Farming Advice: Hayden Foster of Clarke & Simpson on residential development prospects

Hayden Foster of Clarke & Simpson.

Hayden Foster of Clarke & Simpson. - Credit: Archant

It is a most interesting time to be involved in residential development transactions, with the likelihood of achieving a planning consent for residential use on farmland very much a postcode lottery.

There has generally been a surge in development since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)in March 2012 which required local councils to demonstrate a five-year land supply for housing in an attempt to boost house building.

Councils that fail to produce a local plan which demonstrates the required land supply essentially relinquish their right to determine where a new housing should be located. Nationally, fewer than 18% of councils had their five-year plans approved by the Government and, in the last two years, permission has been granted for 27,000 houses on greenfield sites against the wishes of local authorities.

Close to our office here in Framlingham, we are experiencing the two extremes. Mid Suffolk District Council has a strong and provable five-year housing supply, which has been tested at appeal and therefore it is difficult to achieve development outside the settlement boundaries and beyond the scope of the local plan.

Suffolk Coastal District Council, however, cannot demonstrate a five-year supply and where a site is close to a settlement boundary and the location is considered sustainable and deliverable, applications are perceived to be worth pursuing.

Many would argue that the current situation in Suffolk Coastal leads to a disjointed and badly planned series of developments but in a commercial world it is difficult to criticise developers and land owners for pursuing the possibilities and maximising their asset value. We have this year been involved in a substantial number of sites where consents have been achieved which have given families financial security for years to come.

It is likely that pressure to remove automatic presumption for development where there is no five-year land supply will increase, but thus far there is no indication from any of the three main political parties that they are minded to do this. Stimulation of the economy as a whole is considered of greater importance.

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The prediction is that the pressure for new homes is unlikely to decline in the foreseeable future and if you have an area, especially in Suffolk Coastal or another local authority where there is no five-year land supply, there is potential, even if it is not currently allocated.