Trumpeted as supporting the nation’s housebuilding efforts Neighbourhood Plans are struggling to match that ambition, new research highlights.
Just 40% of Neighbourhood Plans are currently allocating new housing for their communities, report national planning and development consultancy Lichfields.
The research; “Local choices? Housing delivery through Neighbourhood Plans” comes as the country finds itself well short of its annual housebuilding target of 300,000 new homes a year.
Lichfields report that of the 330 Plans it reviewed only 40% identify housing sites – and of these just 50% are new allocations.
Lichfields Senior Director and Head of Economics Matthew Spry said, “Our research shows 60% of plans do not contain a housing figure or site allocations, which suggest that local communities are placing greater emphasis on other planning issues such as the protection of local infrastructure, services and green spaces.”
Lichfields says this lack of housing allocation is due, in part, to the tardiness of the local planning system – with less than half of local authorities outside London having Local Plans in place.
Mr Spry said, “This research highlights that the key to neighbourhoods delivering housing growth at the local level is positively prepared strategic Local Plans, which further emphazises the Government’s focus on having an up-to-date and fit-for-purpose plan-making system.
“Even then, neighbourhoods would have to vote for higher growth. It is only in those instances where Neighbourhood Plans can be said – with certainty – to be seeking to deliver additional homes.”
Lichfields’ research also calls into question government assertions that the Neighbourhood Planning system has led to a 10% boost in housebuilding.
Lichfields finds that since the adoption of Neighbourhood Plans – in the 2011 Localism Act – only 15 out of the 330 plans reviewed opted for more housing than a corresponding Local Plan.
The Government is committed to the Neighbourhood Planning system recently providing an additional £22.8m funding to help communities deliver plans, on top of the 500-plus which are already made, and the 1,900 designated.
Lichfields finds many Neighbourhood Plans are located in the South East, West and East Midlands, with relatively little buy-in from the East and parts of northern of England
With 55% of Neighbourhood Plans coming forward ahead of Local Plans, Lichfields say the key to neighbourhoods delivering growth is up-to-date Local Plans, with clear housing targets for individual areas.
Mr Spry says such Neighbourhood Plan previousness means many communities duck difficult questions on new housing allocations.
“In the absence of a housing requirement, local communities may choose not to allocate sites for development due to local community priorities or lack of community appetite.
“This will impair a council’s ability to boost the supply of housing. Those Neighbourhood Plan areas with robust housing allocations are those following the stipulations of a Local Plan.
“This continues to highlight the importance of Local Plans setting the strategic policies for areas” he added.