Agenda item

Setting Localised Housing Target Methodology (Agenda Item 7)

Report of the Senior Planning Policy Officer, Feng Li.


The Senior Planning Policy Officer presented the report and gave an overview of the methodology that would be used to gather evidence to plan for growth and set a local housing target.


The methodology broadly comprised three stages and the details were explained.  Stage one would gather information on baseline population, migration and household size.  That information would be fed into stage two when a range of forecasts and scenarios would be generated.  It was indicated that Norfolk County Council (NCC) could provide support for that, but there was a risk that they did not have sufficient resources and if was advised that such work would otherwise have to be outsourced.  Stage three would be partially based on those scenarios and would test how policy concerns would be addressed. 


As one of the Councils at the forefront of setting new housing numbers it was explained that there were not many examples to learn from and none had been successfully tested.  The Kent County Council model was being considered and the Norfolk Strategic Planning Group was examining implementing a similar structure to the one found in Kent.  A Norfolk level protocol was being discussed to develop the Policy Framework and set housing numbers.


The Planning Policy Team Leader referred to the ‘duty to cooperate’ which he had explained at the first Local Plan Working Group (LPWG) meeting.  The Council would need to discuss the impact of growth on neighbouring Local Authorities and vice-versa to build up a local picture of housing evidence within the County.


Councillor Bambridge noted that Thetford was one of the largest centres and that it impacted upon Suffolk and East Cambridge, not just Norfolk.  The Planning Policy Team Leader agreed and said that the Norfolk Wide structure would take account of those areas.


Councillor Kiddle-Morris noted that there were other areas where cross border consultation would be needed, such as Weeting and Snetterton.


Councillor Turner pointed out that all through the document it talked about special needs.  She hoped that Age Concern would be consulted.


The Senior Planning Policy Officer explained that Stage Three was divided into two parts.  The first part would identify the level of housing need over the Plan period.  The second part would identify the capacity and opportunities with regard to water, flood risk, environment and qualitative assessment to see if that number of dwellings was correct.


The challenge to the methodology was to objectively assess local need.  The risk was that that would be influenced by other means.  Another challenge was the duty to cooperate.  There was no firm guidance yet from the Inspectors to explain the difference between cooperation and agreement.


Councillor Bambridge was concerned that the Housing Needs Survey did not drill down to village level and that it needed to acknowledge that two adjoining villages could have very different needs.


The Deputy Planning Manager advised that evidence of local need at parish level would be fed by a survey of Breckland residents.  The early stage of the Plan process was about setting overall levels.  There would be an opportunity to look at managing the specific mix of housing on specific sites informed by the Parish Survey.


Councillor Jolly was aware that East Harling did not want any more development.  She asked whether that would be taken into account and the Planning Policy Team Leader advised the meeting of recent correspondence from the Parish Council and said that their comments would be borne in mind when future development was considered.  Other larger villages might be more receptive to growth.  Under the Local Plan process there was an opportunity for greater flexibility on the scale of growth.


Councillor North asked if the process was linked to scrapping Settlement Boundaries and was advised that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) gave more flexibility.  Previously only four villages in Breckland had qualified as Service Centres.  The question to be considered was what size would make a village sustainable.


Councillor Martin thought that the methodology was good but he was concerned that changes to legislation, such as the bedroom tax and migration, could affect the process.


The Chairman asked what the timeline was and the Deputy Planning Manager advised that there was a significant amount of work to be done.  Members would need the information by the end of 2013 to be able to make the decisions prior to public consultation in April, May and June of 2014.  The broad timeline had been agreed at the previous meeting and was on the website.  The Housing Scenarios would be presented to the Working Group in December 2013.


The Chairman asked why the report was just for noting and Councillor Kiddle-Morris explained that it had been important to make the methodology available to all Members for comment at an early stage.  The public and developers could also see it.  The evidence, when completed and considered by the Working Group, would ultimately form an evidence library which would be in the public domain.  It was suggested that the next report should not be for noting but should contain a recommendation that it was put into that library as evidence.


The report was noted.


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