To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what assessment he has made of the achievability of housing targets across Somerset in the context of the time taken to process planning applications as a result of nutrient neutrality requirements in the Somerset Levels and Moors Ramsar catchment area.
The National Planning Policy Framework implemented a standard method for calculating local housing need in order to give a clear understanding of the minimum number of homes an area needs to plan for. The method provides a minimum number of homes, not a maximum, and does not provide a target. Authorities are expected to use it as the starting point in the process of planning for new homes. Once this has been established, local authorities will still need to consider the constraints they face locally, which could include nutrient pollution, to assess how many homes can be delivered in their area. If they cannot meet all their need then they should work collaboratively with neighbouring authorities to see if need would best be met elsewhere. At the end of this process the authority will finalise their housing target and this will be tested by planning inspectors for robustness.
The Government is working to tackle nutrients pollution. Together with DEFRA, we have set up a monthly Government task force involving Natural England and the Environment Agency to ensure a clear action plan is in place, focusing on solutions for both permitting housebuilding to resume while not compromising the condition of Protected Sites. Alongside this, we are continuing to support Local Planning Authorities through the work of the Planning Advisory Service.