Not location, location, location. Not even Goodbye Mr Prisk. Instead “objectively assessed needs“.
There has been a spate of decisions in which these key words in the NPPF have been critical. Waverley has just been advised to jettison its emerging plan because a new housing market survey has made it clear that the present plan is not meeting “objectively assessed needs“. Gravesham recently received a note from their examiner saying that their plan was potentially unsound for the same reason. Need has been an issue in Bath for two years or more as part of a debate about what housing market area applies in and around Bath, and whether there is a separate “need” for affordable housing that has to be calculated and accommodated.
These three little words have, finally, given some spine to the planning system. It has made it clear that planning should be about meeting human needs if they can be met sustainably. That requires difficult local decisions (in a localist world) about how housing, commercial and retail needs should be accommodated. In some places there are genuine environmental and physical barriers, and the need will instead have to be met in adjoining towns and cities. What is clear from the run of decisions is, thankfully, that no-one can shirk their responsibility and everywhere, in the near future, “objectively assessed needs” will have to be addressed in local plans and in planning decisions. Properly, localism will then be a local choice about how needs are met; not about whether they should be met.