The Isle of Wight Council has been given a clear message from the government to get on and build more houses after the release of official figures showing that it had delivered only 54 per cent of a housing delivery target, building 978 homes out of the 1,823 required. The target is based on housing need and the council’s own 2012 Island Plan and was reduced to take account of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The council is one of 55 that will have its planning powers limited for failing to meet a 75 per cent target over the past three years. They are now subject to a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’, which means they will be forced to ignore many local policies and give greater weight to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). It means the council will have to approve future development applications, including on greenfield sites, unless their impact ‘significantly and demonstrably’ outweighs benefits.
David Long, a partner in rural property specialists BCM, said: “This will not be news to the Isle of Wight Council; the government has simply clarified a situation they were well aware of. It is not all the Council’s fault; there is both a need and a demand for new housing, but high construction costs and a long and protracted planning system contribute to the problems.
“This should be seen as a positive catalyst to promote and deliver good development. It doesn’t mean that all applications will be approved, but it does shift the balance. Sustainable development in the right places will be acceptable in principle and can only be refused under limited circumstances.
“We need to find a consensus and a way forward, which takes into account the fact that we need more housing. We need affordable homes and a wider spectrum of good quality, open-market housing to underpin the Island’s wider economic strategy of being a vibrant, healthy and enjoyable place to work and live. We need to attract entrepreneurs and high paid jobs and provide the homes needed for them to live in. This is not just a council issue; we all need to work together to achieve the best for the Island.”
A spokesman for the Isle of Wight Council confirmed that some Island Plan policies must be considered out-of-date and can no longer be used when making decisions.
Ollie Boulter, the council’s strategic manager for planning, said: “Even though we are making our decisions under the ‘presumption’ and we will have to adapt how we consider applications, applicants will still need to demonstrate how their proposals will meet the NPPF’s requirement to be ‘sustainable development’, which covers a range of considerations including environmental, social and economic benefits/impacts and is more than simply its location. The local planning authority will continue to be robust in applying this and is not afraid to test its approach at appeal if needs be.”
Cllr Barry Abraham, cabinet member for planning and housing, said: “I am sure that many people will share my frustration at the planning system and the government’s approach to planning by numbers.
“Yes, we need new homes on the Island and yes, we have a significant local need that we need to meet, but we should be doing so on our own terms. This is why we are progressing our Island Planning Strategy to put forward what we believe our approach to new housing on the Island should be and what is deliverable. In the meantime, we will still need to determine planning applications, as we find ourselves in a catch-22 situation as the only way to achieve a Five Year Land Supply (5YLS) is by permitting more and making allocations in the Island Planning Strategy.
“We will shortly be publishing a more up-to-date version of our 5YLS document”.
In December last year MP Bob Seely, who claimed ‘an important victory’ in preventing greenfield developments when a controversial housing numbers algorithm was abolished, was told by Robert Jenrick the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to “get on and build more homes on the Isle of Wight in the years ahead”.