EAST Devon Councillors will hear next week that good progress is being made in the quest to identify the right level of housing growth in the district.
But until all the latest data is factored in, EDDC will not be ready to provide the evidence requested by an inspector examining the council’s draft Local Plan.
Despite the considerable progress made so far, the absence of a definitive Local Plan will have an impact on the amount of land in East Devon earmarked for housing, and this in turn limits the council’s ability to determine applications for new housing developments.
In a progress report that will be considered by members of the Development Management Committee (DMC) on Tuesday (26 August), Planning Policy Manager Matt Dickins explains that early data collected by consultants tasked with producing a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) does not provide the full picture of likely housing demand over the next 20 years. But this does represent a significant step in the right direction.
He adds that a conclusive housing growth projection is still some months away and that in the short term any planning applications should be considered on the basis that East Devon does not have a five-year housing supply.
The Government expects all councils to draw up a Local Plan that provides a blueprint for the future development of their area, including housing growth allocations. East Devon’s plan is currently with an inspector who, having examined the draft document earlier this year, called for more evidence to back up the council’s estimate of 15,000 new homes by 2026.
An important element of that evidence – but not the only element – is a SHMA. A number of East Devon’s neighbours* agreed last year to collaborate on commissioning consultants to carry out the SHMA for their combined area and the initial findings of the consultants, based on the partners’ original brief, are expected soon.
A basic premise of their research is looking at economic and housing trends over the past 30 years and using that data to project the need over the coming 20 years. This modelling technique is a routine part of the business of projecting future needs.
The progress report to East Devon’s DMC cautions members that the full picture will not emerge simply by relying on a straightforward comparison with the past 30 years and advises that a number of new factors not contained in the earlier brief need to be taken into account.
For example, the explosion of activity to the west of the district at the Growth Point means a significant number of businesses can be expected to move into sites like SkyPark and Exeter Science Park. These employment sites will attract workers who in turn will want homes and their needs must be factored into the total projected housing for East Devon.
The Local Plan inspector advised EDDC that it should look further than 2026 and so the housing total for the extended period will need to be that much higher again.
New guidance from the Planning Advisory Service, issued in June 2014, also needs to be taken into account.
Finally, in common with many local authorities around the country, East Devon has not met its affordable housing needs in recent years and so needs to play catch-up in this sector of the housing market. Once again, that factor is likely to boost the target figure to a higher level than that suggested by the SHMA on its own.
Councillor Andrew Moulding, EDDC’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Development and Partnerships, said: “The modelling carried out so far by our SHMA consultants is based on population factors and uses information on household formation rates. Taken on their own, these past trends suggest there would be a need for around 11,358 extra houses in East Devon. But this is not an objectively assessed housing need figure; it is a trend-based figure only. There are number of other important factors to be taken into account that are likely to affect that total. At the moment we don’t know what that change might be – so we need to look all the latest data before we reach a final conclusion”.
The report to DMC explains that once consultants have provided a full SHMA report that addresses all the issues, an industry workshop should be held to consult with housebuilders before a final report can be produced and agreed with all of the commissioning authorities.
Planning Policy Manager Matt Dickins sums up: “It is likely to be months rather than weeks before we will have an objectively assessed housing need against which to revise our housing land supply figures. In the meantime, based on the available information, we can only conclude that we do not have a five-year housing land supply (+20%) and so should continue to consider each application accordingly”.
* EDDC, Exeter City Council, Mid Devon District Council, Teignbridge District Council and Dartmoor National Park Authority.