One of the major challenges facing Somerset is that of meeting the growing demand for housing, created by the increasing number of residents and changing structure of the population. Local Development Plans have recognised the importance of meeting the projected demand, Note that in Somerset there are six planning authorities: the five District or Borough Councils (Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset, Taunton Deane and West Somerset) and Exmoor National Park Authority, which also covers part of Devon.
- Since 2006-07, approximately 20,000 new homes have been completed in the county.
- 2015/16 saw the most dwellings completed in the last ten years (2,250). However, following two successive years of increase, the number of new dwellings completed in Somerset declined in 2016/17.
- In 2016/17, 87% of dwelling completions were in the private sector, 13% were Housing Associations.
- A total of 1,880 new permanent dwellings were started in Somerset in 2016/17, a decline on the 2,090 starts during 2015/16.
Source: Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)
There are a number of plans for further developments in the coming years, and thousands of homes have been granted planning permission and/or are already under way. How many will actually be built will depend upon various factors including economic climate and approval of local applications.
Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 relates to money paid by developers to Local Planning Authorities in order to offset the costs of the external effects of development, such as additional infrastructure, effects on local schools, etc. The previous process of agreeing Section 106 payments from developers is, to a large extent, being replaced by the Community Infrastructure Levy. All services need to consider the impact of new developments, and ensure that operational and commissioning plans identify additional resource needs.
The importance of Mixed tenure developments
Mixed tenure and inherently mixed-income developments create balanced and sustainable communities offering a broad choice of housing options.
There have been numerous studies showing that developments with a mix of social rented, low cost home ownership and private ownership are not characterised by the problems often linked with exclusively low-income areas with predominantly social rented housing. It enhances community stability and cohesion while also reducing the stigma that is often attached to mono-tenure housing estates.
Design, including home type and size, location and quality of housing, are key factors to develop balanced, sustainable communities and the principles should be applied for each housing development regardless of size. The environment in which houses are built is every bit as important as the houses themselves (for example, nearby shops, community facilities, open space, transport links, etc). The right design and spatial planning, with particular regard to affordable housing, will create commuities that everyone wants to live in and integrate residents regardless of tenure. Providing a broad choice of housing will encourage a mix of residents.
The aim is to develop housing where it is 'tenure blind' in terms of design; the affordable and market housing should be integrated. The houses should also meet the highest possible Build Standards. Currently most affordable housing is built to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 3 as a minimum, and building regulations have been enhanced in recent years to ensure all housing is built to elements contained within that Code. There is an ongoing consultation regarding Building Standards to bring both private sector and affordable housing standards to the same basic level. This will have benefits for issues such as energy efficiency and fuel poverty.
Monitoring Local Developments and Future Planning
Each local planning authority is required to publish each year an Annual or Authorities Monitoring Report (AMR) to monitor the impact of planning policies against expected outcomes. National planning policy also requires Authorities to identify and maintain a rolling five-year supply of deliverable land for housing.
To see the AMRs and associated documents and contextual information for each organisation in Somerset (five District Councils and Exmoor National Park), please see the following links: