Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Why Reforms Could Fall Short; James Hall, Partner at Planning and Design Consultancy Barton Willmore, Explains Why Proposed Government Reforms to Boost Housing Supply across the UK Could Actually Do the Opposite for Housing in the North East

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Why Reforms Could Fall Short; James Hall, Partner at Planning and Design Consultancy Barton Willmore, Explains Why Proposed Government Reforms to Boost Housing Supply across the UK Could Actually Do the Opposite for Housing in the North East

Article excerpt

THE North East economy still has a huge opportunity to grow, thanks to its own efforts and the extra push coming from the Northern Powerhouse project.

Growth means jobs, naturally, and jobs mean more people coming to the region.

They'll all need somewhere to live - but as leading planning experts, at Barton Willmore in Newcastle we're seriously concerned that new Government proposals could leave this region with a damaging shortfall in the housing supply.

A recent White Paper sets out reforms designed to boost the supply of new homes across the country, and calls for a new way to calculate the housing requirements in each region.

It argues the current method is complicated and hard for people to understand, and also causes expensive planning delays.

The Government is now about to consult on this new way to work out the measurement, which is called the Objectively Assessed Need (OAN).

The only indication we have of what the new way of calculating OAN might look like, is the proposed changes to the Planning Practice Guidance on assessing housing need, set out in a report by the Local Plans Expert Group (LPEG).

So at Barton Willmore, we decided to work out what following the LPEG approach might mean.

We used it to model the North East's housing needs - and the result suggests the region's requirements are 11% lower than when calculated under the current method.

How can that be? Well, the lower estimate is created because the new method removes a key 'jobs and homes test' that balances housing supply with jobs growth forecasts.

The test is designed to make sure the number of available houses does not become a drag on our region's economic growth. And after our analysis, it's our professional opinion that removing it from the calculation might in fact achieve the exact opposite.

The Northern Powerhouse strategy aims to rebalance and unleash the full economic potential of the North, including the North East.

The region is already successfully stimulating its economy via jobs growth. For instance, this year's North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) refreshed Strategic Economic Plan for "more and better jobs" showed progress on Turn to Page 28 From Page 27 the original 2014 plan. Since then inward investment projects brought 3,322 jobs to the region. And in the Tees Valley, the Combined Authority has ambitions to deliver 25,000 additional jobs by 2026.

The importance of housing to support growth in the North East was made clear in Andrew Adonis' keystone report of 2013 - the North East Economic Review. This highlighted concerns about affordability and also the range of housing to match the region's aspirations. The report said: "Some local stakeholders still worry that the low quality and limited range of residential stock inhibits the attraction and retention of higher skilled workers, although the NELEP has some very attractive rural residential area. …

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