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New Government Measures to Shake up Local Plans

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has announced a new planning approach, which was first referenced in the government’s white paper on housing.

Mr Javid says that the local plan changes will give a more accurate picture of how many homes each area needs now and in the future. It will also mean that more properties are built in areas where housing is unaffordable, based on each area’s average earnings profile.

Councils all over England spend approximately £3m every year on hiring pricey consultants to determine how many new homes are needed in their districts. Extended legal battles over these figures when putting local plans together can also create delays and add to the costs.

The proposed local plan changes will help councils take a more consistent approach to planning for more properties in the places where they are needed. This is an important step in fixing the broken UK housing market.

Mr Javid said that the new approach will eliminate the unnecessary debates that can delay the building of needed housing. It will ensure that a realistic and clear assessment of how many new homes are needed and give local communities a voice in determining where they go.

The proposed new system does not establish targets, but it can eventually make it quicker for each local district to produce a feasible plan of its housing requirements and revisit it at least every five years.

It will assist local residents to have a say in the process, making it easier for homes to be designed that meet community needs while protecting key environmental areas.

In districts that have a hard times meeting their needs locally -for instance, due to green belt protections- they will work with councils in adjacent areas to formulate plans across a wider area.

While communities across England have created more than 400 neighbourhood plans, recent data reveals that over 40% of councils do not presently have a plan to accommodate anticipated household growth in their area.

The proposed local plan changes will also require local councils to agree on how they will work with neighbouring regions to plan for housing and supporting infrastructure such as utility services and roads.

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Agreeing on ‘common ground’ will result in improved cooperation across council boundaries on planning matters to plan for homes, including in new garden villages and towns. Although councils already have a duty to plan together on housing, public services and infrastructure, evidence reveals that this is not happening effectively in some parts of the country.

Neighbouring councils will be required to establish the cross-boundary matters in a given area, looking at its housing needs, distribution of homes, and plans to meet any deficiencies. If cooperation is not effective, the government will take action to ensure that communities and their councils are not at a disadvantage and all needed homes are planned for.

After the anticipated 2018 changes to the National Planning Policy Framework, councils will have up to a year to establish a statement of common ground.

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