Agenda item

Housing Need and Site Assessment Update

This report seeks to update Members on changes to the local housing need figure for East Devon.


The report presented to Members provided an update on changes to the local housing need figure for East Devon.  The increased figure of 946 homes per year took into account the affordability ratio which had risen to 10.88 in 2021 compared to 10.08 in 2020 illustrating that housing prices had increased more than earnings making housing in the district less affordable.   The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management reminded Members that Council had raised these concerns in February and had resolved to write to the Rt. Hon Michael Gove MP to highlight these concerns.  The letter and response from the Minister of State for Housing were appended to the report.


The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised that the detailed assessments were continuing on each of the sites put forward through the call for sites and the HELAA panel.  He sought Members guidance on how to move this forward and whether Officers should focus their attention on potential site allocations in and around the main towns which would help meet the Councils Spatial Strategy and Members aspirations. 


Members were reminded of the resolution at the Strategic Planning Committee meeting held on 28 February 2022 to set aside more time for presentations from developers and site owners.  Members’ views were sought on how to accommodate these presentations as detailed in paragraphs 3.4 and 3.5 in the report.  It was suggested that the two day presentations to hear from remaining parties to present their sites should be allocated shorter time slots if the developers/landowners were presenting smaller sites.


Points raised during discussion included:

·         The affordability ratio does not work.  Building more houses does not reduce the house prices.  The Chair agreed and advised that the Government would need to change the standard methodology for it to make a difference;

·         The response from the Minster of State for Housing on Members concerns about the standard method for calculating housing need is disingenuous as it implies it is in the Council’s control which it is not. 

·         As detailed in the response by the Minster of State for Housing support was shown for the paragraph as follows: ‘The NPPF says local authorities should give substantial weight to the value of using suitable brownfield land within settlement homes.  They should support housing development on under-utilised land by, for instance, converting space above shops and building on or above service yards, car parks, lock-ups and railway infrastructure’.  This response suggests there is too much burden on our villages as well as our greenfield sites when we should be looking at our towns;

·         Reference was made to Exeter City Council’s urban capacity study and the need to commission the same work to help understand how much vacant land there is in East Devon as well as land owned by East Devon District Council instead of focusing on Greenfield sites.    In response the Chair confirmed that work was currently being done district wide to bring forward potential sites owned by the Council.  It was highlighted that as Exeter had more industrial heritage there was more potential to develop on brownfield sites which East Devon did not have;

·         Suggestion was made to look at car parks and council owned assets in town centres;  In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised that all potential sites must come forward through the call for sites phase to enable Members to consider them through the Local Plan process and hoped he would see a number of council owned sites come forward through the process;

·         Concerns raised that the provision of additional housing would put a strain on primary and secondary schools and health facilities;

·         There is a need to secure a higher proportion of affordable housing;

·         There is a need for a balance between employment land and housing land.  Employment land within towns is key to ensure towns are sustainable.

·         Concerns raised about development on Green Wedges.  The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised that further work was being done which would be brought to ta future meeting;

·         The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management acknowledged Members concerns about the need to consider brownfield sites before greenfield sites and reminded Members about windfall sites and said a large number of these do come forward each year which are often on brownfield sites and although the number was difficult to predict they would come forward at a reasonable rate and would be factored into the housing numbers;

·         Concerns raised about sewage and the need for sewage infrastructure to be in place first before any development.  It was suggested that South West Water needs to be involved in the site assessment work and for a map to be produced that highlights which sites connects to which sewage works.  It was advised that an independent water cycle study was being commissioned to provide advice about planned water infrastructure and phasing to enable growth.



1.    That the update to the local housing need figure and its implications as detailed in the report be considered;

2.    That detailed site assessment work for sites being promoted for allocation in and around the main towns be brought to the Committee for consideration in the early summer be recommended;

3.    That arrangements be made for two further day long virtual sessions for presentations from site promoters and developers of sites in and around the main towns, to be held before Members formally to consider the site assessment work, which would include shorter presentations for the smaller areas and slightly longer presentations for the larger areas be recommended.

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