07 Jun Park Homes and Housing Supply
By James Sumner, Executive Director at Warfield Park, Bracknell
This article was published in Park Home & Holiday Living magazine in May 2023. It follows on from an article in April 2022 which can be viewed here on the magazine website.
There has been a housing crisis in this country for decades. The lack of housing supply has pushed up prices inexorably making homes increasingly unaffordable, especially for younger generations who are finding even starter homes unattainable. Successive governments have recognised this and tried to address the issue, but with limited success so far.
Park Homes are becoming increasingly popular. According to the House of Commons Library there are 85,000 park homes on 2,000 licensed sites across the country. Despite their popularity, almost no councils make provision for park homes in their local plans. This despite them being acceptable development in the countryside, deliverable, sustainable and affordable. More park homes would contribute to the housing supply numbers and make a valuable contribution to addressing the crisis. They will also increase diversity and choice in the housing market and provide specialist housing for older people.
The current government made a manifesto commitment in 2019 to be building 300,000 homes per year from the middle of this decade to address the crisis. Pressure on councils was ratcheted-up with the creation of the ‘naughty step’ for the 10 worst offending councils with the most out of date local plans or making the least amount of progress – York had the most out of date local plan, followed by St Albans with a plan dating from 1992. A deadline of 2023 was also introduced for all councils to have an up-to-date local plan. As usual, it is not expected that this deadline will be enforced.
What are local plans?
Every planning authority is obliged to produce and adopt a local plan, although there are still many which do not have an up to date one. A local plan identifies and allocates land for development to meet local housing and other needs. The plan looks forward 15 years and uses a nationally set standard methodology including housing and affordability data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to determine what the housing need will be over that period. The local plan process typically starts with a ‘call for sites’, where landowners, or land promoters, put forward land for consideration. These sites are then assessed for their sustainability and deliverability, and the sites which fit the criteria and will deliver the housing need over the period, are allocated and included within the plan. The plan is then examined in public by a planning inspector and, following approval, adopted by the council.
Back Bench rebellion
Many of the projected housing numbers are in the southeast, with a substantial number in the Home Counties. Councils have been challenging the projected housing need figures themselves with local communities being very vocal in opposition of specific developments, of green belt development and the veracity of the housing need figures.
Most of these areas are Conservative heartlands. Local MPs have taken up the fight as they view the issue as a vote loser both locally and nationally. They all remember the 2021 Chesham & Amersham by-election when the seat was lost to the LibDems following a massive 25 per cent swing away from the Conservatives. The key doorstep issue was development in the green belt in the district, albeit mainly the route of HS2.
The current administration, with Michael Gove MP returning as Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), is currently bringing forward the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURP) and has just completed consultation on reforms to national planning guidance, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The LURP is currently at committee stage in the House of Lords and the NPPF consultation concluded earlier in March with final proposals promised in the spring.
There have been suggestions that the way the housing numbers are calculated will be revised, with the standard methodology not being compulsory but a starting point for councils to base what they think is their local housing need. This will not necessarily mean councils will be able to cut their housing numbers as they would need to justify that the numbers chosen are robust to the planning inspector.
The one area which is very unclear is green belt. The NPPF consultation talks about there being no requirement for councils to review the green belt in order to meet its housing needs. For some councils that means they will be unable to meet its housing needs and it is unclear what they will do in those circumstances.
None of these changes the fact that we are in the midst of a housing crisis and the only way out of it is to build more homes: there is no question that there is a huge pent-up demand for housing already in the country, and immigration and organic population growth will only add to that.
Why not park homes?
Park homes are both alike and different to traditional brick and block houses. They are alike as park homes are modern, bungalow-style detached homes. Occupiers enjoy all the usual amenities, such as garages, sheds and patios, as well as paying council tax. But they are certainly different in terms of planning; in terms of the local plan process, the planning system itself and the approach to Permitted Development (PD) rights.
Park homes can offer an opportunity for independent edge of settlement or even rural living. The development at Warfield Park, one of the largest park home sites in the country, is a good example: it is outside the settlement boundary of Bracknell and technically located in the countryside. Park homes can count towards the housing supply numbers and help address the housing shortage.
In addition, sites for park homes can be developed far more quickly than traditional homes and so can contribute to the crisis faster. This is because they are manufactured in factories and then transported to site. Off-site construction also improves quality and sustainability.
Although park homes are largely open to anyone, such a provision also provides an opportunity for councils to provide specialist housing for older people, another type of housing rarely included within local plans. The over 55s is now the largest population sector in the country but very little is done to provide them with viable and attractive housing options. This means they tend to remain in their family homes, which itself restricts the market as those family homes are desperately needed by young families. They, in turn, cannot move which blocks their smaller homes from coming back on the market for first time buyers.
Councils are missing opportunities by not including park homes in their local plans. Apart from numbers, they would increase choice in the housing market, and a valuable addition to the housing numbers. They also provide the opportunity for housing for older people, releasing more family homes back onto the market increasing mobility.
This article follows on in Park Home & Holiday Living magazine on 12 April 2022. It can be viewed here on the magazine website.
PICTURE YOURSELF LIVING AT WARFIELD PARK
If you’re not yet a resident, picture yourself living at Warfield Park. Here you can enjoy all of the benefits of a small leafy rural community with fantastic neighbours, social events and activities onsite, while having a wider community just beyond the entrance. We are located in Warfield, Bracknell, with a bustling town centre, mainline train station and motorways within easy reach. You could say we are ‘A Quintessentially British Village’ in regard to how life can be experienced here inside the Park.
GET IN TOUCH
If you would like to know more about homes available or information on living in Warfield Park, or would like to write an article for our blog, you can call us on 01344 884666 or email us. If you would like to keep up with all the park news, make sure you follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn