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Many UK Councils Still to Submit Local Plans

New research has found that one-quarter of local authorities in the UK have not submitted local development plans, although they have had six years to do so.

Lichfields, the national planning and development consultancy, has indicated that over half of the plans adopted under the NPPF, or 2012 National Planning Policy Framework, will have to be revisited within two years.

The consultancy’s new research arrives as the government’s transitional plan-making arrangements switch over on January 24th, so that the NPPF’s July 28 version will apply to local development plans submitted in the future.

The new rules are geared to speed up the system for plan-making so that the government target of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s can be met.

Lichfields says that under NPPF 2012, plan progress has been slow and patchy. When it analysed 221 local development plans, it found that only 55% of local planning authorities have adopted a sound new plan. Of these plans, 46% needed a housing requirement increase during their examination.

Lichfield’s found that examinations have been made more quickly since 2012. Plans submitted in 2016-17 took an average of 15 months, which is down from the 2014-15 average of 22 months.

Cambridgeshire Local Plans that were submitted in 2014 had their examinations concluded in 2018, a period of four and a half years.

The research examines the probable impact of the NPPF 2018 changes and assesses the extent to which the introduction of the Standard Method for local housing need, common ground statements, and plan-making stage viability will support the housebuilding process by speeding it up.

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According to Lichfields, the 2018 Framework brought in the standard method for setting the Local Housing Need minimum level, which will apply to all local development plans in the future and change how housing need assessments will be approached by local authorities. Uncertainty remains after the recent government consultation on method changes after recent ONS projections were made public.

Of the 74 plans scheduled for review in early 2021, 30 will face increases in the minimum Local Housing Need total of over 20%, while 32 plans face minimum Local Housing Need decreases that amount to around 6,000 fewer homes per year.

However, plans with expected increases will see at least 9,000 homes per year.

Matthew Spry, Senior Director at Lichfields, said that the report illustrates that NPPF 2012 plan making has been patchy and slow.

He said that the government made it clear that local authorities will need to use a plan-led system to deliver homes if the government is to meet its goal of 300,000 homes per year.

The 2018 NPPF, together with legal changes brought in recently, strives to support a more effective and streamlined system of plan-making.

Ongoing uncertainty over the local housing need minimum starting point arising from the standard method has been a rocky start. Mr. Spry said it remained to be seen whether the plan-making system will improve.

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