• Mary Breakell

27 May 2019 Newsbrief 53 Update on Final Hearing Day

The Hearings opened with a short statement from Paul Tucker, Lancaster City Council QC, Tucker announced that the shift in the administration of Lancaster City Council, as a result on the election, means that there may be a reconsideration of the Local Plan at Full Council on 26 June.

There are three possible outcomes of this:

The Local Plan goes ahead as it is.

Major modifications will be made.

The Local Plan will be withdrawn.

Impossible to know how this will proceed but heartening that the change in the political balance is beginning to play out.

The rest of the day was divided between OAN in the morning and 5 Year Housing Land Supply in the afternoon. As was evidence from Hearings Programme for 21 May 2019 the developers were heavily represented, though it is worth mentioning they took no part in the debate on OAN.

The Planning Inspector, Richard McCoy, asked the Council whether their OAN calculations were vulnerable to Neil McDonald’s criticism of soundness on the statistical basis they used.

In the 2016 datasets the Office for National Statistics finally corrected for an anomaly about overseas student numbers - where they were not being counted out accurately, leading to exaggerated projections in previous iterations. This correction marked a fundamental change and reduces projected population increases significantly.

The Council reiterated a desire to proceed on the basis of 2014 datasets wrongly suggesting that the government had expressed doubts about the 2016 datasets produced by the Office of National Statistics. As Neil pointed out, the Government’s position was stated in February this year:

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Government is clear that this [its failure to use the 2016-based household projections] does not mean that it doubts the methodological basis of the 2016-based household projections.”

Neil McDonald’s riposte to Turley included 2 key issues:

Lancaster’s position as a small town with a large university population means a significant demographic implication of revised ONS methodology which takes account of student out-migration.

      2. How large a population increase was needed to support Experian's forecast jobs growth (in itself another point of dispute) to 2031. On the one hand Experian itself projected the need to plan for a population increase of 14,200, requiring an average 426 new homes per year. Neil showed how Turley used different assumptions to conclude that an extra 20,100 people would be needed to sustain forecast jobs growth, and ultimately a need to plan for 675 homes per year.

In any case, the council is saying that it cannot meet that level of housing need (given constraints of availability of developable land, flood risk, landscape impact etc.) so has put forward a revised target of 522 homes per year. (Developers responded by insisting to the inspector that there was no need to accept a lower target because they had the schemes to deliver the full housing requirement of 675 homes per year.)

The Planning Inspector will now go a away and review the evidence he has heard.

Interestingly the Developers were silent.

Tim Hamilton Cox pointed out that there was confusion between total job growth and Full Time Equivalent - very similar to those I found in their interpretation of the University numbers.

The afternoon session on 5 Year land supply was more depressing as it revolves around having as much land and more to deliver as many housing as possible or so it seems. The developers did come in here with points of clarification. There was a return to a discussion of broad location of growth in South Lancaster.

In the mop up session it was confirmed that while the full report would not be produced before 26 June a schedule of minor and major modifications would be drawn up, with track changes, by the City Council Planners.

The Planning Inspector will come back with a letter on major modifications over the next couple of weeks and will be giving equal weight to written representations that have been sent in as well as those presented at Hearings.

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