Working together to deliver more homes

Local authorities around London must positively embrace the ‘duty to co-operate’ and plan for an overflow of demand from their neighbours.

28 March 2014, Words by Savills Research


Local Planning Authorities in the Home Counties must be prepared to meet demand for more homes not only from local people, but also from people leaving London and other urban hotspots in the region in search of housing.

The growing cost of housing in London and key southern settlements – largely the result of a mismatch between supply and demand – will continue to put pressure on the housing market in surrounding areas.

In order to meet this challenge, Savills is calling for LPAs around London to form an ‘Arc of Co-operation’ when producing their Local Plans. Following the abolition of the RSSs, many local authorities have produced their Local Plans largely in isolation, paying little proper regard to the housing needs of neighbouring LPAs.

Planning Inspectors are now enforcing the duty to cooperate more rigorously. Inspectors have recently determined that 10 local authorities have failed in the duty to cooperate, including some which are close to major urban conurbations such as Aylesbury Vale (which is near Milton Keynes) and Mid Sussex (which is near Brighton and Crawley).

This has led in one case to the Planning Minister, Nick Boles, expressing his disquiet at an Inspector recommending Reigate & Banstead Council to carry out a Green Belt review – a decision the Minister considered should rest with the LPA.

In all these cases, the emerging plans had not been informed by a sufficiently meaningful engagement with neighbouring LPAs, or a process whereby the evidence base could have been robustly formed and then apportioned.

Savills believes we need a more coordinated approach which looks beyond local authority boundaries, rather then the current ‘patchwork’ system which is only tested and enforced too late in the plan making process.

Green Belt Review

Land designated as Green Belt remains very strongly protected against development. This is clear following the Castle Point (Thundersley) High Court decision (January 2014) (Fox Land/Gladman vs Castle Point Borough Council) in which the Court held that the Secretary of State’s decision to dismiss an appeal for 165 dwellings on Green Belt should be upheld.

This has been followed by a number of Ministerial statements indicating that the release of Green Belt land must be a local decision in the form of a review of Green Belt boundaries and the allocation of land for development in emerging Local Plans.

The Inspector’s Report on the Reigate & Banstead Core Strategy, despite drawing the Minister’s fire, makes clear that the identification of areas of search for sustainable urban extensions in the Green Belt is only appropriate in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

Elsewhere in the Home Counties, the first example of a major Green Belt land release post NPPF is that of land to the north of Houghton Regis, Central Bedfordshire, where the LPA has systematically planned the release of land from the Green Belt to accommodate 5,150 homes and 200,000 sq.m. of commercial space.

Map 3.1
Green Belt Reviews

■The NPPF requires that LPAs with Green Belt consider a review at the time of Local Plan production. This is in order to provide a comprehensive evidence base, so that meeting housing needs may be balanced with maintaining a Green Belt which endures.

■Savills is aware Green Belt Reviews have been (or are being) undertaken in a number of locations within the Metropolitan Green Belt - in particular, by a number of Surrey LPAs, including Guildford, Mole Valley, Reigate & Banstead and Woking.

■In Dacorum, a Judicial Review of the recently adopted Core Strategy is in progress. Should this succeed then additional land may have to be released from the Green Belt.

■To the north and east of London, there is anticipated pressure for a review in St Albans, Welwyn & Hatfield. Three Rivers and Stevenage, and the adjacent Hertfordshire LPAs will also need to consider expansion opportunities. Basildon, Castle Point, Epping Forest, Harlow, Rochford and Thurrock are committed to Reviews. In Oxfordshire, the Vale of White Horse has committed to a review. In Cambridge, a partial review has been undertaken, but given the significant growth pressures, further work may be required.

■Beyond the South East, land has been released from the Green Belt in Bath & North East Somerset, and is also proposed for release in the emerging Tewkesbury, Cheltenham & Gloucester Joint Core Strategy. In time, North Somerset may have to review the Green Belt around Bristol.


Two years post NPPF

Some Local Authorities have struggled with the transition from regional plan-making to locally set targets.

Graph 2



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