To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the future of the joint housing land availability studies which were recommended in his Department's circular 15/84.
Joint studies by local planning authorities and housebuilders which look in detail at the housing land supply situation, have now been completed for 33 structure plan areas; details are given in my Department's "Progress Report Land for Housing", published on 13 November, copies of which are in the Library.These studies have demonstrated their value in establishing the facts of land availability, and I hope that planning authorities and housebuilders will continue to cooperate in keeping them up to date.Problems have arisen in some instances over the treatment of sites which are not individually identified in the study, but may in aggregate make a significant contribution to land supply. It may be helpful to amplify the advice given in paragraph 8 of annex B to DOE circular 15/84.Land availability studies should not normally attempt to identify small sites of less than 0·4 ha (one acre) or infill sites; nor should they identify small sites which are not specifically allocated for development or redevelopment. But such sites, together with the conversion of larger houses into smaller units or the adaptation of nonresidential buildings for use as housing, can make a useful contribution to total housing provision and this is to be encouraged. It is reasonable therefore that land availability studies should include a realistic allowance for supply from these sources. On the basis of past experience and appraisal of future potential, the local planning authority and housebuilders should aim to agree an allowance for this in the overall assessment. Whatever allowance is made should be clearly justified by evidence of the contribution which such sites have made to housing provision in the area in recent years, and should not be overestimated.Larger sites of more than 0·4 ha that are likely to become available for development within the five-year period should normally be capable of being identified and should be assessed on the basis set out in the circular. While some unidentified sites of more than 0·4 ha may become available, their incidence is likely to be highly variable and their contribution to housing land supply is inherently unpredictable. To attempt to take such sites into account is likely to introduce too great an element of uncertainty into the overall assessment and no allowance should be made in the studies for this factor.