Are neighbourhood plans boosting housing numbers?

A report published by a planning consultancy in May has suggested that neighbourhood plans have little effect on the delivery of housing. Neighbourhood plans have been claimed to allocate on average 10% more homes than their relevant Council’s Local Plans. Nevertheless, this consultancy’s research suggests otherwise.

The research looked at over half the currently made neighbourhood plans, therefore covering a highly representative sample. The results showed only 5% allocated more homes or set a higher target than that of their relevant Local Plan. In addition, 60% of those studied were found to allocate no housing at all. They have no obligation to do so and lots choose to focus on broader local issues – such
as green spaces and infrastructure provision. Developers and their agents feel that despite the rules stopping neighbourhood plans reducing housing numbers, they do often restrict development opportunities. This is in part because of the Government’s commitment to protecting neighbourhood plan areas from speculative development by requiring only a three-year housing land supply to be demonstrated, as opposed to five years in other areas.

However, since the report was published few in the sector dispute the finding that it is difficult to conclude that neighbourhood plans are boosting the planned supply of housing. One argument is that those in need of housing are not always involved in the neighbourhood plan preparation process and therefore the presumption is made that there is no specific need for housing in that neighbourhood plan area. Other arguments highlight that the role of neighbourhood plans is not just to consider the possibility of new housing in the local area, but rather to encourage public participation around all aspects of an area. This is in line with the Government’s aim to give communities more of a say in the development of their area.

Author: Leila Cramphorn

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