Havering faces punishment for failure to reach housing target

Havering Council’s failure to meet its housing target means the planning committee will have less power in future to reject proposed developments.

Last week, the council published a report showing only 624 new homes were built in 2021/22, a third of the target set for it by the Mayor of London.

According to the report, it is also unlikely to meet a longer-term target for Havering of almost 13,000 new homes over the next five years.

As a result, the council’s planning decisions are subject to a punishing rule known as “presumption in favour of sustainable development”.

This means planning committee members should approve all developments unless they believe the “adverse impacts” would significantly “outweigh the benefits”.

If a Havering planning committee does reject a development that is later approved on appeal in front of a planning inspector, the council may be liable for their legal costs.

Cabinet member for development and regeneration Graham Williamson said that the annual monitoring report is a “mixed bag”, as it also shows that 30% more family homes are being built.

However, only 70 of the 624 homes built in 2021/22 were “affordable” and 19 social rent council homes were lost.

The annual report, which monitors whether the council is hitting targets and priorities in its Local Plan, is the first to be published since 2017/18.

This is because the former Conservative administration did not approve the current Local Plan until November 2021, five years after it was first due.

Under the Local Plan, the council set a target of building about 8,500 homes by 2021.

However, failure to build enough in recent years means a “shortfall” of about 2,300 homes has been added to the current target along with a 20% buffer, bringing the total 12,943 new homes within the next five years.

Housing targets for local councils include all new developments in the borough, most of which are out of the council’s direct control.

The government recently announced that it may loosen the rules around housing targets but it has not yet confirmed any policy change.

Inflation and a “sharp rise” in construction costs have forced many house building projects to slow down or pause, including Havering Council’s own flagship “12 Estates” regeneration programme.

Plans for thousands of new homes in Beam Park also stalled in 2021 after it emerged that the Department for Transport is refusing to approve a business case for a new station on the site.

Opening a new station was a key condition included in planning permission for the new homes to be built.

Council leader Ray Morgon, who pledged a “full review” of the Local Plan if he was elected in May last year, launched a “refresh” last week and as part of that the council is calling on residents to submit suggestions for new sites that could be built on.

For more information, visit the council’s website: https://www.havering.gov.uk/news/article/1208/call_for_sites_launches_as_local_plan_refresh_begins


Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter