Sept 18 Newsletter - Page 6

Over the last few years, and particularly since the office opened in Newcastle almost
12 months ago, it has been a full time job simply keeping up with changes in the
planning system both nationally and within the region.
At the national level we have
all heard about the revised
National Planning Policy
Framework (NPPF), and the
various consultations and
publications which resulted
in the final version of the
NPPF being released in July.
There are various headline
grabbing elements of the
NPPF which Stephenson
Halliday can advise on,
although perhaps the area of
greatest significance for the
north east is the standardised
methodology for calculating
housing requirements.
In recent years we have seen
a number of local planning
authorities in the region stall
progress on their Local Plans,
reportedly in anticipation of
the publication of a standard
methodology for calculating
housing requirements. In
the interests of objectivity,
it should also be said that
some of those Local Plans
which have stalled have
also suffered setbacks as
a result of earlier versions
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being found ‘un-sound’ at
examination and changes
in political direction and
planning strategy. Whatever
the root causes of individual
authorities’ delays in plan
preparation, there has been
a continuous theory that the
standardised methodology
will reduce the housing
requirement for many
authorities in the region,
thereby easing some of the
political pressures of having to
release Green Belt and other
sites which may be politically
As a development
industry we need to
find the positives in
the changes which are
largely beyond our
control, and ensure we
continue to build the
homes we need.
In fact, whilst there has been
significant concern in the
lead up to the publication
of the revised NPPF and the
impacts of the standardised
methodology, we can be
reassured by the positivity
of many local authorities
in the region who are now
progressing Local Plans
in earnest with housing
requirements in excess of the
standardised requirements.
One of the great difficulties
for the north east has always
been retention of people,
with many choosing to leave
the region having completed
school and university courses.
We produce some of the
highest calibre graduates
from some of the best
universities in the country, but
then struggle to retain those
skills in the region to grow the
economy. There is endless
evidence to suggest house
building represents one of
the greatest opportunities to
attract and retain businesses
and industry, although this
does appear to be an alien
concept to some of the many
ministers we have seen
pass through the Ministry of
Housing, Communities & Local
Government in recent years.
Earlier this summer at the CIH
conference in Manchester,
Dominic Raab was himself
quoted as stating: “The
truth is, the homes will follow
the jobs and the economic
activity. You’re not going to
build the homes and expect
the economic activity to follow
it,” providing a clear indication
that the final NPPF was not
going to differ significantly from the draft in terms of
the standard methodology.
Fortunately (for some) Mr
Raab has since moved office
to be placed in charge of
agreeing a Brexit deal with
the European Union.
At Stephenson Halliday we
firmly believe economic
growth is fundamentally
connected to housing growth,
and importantly providing
housing of the right type in
the right location. This is
seen through the evidence
of many of the emerging
Local Plans and a continuous
stream of studies which
have been undertaken in
recent years. We face a
very real issue in the north
east that our population is
aging, fast. A recent study
we undertook to assist a
client in identifying areas
for future growth identified
that the state pension age
population in Northumberland is expected to grow by
a staggering 18.1% over the
next 10 years, compared to
a working age population
decline over the same period
of 6.6%. These figures are
clearly unsustainable and
interventions need to be
taken in the planning arena
to ensure the population of
the region does not decline
and we continue to compete
economically. Overall, the
working age population for
the region is predicted to
shrink by 2.4% over the next 10
years, whilst the state pension
age population is predicted to
grow by some 15.4%.
It is our responsibility as
planners and developers to
do what we can to ensure we
retain a strong working age
population, and encourage
further in-migration of
working age population.
We are encouraged by the
likes of Darlington which is
targeting 7,000 additional
FTE jobs over the emerging
Local Plan period, and the
commitment of authorities like
South Tyneside who recognise
there is a need to release
Green Belt land to deliver the
homes required and remain
competitive in a global
economy. Other authorities
in the region demonstrate a
mixture of targeting minimum
housing requirements and
some level of economic
growth, but on the whole
most authorities in the region
appear to appreciate the
risks of adopting plans which
target little more than the
status quo. The opportunities
are still there with the revised
NPPF and it is our responsibility to ensure the region
does not lose out. Newcastle’s
Technical Planning Director
Alastair Willis has an in depth
knowledge and experience
within the property sector in
the North East.
Should you wish to discuss
how we can assist you with
any project, please contact
Alastair on 0191 662 0130.
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