Use the right number and count the right things

I read with interest the article in Planning ‘Call for supply method clarity’. Well, there is good and bad news, folks. Good news: the principles are pretty simple and can be applied anywhere. Bad news: you can’t nail down and clarify every issue. Different places will insist on behaving in different ways. It’s all so unreasonable.

We recently held some events on objectively assessed need and 5-year land supply. The materials are on our website and we’re following this up with further materials shortly. We’ve also published a Q&A on plan-making, covering queries received at PAS HQ over the last 12 months or so and how we’ve responded.

The Planning Practice Guidance is now fully out and does offer some useful advice on a number of issues. The section on ‘Housing and economic land availability assessment’ says everything government is going to say on this issue. I think it’s really useful. If you expected i’s to be crossed and t’s to be dotted, you had false expectations, and you’ll be disappointed. It won’t stop calls for more clarity.

So, as a trailer to the forthcoming PAS advice, I suggest these key principles:

  1.  Use the right number. This is NOT the RSS figure. If you are still using this – you shouldn’t. It bears as much relevance to planning for your housing needs as an episode of EastEnders.
  2.  Count the right things.  Large urban extensions, sites in multiple ownership, contaminated or otherwise complicated land? These are all going to take years to get sorted, so it is highly unlikely they can contribute to your 5-year supply at this time. At the very least, have a mature and regular dialogue with your developers. Is there lots of pre-build site preparation going on or is the site hidden behind rotting hoardings with no recent activity? (Consider the first, not the second.) The signals are there and won’t take too much time or cost too much money to monitor.

Planning may sometimes be complicated, difficult and even trying. But this isn’t one of those times. Let’s not go looking for trouble.

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