Council urge government to take swift action on uncertainty around housing land supply

Braintree District Council has announced that it has written to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to highlight planning issues created by Central Government.

Braintree District Council has announced that it has written to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to highlight planning issues created by Central Government and urge clarity on the issues of five year housing land supply.

The letter, signed by all four political Group Leaders at Braintree District Council, comes following a recent appeal decision where a Planning Inspector declared that the Council couldn’t demonstrate a five-year housing land supply and was somewhere between 4.7 and 4.9 years.

Housing supply is the system by which councils demonstrate that they have enough land to meet the annual targets for new homes set by Government. Under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), all local planning authorities have to demonstrate they have the required five-year supply of deliverable housing sites, otherwise applications for new homes must be given more weight. This could mean more homes are allowed to be built than the number required by government and in places not planned for in the Braintree District Local Plan.

The conclusion on Braintree district’s housing supply was reached as a result of an Inspector removing the whole or part of the contribution from four sites in Braintree District Council’s deliverable supply including Land east of Broad Road, Towerlands Park, land between Long Green and Braintree Road and Land North of Oak Road, despite each of these sites already having been granted outline planning permission. If sites are removed from the supply it means that even though they have been granted planning permission Braintree District Council cannot count them, or count as much of them as wanted in their housing land supply calculations.

Braintree District Council considers it has a five year housing supply and has been significantly increasing the amount of homes which have planning permission in the district, to ensure that local needs are met, but also that infrastructure provision is in place at the same time as those new homes are built. The letter highlights the frustration that the Council and residents feel regarding the current system and how it appears to be facilitating unplanned development.

Cllr Gabrielle Spray, Cabinet Member for Planning and Infrastructure at Braintree District Council, said: “It is incredibly frustrating that we find ourselves being continually challenged on our housing supply or for Inspectors to make comments on housing supply in cases where it has little relevance to that decision, even though we can demonstrate five year housing supply using the government’s own method.

“Allowing unplanned development to meet what we believe is an inflated 5-year housing supply calculation destroys public confidence in the planning system, rides roughshod over strategic plans for infrastructure and undermines local councillors who have made incredibly difficult decisions to approve large levels of growth and have worked hard to achieve an up to date Local Plan and 5 year housing land supply.

“We want to ensure that new high-quality housing is delivered in sustainable locations across the district and we fully support the Government’s objectives to boost housing supply. However, they need to act swiftly and decisively to resolve this matter now and provide the necessary level of certainty to authorities that are fulfilling Government policy and delivering housing approvals.”

Published: 15th December 2021