On 14 September 2017, the Government published its proposals and began a consultation on further measures set out in the housing white paper to boost housing supply in England, including on the objectively assessed housing need ("OAN") methodology.
The introduction of a new simplified methodology is widely supported by many in the industry and this is welcome opportunity for both developers and local planning authorities to feedback on how the OAN methodology can be improved.
The National Planning Policy Framework requires that local planning authorities identify objectively assessed housing need and that local plans translate those objectively assessed needs into land delivery targets.
The Housing White Paper, released in February 2017, confirmed that the Government would bring forward proposals for a standard methodology that would provide an “honest assessment” of housing need where seemingly local authorities had previously been underestimating their need for housing. Alongside, the publication of its proposals the Department for Communities and Local Government ("DCLG") published online the new methodology's estimates for housing need for every local authority in England.
It is proposed that the new methodology will apply to all future local plans, but will not directly interfere with plans that are already submitted or will be submitted before 31st March 2018.
It is apparent from the estimates published by DCLG that, under the new methodology, numerous local authorities will see an increase in their Strategic Housing Market Assessment's housing numbers. However, 144 local authorities will see a decrease in their housing need with the majority of these local authorities based in the north of England.
One of the more interesting aspects of the proposals is the introduction of a "cap" in respect of any increase local authorities will see in their housing numbers. Crucially, local authorities with local plans adopted within the last five years are affected by a cap which limits any increase determined by the new methodology to 40% of local plan targets. A possible result of the introduction of the cap is that a number of comparatively unaffordable local authority areas will not see the scale of uplift they might otherwise have seen and that they may be seen to be providing less than their reasonable share of housing.
The proposals also include a move to strengthen cross-boundary planning between local planning authorities. Local planning authorities will be required to produce a "statement of common ground" in conjunction with neighbouring authorities. In addition, the statement will have to be produced within 12 months of the publication of the Government's changes to the NPPF. The statement will be required to set out the cross-boundary matters, including the housing need for the area, distribution of housing and proposals for meeting any shortfalls in housing.
A key question that will need to be answered in respect of these proposals is whether the proposed methodology will achieve its stated aim of providing an "honest assessment", or whether the production of lower housing numbers will undermine the local authorities' attempts to tackle the "broken housing market".
The consultation will run for 8 weeks until 9 November 2017.
Read the full consultation here.