Housing takes more land than any other type of development, so the challenge for planning is to get the right amount of the right type in places where it will be beneficial rather than harmful. Green Balance has considerable experience in helping clients to promote sound arguments for appropriate housing, both in policy and individual cases.

Understanding housing issues

Green Balance has well-established experience in analysing how housing and planning practices affect each other.  Our interest in presenting research findings clearly for clients and wider audiences often means that our reports are used in pressing for new policies.

For example, our explanation of the household projections in England for the Campaign to Protect Rural England in 2009 aimed to be usable by CPRE Branches when contributing to emerging local plans: see Housing the Future: an analysis of the Government’s household projections and their use in planning for new housing.  Our research report Planning for Housing Affordability: Why providing more land for housebuilding will not reduce house prices at the height of the housing boom in 2007, also for CPRE, is reported on our Research page.

Green Balance can investigate technical aspects of planning for housing and present them clearly.  We can highlight the assumptions which underlie the numbers behind the officially required 'objectively assessed need' for housing and proposed housing land supplies.  For example, for CPRE Surrey in 2016 we carried out a Review of 'West Surrey Strategic Housing Market Assessment'.  Aside from the Government's population and household projections used to estimate demographic requirements, we showed for example that housing 'needs' were significantly inflated by:

  • untenable assumptions about employment growth;
  • fanciful modelling of the effect of housing supply on household formation rates; and
  • insufficient supply of halls of residents for students, who would occupy existing homes instead.

The National Planning Policy Framework was published in 2012, but within two years local authorities often found the new policy was forcing the release of sites for housing development which they considered inappropriate.  The Government's response was that councils would be in full control of land release once they had adopted their own new Local Plans.  Green Balance was asked by the National Trust to test this argument.  Our research published in 2014 Housing Development on Unallocated Land showed that half the local authorities with Local Plans adopted post-NPPF were still being forced to release sites for housing which had not been identified in their own plans.  These were almost always for technical reasons caused by the wording of the NPPF or lack of developer enthusiasm for allocated sites, rather than due to any real shortage of building land.  The National Trust issued its own summary Positive Planning.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation asked Green Balance to provide an overview report A guide to land use and housing for its research programme into Reconciling Environmental and Social Concerns in 1999.  This aimed to answer a series of challenging questions around the themes of ‘Can we use less greenfield land for housing without failing those who need new homes’ and ‘Can we make all new house building more environmentally friendly without harming the interests of those on lower incomes?’

Population migration is controversial between Britain and overseas, but more people move between local authorities within England. Tracking the pattern of movers of different ages, their motivations and where they are moving from and to can help identify the pressures on housing markets around the country.  Green Balance helped to organise a conference for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on these issues and then co-authored a report On the Move: arising from the event and further research in 2000 (see also summary).

Advice on housing policy

Green Balance is often called-upon to provide expert advice on housing and planning issues.  This has been particularly extensive in the affordable housing sector (see Housing Case Study), and also includes advice on national policy and published commentary (see for example a review of Eco-Towns for ECOS: A review of conservation in 2008).

An early project was to provide the Secretary to an 18-month Inquiry into Planning for Housing for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), servicing a high-level membership which included two MPs, two Lords and three Professors.  This involved preparing papers for Inquiry meetings, facilitating a range of research studies in support of the Inquiry, and drafting the final report in 1994.

George Lefcoe, Professor of Real Estate Law at University of Southern California, who visited England to research his contributory report for JRF on The Impact of Planning Policies on Housing Affordability, wrote in thanks:

“The travelling land use seminar you orchestrated for me was the most interesting (and demanding) week I ever spent in England – filled with one eye-opening moment after another.  Even the most seasoned QC couldn’t have chosen better expert witnesses, or organised so insightful a set of meetings and tours.”

Richard Bate of Green Balance was a Specialist Adviser to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee of the House of Commons for fifteen years to 2012.  He has advised the Committee’s predecessors more frequently on it inquiries specifically into housing than any other topic: Housing (July 1998); Housing: PPG3 (July 1999); and Affordability and the Supply of Housing (June 2006).  See also Advice for our other select committee work.

We also advise local authorities on how to respond to housing pressures.  For example we advised Tunbridge Wells BC, Tonbridge & Malling BC and Sevenoaks DC on a joint West Kent Housing Strategy in 2005 to co-ordinate increased supply of affordable housing and other housing services across the area.


Get in touch

If we might be able to help you, please get in touch:

Case study


Affordable housing policies secured More »

Key resources:

Housing the Future: an analysis of the Government’s household projections and their use in planning for new housing

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Review of 'West Surrey Strategic Housing Market Assessment'

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Housing development on unallocated land

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Positive Planning

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On the Move: The housing consequences of migration

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On the Move: Summary

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Browngrad, Cooperville and Flintown: a note on Eco-Towns (article)

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