Councils told to find more ‘five-year’ housing land for local plan

More work is needed to ensure North Devon and Torridge has enough land available to satisfy predicted population growth over the next five years.

A government planning inspector has asked the councils include a larger 'buffer' of deliverable development sites to safeguard against a possible downturn in the housing market.

The assessment of the draft North Devon and Torridge Local Plan follows a series of public hearing sessions held in Barnstaple earlier this month.

The local plan sets out a framework for development in the in the two districts up to 2031 and it means the councils will now have to carry out more public consultation - work that could take until July 2017 to complete.

Planning inspector Wendy Burden recommended the councils adopt a 20 per cent 'buffer' to meet five-year housing land supply requirements.

She said: "It is clear the councils need to review their housing land trajectory.

"It is most likely that the councils will need to identify additional sites from the SHLAA (Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment) or from omission sites put forward during the examination of the plan."

The inspector also asked the councils to reconsider the inclusion of land between Watertown and Staddon Road, Appledore due to the site's 'highly sensitive location' overlooking Northam Burrows.

Mike Kelly, chief planning officer at North Devon Council, said: "Following the recent hearing sessions into the draft North Devon and Torridge Local Plan, the appointed inspector confirmed that the plan represents an aspirational but realistic basis for meeting the area's housing needs through to 2031.

"However, as there has been a shortfall in housing completions since the beginning of the plan period in 2011 due to slow sales rates and market uncertainty, the inspector has recommended that the two councils review the present land availability position.

"If this exercise suggests that additional housing land should be brought forward to meet any identified shortfall within the next five years, then any changes to the present position will follow full public consultation and a sustainability appraisal of specific deliverable sites that are identified."