Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Local people and the delivery of new homes

Writing for the Conservative Home website yesterday (15 December), Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis stated that..

"... it was clear that to really solve these problems we needed a new level of thinking, which challenged the prevailing orthodoxy of top-down bureaucratic control. That new principle was localism: ensuring that local authorities, and local people, have more control over the delivery of new homes in their area."

Deliciously, only a day later, a recovered appeal decision from Secretary of State Eric Pickles in Rolleston on Dove illustrates both what can happen when communities have more control over the delivery of new homes, and what can happen when politicians like Mr Lewis and Mr Pickles, who are tasked with 'significantly boosting the supply of housing', have to intervene in marginal constituencies in the run up to a general election.
The context:

The site in Rolleston on Dove is a housing allocation in the draft local plan and there is no five year supply of deliverable housing land.

A neighbourhood plan was drafted that made provision for two allocations of only 11 houses each (in a top tier settlement of 3,000 people), and sought a local green space allocation on the site in question.
The neighbourhood plan examiner removed the local green space designation on the site and made clear the neighbourhood plan allocations should not be seen as a ceiling, but the neighbourhood plan has not proceeded to referendum.

A planning application for 100 homes was submitted, refused, and an appeal inspector recommended approval.

...and Mr Pickles' decision:

“In view of the Framework policy (paragraphs 183-185) that neighbourhood plans will be able to shape and direct sustainable development, and having had full regard to paragraph 216 of the Framework, the Secretary of State places very substantial negative weight on the potential prejudicial effect on the outcome of the plan-making process…Though the strategic allocation of the site in the emerging Local plan is not included in the NP, the Independent Examiner found that with his suggested modifications the NP would meet the statutory requirements.”

What is particularly striking here is that unlike appeals in Broughton Astley and Hurstpierpoint that have been refused this is a neighbourhood plan that makes virtually no provision for new housing. If that is what the good burghers of Rolleston on Dove want then good luck to them. In the absence of either a local plan that directs a more proportionate amount of development to a top tier settlement, or a requirement for the neighbourhood plan to show that it is meeting the settlements future housing needs, then there is not much that the development community, the Borough Council or the Planning Inspectorate can do to stop them.

Two points of note though. Firstly, it reinforces the argument that local control means no development rather than more development. Secondly, it highlights that whilst Rolleston on Dove might have chosen not to accommodate any of East Staffordshire's future housing requirement, that housing growth has not and will not go away. It will have to be accommodated somewhere, but will East Staffordshire get it's local plan in place before the next drawbridge goes up?

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