“At the moment, some local authorities can duck potentially difficult decisions, because they are free to come up with their own methodology for calculating ‘objectively assessed need’. So, we are going to consult on a new standard methodology for calculating ‘objectively assessed need’, and encourage councils to plan on this basis.”
So said the ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ White Paper in February 2017.
It might have been hoped that the introduction of the standard method in 2018 would breathe new life into the non-housing chapters of local plans that were struggling to breathe on account of the numbers debate sucking all of the oxygen out of the examination process. Whilst the concept was simpler than the 2012 NPPF’s requirement to assess OAN, it could be argued that as merely and ‘starting point’, and with “exceptional circumstances” still to be taken into account, as well as the household projections being fed into the formula seemingly changing as often as the seasons, the standard method has made little, if any, difference to local plan timescales.
Here we are now digesting the implications of the proposed 2020 version of the standard method, as well as the further reform included in the housing-focussed ‘Planning for the future’ White Paper. Has the standard method improved plan making? Do the 2020 standard method and the White Paper’s proposals represent a step forwards, a step backwards or step sideways? Or infact does the numbers game simply involve going around and around in circles?
Sam Stafford puts these questions to:
- Christopher Young, Queens Counsel at No. 5 Chambers
- Shelly Rouse, Principal Planner, Canterbury City Council on secondment at the Planning Advisory Service
- Colin Robinson, Director, Lichfields
BECG proudly supports the 50 Shades of Planning Podcast from Samuel Stafford, Regional Strategic Land Director at Barratt Developments.