‘Objectively assessed need’ – not what it says on the label

Objectively assessed need is not objective. It is not properly assessed. And it is not need.

The fundamental idea underlying current national planning policy is nonsense.

What does ‘need’ mean? Well, we could ration housing to provide basic shelter for everyone, even if it’s nowhere near any decent job opportunities or their community. We don't strictly ‘need’ any more housing at all in some kind of totalitarian sense.

The real question should be whether more housing could be provided at affordable levels where people want it – generally near good job opportunities or other amenities – while protecting precious countryside, making our towns and cities more attractive, walkable and liveable, and with the support of local people.

The current system has no idea because it’s never tried to work that out. And we certainly can’t adopt that as a definition because trying to force councils to come up with that much more housing using the current system would cause a revolution.

So on one way of looking at it, there is no ‘need’ for more housing, because we could ration it out. On the other hand there is an incredibly long list of people who would love to live near better job opportunities. The fact that house prices are so many times the actual cost of building more homes in those places tells you that. We’ve also explained how that has caused massive damage to the economy.

What does ‘objectively assessed need’ really mean? It is being used to mean something like ‘taking the current insane shortage of housing in many places, and ignoring all the people who have been priced out, what is a reasonable projection of the organic growth in housing need in this area, assuming the situation doesn’t get any worse’?

It is a way of pressuring councils to allow as much more housing as politically feasible, without a revolt at the polls. That, and similar doublethink, have failed to work for forty years.

You just can’t fix a concept that is such rubbish. And we think forcing councils is not the easiest way to get more homes anyway.

There are plenty of ways to get many more homes that are truly affordable, while protecting everything that is precious, making our places better, and with local support. We'll be talking more about them soon.