One tension that will need to be resolved as the new planning White Paper makes its way through the legislative process is the question of how to effectively enforce Local Plan making, especially for local authorities who have been slow to deliver so far.
For some authorities, especially the outer London Boroughs – the so-called doughnut – and other parts of the Home Counties, the need to address housing supply is compounded by the presence of protected areas within their boundaries that seemingly remain off limits as far as the current reforms go. What should happen in districts such as Sevenoaks and Tandridge where 93% and 94% respectively of their areas are Green Belt? How should others reconcile Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and housing need?
Perhaps the answer is to be found elsewhere in the White Paper. While the new standard methodology for assessing housing makes allowance for such designations, there are also hints already about the creation of large unitary authorities and certainly this approach would offer greater impetus to deliver housing numbers as well as the flexibility to determine where these homes could best be located.
We could be moving back to ‘regional’ decision making by Mayors – a change that could make a great deal of difference to the new round of Local Plans; albeit not without its own challenges as similar European models have shown.