New rules for determining planning applications
Gravesham Borough Council has been informed by Government that the number of new homes delivered in the Borough is falling below required levels and we must now look to grant permission for any application that can show the development being proposed is sustainable.
Last week the Government released its Housing Delivery Test measurement for 2020 for every local authority in England. This showed that for 2018-2020, 731 of the 1,043 new homes required by Government targets – less than 75% - were delivered in the Borough.
As a result, the council has been informed that it is one of 55 local authorities where presumption in favour of sustainable development is now in place.
This means the Government expectation is that planning permission is granted unless an application relates to areas or assets that particularly require protection, such as designated heritage assets or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or the disbenefits significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.
Leader of Gravesham Borough Council Cllr John Burden said: “What this means in reality is we now have very few options available to us when it comes to determining planning applications where housing is porposed.
“If applicants can show their proposals are sustainable under the planning definition, in effect we have to grant permission.“
When Government assesses new homes delivery against targets it looks at the number of units completed over a three-year period.
Cllr Burden added: “This is not a question of the council not granting permission for enough new homes. It is more a reflection of the delays in developers completing developments once those permissions have been given.
“Clearly, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a detrimental impact on construction in the past year, but the Government has made allowances for that in conducting its Housing Delivery Test measurement.
“Our planners are working with developers to encourage them to get cracking where permissions are in place.
“In recent months members have granted powers to officers to compulsory purchase key strategic development sites in the Borough if they feel insufficient progress is being made in building out schemes. An example is the old police station site which has changed hands a number of times without any progress being made on redevelopment.“
The news of the Government‘s Housing Delivery Test measurement for 2020 came alongside a letter from Housing Minister Christopher Pincher reminding local councils of the need to progress Local Plans despite Covid lockdown measures.
The council has recently carried out the latest stage of consultation on its emerging Local Plan.
“The need to have a valid local plan in place is more important than ever now we are one of 55 local authorities identified by the Government as falling behind in new homes delivery,“ said Cllr Burden.
“We have to show we have sites to deliver on the targets set for us by Government or risk having even more of our powers to determine applications taken away from us.
“We have substantial numbers of units coming through on brownfield sites in Gravesend, such as The Charter where work will start soon, and the old hospital and Clifton Slipways where permissions have been granted.
“We also expect a planning application in the near future for a substantial redevelopment of the canal basin.
“However, we cannot hide from the fact that there are not enough brownfield sites to deliver the number of new homes required and other areas of the Borough will also have their part to play in meeting those targets.“
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