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What is a five year housing land supply?

Paul Walton, director of PWA Planning, explains the five year housing land supply principle and why it could be crucial for your development.

If you’ve watched a council planning committee in action recently, or read a news report about a planning decision, you may have come across the term ‘five year housing land supply’.

This will usually be in relation to a planning application for a residential development being justified on the basis that the local authority doesn’t have this all-important five year supply.

The five year figure is crucial because it can be the difference between your proposed development site being deemed suitable for housing or not.

Why is the five year supply of housing land so pivotal?

The five year land supply started to become a big issue in 2012 when the government issued new national planning guidelines in the form of the National Planning Policy Framework.

One of the major aims of the NPPF was to significantly boost the supply of new homes by making local councils establish their housing need and then devise a clear plan for delivering the required number of new homes. An authority can only deliver fewer homes than they need in exceptional circumstances.

A planning authority’s Local Plan is used to identify the development sites that will enable it to meet its new homes target. The trouble is many local authorities don’t have up-to-date Local Plans or are still updating them, a process that can take years, rather than months.

However, national planning policy requires councils to have enough sites ready for development to meet their housing need for the next five years. This is where the term ‘five year housing land supply’ comes from.

What happens when the five year supply can’t be demonstrated?

Where councils can’t demonstrate this five year supply, national planning policy, rather than local planning rules take precedence. National policy states there should be a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” for housing.

This means that if a site can be considered to deliver ‘sustainable development’ then planning permission should be granted, even if there is no support from the council for housing in that location or the site sits outside the Local Plan.

This has led to councils losing control over where new homes are built and having to approve applications for sites they may not have chosen for housing themselves. Many authorities have rejected these schemes only for them to be approved at appeal.

What does this mean for landowners with sites?

If your local planning authority doesn’t have an up-to-date Local Plan, and therefore can’t demonstrate the five year housing land supply, then you may be able to secure planning permission for new homes on sites where development has not been supported previously.

Alternatively, you can put forward your site to the local authority for consideration to be included in the Local Plan, either by responding to a ‘call for sites’ exercise or contacting the authority direct at any time.

A specialist planning consultant can work on your behalf to deliver planning permission for the site at no cost and risk to you.

For more information on this issue, or any other planning and development matter, contact Paul Walton on 01772 369669.

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