Local authorities have a duty to maintain an adequate and up-to-date supply of sites which are suitable for housing, employment and other types of development. One of the main ways in which local authorities source new potential development sites is a special consultation known as a ‘call for sites exercise’. The call for sites exercise provides a valuable early opportunity for individuals, landowners, developers and other interested parties to submit their sites or broad locations to their local authority, for inclusion on their database of sites from which potential future development sites may be selected through the local plan process.
In addition to local authority call for sites exercises, some parish and town councils, which are in the process of preparing a neighbourhood plan, will also undertake their own call for sites exercise. It is certainly possible to submit the same site to both a local authority and also a neighbourhood plan call for sites exercise.
Local authorities will need to assess a range of different site sizes, from small scale opportunities to large scale developments (e.g. village and town extensions). National guidance stipulates that local authorities should consider all sites and broad locations which are capable of delivering five or more dwellings or economic development on sites of 0.25+ hectares (or 500m²+ of employment floorspace). However, this doesn’t rule out sites which fall beneath these thresholds, particularly for neighbourhood plan exercises.
For sites where residential or employment development is proposed, local authorities and neighbourhood plan steering groups will consider both greenfield (undeveloped) and brownfield (previously development) sites. To stand the best chance of being added to the database, sites should be located either within or adjacent to built-up boundaries of existing settlements.
Sometimes local authorities will specifically ask for ‘green infrastructure’ sites to be submitted. These are sites which would not be developed, but which could be used for mitigating the impacts of other development sites. For example, sites may be needed to provide semi-natural greenspace for recreation or to provide opportunities to enhance biodiversity or to capture waterborne nitrates from adjacent development. Naturally, such sites are likely to be within the countryside and may not be adjacent to an existing settlement.
Local authorities will require the submission of their own call for sites application forms, along with a map identifying the boundary of the proposed site and a covering letter. This can be submitted either electronically or via post. Neighbourhood plan steering groups are generally less prescriptive as long as the site is well described and the details are clear.
Details of the call for sites exercise and associated application forms will be provided on the local authority’s website. It should be noted that there is sometimes a deadline for sites to be submitted, whereas in other cases the exercise is not definitive and in certain cases there may be an opportunity to submit sites at any time.
Upon the closure of the call for sites exercise, local authorities will begin to assess the suitability of each site within a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) or Strategic Housing and Employment Land Availability Assessment (SHELAA). This assessment can be a lengthy process; hence the possibility in some cases to submit sites for consideration at any time.
These SHLAA or SHELAA assessments form an important part of the local authority’s evidence base for their current local plan and any forthcoming local plan review. This is because they form the key database of sites (housing, employment etc.) which are potentially developable and deliverable within the area and from which sites are likely to be selected for allocation in the next local plan.
It is important to note that if a site is included within the SHLAA or similar, it does not imply that it will automatically be included as an allocation in the local plan. Only those sites that are needed to meet development requirements and which meet the criteria in terms of site size, location, suitability and availability are likely to be allocated.
Furthermore, a site’s inclusion within the SHLAA or similar, does not in itself determine whether a site should be granted planning permission. However, it will be a material consideration in the determination of planning applications if a local authority has assessed the site as being suitable for development in its SHLAA/SHELAA.
For neighbourhood plan call for sites exercises, the steering group will assess the site (possibly drawing on outside expertise) and will then take forward for public consultation only those sites that are considered to be suitable and available for the type and scale of development required within the neighbourhood plan.
If you are a landowner or an interested party and you would like any particular site to be considered by the local authority (or any relevant neighbourhood plan steering group) please feel free to email me with your contact details, outlining how we may be of assistance to you.