plan-a-really-radical-idea
Lichfields have helpfully, looked at the proposed changes to the current standard method and calculated new numbers for each local authority available here: https://lichfields.uk/grow-renew-protect-planning-for-the-future/how-many-homes-the-new-standard-method/ However, whilst this gives us a direction of travel, as highlighted above, these would still only be the starting points for Local Plans currently being prepared and are likely to be temporary figures until the new binding housing requirements proposed in the White Paper come into force.