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12 Feb
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Welsh Housing: New TAN1 guidance published

Earlier this week it was announced that the new Technical Advice Note 1 has been formally adopted by the Welsh Assembly Government.  The document, which sets out the rules and requirements for preparing Joint Housing Land Availability Studies (JHLAS), aims to ensure that sufficient land is available to provide for appropriate levels of housing development across Wales.  The new TAN1 document, which has been prepared 9 years after the release of the initial TAN1 guidance, includes a number of critical changes. 

Having reported on the consultation in December, we now provide a further update by examining some of the impacts of the document. 

The key changes relate to:

  • The method of calculating the housing requirement
  • Timescales for JHLAS preparation
  • Site Categorisation

These will be looked at in further detail below.

Calculating the Housing Requirement

Calculating a Local Planning Authority’s (LPA) housing requirement is the first stage in preparing a JHLAS.  Under the previous guidance,  LPA’s without an adopted Local Development Plan were able to utilise the past build out methodology to determine their housing requirement, projecting forward based on the amount of housing land that had previously been delivered in the area.  The upshot of this was that those authorities which were not delivering sufficient housing to meet their need were able to benchmark against their past failings and justify a future lower rate of housing delivery. 

The new TAN1 document stipulates that the residual method, which applies a housing target from an adopted development plan, is now the only appropriate means of calculating an LPA’s housing requirement.  The approach relies on an up to date development plan being in place, and allows for forward extrapolation where the plan expires part through the 5 year JHLAS period.  Authorities which do not have an up to date plan are now simply unable to publish a JHLAS and will be assumed not to have a five year housing land supply.  This change has been welcomed by the housebuilding industry.

This key change emphasises the significance of the Local Development Plan, and intends to encourage those LPA’s without an up to date plan in place to get a move on so that the English trend of ‘planning by appeal’ is avoided.

Speeding up the Process

Another important change to the new TAN1 document is the shortening of the timescales for JHLAS preparation from 12 months to 8 months.  This will enable the agreed housing land supply figure to be incorporated into the Annual Monitoring Report which will ensure consistency.  All JHLAS reports must now also have a base date of April 1st which will allow for direct comparisons to be made between Welsh LPAs.

Categorising Sites

The updated TAN1 sets out that sites included within the JHLAS should be categorised as follows:

  • Category 1: Under construction;  
  • Category 2: Development either can commence immediately or the constraint on development is likely to be removed so that the dwellings can be completed within 5 years;
  • Category 3: It is not financially viable to develop the site due to market conditions, but it is otherwise free from constraints; or
  • Category 4: Development is unlikely within 5 years by virtue of “major physical constraints or other constraints as agreed by the Study Group”.

Only sites within Categories 1 and 2 can be considered to be ‘genuinely available’ and included within the JHLAS 5 year period.  Sites in Categories 3 and 4 are identified to allow developers and the LPAs to find ways to improve viability and deliverability but cannot contribute to the five year housing land supply.

While amendments to the categories have been made to streamline the site identification stage, the process of the LPA consulting on identified sites, preparing a statement of common ground and then effectively letting the Inspector decide, remains in place.  This means that once a JHLAS has been published, the sites have been agreed by the Welsh Government and hence the unpicking of a Council’s stated housing land supply position tends not to form part of planning applications/appeals.  This is arguably a more transparent system than we have in England, although developers can be left frustrated if sites are agreed with the Inspector that clearly have no potential to come forward within the stated timescales.

What Next?

The amendments to TAN1 are just one aspect of a raft of planning changes that are coming into practice in Wales, the most significant of which will be the Planning (Wales) Bill.  It is understood that the changes will generally serve to align the Welsh system with the English one, placing a greater emphasis on sustainable development and the importance of providing enough housing for future generations.  How far the changes will go, however, remains to be seen.

Failing to have a five year housing land supply does not currently act as a trump card for developers looking to bring forward housing schemes on unallocated sites in Wales.  NJL will now be monitoring housing appeal decisions in Wales closely to see if this is about to change.  If you want us to keep you in the loop too then get in touch.

Image used courtesy of Bert Kaufmann on Flickr

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