Spotlight: Planning

Where's The Plan?

12 May 2016, by Hamish Simmie

Local authorities are under pressure to publish updated local plans by early 2017 or lose control of the planning process


Local Authorities have until the end of March 2017 to produce new local plans in compliance with the NPPF or face Government intervention. With less than a year to go, plan-making progress in many areas remains slow, with only 97 local authorities outside London (33%) having adopted a post-NPPF local plan. This leaves 196 local authorities that are in various stages of producing NPPF-compliant plans, including 28 that are yet to even begin the process. It appears unlikely that these local authorities will be able to produce new local plans before the 2017 deadline.


Plan status

Figure 3

Source: Savills Research, April 2016

Meeting need

The majority of local authorities outside London (82%) now have a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) produced after the publication of the NPPF. The total OAN of local authorities with up-to-date SHMAs outside of London is 150,632 additional homes per annum, well in excess of the total 2012-based household projection for these local authorities at 135,588. This is a significant step forward compared to last year.

Unfortunately, this upward trajectory is not being maintained when local plan targets are set, with 53 of the 97 local authorities with adopted post-NPPF local plans (55%) incorporating housing targets that are below the OAN. In some local authorities there are very substantial gaps (more than 50%) between the adopted housing target and OAN (Figure 4).

If this national shortfall is to be met, then it will need to be taken up by local authorities which have yet to adopt post-NPPF plans. This is a particular challenge around London, given the scale of the capital’s housing requirement. The impact of overspill from London is explored in more detail on London vs The South.

Equally, there are several urban districts with strong economies and growing populations that have yet to start a new local plan. These include Oxford and Bristol, which are key locations for economic growth and housing delivery. The constrained geography of these urban areas requires that housing need that cannot be met within their authority boundaries will be added to that of adjoining authorities – requiring application of the ‘duty to cooperate’. This issue is currently being grappled with by the Oxfordshire Growth Board, which is due to issue its recommended solution to Oxford’s 15,000 home overspill in September 2016.


Housing target as % of OAN

Figure 4

Source: Savills Research, April 2016

Land supply

Five-year land supply remains an issue for the majority of local authorities. This often becomes evident when Inspectors review housing levels as part of appeal proceedings. In the last year, 26% of local authorities outside London have been told by an Inspector that they do not have a five-year land supply. A further 18% have themselves acknowledged that they do not have sufficient land for housing.

If local planning authorities cannot resolve this issue, it will continue to be an impediment to meeting housing requirements and the appeals process will continue to be a dominant factor in delivering new housing.


Five-year land supply

Figure 5


Savills has applied a simple five-year land supply calculation to all local authorities in England using the LPA published supply figures. No adjustment has been made to the supply, and the methodology does not impose any different treatment of the basic requirement other than it being annualised (spread over the relevant plan period). The map indicates categories based on the result, which allows a like-for-like comparison between authorities and echoes the arguments being used in appeals based on five-year land supply across the country. Our calculation works as follows:

1. Current five-year requirement (taking the first available data source from the following list):

a. Post-NPPF local plan target (where Local Plan adopted post March 2012)

b. SHMA figure (midpoint if a range) (where published after March 2012)

2. Apply buffer (5% or 20% depending on authority statement) to requirement, we have assumed 20% where unclear or not stated.

3. Then calculate five-year supply based on these figures (based on LPA quoted land availability – from SHLAA and/or AMR) – we are not questioning deliverability of the stated land supply in this exercise.

Source: Savills Research, April 2016

Perfect storm

Many local authorities without a five-year land supply are often those who have made slow progress with their local plans. Figure 6 shows the top 10 districts where plan-making progress has been slow, there is the greatest shortage of development land and affordability is most stretched. If these local authorities cannot get NPPF-compliant plans in place by early 2017 then they risk Government intervention and a consequent loss of control of housing delivery and development overall.


Under pressure districts

Figure 6

Source: Savills Research / DCLG


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