New Local Plan: Spatial Options Document 2021

Ended on the 22nd September 2021
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Decorative Image Housing for All

Relevant Plan Objectives: 1, 2, 6, 9, 19

Rochford is home to around 87,000 people living in around 35,000 homes. Rochford faces a number of housing challenges, both in terms of affordability and availability.  Partly due to low housing completions over the last 15 years, the average local house price has increased by over 70% across this period, with growth in local earnings unable to keep up. This has created a housing market where many local people are priced out of the home they need and younger people in particular are likely to be living at the family home for longer, unable to move on.  This is a problem that will continue to be significant if not addressed, as around 25% of our homes contain dependent children, which is above the average for Essex (23%) and England (22%).  We also face challenges in delivering the right type of housing: Our older population is expected to be a much larger proportion of our population in 20 years. The percentage of over 65s is expected to increase from around 23% to 28% by 2040, which is likely to create a particular demand for different types of housing, both for those in good health and those who may require an element of care. 

Above all else, the demand for more housing in Rochford is locally-driven, with existing residents living longer and a large number of concealed households living in others’ homes unable to find or afford their own home. Household projections suggest natural growth of around 5,000 households by 2040, with the Government’s method suggesting around an additional 50% should be planned for to address affordability issues. Through the plan, we must ensure that current and future generations are able to find suitable, affordable and accessible homes that respond to their needs over their lifetime. Failure to do so will lead to younger people leaving the District to find a home they can afford, and other people living in homes that do not respond to their needs.

National planning policy states that local plans should positively seek opportunities to meet the development needs of their area and that planning policies should ensure that a local authority's housing needs is met locally unless there is a strong reason for restricting the overall scale of development in an area, or if the adverse impacts of development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits. Within this context, the size, type and tenure of different housing needed for different groups in the community needs to be assessed and reflected in planning policies.

(including, but not limited to, those who require affordable housing, families with children, older people, students, people with disabilities, service families, travellers, people who rent their homes and people wishing to commission or build their own homes). As set out in previous sections, our current housing need calculated using the standard method is around 360 homes per year. This overall housing need does not, however, take into account the need for different types, size and tenures of housing, which are considered further in this section.

Commentary in this section is largely based on housing market analysis undertaken across South Essex, including the South Essex Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) and its Addendum. Due to changes in national policy, we will be commissioning an update to the SHMA to gain an up-to-date understanding of the specific housing needs of different groups in the community. However, the figures contained within the SHMA and its Addendum are considered to remain useful for drawing broad conclusions on the likely need for housing of different types, sizes and tenures over the next 20 years.

Figure 27: Summary of Housing Need for Rochford District

Figure 27: Summary of Housing Need for Rochford District

The Need for Different Types and Sizes of Housing

The South Essex SHMA assesses the need for different types and sizes of dwellings over the following 20 years. Figure 28 below highlights that the District has a fairly balanced need for housing of all types and sizes, with the greatest need for small and mid-sized semi-detached housing, and smaller detached housing. There is also a not insignificant need for one-bed flats and larger detached and semi-detached housing. Whilst it is recognised that the types and sizes of housing delivered in often market-driven, it is nevertheless important that the plan puts measures in place to ensure the mix of housing delivered in the future actually provides the types and sizes of housing that current and future residents want to live in.

Figure 28 - Need for Housing by Type and Tenure

House Type / Size

Percentage of Overall Need

Detached

30%

3 bed or less

20%

4 bed

9%

5 bed or more

1%

Semi-detached

50%

2 bed or less

23%

3 bed

23%

4 bed or more

4%

Terraced

6%

2 bed or less

3%

3 bed or more

3%

Flat

15%

1 bed

10%

2 bed or more

5%


Rochford has high levels of owner occupation compared to other parts of the country and our private rented sector is relatively small. A private rented sector review was undertaken by the South Essex Housing Group in 2018 and established that growth in private rentals had overtaken owner occupation (+6.1% compared to -5.1%) due to an undersupply of otherwise affordable housing. A number of households in Rochford have been meeting their affordable needs through the private rented sector, whilst it has also become the tenure for frustrated "would be" homeowners, including families with children who cannot afford to buy and are not eligible for social housing. The increased demand for private renting has significantly inflated rents across all South Essex local authority areas including in Rochford. People who are reliant on housing benefit struggle to find accommodation that is within the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates. To date the private rented sector in South Essex has not contributed in any significant way to new housing supply but been reliant for growth on the conversion of existing owner-occupied stock. Evidence demonstrates that the District is generally unaffordable for first time buyers and those on lower incomes, highlighting the need for additional affordable housing in a range of tenures that meet the needs of income groups including aspirant homeowners. The private rented sector is smaller than the national average and there is an opportunity through the plan to support investors to boost supply where there is interest.

The Need for Affordable Housing

Affordable housing is a particular form of housing available to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. It is typically available at a discount of around 20% or sometimes more. National policy encourages local authorities to plan for those who require affordable housing, however effective provision is about the right type as well as quantity. There are several different types of affordable housing tenure, the most common being social rented, affordable rented, shared ownership and the new First Homes model. Rochford has a relatively active market of registered social landlords, with 9 present in the District.

The District has a significant need for more affordable housing across all tenures, with the 2017 SHMA Addendum identifying a need for 296 new affordable homes every year, falling to 238 affordable homes after five years. This is a large proportion of our overall housing need, around two-thirds based on the current standard method. As with all housing, we face different levels of demand for different sizes of affordable housing, with around 52% of new affordable home demand being for one-bed homes, with 27% two-bed and 19% three-bed.

The vast majority of our affordable housing is delivered through planning obligations on developments larger than 15 homes, with a relatively modest supply coming from dedicated affordable housing schemes. Our current policy requires 35% of all homes on developments larger to be 15 homes to be affordable. Because of this, it is important to recognise the role of market housing in allowing affordable housing to be delivered. Whilst it may be possible to increase the supply of affordable housing by incentivising the delivery of dedicated schemes, the most effective way of increasing affordable housing delivery is by increasing the delivery of housing overall.

The revised NPPF sets out that planning policies should expect at least 10% of homes on sites larger than ten homes to be available for affordable home ownership. This requirement would form part of the overall affordable housing contribution from a development site having implications on delivery of affordable rented homes.

There are a number of changes on the horizon in relation to planning for affordable housing.

  • In May 2020, the Government made a Written Ministerial Statement setting out a framework for a new form of Affordable Housing, known as First Homes. This is intended to deliver discounted (at least 30%) market homes for local people who live or work in the community, struggling to purchase a home at market prices. Eligibility will include first-time buyers and key workers. Moving forward, First Homes will need to make up 25% of all of the affordable tenures captured through planning obligations with traditional tenures such as affordable rent or shared ownership reducing proportionately.
  • The Government has also consulted on longer-term proposals to change the way in which developer contributions are collected. A National Infrastructure Levy is proposed with rates potentially decided by the Government. If introduced, affordable housing would be provided via this Infrastructure Levy, where currently it is provided through Section 106 agreements. Whilst the Levy rate will be set by Government, the prioritising of spending will be decided locally. These proposals may affect affordable housing delivery, depending on how these priorities are set.

The Need for Specialist and Supported Housing

In addition to affordable housing, we also have demand for specialist forms of housing which includes:

  • Housing for those with disabilities, e.g., wheelchair friendly and adaptable accommodation
  • Housing for young people leaving care
  • Housing for people fleeing domestic violence
  • Housing for those with drug and alcohol dependencies, or
  • Housing for those at risk of becoming homeless

These forms of housing are again often provided by registered providers or other non-profit organisations within supported shared or communal housing schemes.

Other forms of specialist housing are those for older persons who may require health care support due to physical and mental health issues such as dementia, but who are not in need of residential care. Types of older persons accommodation will include sheltered and extra care sheltered housing. Such forms of accommodation are unique from each other and will in every case need to meet the needs and aspirations of residents, with good design, choice of tenure and be in sustainable locations, i.e. near to community facilities and services. Focusing on independence and social inclusion, specialist housing can contribute to the delivery of local health and social care services but will rely on effective joint working between multiple agencies, e.g. housing, health, and voluntary sector, as well as strategic planning.

Our evidence estimates that the additional demand for different types of specialist accommodation for older age groups is around 50 units per year, with the majority being from sheltered accommodation. In addition, the SHMA estimates a required provision of an average of 11 additional bed spaces per year within communal establishments (e.g. care or nursing homes). Whilst an update to the SHMA is planned, it is considered unlikely that the demand for older persons' specialist accommodation will have changed markedly but it will nevertheless be important that the plan provides a strategy to accommodate these needs.

The Need for Rural and Community -Led Housing

People living in rural areas can face housing challenges, particularly with supply and affordability. The NPPF sets out that 'planning policies and decisions should be responsive to local circumstances and support housing developments that reflect local needs 'and that opportunities should be identified 'for villages to grow and thrive [to] support local services.'

Community-led housing projects are one way that rural communities can bring housing forward to suit their community needs, e.g. size, type, and tenure of housing, however the District's tightly drawn Green Belt boundaries restrict the supply of housing in these locations. Options for addressing the specific needs of rural communities is set out later in this section.

The Need for Self-Build and Custom Build Housing

Self-build housing is where a person is directly involved in organizing and constructing their own home. Custom-build housing is where a person commissions a specialist developer to help to deliver their home to a request specification. These processes enable people to be more directly involved in meeting their own housing needs, and in so doing, reduce the reliance on the private market. The Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 requires local authorities to maintain local registers of builders wishing to acquire suitable land to build their own home, and to permission sufficient suitable plots to meet demand.

This data can be analysed to establish the extent of local demand for this form of housing. There are currently 83 individuals on the Council's register which is evidence of significant latent demand.

The Need for Suitably-Sized and Accessible Housing

The Council's current plan previously required all homes to be built to the Lifetime Homes standard and a minimum size. However the Government has legislated that these standards can no longer be enforced and that compliance must instead be sought through Building Regulations, and use of the Nationally Described Space Standards (NDSS), where justified. Authorities may only require adherence to a higher standard than the minimum where they have strong evidence that it is required to respond to an identified need, so the Council would need to justify continuing to use the NDSS in its new plan. The Council currently requires 3% of homes on developments larger than 30 dwellings to be fully wheelchair accessible. This is governed through Part M4 of the Building Regulations. If justified, the Council could seek a higher standard of accessibility for dwellings through mandating that new homes meet the standards set out in Parts M4(2) or M4(3) of the Building Regulations.
 

OPTIONS - Non-exclusive options for addressing our housing needs through the plan include:

  1. Meeting our need for different types, sizes and tenures of housing (including affordable housing and specialist housing) by requiring a standard non-negotiable mix of housing to be provided on all housing developments
  2. Meeting our need for different types, sizes and tenures of housing (including affordable housing and specialist housing) by requiring a suitable or negotiable mix of housing that is responsive to the type or location of the development
  3. Meeting our need for different types, sizes and tenures of housing by allocating specific areas of land for specific types, sizes and tenures of housing, including to:
    1. Allocate entry-level 'exceptions' sites for first-time buyers
    2. Allocate specific areas of land for affordable housing
    3. Allocate specific areas of land for specialist housing
    4. Allocate specific areas of land for self-build or custom-build housing
  4. Taking a market-led approach to housing mix and not specifying the types, tenures and sizes of houses that need to be delivered through a specific policy
  5. Requiring all new homes to be built to the Nationally Described Space Standard
  6. Requiring all new homes to be built to Part M4(2) of the Building Regulations
  7. Requiring a suitable proportion of new homes to be built to Part M4(3) of the Building Regulations

(56) Q17. With reference to the options listed above, or your own options, how do you feel we can best plan to meet our need for different types, sizes and tenures of housing? [Please state reasoning]

(31) Q18. With reference to your preferred Strategy Option, are there areas or sites in Rochford that you feel require a specific approach to housing types, size and tenure? What is required to meet housing needs in these areas? [Please state reasoning]

(28) Q19.  Are there any other forms of housing that you feel we should be planning for? How can we best plan to meet the need for that form of housing? [Please state reasoning]

 

The Need for Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople Accommodation

National policy also requires plans to make suitable provision for travelling households who have specialist housing needs. The Government has published its Planning Policy for Travelling Sites (PPTS) making it clear how the planning system is expected to provide for the housing needs of Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople

The PPTS requires local plans to:

  1. identify and update annually, a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide 5 years' worth of sites against their locally set targets
  2. identify a supply of specific, developable sites, or broad locations for growth, for years 6 to 10 of the plan and, where possible, for years 11-15 of the plan
  3. consider production of joint development plans that set targets on a cross-authority basis, to provide more flexibility in identifying sites, particularly if a local planning authority has special or strict planning constraints across its area (local planning authorities have a duty to cooperate on planning issues that cross administrative boundaries)
  4. relate the number of pitches or plots to the circumstances of the specific size and location of the site and the surrounding population's size and density
  5. protect local amenity and environment

The PPTS is also clear that criteria should be set to guide land supply allocations where there is identified need and to provide a basis for decisions in case applications nevertheless come forward.

The Council has prepared evidence to assess its future needs for traveller accommodation, including the South Essex Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople Accommodation Assessment (SEGTAA). This assessment identifies a need in Rochford for 18 additional pitches for travellers known to meet the planning definition of a traveller, 1 additional pitch for unknown travellers and up to 11 additional pitches for those that fall outside the planning definition but nevertheless have identified specialist housing needs. The SEGTAA identified that there was no requirement for additional travelling showpeople plots in Rochford.

Figure 29 shows how these needs are distributed over the next 20 years, with it being clear that most of these needs are immediate.

Figure 29 – Need for Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation in Rochford

Years

0-5

6-10

11-15

16-20

21-22

Total

2016-21

2021-26

2026-31

2031-36

2036-38

Meet planning definition

14

1

1

1

1

18

Unknown

2

0

1

0

0

3 (25% = 1)

Do not meet planning definition

9

0

1

1

0

11

The Council's current policy position on traveller needs is to prioritise the delivery of a new permanent traveller site at Michelin Farm, which has capacity for 15 or more pitches, which would be sufficient to meet most of Rochford's needs. Feedback from the Issues & Options consultation was generally supportive of delivering a permanent site at Michelin Farm in preference to authorising or allocating alternative sites. However, this site is not being delivered as expected and the current landowner has stated that the site is no longer available for this use.

It is important that the plan makes sufficient provision for the permanent accommodation needs of Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople, and sets suitable criteria for the assessment of any traveller sites that could be allocated through the plan or which come forward unexpectedly during the plan period. Failure to provide sufficient land or permanent pitches for the needs of travelling households would be incompatible with national policy and risks unauthorised sites emerging, often in the Green Belt, where there is no suitable alternative for travelling households. The vast majority of Rochford's identified need arises from unauthorised pitches already present in the District, including a large site at Cherry Hill Farm, Rawreth siting over 10 pitches.

In addition to traveller sites for permanent accommodation, there may also a need for sites for temporary accommodation for households travelling through the area. The provision of suitable temporary sites can help to reduce the number of seasonal unauthorised encampments by providing an authorised place for households to stop either overnight or for a short period. Different types of temporary site can include:

  • Transit sites - full facilities where Travellers can live temporarily (usually for up to a maximum of three months) – for example, to work locally, for holidays or to visit family and friends.
  • Emergency stopping places - more limited facilities.
  • Temporary sites and stopping places - only temporary facilities to cater for an event.
  • Negotiated stopping places - agreements which allow caravans to be sited on suitable specific pieces of ground for an agreed and limited period of time.

The previous Essex Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (EGTAA) identified a potential need for transit sites in Essex to address temporary accommodation needs of around 45 pitches at peak in a year. A Gypsy and Traveller Transit Site Assessment is now under preparation across Essex which may identify specific locations in the county where one or more transit sites could be located.

(23) Q20. With reference to the options listed, or your own options, what do you think is the most appropriate way of meeting our permanent Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs? [Please state reasoning]

(12) Q21.  With reference to the options listed, or your own options, what do you think is the most appropriate way of meeting our temporary Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs? [Please state reasoning]

(15) Q22. What do you consider would need to be included in a criteria-based policy for assessing potential locations for new Gypsy and Traveller sites? [Please state reasoning]

OPTIONS - Non-exclusive options for addressing permanent accommodation needs of Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople include:

  1. Retaining the current policy position of delivering a permanent site at Michelin Farm, if it can be established that this site is deliverable within the plan period
  2. Prioritising the regularisation of existing unauthorised sites where any environmental, transport and amenity impacts of doing so are outweighed by the benefits
  3. Prioritising the regularisation and expansion of existing unauthorised sites where any environmental, transport and amenity impacts of doing so are outweighed by the benefits
  4. Allocating new areas of land for permanent traveller sites, informed by a specific Call for Sites and site assessment process for potential locations for new traveller sites
  5. Requiring new strategic housing allocation to set aside areas for permanent traveller sites within the general boundary of any allocation
  6. Working with neighbouring authorities to meet permanent traveller accommodation needs in other local authority areas if it is established that needs could be better met by permanent sites located elsewhere

Non-exclusive options for addressing the temporary and transit accommodation needs of Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople include:

  1. Allocating new areas of land for temporary traveller sites, such as a transit site, informed by a specific Call for Sites and site assessment process for potential locations for a new transit site or temporary stopping place
  2. Working with neighbouring authorities to meet temporary traveller accommodation needs in other local authority areas if it is established that needs would be better met by a transit site or temporary stopping place located elsewhere

 

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