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Is Sheffield City Council still in the grip of the Tilted Balance?

Sheffield City Council has rung in the New Year by publishing its 5-Year Housing Land Supply Monitoring Report, and it makes for interesting reading.

With a base date of 1 April 2020, the Report outlines that the City has used the now ‘old’ standard method figure of 2,131 net additional homes per year to calculate its housing need – a consequence of the Core Strategy and Unitary Development Plan (UDP) being more than 5 years old. All well and good, until you compare the ‘adopted’ figure with that of the new Standard Method figures. As many of you will know, the revised Standard Method is essentially the old one, with a 35% ‘bolt-on’ for major urban areas, of which Sheffield is one of twenty. This ‘bolt-on’ takes Sheffield’s actual annual requirement to a minimum of 2,877 homes per annum; an increase of 746 homes per annum.

It goes without saying that an increased housing requirement requires significantly increased delivery rates, something Sheffield City Council simply cannot demonstrate a solid track record in, according to their own evidence.

Ultimately, it doesn’t look altogether promising that the Council can meet their ‘adopted’ housing target, let alone the target with the 35% uplift applied.

Furthermore, there is a strong reliance, particularly in years 4 and 5 of the supply period (to 2025) upon urban living. Despite the apparent availability of sites in the City for this type of offer it remains to be seen, in current market conditions, whether the demand truly exists for urban living – and will continue to exist in a post-pandemic world. Nonetheless, a reliance upon the type of sites so often slowed down by any number of constraints, seems a risky move.

Interestingly, and something which we will inevitably see more commonly, is specific reference to COVID-19. The Report outlines key issues in relation to sourcing materials and the ageing construction workforce slowing delivery, something which the Council states it has accounted for in its estimates on delivery. Having been published mid-pandemic it will be interesting to see the impact that is felt this time next year, now that the crisis has re-intensified and lockdown re-implemented.

All of the above leads to serious doubts as to whether the City Council could, when pushed, demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply. The question is, who is going to be first to push them?

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