Standardised Approach to Assessing Housing Need Would Leave Midlands Cities at a Loss

In this article Head of Planning at The Wilkes Partnership, Stuart Tym examines this years housing white paper. At the start of this year the government came under scrutiny on how it was going to change policy to meet targets.

The first of these answers arrived with a proposal to standardise the methodology for assessing housing need.  However, September’s proposal is too much of a blanket approach and could see housing shortages in the Midlands and the north grow rather than easing the issue.

Any proposal to assess housing needs will face an unenviable task of unravelling a method that has been tangled over years of amendments. But it must still satisfy unique circumstances on a local level to make sure certain parts of the UK are not left behind.

According to the latest HBF stats planning permissions for more than 321,000 new homes were granted in June 2017 – the highest since its Housing Pipeline report was started in 2006. This progress must not be stalled.

The latest method takes a national overview and uses bloated house prices as a guideline for assessing housing need. Initially, this seems like a reasonable idea, but it fails to take into account a number of factors.

At the other end of the spectrum is a 20 per cent decrease in houses built in Birmingham under this system due to some areas being cheaper than the national average. This equates to almost 1,000 less houses being planned, which within a city that grows each year will create an upsurge in prices and demand.

The issue also touches those businesses which have planning applications underway. What will happen to the local firms which were going to see the planning approved? Will there be yet another shift towards work going to the south again? It would appear that this simplistic solution starts to tie itself in knots as the consequences unravel. And where consequences unravel and companies fall foul of deals that leave key demographics at a disadvantage there will be legal challenges.

This is an example of how this standardised approach is well meaning, but far too simplistic for the current climate we live in. It is important that government recognises the complex need for balance in its proposed methods for assessing housing need.

As the results of this method show, without proper consideration and consultation too simplistic a change could leave key areas such as the Midlands and the North behind and millions of people still struggling to get on the housing ladder. A rethink is needed.

To find out how The Wilkes Partnership can help with a full range of planning issues contact Stuart Tym on [email protected] or call 0121 710 5891.

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