Government's Proposed Approach to calculating Local Housing Need

The Government has published a proposed methodology for calculating local housing need. The methodology is intended to provide a consistent basis for all Local Authorities to establish their housing need in order to contribute to the Government’s objectives of increasing the delivery of new homes and addressing the lack of affordability of housing.

Although Warrington has an adopted Local Plan, the housing figure in that plan (500 new homes a year) was successfully challenged at the High Court and as a result the figure was removed from the plan – therefore, currently Warrington does not have an agreed Local Plan Housing Target to base any calculations on.

Therefore, Warrington’s Housing Need figure will be based on the Government’s projected household growth for Warrington, taking into account house price affordability (as outlined in their proposed new methodology).

Under the Government’s proposed new methodology Warrington’s Local Housing Needs figure is calculated at 914 new homes per annum. This calculation for Warrington has been confirmed by the Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The Objectively Assessed Housing Needs figure the Council has calculated for the new Local Plan, Preferred Development Option consultation, is 955 new homes per annum.

It should be noted that the Local Housing Need is a minimum figure for the number of new homes to be built – not a maximum. This is a minimum to ensure that there are enough homes provided locally into the future to meet the needs of the town and avoid issues of affordability and lack of new homes.

The Government in its proposed new methodology is supportive of councils uplifting these housing targets above the minimum figure if they have ambition to increase employment and jobs in their areas. The Local Plan’s assessment of the Council’s growth ambitions suggests increasing the Local Housing Need Figure to 1,113 new homes per annum.

This is set out in chapter 2 and Table 1 of the Local Plan Preferred Development Option document which is the subject of the consultation process.

This is part of the consultation process – if stakeholders and residents wish to challenge these figures then they can do this by making formal representations to the Council as part of the consultation process. Ultimately these figures would form a part of the discussion at the Local Plan’s Examination in Public, with its independent chair appointed by Government – so it’s important for people to have their views at this early stage in the process.

Potential for a future crossing of the Manchester Ship Canal

The council is consulting on the preferred development option for its Local Plan. As part of the consultation, the council has prepared a development concept for the garden city suburb, to the south east of Warrington. This is one of the locations proposed for new development as part of the preferred development option and the council considers this area could provide up to 7,000 homes.  

The development concept is an illustration of what this development could look like and sets out the likely infrastructure required to support this level of growth, such as new schools, health facilities, parks and transport improvements. The development concept identifies potential transport infrastructure to support development and suggests that a number of new routes including a further crossing of the ship canal may be required.

No detailed scheme has been worked up for a crossing at this stage and this crossing could be a road, a public transport route such as a busway or a combination of the two – further work will be required to determine this.

The development concept shows the potential of using the disused railway line as this is an existing alignment making it possible option for the location of a crossing. It also shows an illustrative alignment of a new link route which would connect the crossing into the proposed Garden City suburb to the south and towards to the town centre to the north. This route has been included to give an indication of the areas that the route would need to connect to and has not been worked up in detail.

Following the current consultation period, the council will be looking at the transport impacts of the preferred development option in much more detail to confirm whether a new ship canal crossing is required. If it is required, the council will need to consider all possible route options for the crossing in addition to the option shown on the plan. This will be subject to further consultation as part of the next round of Local Plan consultation scheduled for spring 2018 before it is subject to Independent Examination by a Government appointed inspector.

The council would undertake a thorough public consultation on all transport schemes which are needed to support the Local Plan once it is adopted.

What is the Local Plan?

A Local Plan sets out the vision and a spatial framework for the future development of a council area, addressing needs and opportunities in relation to housing, the economy, community facilities and infrastructure. It also acts as a basis for safeguarding the environment, adapting to climate change and securing good design.

Why does Warrington need one?

Local Plans are a statutory requirement and are the starting point for guiding decisions about individual development proposals, as Local Plans (together with any Neighbourhood Plans that have been made) are used in the determination of planning applications.

What would happen if we didn’t produce one?

Without an up-to-date Local Plan, Warrington could be subject to speculative development proposals. These proposals may result in unsustainable, unplanned piecemeal development across the borough without the required supporting infrastructure. There’s also a risk that if we fail to produce an up to date Local Plan, central government may intervene and take over the writing of the Local Plan. This would mean we’d have no control over what development is imposed on Warrington. 

There is a lot of talk of ‘growth’. Why does Warrington need to grow? Can’t it stay as it is?

Central government has made it clear through National Planning Policy that they’re committed to securing economic growth and the planning system is central to delivering this growth. Therefore we must set out our strategic priorities that will deliver sustainable development, making provisions for housing, jobs, retail, leisure and other commercial development supported by the required infrastructure.

We recognise the benefits of growth as long as this includes infrastructure, such as new roads, schools and health facilities to support an increasing population. Our Warrington Means Business regeneration programme sets out our ambitions for growth.

What are Warrington’s needs over the next 20 years and why has a 20 year Plan Period been chosen?

Work carried out to date is suggesting that Warrington has a need to provide a minimum of 24,000 new dwellings over the next 20 years and 381 hectares of employment land, along with the required supporting infrastructure.

When a council has to consider amending green belt boundaries, national government planning policy is clear that the council must ensure that new green belt boundaries are permanent for a number of years and are capable of enduring beyond the plan period.

For this reason, we’re proposing a plan period of 20 years. A 20 year plan period would enable us to consider more comprehensive forms of development, which may provide a more sustainable development solution than smaller areas of incremental development.

What do you mean by ‘New City’?

Warrington New City is a vision for Warrington’s future development, set out in our Warrington Means Business programme. This sees the opportunity for new development to deliver major improvements to Warrington’s infrastructure and continue to regenerate the inner area of the town. This will address existing congestion and enable Warrington to grow in a way which benefits existing as well as new communities.

Why do we need to build so many houses?

Central government identifies the process that must be followed in setting Local Plan housing targets. The proposed levels of housing need are based on a range of factors, including population and household projections, future job growth and our economic aspirations as a council. 

Why do we need so much more land for economic development?

As with housing, national planning policy requires we meet its need for economic development. The Local Plan does this through providing land for new businesses moving into Warrington and to enable existing businesses to grow.

Is the plan being shaped by the requirements of developers?

The Local Plan will be shaped by a number of groups. This includes developers, but also local communities, local interest groups, statutory consultees (such as the Environment Agency), infrastructure providers, and local businesses.

Why does development need to take place in our Green Belt? Shouldn’t it all be taking place in our urban areas?

We have to meet our identified development needs in a sustainable manner. Evidence suggests that we can only deliver around 15,500 homes of the minimum 24,000 required in the urban area and around 129 hectares of employment land. Consequently this means there’s a need to release green belt land to deliver the shortfall.

What are you doing to protect the Green Belt?

A full assessment of the performance of our green belt within Warrington has been carried out. This will ensure the focus of release is on those parts of the green belt that are performing poorly. Once the green belt boundaries have been revised through the Local Plan review, the vast majority of green belt land in Warrington will remain and will be strongly protected for at least the next 40 years.

Which areas have been identified for development?

As part of the Local Plan review evidence, work has been undertaken to understand the most appropriate strategy to deliver the aims and objectives of the Local Plan. This has resulted in the Preferred Development Option, where broad areas for proposed development have been identified.

The majority of future development will be directed towards the town centre, Warrington waterfront and the remainder of the existing urban area in order to maximise urban capacity and encourage development on previously developed land. This will ensure that the amount of green
belt land which needs to be released is limited.

There will be a small amount of green belt release in Warrington’s outlying settlements where the number of new homes can be accommodated by the existing infrastructure within the settlement.

The main areas of green belt release are focussed in south Warrington where the assessment of the purpose of the green belt was generally weaker. We believe that development in these locations gives us the best opportunity to deliver strategic infrastructure to support the growth of Warrington and address the existing issues of congestion across the borough.

What stage is Warrington’s Local Plan at now and what comes next?

We’ve already undertaken considerable work to progress the Local Plan review. This stage of the Local Plan review consultation seeks your views on the Preferred Development Option Stage. As part of the Preferred Development Option, broad locations for potential development have been identified based on the revised aims and objectives of the Local Plan review and an assessment of the spatial distribution of development.

The results of the Preferred Development Option consultation will then inform the next stage of the Local Plan process; the Draft Local Plan. The Draft Local Plan will be the formal plan we’ll submit for independent examination and as such we anticipate consultation on the Draft Plan to begin in early 2018 with an independent examination likely during mid-2018. 

Who has the council communicated with so far on the Local Plan, and how?

So far we’ve consulted and communicated with the general public, elected councillors, parish councils, Statutory Consultees, CCG, Warrington Chamber of Commerce, Local Enterprise Partnership, neighbouring authorities, developers and landowners as well as internal council departments including Highways, Livewire, Health, Education and Public Protection.

We’ve carried this out through our public website, call centre and Libraries, as well as utilising drop in sessions and briefing meetings and dedicated internal Local Plan review meetings and workshops.   

How will my views be considered?

We’ll record and analyse all views and representation that’s submitted and take it into account when preparing the Draft Local Plan.  

When does the consultation end?

The consultation period will commence for an eight week period which began on Tuesday 18 July 2017 and will finish on Tuesday 12 September 2017 at 5.00pm.

What will be happening during the consultation period?

During the consultation period there’ll be a series of consultation events around the borough giving you an opportunity to find out more about the Local Plan. Officers will also be available on a daily basis during normal working hours at New Town House to answer any of your questions. 

Who will make the final decision on Warrington’s Local Plan?

The final decision on the Local Plan and the development it proposes will be made by an independent Planning Inspector, appointed by the government, following the examination likely to be held in mid-2018. We’ll then need to make the formal decision to adopt the Local Plan.  

Where can I get more information?

All the information on the Preferred Development Option consultation can be accessed electronically via our website.
Alternatively you can view a paper format at the reception of New Town House, electronically and in paper format at our Contact Centre and electronically at all of our Libraries.

Why have we consulted during the summer holidays?

We were originally intending to start consultation in May and conclude the consultation before the start of the school summer holidays. Unfortunately the consultation had to be delayed due to the snap General Election. Consulting over the summer isn't ideal so we've extended the normal 6 week consultation period to 8 weeks.

We've also recognised that Parish Councils are not scheduled to meet in August so we've extended the consultation period for Parish Councils until the end of September.