When will Wirral Council update its Local Plan to take into account the new household projection figures?
Last Friday I published 477 new households a year required on Wirral according to Office for National Statistics, not 803 new households a year as Wirral Council claims; who is right and does Wirral’s greenbelt need to change? which appears to have led to articles in the Wirral Globe, Liverpool Echo, Wirral Leaks, Planning Resource, North West Place and a piece in the Council’s newspaper Wirral View (links are below).
Fresh hope for Wirral’s Green Belt as Government error over-estimates housing need (Wirral Globe) 24th September 2018
I also had the chance yesterday evening to talk face to face with David Ball and Cllr George Davies (who is the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning).
I asked David Ball that as the household projections formed such a fundamental part of the current consultation, whether there would be a further consultation on the most recent figures. He replied that as the “principles” of the consultation (apart from the household projection figures) would be the same that he doubted there would be a further consultation but that when the matter came back to Cabinet that Cabinet would have “more options”.
I asked Cllr George Davies a series of questions such as was he pleased about the new lower figures and when it came back to Cabinet would he state now that none of the greenbelt would now be needed. He gave a lot of non-answers to my questions, the only thing Cllr George Davies was willing to say was that the government had been written to and that Wirral Council were awaiting a response.
Cllr Stuart Kelly (Liberal Democrat Planning Spokesperson) commenting on the new household projection figures stated (ONS stands for Office for National Statistics), “The Labour Cabinet and its officers knew that ONS was updating its projections in September; they also knew the projection was likely to be lower.
Unforgivably Wirral Labour Cabinet chose to go ahead and consult on green belt with the wrong numbers causing great worry and upset to many people; they owe the people of Wirral an apology” and you can read the rest of Cllr Stuart Kelly’s quote here.
A number of articles published above put forward a rather misleading narrative that the original household projection figures published in 2016 (the figures that Wirral Council are using in this consultation) were a mistake and that as a result of Cllr Phil Davies (Labour’s Leader on Wirral Council) writing to the government disputing the figures that they were changed to the ones published recently.
Below is a copy of the letter from Cllr Phil Davies to the government minister dated 7th September 2018 (apologies for the poor quality of the image).
Having read the above letter, Cllr Phil Davies is arguing that the formula for “calculating future housing needs” needs to change, rather than arguing that the figures that result from the formula are wrong.
On the 20th June 2018 as you can read on this page on the Office for the National Statistic’s website (well before Cllr Phil Davies’ letter of the 7th September 2018), the Office for National Statistics stated, “The purpose of this paper is to provide an update on our research programme and the proposed methodology for the 2016-based household projections for England, which are provisionally due to be published in September 2018.”
My point is that the revised household projections published by the Office for National Statistics in September 2018 was not as a result of Cllr Phil Davies’ letter of the 7th September 2018 above.
The Office for National Statistics is part of the UK Statistics Authority, which is a non-ministerial department that reports directly to the UK Parliament and therefore is not under the control of the Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP.
The formula for calculating the minimum annual local housing need hasn’t changed but states in step 1 “taking the most recent projections” so therefore the more recent figures should be used.
The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, s.19 (which is titled Preparation of local development documents) refers to Local Plans as “local development documents” and sets out a number of legal requirements that Local Plans have to comply with.
Section 19(2) states, “In preparing a local development document the local planning authority must have regard to (a) national policies and advice contained in guidance issued by the Secretary of State;”.
In Wirral Council’s frequently asked questions for the Local Plan consultation (NPPF stands for National Planning Policy Framework) it states, “ The NPPF is not planning law, but must be taken into account in preparing the development plan and is a material consideration in planning decisions.”
The National Planning Policy Framework states in paragraph 33, “Relevant strategic policies will need updating at least once every five years if their applicable local housing need figure has changed significantly; and they are likely to require earlier review if local housing need is expected to change significantly in the near future.”
The drop in the local housing need figure is significant, therefore shouldn’t Wirral Council do this review as soon as possible rather than delay?
It has also been announced that the intention of the government is following the publication of the revised household projection figures to consult on a change to the formula. However as far as I know such a consultation hasn’t started yet at the time of writing this article.
I will also point out that Wirral Council used the ten-year period 2016-2026 when calculating housing need, in order to compare like with like my earlier article used the same timeframe 2016-2026. However the formula states that the current year (2018) should be the start year, therefore calculating the housing need using the years 2018-2028 may result in a slightly different figure to 478 households a year.
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