Residential growth drivers in the North West and Green Belt relaxation: listen back to the webinar

In the first of a series of virtual breakfast briefings, RPS Planning Director Cameron Austin-Fell and Chris Young QC from No.5 Chambers delve into the factors driving growth in the North West’s residential market; and explore what might be in store for the road ahead.

Listen back to the webinar

Held on 30th March 2020

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The term ‘housing crisis’ has dominated the Government’s agenda in recent years, as existing tensions surrounding growth and constraints - such as the Green Belt - have frustrated the delivery of housing; which is still far below the target of 300,000 dwellings a year.

As part of recent reforms to the planning system, we have seen a renewed commitment to Development Plans to deliver the growth the country needs. In doing so, the Government has set out the tools to deliver this, including a Standard Methodology for assessing housing need, and the Housing Delivery Test to ensure that delivery is kept in check.

Exploring performance in the North West, Cameron tells us what these recent policy changes are likely to bring for the region:

  • Growth in GVA in the North West of England has outperformed every region over the past 20 years outside of London, however this has not been matched by increases to the housing stock.
  • Much like the rest of the country, there’s varied performance across the North West in keeping Development Plans up to date. However the region currently stands to see significant reductions in the growth as part of the Standard Method for assessing housing need.
  • What is also presented here is a widening north-south gulf, delivered by a methodology that does not uplift the north enough, but also presents targets for the south that are politically unpalatable.
  • Following the publication of the 2019 Housing Delivery Test in February this year, the impacts have yet to be felt. However as demonstrated by RPS, when the next dataset is published by the Government in Autumn/Winter 2020, a number of authorities could see the presumption in favour of sustainable development engaged.
  • A number of changes are expected in the coming months, following on from the Spring Budget on 11 March and the publication of the document ‘Planning for the Future’ the following day, which are reflected upon in the webinar linked above.

Also in the webinar, Chris Young QC shares his observations from the planning courts; highlighting key cases which move the Green Belt debate forward, whilst also considering the growing importance of older-persons housing. As part of his presentation he notes:

  • The quashed challenge to the Guildford Local Plan presents us with a helpful update to the understanding of what constitutes ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ in the context of Green Belt release.
  • In his review of West Malling, Kent, the substantial weight placed on the need for elderly persons housing following the interrogation of evidence, which in this case was important in demonstrating Very Special Circumstances. There were also similarities presented in the Great Boughton case in Chester.
  • Other key considerations that can demonstrate Very Special Circumstances, including exceptional design, as seen at Dylon Works, Bromley, where architecture played a key role in addition to demonstrating a need for housing.
  • An important case for Green Belt release in York, which saw the approval of a residential scheme for 266 dwellings on a greenfield site. The status of the Local Plan was key here, along with the Inspector’s view that there would not be any harm to the five purposes of the Green Belt.
  • The case in Burley-in-Wharfdale, Bradford. As part of this case, the Inspector weighed up the impact on the Green Belt against the pressing need for housing and the absence of an allocations strategy, recommending approval of the scheme for 500 houses. However the SofS disagreed when the appeal was recovered, and was subsequently refused.


To speak to our Strategic Land team about anything included the presentation, or to register your interest for future seminars, click ‘get in touch’.

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