With work on many local development sites at a standstill, East and West Sussex local authorities and Brighton & Hove City Council have written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government asking for urgent steps to curb ‘speculative and unplanned development’ as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

The letter to Robert Jenrick MP was signed by the leaders of East and West Sussex Districts and Boroughs , East and West Sussex County Council and Brighton & Hove City Council and points out that with so much development on hold it is probable that Local Plans will be considered ‘out-of-date’.

Councillor Emily O’Brien, Cabinet Member for Planning at Lewes District Council, said:

“It is inevitable that housing supply will be significantly lower than expected, meaning we are likely to fail the Housing Delivery Test and not be able to demonstrate a five-year supply of land for housing. 

“If as a consequence our Local Plan is deemed out-of-date, it will harder to resist  speculative and unplanned development and turn East Sussex and Brighton & Hove into a patchwork of poorly located building sites.

“We are calling on the Secretary of State to take a number of steps that will avoid these unwanted consequences and allow local authorities to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis with the integrity of local planning policies intact.”

The council leaders have endorsed a list of measures to the Secretary of State;

• A suspension and/or roll forward of five-year land supply arrangements, to acknowledge the lost supply during lockdown and to avoid a surge of speculative applications

• Consequent changes to the Housing Delivery Test 

• Powers to extend the life of existing planning consents by the period of the lockdown

• Tying extension to the life of existing consents to firm timescales for (re)commencement of sites

• Proactive work and widespread intervention by Homes England with planning authorities and developers to support the resumption of development on allocated sites as quickly as possible

• Incentives to social registered landlords to resume work on their sites

• Consideration of using schemes such as the old ‘Homebuy Direct’ to enable any supply hangovers to be absorbed quickly as affordable housing

• Extending Local Plan review timescales. 

Councillor Zoe Nicholson, Leader of Lewes District Council, said:

“The effective functioning of the planning system is likely to be a key component of the economic recovery within East Sussex, with the right homes at the right time in the right places and we can all achieve that with the support of the government at this extraordinary time.”

Pictured above is Councillor Emily O’ Brien of Lewes Council