The Government protects its Standard Method and each of the components that feed into it. None more so than the 2014-based population projections, which are enshrined within the Planning Practice Guidance. Indeed, it is apparently the data which gets closest to the 300,000 dwellings per year target. However, we should be careful not to turn a blind eye to more recent data.
Last week, the Office for National Statistics published the mid-year estimates for 2020. Looking at some of the population estimates for a couple of the districts within which Artisan has ongoing projects, it is clear that the 2014-based population projections got it wrong – at least for these districts.
Comparing the population in the years which we have figures in both sets of data, i.e. 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, a clear trend emerges. For both of the subject authorities, the 2014-based population projections have underestimated the population figures as well as the rate of growth. Both districts have a higher population than the 2014-based projections forecast and both districts are growing faster than forecast. Consequently, the use of the 2014 based projections in the standard method will likely not meet the housing need of the subject districts.
The Standard Method was always a blunt tool, which has never really achieved what it set out to do. Its over-reliance on historic data is now failing at least the two subject districts. Of course, we acknowledge the small sample size of only two districts. However, Artisan will now be reviewing the quality of the data for each new administrative area in which we are instructed to calculate the housing need.
Local Planning Authorities are required to review their policies every 5 years. The 2014-based data was published in 2016 – 5 years ago. The urban centres uplift that required an arbitrary 35% to be applied to the 20 largest cities in England do not help those districts such as those discussed above. It is now time to review the standard method properly, without any further ‘quick fixes’. However, given the political outcry at the last attempt to overhaul the standard method, any solution will likely be designed to appease MPs rather than meet the housing need in this country.