Revised number of homes for South Worcestershire being considered

Proposals to increase the number of homes to be built in South Worcestershire are set to be considered by councillors.

The number of homes proposed in the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) – which will guide economic development and housing in the area until 2030 – may need to rise beyond the current figure of 20,360.

The changes being considered follow a public consultation held last year about the initial proposals contained in the SWDP Preferred Options document, published in September 2011.

There were around 10,000 responses to the consultation – which can all be viewed at http://www.swdevelopmentplan.org/ – giving a very broad range of proposed housing numbers, ranging from 7,800 to 55,300. 

These responses have fed into work to prepare the next version of the SWDP, alongside new evidence including updated Population Projections from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the latest Strategic Housing Market Assessment for Worcestershire.

A revised version of the SWDP will go to each of the three partner councils on July 3, and councillors are being briefed over the coming weeks about possible changes that are being considered.

It is likely that councillors will be asked to consider a proposed increase in the number of homes required under the SWDP from 20,360 to 23,000. But in practice the number of additional homes is likely to be fewer than that, because of changes to national planning policies.

New rules introduced in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) allow councils, for the first time, to include a variety of housing in their numbers for new homes that were previously excluded from their calculations.

That means the majority of the additional homes would be accounted for by empty homes that are brought back into use and so called “windfall sites”. These are sites that are not specifically identified in the plan but which subsequently come forward for housing development. This includes the reuse of land previously built on for non-residential purposes – for example, a disused factory being turned into flats.

Councillor Marc Bayliss is Chairman of the SWDP Joint Advisory Panel, which includes councillors from each of the three councils working on the SWDP and also from Worcestershire County Council.

He said: “The SWDP is all about planning for the future, ensuring that we are taking the right steps to help economic growth in south Worcestershire over the next 18 years and providing the homes that local people will need.

“The Panel is now working hard to evaluate all the latest evidence and the representations received in the consultation and make sure the Plan meets the needs of local people and local businesses – both now and up to 2030. Once that work is done, we will be reporting to the three councils with recommendations for changes to the Plan.”

If any changes to the SWDP are backed by the three councils on July 3, further public consultations on those specific changes will take place.

A revised version of the full SWDP document will then be published in October, and will go to a public examination next year. It’s expected the final version of the Plan will be formally adopted later in 2013.

Alongside this work, the three partner councils are also working with Worcestershire County Council to prioritise and prepare an Infrastructure Delivery Plan, setting out the level of investment needed to deliver the SWDP.