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OAN methodology consultation: CPRE comment

21 July 2017

Update 31 July 2017: Since this comment was posted, the Government has announced that the consultation referred to has been postponed until September 2017.

With the Government poised to release its consultation on housing targets, CPRE warns that focusing on land release rather than the types of houses built will do nothing to provide people with homes they can afford. CPRE agrees that there is a significant need to boost the number of new homes – but is concerned about press reports on the Government’s approach that looks set to focus on simply forcing councils to raise targets in high demand areas.

The Government is due to consult on a new method for calculating “objectively assessed housing need” (OAN) – part of the process of deciding how much areas need to build to make sure they have enough housing. CPRE recognises that a new, simpler method for calculating housing need can help councils get local plans in place faster, and thereby protect communities from speculative development, but is concerned that the Government is missing an opportunity to help solve the housing crisis. 

 

CPRE’s priorities 

It is time to put communities in control of delivering the homes they actually need, where they want them to be built. This means:

  1. Ensuring that the affordable homes that needed are delivered as a priority, with the public sector stepping in to deliver where the private sector is unwilling or unable to.
  2. Making the most of the untapped potential of urban brownfield sites, allowing and encouraging a rebalancing of the economy in the process.
  3. Forcing developers to build out existing planning permissions, local plan allocations and other locally agreed opportunities before any new greenfield sites can be released, even where local plans are not up-to-date. 

 

CPRE’s tests

Without these priorities we fear that countryside will be wasted on creating houses that will leave young people and families without suitable places to live. CPRE will be looking very carefully at the Government’s consultation to ensure that the methodology for developing OAN and other related measures:

  • take proper account of opportunities for, and constraints upon, sustainable development, and make the best use of existing resources by rebalancing the economy away from the overheating south-east 
  • guarantee that new housing meets locally identified needs, including social housing, homes that are affordable to local first-time buyers, and specialist needs such as accommodation for older people and students 
  • do not give landowners and developers cause to believe that greenfield development for high-end market homes will be needed as a result. This would avoid a scramble for site acquisition that will further push up the price of land, making affordable housing and infrastructure even harder to provide
  • produce development targets that are achievable in respect of the capacity of the construction industry, the purchasing power of potential home-buyers, the availability of suitable development sites, and the capacity of local infrastructure
  • allow communities to agree appropriate locations for development across areas the size of city regions or counties
  • hold house-builders to account, rather than communities, when they fail to deliver the homes that they have committed to providing 

 

Matt Thomson, CPRE’s head of planning, said that the Government seemed to be about to repeat the mistakes of past governments:

“Councils are already at the mercy of developers if they fail to meet their five-year housing land supply – yet they don’t actually have the power to build the houses. And these are the same councils who can only top up their depleted funding by accepting the New Homes Bonus money that accompanies the granting of planning permission.  

“Put together, communities simply feel that development that does not meet their needs is being imposed on them – and lose trust in the entire process. So instead of hitting out at councils and offering developers more opportunities to make more profits in the most expensive parts of the country, the Government has to make sure we build more of the type of homes communities need.  

“Only by holding developers to account and making sure more affordable homes are built will we start to build our way to solving our housing crisis in a way that also protects our countryside.”

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