Agenda item

Housing Delivery Test Action Plan 2021

To consider the Housing Delivery Test Action Plan 2021

Decision:

The Committee resolved to:

1.    Approve the Housing Delivery Test Plan subject to the changes outlined during discussion of the item.

2.    Delegate authority to the Chair and Vice Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee to approve the changes in consultation with the Planning Development Manager, and

3.    Publish the agreed final version of the Housing Delivery Test Plan on the Council’s website.  

 

 

Minutes:

Spelthorne Borough Council is required by national government to produce a Housing Delivery Test Action Plan (HDTAP) because housing delivery for the previous three years fell below the minimum annual local housing need figure of 611 dwellings per annum, and currently stands at 50%.  In addition to the requirement for an action plan, a 20% buffer will be applied to the housing requirements and a presumption in favour of development because the housing delivery for the past three years was less than 75%.  The HDTAP sets out what actions have been taken and also future actions to address the issue.

 

The Planning Development Manager explained that the action plan did not play a role in deciding emerging issues in the local plan but looked at:

  • The Council’s corporate documents that affect housing delivery
  • The issues, both nationally and locally, that had impacted on the target numbers not being achieved and analysis of these,
  • Identified measures that could be taken to improve the situation.  This included more pre-application discussions to ensure issues were addressed early on, building relationships with developers, increased presentations to councillors for major developments and improvements to the planning section of the Council’s website.

 

The Committee discussed the matter at length and asked a number of questions about the report. One member commented that some aspects of the plan were aspirational and, in relation to the housing numbers quoted for Staines, conflicted with the views of many Staines residents and ward members.  It was noted that a number of other local authorities within Surrey had also fallen well below their expected housing number. 

 

Whilst it was acknowledged that the Council’s housing delivery fell short of the total required, members considered that the Council should not be willing to compromise important standards such as affordability and sustainability to meet housing numbers.  

 

During the debate, the following amendments to the plan were suggested:

 

1.    Paragraph 2.6 of the HDTAP should be amended to reflect that the Council have again challenged the target number set by national government.

2.    The introduction should make clear that the HDTAP relates to planning development management rather than strategic planning and the local plan.

3.    More information about the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and how this interlinks with the wider infrastructure provision and the local plan.

4.    In the section titled ‘Challenges’ it was suggested that this should be amended to reflect our commitment to increase the housing numbers, but not to compromise our standards on affordability, design standard and environmental factors, and aim to encourage developers to do the same. 

 

Comments were also made about the need for diversity of housing, not just building flats.  The Chair commented that the limited land available for development made this option unlikely unless green belt was released.

 

Another aspect raised by members was that the presumption in favour of development, as directed by central government, increased the potential number of planning appeals for local authorities with the lowest housing delivery statistics, such as the Council’s.   This could result in increased costs in the event of refusals and greater community conflict.

 

It was suggested that the narrative should be amended to reflect more strongly the need to consult with residents and take account of their views.

 

Members discussed the need to maximise brownfield sites and spread the housing more evenly across the borough.   It was suggested that a consultant should be appointed to look at all brownfield sites and assess their suitability for housing to ensure impartiality in the decision-making process.  However, other members thought that the present arrangement where local councillors as part of the Local Plan Task Group looked at potential sites in their area and assessed their suitability was more appropriate due to their extensive knowledge of the locality.  Officers confirmed that all areas had been closely scrutinised through the Local Plan Task Group to look at whether density could be increased bearing in mind the local character of each individual area.

 

It was suggested that there should be more transparency and the figures for all wards shared and height density for all areas made known.  It was believed that the results were shared as part of the local plan process and it was then requested that they were recirculated to all.  Members also requested that the bi-monthly figures for housing sites were circulated to the Committee as and when they became available.

 

In response to a question about the use of compulsory purchase orders, the Principal Solicitor advised that these were usually used as a last resort to encourage discussion and there were requirements to be met before this power could be used.

 

It was considered important that the HDTAP was agreed and published on the Council’s website as soon as possible and before the planning inquiry scheduled for later this month commenced as it would demonstrate the Council’s commitment to tackling the shortfall in housing delivery. 

 

The Planning Development Manager confirmed that the HDTAP would be updated next year and when adding it to the forward plan, time would be factored in to allow it to be strengthened.

 

The Committee resolved to:

1.    Approve the Housing Delivery Test Plan subject to the changes outlined during discussion of this item.

2.    Delegate authority to the Planning Development Manager to approve the changes in consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee.

3.    Publish the agreed final version of the Housing Delivery Test Plan on the Council’s website.  

 

Supporting documents: