Housing is one of the most important issues in planning. The next Local Plan will define the number of new homes we should be planning for to meet the needs of our communities and the growing economy, including what types of housing we need and where they should be built.
The costs of buying or renting a home, and the shortage of homes available for those on low to middle incomes, are a real issue for many of those living and wanting to live in Greater Cambridge. If we do not plan for enough homes, this could worsen affordability, limit our local economy, damage social inclusion, and have implications for climate change as people travel further to access jobs. As we live longer, having suitable properties for us to downsize into without leaving our communities is an important issue, which would also free up family housing.
The Local Plan has an important role to play in ensuring we get the right homes in the right places so that everyone has the chance to live settled, healthy lives. We must also consider how we can encourage the development industry to build houses more quickly to meet our needs.
31. How should the Local Plan help to meet our needs for the amount and types of new homes?
4.6.1 What do we have to do?
The next Local Plan will define the number of new homes we should be planning for, and where they should be built. It will also need to establish the size, type and tenure of housing needed for different groups in the community, and plan for how those needs can be met.
Our adopted 2018 Local Plans include a commitment to an early review of those plans to update the assessment of housing needs, consider progress of delivering planned developments including new settlements, and consider the needs of caravan dwellers and government changes to the approach to planning for Gypsies and Travellers.
Updates to national planning policy have introduced a new way of calculating the minimum number of homes needed, referred to as the standard method. The method takes account of population growth and affordability issues. National guidance acknowledges that the standard method does not account for changing economic circumstances or other factors, and says that higher figures can be considered.
To promote the development of a good mix of sites and to help speed up housebuilding, national planning policy requires the Local Plan to plan for at least 10% of the new homes required on small sites no larger than one hectare. We will need to identify land to meet this requirement.
Another recent change is that national planning policy requires that Local Plans should also set out a housing requirement for designated neighbourhood areas to plan for, when they are preparing their Neighbourhood Plans. This number should reflect the overall strategy for the pattern and scale of development in the next Local Plan.
4.6.2 What are we already doing?
Our adopted 2018 Local Plans allocate land to meet a target of 33,500 homes between 2011 and 2031 (1,675 per year). Many of these are major sites on the edge of Cambridge like Darwin Green and North West Cambridge, and at new settlements like Northstowe and the new town north of Waterbeach.
During the next Local Plan period (proposed to be 2017-2040), these, and other sites that already have planning permission, are likely to provide around 36,400 homes. A further 9,660 homes on these sites may be built after 2040 but there are no policy constraints on them being built earlier if developers wish to do so.
We have therefore already planned for a number of sites which will contribute to meeting our future housing need for the next Local Plan.
The Councils have also adopted a joint Housing Strategy (Homes for our future Greater Cambridge Housing Strategy 2019 – 2023). This sets the context as to how both Councils aim to meet the housing challenges facing the area, setting out key priorities for action.
4.6.3 What are the key issues?
The need for new homes
The next Local Plan will need to establish the number of homes required in the area. Updates to national planning policy have introduced a new way of calculating the number of homes needed to meet the needs in an area, referred to as the 'standard method'. This method takes account of population growth and affordability issues. We need to plan for at least this minimum figure in the Local Plan.
Our current calculations using the Government's 'standard method' indicate a need for 1,800 homes per year, or 40,900 homes for the suggested plan period of 2017-2040 – but these numbers will be updated as further data becomes available. If not enough homes are built to meet the 'standard method' target, planning applications for housing may have to be approved on sites that are in conflict with policies in the Local Plan.
The 'standard method' does not attempt to predict changing economic circumstances or other factors, and says that there will be circumstances where it is appropriate to consider making provision for more homes than the standard method minimum.
When the Councils signed up to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough devolution deal when the Combined Authority was created, this included the vision of doubling the total economic output of the area over 25 years. As set out in the Jobs theme, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) showed that our recent jobs growth has been faster than expected, and that growth is likely to continue. As a result, demand for new housing in this area has been exceptionally high and housebuilding has not kept up.
While there is much more work to do on this, a rough indicative calculation based on CPIER suggests that if the jobs growth is achieved, around 2,900 homes a year would need to be built in Greater Cambridge – an indicative total of 66,700 homes over 2017-2040. This compares with the adopted 2018 Local Plans' target of 1,675 homes per year, and 1,800 homes per year to meet local needs using the Government's standard method.
With 36,400 homes already in the pipeline to be built between 2017 and 2040, if the indicative calculation above is correct, there may be a case for making additional provision beyond the local housing need derived from the standard method, described above. Making the additional provision that would provide flexibility to support our potential economic growth suggests identifying sites for around an additional 30,000 homes in the next Local Plan. This is subject to the further research we are commissioning and a decision on the jobs growth to be planned for. To give a sense of the scale of this potential additional provision, Orchard Park in the north of Cambridge is around 1,000 homes, whilst the total number of homes on the Cambridge Southern Fringe developments is around 4,000, most of which have been built. The new town at Northstowe when complete will be around 10,000 homes. Our current pipeline forecasts do not include North East Cambridge, for which the North East Area Action Plan is being prepared, or Cambridge Airport, which is safeguarded land for development in the adopted 2018 Local Plans, and both of these may provide a significant number of new homes.
31. Do you think we should plan for a higher number of homes than the minimum required by government, to provide flexibility to support the growing economy?
Greater Cambridge is an expensive place to buy or rent a home. High prices are fuelled by high demand, which itself is fuelled by the strength of the local economy which attracts highly skilled workers. Whilst the Councils can and do build new council homes, most new affordable homes currently come from private developments. The Local Plan must:
- Continue to ensure that new developments include appropriate and viable levels of affordable housing.
- Plan for a balance of tenure types - affordable rented, shared ownership and community-led housing.
Diverse housing for diverse communities
We need to provide market and affordable homes that meet the varied needs of our communities, from students to older people, and ensure that those who need specialist housing, or are vulnerable, can find a home that is right for them.
- With people living longer, we need more homes that are flexible in terms of their accessibility and adaptability as we age, as well as specialist housing for older people. Providing suitable homes in the right locations for those looking to downsize will also enable family homes to be freed up, making best use of the housing that exists already.
- We must plan for the needs of people with disabilities as well as specialist housing, through setting the right standards of provision.
- We must consider whether Cambridge will need more student accommodation, so that students do not increase the demand for local housing.
- Cambridge's Housing in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) play an important role, providing a range of more affordable shared accommodation. However, using homes in this way can reduce the number of family homes available, can have a negative impact on the character of an area and can contribute to local parking problems if there is an overconcentration. We will need to consider how the Local Plan can address the need for shared accommodation, through planning for specifically designed shared accommodation as part of inclusive communities.
- Custom and self-build housing is housing built or commissioned by individuals (or groups of individuals) for their own use. This can help local residents develop their own lower cost market housing, support the local economy by providing work for local builders and tradesmen, and increase the diversity of housing supply and facilitate innovative housing design. We will need to consider the demand for self-build and custom build housing from the Councils' registers and how the local plan can help deliver sites for self-build. We will also consider other models such as community led development including cooperative housing.
- Not everyone wants to own their own home. We need to consider how 'Build to Rent' homes should form part of our housing mix. Homes in such developments are typically 100% rented, and are professionally managed by a single management company. They usually offer longer tenancy agreements of three years or more, so they can offer a better quality and more stable alternative to other privately rented housing.
- South Cambridgeshire District Council is also exploring whether businesses should be helped to provide homes for their workers and whether there are specific requirements to provide essential local worker accommodation as part of the overall mix of housing.
33. What kind of housing do you think we should provide?
The needs of Gypsies and Travellers and caravan dwellers
Greater Cambridge has a large Gypsy and Traveller community. Under the Housing & Planning Act 2016, local authorities have a duty to assess the housing needs of both those residing in caravans and on inland waterways where houseboats can be moored.
A key priority for South Cambridgeshire District Council is to identify new sites to accommodate those that wish to live in a caravan. Although a recent assessment did not identify any need for Gypsy & Traveller sites for those meeting the planning definition (in essence those who have a nomadic habit of life), it did show a need to provide sites for those residing in caravans who no longer travel, as well as pitches to accommodate Travelling Showpeople. We will be reviewing our evidence to inform the next local plan.
In terms of houseboat dwellers, there is currently space for around seventy residential boats plus some additional space for visitors, on the River Cam. The adopted 2018 Local Plans identify a site to the north of the City that has been allocated for off-river residential moorings.
34. How should we meet the need for additional Gypsy, Traveller and caravan sites?
We want to create high quality homes which are safe, secure and long-lasting. In the adopted 2018 Local Plans, the Councils applied the National Space Standards, which set minimum room sizes to ensure homes are fit for purpose. For the new Local Plan we need to consider:
- Whether the minimum space standards in national regulations remain appropriate.
- Whether we should have specific standards for energy efficiency, accessibility and adaptability, to reflect our local needs and how this might affect affordability.
- How housing design impacts on health and wellbeing – this is covered further in the wellbeing and social inclusion theme.
- How housing design responds to the increasing trend for working from home, and other changing lifestyle demands.
- How new homes should be constructed to reduce water and energy use and adapt to our changing climate. This is covered in more detail in the climate change theme.
35. How should we ensure a high standard of housing is built in our area?