How the Local Plan could shape Shropshire’s housing
Eddie West, Interim Planning Policy & Strategic Manager at Shropshire Council, talks us through the Council’s Local Plan and explains how it will contribute to shaping new housing developments in parishes throughout the county.
What is a Local Plan?
All new housing developments across England must follow a set of guidelines laid out in the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This framework exists to protect local environments and ensure they are sustainable, now and into the future.
As well as governing new housing developments, the NPPF covers a broad range of areas including business, economic development and the natural environment.
Each local authority throughout the country must use this framework to create a Local Plan for their area, to help inform decision making on future housing and long-term employment opportunities for communities throughout the county.
Shropshire Council’s Local Plan covers a 22-year period, from 2016 up to 2038, although there is an expectation is it reviewed regularly.
Why does Shropshire need a Local Plan?
It is a statutory requirement for Local Planning Authorities to have an up-to-date Local Plan.
Broadly, the purpose of the plan is to seek to ensure the needs of all communities are met. This includes housing needs and supporting sustainable economic growth, whilst protecting important aspects of the natural and historic environment.
There are several challenges with this approach, but one of the main challenges is the need to directly address housing need in particular areas; and historically what has been built hasn’t always been locally appropriate or designed with community sustainability in mind.
The Council are currently at advanced stage of preparation on the review of the Local Plan, and are currently consulting a full draft version which can be viewed here.
We already know that there’s a significant disparity in Shropshire between the average house price and the average salary. In areas where that gap is widest, there will be a higher need for affordable housing than there might be in areas with a lower disparity.
The Local Plan seeks to address this challenge by planning for new homes which are plan-led, rather than purely market-led.
This means that any new houses built in Shropshire not only follow a plan which ensures they’re sustainable and beneficial to a local community, but crucially, they are built based on evidence of housing need.
In other words – new homes are built having taken into account the needs of the local community.
How do you find out which areas need new housing?
Gathering evidence is a crucial part of uncovering housing need across Shropshire. We can’t assume anything; we need parishes and their residents to tell us whether the current housing in that area is meeting their needs.
For instance, perhaps they’re a young family who’s always lived in that parish, but their family is growing and there are no larger homes for them to move into.
Or it might be an older couple who’d like to downsize or move into something that’s easier for their mobility, such as a bungalow, but there are none of these properties available.
It could also be a young professional who’s still living with their parents because they can’t afford to buy their first home in the parish on the open market.
Generally, people with urgent housing needs sign up to the HomePoint register, which lets us know what sort of property someone needs, and how quickly.
But there are hundreds – even thousands of people throughout the county who don’t realise they could also register on HomePoint. Many people don’t realise HomePoint isn’t only for urgent housing need, and it isn’t only for people seeking social housing.
These are the people we’ve described above – people like young families, starter homebuyers and older couples who can’t find what they need on the open market.
If they’re not registered on HomePoint, we need to find other ways to uncover their needs. This is often referred to as ‘hidden need’, and many parishes don’t realise there might be a hidden need in their area.
The only way we can identify this need is to approach every resident in every parish and ask them, which we have been doing through our Right Home, Right Place initiative.
Since 2018, Right Home, Right Place have been running postal and online Housing Needs Surveys throughout Shropshire and are gradually working their way through each parish in the county. If a survey uncovers a strong hidden need in an area, Shropshire Council work in partnership with Parish Councils to meet this need – all in line with the Local Plan.
What kind of policies does the Draft Local Plan cover?
The draft Local Plan (currently being consulted on until 30th September) covers a range of policies to help ensure that housing is well planned and appropriately developed.
This includes the SP3 Policy which covers environmental sustainability and takes in factors like flood risk and infrastructure of the area, as well as green initiatives which support the transition towards a carbon-neutral economy.
The SP5 Policy provides a framework to help ensure any new buildings are constructed to high quality design standards. The SP7, SP8 and SP9 policies provide a starting point for managing new housing developments in the countryside and rural settlements.
The SP10, SP11 and DP9 policies cover sustainable economic growth in an area, which help to ensure the future sustainability of local employment and how it’s developed, while the SP12 policy provides support for whole estates, enabling them to articulate their long-term development plans in line with the Local Plan.
Policy DP1 introduces requirements for residential development to include an appropriate mix of dwellings sizes, types and tenures, while DP3, DP4, DP5 and DP7 together provide a range of mechanisms to deliver affordable housing.
Finally, the DP26 Policy exists solely to manage development within the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, while Policy DP30 requires any new developments to contribute to the health and wellbeing of its individuals, communities and places.
Each of these local planning policies are designed to support the future economic, environmental and social sustainability of the area, so that it can thrive as a community for many years to come.
To find out more about the Local Plan for Shropshire, visit http://www.shropshire.gov.uk/get-involved/reg-18-pre-submission-draft-local-plan-consultation/