We recently published our South East Regional Market Report looking at key demographic trends and their impact on the housing market.
As part of this, we also looked at the role the planning system had to play – and discovered that under 30% of local planning authorities (LPAs) in the South East have a Local Plan that was adopted less than five years ago.
And East Sussex was one of the worst-performing counties in the region. We take a look at why this is happening and the impact it is having on East Sussex’s housing delivery.
Why are Local Plans important?
Local Plans help set and enforce planning policy for each LPA. They outline areas that should be used for development whilst safeguarding other areas to protect the environment and interests of the community.
Or as Gov.uk put it, the role of Local Plans is to:
“set out a vision and a framework for the future development of the area, addressing needs and opportunities in relation to housing, the economy, community facilities and infrastructure – as well as a basis for conserving and enhancing the natural and historic environment, mitigating and adapting to climate change, and achieving well designed places.”
Once a local planning authority (LPA) has drafted its Local Plan, it has to be approved by the Planning Inspectorate to make sure it aligns with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
They should then be reviewed every five years to make sure the plans and policies are still relevant.
Local Plans in East Sussex
Currently, all Local Plans in East Sussex are out of date – creating a challenging landscape for developers to secure planning on their projects.
Brighton and Hove was the only local authority in the county that had over half of their major planning applications decided within the recommended 13-week time frame between 2017 and 2021.
All other local authorities have more planning applications delivered late than on time.
On top of this, all East Sussex LPAs are scoring poorly for minor applications as well.
The highest-performing LPA, Hastings, is still only making decisions on 49% of minor applications within the recommended 8 weeks (over a five year period). That’s over half taking longer than they should be. And every other LPA in the area is performing worse.
So, it’s clear that out-of-date Local Plans are having an impact on the time taken to get planning applications approved – and as a result, extend the timelines for housing delivery. But what knock-on effect does this have on the housing market in East Sussex?
How are Local Plans impacting housing target delivery in East Sussex?
Four out of six East Sussex LPAs under-delivered on the targets set by the 2021 housing delivery test.
Eastbourne is one of the worst-performing local authorities – delivering 32% of its targets in 2021 and 29% in 2020. The lack of supply is also being reflected in its sharply increasing house prices. Between November 2021 and November 2022, the average house price rose by 12%.
Some LPAs in East Sussex are over-delivering against their target, like Brighton and Hove which were at 136% to target in 2021’s housing delivery test.
While East Sussex has no Green Belt, over 12,000 hectares of its land is classified as either a national park, AONB (Area of Outstanding Beauty), or an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). This comes to 68% of the total land area of East Sussex, massively restricting the land developers can get planning permission on.
What does this mean for the future of East Sussex’s housing market?
All these things – from out-of-date Local Plans to land constraints – impact the delivery of new homes.
And when we look at population projections for East Sussex, we see just how much new homes are needed.
Rother is projected to grow by 12.7% between 2021 and 2031, and Lewes by 9.6% – contributing to increased housing pressures.
Rother’s LPA is already under special measures which comes as no surprise with a housing delivery test result of 57%. Combine this with an out-of-date Local Plan and over 90% of its total land area being protected, Rother is likely going to struggle to create new housing at a pace that will match this demand.
However, Rother has been improving their speed of new home delivery. It saw an increase of 27% in new homes between 2017 and 2021, whilst other LPAs in the county (such as Hastings) experienced a drop.
This is just a snapshot of one local authority and its challenges but this is happening on a county-wide (and regional) scale. And the proposed changes to the NPPF are likely to make it even harder to get planning applications through.
But arming yourself with the right data and tech can help make it easier to spot opportunities and get ahead of your competitors.
Find out more in our regional report
Download a copy of our South East Regional Market Report to learn more about the housing market across local authorities in the region, including:
- House prices
- Population data
- Local constraints