Harborough has no duty to build extra homes from Leicester's overspill, says MP

Leicester has an unmet need for more than 18,000 homesLeicester has an unmet need for more than 18,000 homes
Leicester has an unmet need for more than 18,000 homes
The deadline to take on some 2,000 extra properties is in September

Claims have been made Harborough has no duty to take houses from Leicester’s overspill – as a deadline to take some 2,000 extra properties looms.

Harborough MP and former minister for levelling up, Neil O’Brien says a duty to cooperate – which requires bodies to work together addressing planning issues – has never meant Harborough District Council needs to take houses from authorities which cannot meet targets.

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If the council agreed to plans it would see the district build 687 homes a year instead of the 346 it had originally planned for.

Council leader Phil Knowles said the authority understood that until new legislation was in place it had to take ‘unmet housing need from areas which could not meet theirs’.

Leicester has an unmet housing need for some 18,400 homes.

After speaking to Mr O’Brien the council leader has written to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, for clarification.

In a letter to Mr Gove, Cllr Knowles said: “I would ask you urgently clarify government’s position on the legal requirements to comply with the duty to cooperate and your policy on the unmet need of neighbouring authorities and our obligation to accommodate this.

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“My council is to make a decision on whether to sign the Statement of Common Ground on September 18 so your urgent attention would be appreciated. This is a key milestone in the production of our local plan and any further delays could result in significant planning consequences for my district.

“The clarity on this position will not only help my council in its decision but also make the position clear for authorities across Leicestershire.”

Signing the Statement of Common Ground would accept a proportion of Leicester City’s housing need through the next Harborough local plan.

MP Neil O’Brien said: “The duty to cooperate has never created any requirement to take numbers of houses from neighbouring authorities. As it happens, the duty is now being abolished, but even if it had been continuing, it would not require Harborough District Council to accept the proposed substantial increase in its housing requirement to take on Leicester's overspill.

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"In recent elections, councillors in the Lib Dem, Labour and Green coalition running Harborough complained about too much house building, but now they are now going to sign up to accept a quarter more houses.

“There is no legal requirement for them to do this. It will put further pressure on local infrastructure. It is also unfair - the City of Leicester should meet its own housing requirements rather than give up and push them out onto surrounding districts.

“Harborough has delivered a huge amount of housing in recent years and elected councillors need to stand up to local officials and say a clear ‘no’ to this unfair proposal.”

Mr Knowles added council officers’ understanding was until new legislation is in place, the duty to co-operate remains and any local plans submitted before June 2025 are judged under the old guidance and regulations. They also believed current government policy also means that any unmet housing needs in one local authority area should be met in neighbouring areas.

The council leader has requested a meeting with Mr Gove and ministers.