How you can help shape the future of housing and building in Northumberland

Residents are being asked to help shape guidance for developers on what is expected in terms of affordable housing and other planning obligations.

Friday, 13th September 2019, 12:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th September 2019, 12:13 pm
County Hall, Morpeth

The new Northumberland Local Plan, the development framework for the county over two decades, is currently under independent examination, with public hearings likely to take place later this year.

When adopted – next spring is the target, it will be supported by a number of supplementary planning documents to provide additional guidance.

A six-week consultation is to take place on the proposed content of two of these SPDs – one on affordable housing and the other on developer contributions – from Wednesday, September 25, to Wednesday, November 6.

Draft SPDs will then be prepared and subject to mandatory consultation. In light of comments received, the SPDs will then be reviewed and finalised before they can be formally adopted.

At a meeting of the county council’s cabinet on September 10, Rob Murfin, the authority’s director of planning, told members that the SPDs are about ‘attaching clarity to what we do in the Local Plan’ and ‘getting the most out of the planning system’.

He added that the national guidance allows for a range of different products under the banner of affordable housing and ‘developers often choose the type of affordable housing that’s best for them, but not necessarily best for certain areas of the county’.

The developer contributions, which are secured through section 106 legal agreements, are there to mitigate the impacts of new development and ensure that it is acceptable in planning terms.

The scoping document proposes that the SPD should include financial and non-financial planning obligations in relation to open space, sport and recreation; education; healthcare; ecological mitigation; second and holiday homes; highways and sustainable transport; sustainable drainage (SUDS); and other development-specific requirements.

The report to councillors states: ‘The proposed SPDs are envisaged as setting clear expectations for new housing, and in some cases other development, in respect of affordable housing and wider planning obligations such as healthcare and education.

‘They will provide advisory guidance and will explain how and why respective requirements are calculated.

‘In the case of developer contributions, it is intended that they will also explain how the money collected will be spent in order to address the impacts of development.

‘The SPDs will provide further detail on procedural matters, potentially helping to expedite the planning process and the delivery of affordable homes. Furthermore, the SPDs will ensure effective monitoring arrangements are in place.’

At the start of the month, the Government announced that residents will now be able to see how developer contributions are spent, with new rules meaning that councils will be legally required to publish details so people can see exactly how the money will be spent.

The Local Government Association’s planning spokesman, Coun David Renard, said: “Councils support the principle of infrastructure funding statements showing how much developers’ money is spent on local communities and many councils already publish them. This work needs to be fully funded and councils also need sufficient lead-in time.

“The Government should further reform the Community Infrastructure Levy in the upcoming Spending Round. This includes removing national exemptions – which reduce the amount of funding to invest in critical infrastructure to facilitate development – and allowing them to be decided by councils at a local level.”