Northumberland more than meeting requirements for new homes

Stuart Natkus, planning director at Barton Willmore.Stuart Natkus, planning director at Barton Willmore.
Stuart Natkus, planning director at Barton Willmore.
Northumberland is building almost double the number of required homes, according to new figures from the Government.

Published last week, the Housing Delivery Test statistics show how each local authority across the country is delivering homes against requirements.

And the figures show that Northumberland delivered 197 per cent of what was needed over the past three years, with a total of 3,894 new homes delivered against a requirement of 1,982 from 2015-18.

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The county’s housing requirement was 695 in 2015-16, 678 in 2016-17 and 609 in 2017-18, but it delivered 988, 1,530 and 1,376 respectively, the data reveals.

The overall delivery percentage places Northumberland in between its North of Tyne partners, with both North Tyneside (120%) and Newcastle (244%) also surpassing the required number of homes.

But the fact it is more than meeting its government target will not come as a surprise to policy makers or observers, given that Northumberland already has more homes built or committed than it requires across the 20-year period of the under-development Local Plan.

Against the minimum requirement in the strategy of 17,700, a total of 23,195 homes have already been completed or committed during the plan period, which started in 2016.

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This is made up of 2,907 completed from 2016 to 2018, a further 14,287 with planning permission and 6,001 with ‘minded to approve’ resolutions, all as at the end of September 2018.

This means that Northumberland already has 5,495 than it needs to meet the minimum requirement up to 2036.

While permissions can lapse or not be taken forward, the plan says that ‘there is a reasonably high degree of confidence that the majority of permitted housing applications will come forward and be delivered’.

However, the document, the final draft of which is still out for consultation until Wednesday, March 13, also explains that while the overall number exceeds the minimum requirement, ‘a number of the county’s main towns, service centres and service villages have little development committed, particularly in the more rural north and west of the county.

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‘Net additional dwellings are therefore required to meet the future needs of these communities and help to balance the county’s housing market’.

Plus, ‘an increased emphasis is required through this additional housing to meet the needs of an ageing population’.

Elsewhere in the North East, the Housing Delivery Test data shows Gateshead is delivering just 50 per cent of the number of new homes it requires, one of more than 100 councils nationally to fall short, while South Tyneside (105%), Sunderland (186%) and County Durham (116%) have all hit the targets.

Stuart Natkus, planning director at Barton Willmore, said: “These new figures are interesting because Newcastle and Gateshead share a joint core strategy and have all the same housing developers, yet Gateshead is seriously lagging behind while Newcastle has delivered 244 per cent of its requirement.

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“It begs the question as to why two neighbouring local authorities with the same strategy and set of developers have such wildly different delivery rates.

“If we want to ensure economic growth and prosperity on both sides of the Tyne, we need to see new homes being built.”

The Government has made changes to planning policy, which mean local planning authorities can continue to use household growth projections from 2014, compared with more recent data that showed the number of new households would fall in many areas.

Barton Willmore previously called for the Government not to water down housing targets or risk stunting economic growth and exacerbating affordability problems.

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Mr Natkus added: “We’re pleased the Government has, for now, reverted back to the 2014-based projections. By doing so the shortfall between the minimum need and the Government’s aspiration for 300,000 homes a year is reduced.

“However, this is only a temporary fix and we urge the Government to deliver policy that addresses actual housing need, as opposed to minimum need.

“National guidance on housing need must sharpen up to sustainably deliver the number of homes the country actually needs.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service