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Changes to planning system leave councils in need of further guidance, new housing group warns

Date: 24/10/2011

Over 80 per cent of local authorities questioned in a new survey agree that more guidance is needed to help them accurately estimate local housing requirements.

The Shelter commissioned research carried out by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, has indicated that without updating the existing guidance there will not be the consistent approach needed across local authority areas to meet the new 'bottom up' approach, as set out in as the Localism Bill.

To meet this need the leading housing and planning bodies have joined forces to form the Local Housing Requirements Assessment (LHRA) Working Group to produce clearer, accessible and useable guidance in the form of an 'implementation toolkit'.

The group believes that robust housing need data is central to councils knowing what and where to build. It is also noted in the report that accurate and consistent recording of need is vital for public trust, political accountability and helping neighbouring authorities to work together.

The LHRA Working Group will work with practitioners to demystify estimating local housing requirements and is calling on the Government to work with them in doing so.

The group aims to produce the toolkit in Spring next year.

Nicky Linihan of the Planning Officers Society, and Chair of the LHRA Working Group set up to look into these issues, said: "Previously councils used the number of houses handed down by the regional plan. Now the onus will be on them to take their own view on how many homes are needed and it is imperative to public trust that these figures are arrived at in a clear, consistent and transparent way. Clear, practical guidance is needed to help councils do this robustly and accurately. 

"We are exploring how we can support them by producing advice that is drafted by practitioners for practitioners. We believe this will allow us to focus on the questions being asked by those who have to produce local plans in terms that they can understand and use. However, we need government to support us in this work."

Campbell Robb, Shelter's Chief Executive, said "How many homes are needed and where they should be built is one of the biggest issues facing local authorities and will directly affect millions of people currently in desperate need of a decent, affordable home.  We hope that by helping to produce this toolkit, local authorities will be able to more accurately address the housing shortage in their local area."


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