Paul Walton, a director at North West planning consultants PWA Planning, answers some frequently asked questions on what is means when a local authority undertakes a call for sites exercise.
Local authorities are required by central government to identify future supply of land that’s “suitable, available and achievable” for use for housing or other economic development purposes.
Part of this involves encouraging landowners to come forward with sites they are interested in developing. This is known as a call for sites. Local authorities will conduct a technical assessment of land put forward and look to include any suitable land within their Local Plans.
When are calls for sites usually made?
Local authorities will usually launch a call for sites when they are forming or reviewing their Local Plans. Usually, authorities are planning for the period of that particular Local Plan, but also take a long-term view, asking for any sites that might be available over the next 15 years.
Who can put forward a site?
Anyone, whether an individual or business organisation, can put forward a site for consideration. These will be sites that are being promoted by landowners, developers, agents, local businesses and individuals within a certain borough.
What kind of sites are local authorities looking for?
Typically, sites can be any size or type, including occupied, vacant, derelict or undeveloped land. Proposals can be for any type of land use, including residential, commercial, retail, leisure or recreation.
How is a call for sites publicised?
Usually, a call for sites exercise will be announced by the local authority conducting it, with details of how to put forward a site published on the authority’s website. Local authorities use their network of contacts in the local property sector to help them publicise their call for sites. This is why it’s useful for landowners to have a relationship with a planning agent or property agent, or other property professional, so they are aware when these call for sites are published.
Are all submitted sites allocated for development?
No. The sites have to be technically assessed first. Even those that are deemed suitable following technical assessment may not necessarily be allocated for development. Allocation for development will also depend on range of policy and practical considerations, some of which may be unique to a authority.
In other words, the technical assessment provides information on the range of sites available to meet need, but it’s for the Local Plan itself to determine which of those sites or broad locations are the most suitable and deliverable for a particular use. Even when allocated, the local authority is required to undertake a public consultation on the options available.
Do I have to wait for a call for sites to put forward a site for development?
No. Sites within an existing Local Plan will be favourable from a planning permission point of view, but a potential development site can be put forward and promoted for development at any time. It’s best to seek professional advice from a planning agent or other property professional in the first instance.