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Hampshire local plan examination on hold after inspector questions housing figures

The examination of a Hampshire local plan has been put on hold after an independent planning inspector raised concerns about a local authority's assessment of affordable and market housing need.05 Dec 2014

Eastleigh Borough Council submitted the draft Eastleigh Borough local plan (EBLP) for examination in July. The draft EBLP, which is intended to guide planning decisions in the borough until 2029, proposed the delivery of a minimum of 10,140 new homes over the plan period, at an average of 564 dwellings per year (dpy).

Following hearings in November, planning inspector Simon Emerson wrote to the Council (19-page / 78 KB PDF) last week to say that he did not intend to proceed with further hearings scheduled for January 2015 because further work was required in order to address issues with the housing figures adopted by the Council in the EBLP.

Emerson found that the Council had "failed to recognise the true scale of need for affordable housing" in the borough and had consequently failed to consider how this need might be addressed. The inspector found "no justification for the Council assuming [in its affordable housing figures] that more than 30% of income could reasonably be spent on housing". He also found no justification for the Council including private rented sector housing rented by households receiving local housing allowance within its existing "affordable housing" provision.

Emerson concluded that, under the Council's figures, a maximum of 3,000 new affordable housing units, or 167 dpy, would be delivered in the plan period. The inspector considered that the affordable housing needs in the borough were in fact "at least 509" dpy, and "would be higher if a more cautious approach were to be taken to the proportion of income which it is assumed would be reasonable to spend on housing".

The inspector was critical of the Council's estimation of the need for market housing in the borough, finding that it did not take into account "market signals which indicate that some additional market housing is required". Emerson also found that the Council's five year supply of housing position was "inadequate". He noted that a 20% buffer was required in light of a shortfall in housing delivery in the borough since 2011 and that it was important that enough land was allocated to give the EBLP "some flexibility to respond to changing circumstances".

Emerson said that "significant further work" was required should the Council wish to progress the EBLP but said that it was "for the Council to decide whether it wishes to withdraw [the EBLP] now ... or whether to seek a suspension to enable it to do the further work required".

Concluding that the scheduled January hearings should not take place, the inspector noted that: "Given the progress that the Council has already made in progressing some of the greenfield allocations in [the draft EBLP] by granting planning permission, I do not regard the delay as likely to undermine the Council's ability to progress other proposed allocations if it wishes to do so to ensure a five year supply."