Released on July 14, 2020
Cllr Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, has written to The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State Housing, Communities and Local Government, concerning the current housing delivery test and the 5-year housing supply rules.
14 July 2020
Dear Mr Jenrick,
I am writing on behalf of South Oxfordshire District Council to highlight the severe problems that we believe exist with the current housing delivery test and to therefore request that you consider revising the 5-year housing supply rules.
The phrase, 5-year housing land supply, in our opinion is misleading. It incorrectly implies that councils who are unable to demonstrate compliance cannot do so because they have failed to allocate or approve sufficient sites. This, however, is simply not the case for councils with adopted plans with sufficient supply of sites in those plans. Such councils, provided they have approved enough planning applications, by definition should have demonstrated that they have supplied sufficient land for housing.
If developers fail to build out at the required rates on sites allocated within the local plan and granted planning permission, a council can unfairly no longer demonstrate that it has a 5-year housing land supply. When this can no longer be demonstrated, housebuilders can, through their own actions, consequently, demonstrate strong planning grounds for the granting of permissions on new sites that were specifically not allocated in the local plan or neighbourhood plans, or not supported by policies in the local plan or neighbourhood plans – the current rules, therefore, perversely reward the inability of developers to meet their goals at the expense of the local community. This undermining of accountable, planned development, can also result in appeals and legal challenges which can be time-consuming, costly and distressing for both residents and councils – while also further undermining faith in the planning process.
South Oxfordshire, therefore, requests that you consider revising the housing land supply guidance. We would argue that, providing a local planning authority has allocated sufficient land for housing and has not unreasonably withheld planning permissions, they should be deemed to have supplied sufficient sites. This would mean that there would be no housing supply grounds for third parties to demand the release of further land for development that isn’t policy compliant.
Further, the Council also asks that any measures introduced to ensure the appropriate delivery of homes reinstates the primacy of residents and their elected local representatives. Local representatives know what is in the best interests of their communities and can ensure that the right homes are built in the right places. The planning system should, therefore, reflect this principle.
Councillor Sue Cooper
Leader of the Council
cc. David Johnston, Member of Parliament for Wantage
John Howell, Member of Parliament for Henley
Mark Stone, Chief Executive for South Oxfordshire District Council