Time is of the essence for St Albans Local Plan if district wants to reduce housing
- Credit: Archant
St Albans district has a chance to dodge building 15,000 homes before 2036, if it pushes through the new Local Plan fast enough.
The district council (SADC) is currently composing a new Local Plan which works on the basis that the Government will require 900 dwellings built every year for 16 years.
That figure was calculated using an affordability ratio expected to be forced onto the district as part of the White Paper ‘Fixing Our Broken Housing Market’ - for every one per cent house prices rise over four times average earnings, the housing need assessment will see a 0.25 per cent uplift.
For St Albans, that’s 15,000 homes before 2036 and a 25 per cent uplift on existing development.
However, changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which went into consultation last week, include a six month transition period where previous housing need assessments could be used instead.
This means St Albans could only be required to build about 700 homes per year, which is the need assessment calculated by a group of collaborating councils called the South West Herts Group.
However, it would mean St Albans’ new Local Plan must be completed by six months after whenever the new NPPF is implemented.
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David Lane, chairman of St Albans development business DLA Town Planning Ltd, said: “If St Albans get its plan in within the NPPF transition period, by December this year, it could be that they would only be required to provide 700 a year. If they delay to 2019, it will be 900.
“I can see we need 900 new dwellings and more because we have seriously under-provided [in the last 40 years]. But I am sure a resident living by Green Belt [about to be developed] would wholeheartedly disagree with me.”
He noted that even if St Albans rushed the plan though by December the figure may re-adjust to 900 at the first five year review so the building respite would only be temporary.
Portfolio holder for planning at SADC, Cllr Mary Maynard, said she would prefer to work under the assumption 900 homes will be required rather than risk missing the deadline.
She said: “We will endeavour to deliver the Local Plan as fast as possible. However, there is a statutory need to consult and properly consider feedback from local people.
“We are aiming to submit the Local Plan to the Secretary of State in spring 2019 and will bring that date forward if we possibly can. If we do not conduct all stages appropriately, our plan will not conform with legal requirements and will fail its examination by a Government-appointed planning inspector.”
Herts county council leader David Williams responded to the NPPF consultation: “We want to create something that will benefit Hertfordshire residents long into the future and will help us meet some of the demographic challenges we are facing, not least from our ageing population.”
St Albans district has just finished consulting on the Local Plan, and has closed a call for sites.
District councillors in the south of the district have said they are worried that the 15,000 homes will be mostly concentrated into their wards, rather than evenly distributed around the district.
Herts county councillor Dreda Gordon, who represents The Colneys, has argued that any development needs supporting infrastructure: “We have seen big developers, in many cases, have built homes without delivering infrastructure.
“That’s not delivering sustainable communities. My point being that we want the council to be far more in charge, to be given the tools by central Government to make sure infrastructure is built. The power seems to be taken out of our hands and given over too much to the developer who do things in terms of their own interest which is very different sort of interest to ours.”