Council shares frustration over housing land supply

Braintree District Council has shared its frustration with the national planning system and the need to evidence a five-year housing land supply.

As part of its annual housing land supply update using the government’s methodology, Braintree District Council has calculated that it cannot currently demonstrate a five-year housing land supply for 2022-2027, with it sitting at 4.86. 

Five-year land supply refers to the amount of deliverable housing land within a local authority area and, as part of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), each authority must currently demonstrate they have enough to meet the new homes targets set for the next five years.

Councils do this by counting how many plots of land have either full planning permission for housing or are likely to come forward soon. Evidence is required from developers to add housing allocations to the supply calculations including when taking control of a site or coming forward for development, and there is no requirement in national policy for developers to provide local authorities with this.

The number of homes needed to be built in the Braintree district is calculated by adding the government’s annual target of 716 new homes in the Local Plan to the shortfall of homes delivered since 2013. In Braintree’s case, the number of new homes it can show it can provide over the next five years is 4,851, against a target of above 4,986.

Whilst it is frustrating that the Council cannot evidence a full five-year land supply, 1,928 new homes have been built in the Braintree district over the past two years and the Council has been significantly increasing the number 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 NPPF, which dictates planning rules, states that if a local authority does not have a five-year housing land supply, a tilted balance comes into play, where there is a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” on land not allocated for housing in the Braintree District Local Plan, unless the negatives of a development significantly outweigh the positives.

Cllr Gabrielle Spray, Cabinet Member for Planning and Infrastructure at Braintree District Council, said: “It is incredibly frustrating that we find ourselves continually challenged on our housing supply which we believe facilitates unplanned, speculative development as it is heavily weighted in a developer’s favour.

“We’ve got to bear this in mind when deciding applications or defending appeals against any refusals. Residents should be assured that the district is not a ‘free for all’ for developers who must still justify their applications against nationally-set planning policies. We will always fight where we can against unsustainable, poorly designed developments and ensure the infrastructure such as roads, schools, health and sports facilities are also there to support our desire to make sure the Braintree district continues to be a great place for residents to live, work and thrive.

“The national planning system may not be perfect but every decision we make must comply with the way it currently operates and not how we might wish things to be. This situation shows why the planning system needs reform, which we’ve been lobbying the Government very hard for, in the hope that it will create a more engaging, equitable and effective locally led planning system to give our communities more certainty that the right homes will be built in the right places across the Braintree district.”

A letter was sent to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in 2021 by all four political group leaders at Braintree District Council, highlighting the issues surrounding five-year housing land supply created by Central Government.

Published: 23rd September 2022