Housing need numbers halved in Essex
Inspectors have written to at least two authorities in Essex with unadopted local plans asking them to review their housing need numbers. This follows publication of the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2018 household projections.
The figures, published on 29th June, predict the number of households in England to grow on average by 149,960 per year over the next 25 years. This is a lower rate of growth than anticipated by ONS’s 2016 and 2014 publications.
The Inspector examining Epping Forest District Council’s Local Plan wrote to the council on 16th July. In her letter she recommended that the council considers the 2018-based projections as part of the latest available information. This has resulted in the housing need number being dropped from 12,573 to 6,616 dwellings, reducing it by almost a half.
Similarly, the Inspector for Harlow’s Local Plan has written to the council to consider the latest figures, and stressed the importance of it, given the role of the OAN as part of the ‘exceptional circumstances’ required to justify the deletion of land from the green belt. As a result, Harlow’s need decreased from 7,400 to 3,000 dwellings for the plan period.
Both Inspectors have told the councils that they will need to consider whether the 2018- based household projections represent a meaningful change to the housing situation in their districts. For this, the councils have been asked to provide comprehensive evidence-based responses. They will have to consider all implications, such as, whether the projected reduction in household growth affects the justification for the plans’ proposed green belt releases.
It is likely that other councils will also have chunks of their housing numbers reduced and will be expecting similar letters. However, the extent of the changes will vary from district to district as will the councils’ response to them. Plans in late stages are unlikely to be impacted significantly as a result of this update. However, opponents to development, especially in rural areas, have often argued that plans are based on overinflated housing need numbers and the new figures will likely be used as evidence in their campaigns.