Development land sought in `Call for Sites’

A `Call for Sites’ is being issued by some UK councils which are seeking suitable development land as they look to update their Local Plans. This article explains the process and examines:

  • the background to housing and development land supply
  • the `Call for Sites’ procedure and required information for submissions
  • the next steps: a Broad Location Assessment and Assessment Review
  • the public presentation of evidence from the final assessment of all submitted sites

To find out more about how to get land designated for development, read on!

The supply of housing and development land

Responsibility for maintaining a supply of land for housing and economic development rests with local planning authorities which are required by Government to identify a future supply of suitable sites for housing, retail, commercial, recreation and leisure purposes. 

As part of the planning process, a local planning authority (LPA), needs to prove that it has a five-year supply of deliverable sites capable of providing a five-year allocation of housing, plus a buffer, to satisfy requirements set out in adopted strategic policies. 

A LPA can prove it has sufficient supply by reference to the local housing needs figure in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF); the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA); an Authority Monitoring Report (AMR) or the Housing and Economic Land Availability (HELAA), the method for assessing land availability. HELAA aims to identify a future supply of land for housing and economic development which meets the criteria of being suitable, available and achievable over the local plan period.

Land allocated for residential development.

The `Call for Sites’ process

When a need for more development sites is anticipated, a `Call for Sites’ may be issued to ensure that the process of identifying land and potential opportunities is as transparent as possible. This process is an early stage in the system of identifying suitable land which may attract planning permission. The LPA will examine the sites coming forward when drawing up a new Local Plan for the future development of an area, to see if they are suitable to be allocated for development or not. 

Sites put forward may be of any size or type and they may be occupied or vacant. The `Call for Sites’ message should be publicised as widely as possible to ensure that a fair opportunity is given to everyone who may have relevant land. Councils should notify parish councils, neighbourhood groups, landowners, developers and the local press and media. The `Call for Sites’ must clarify the information required.

Proposed development sites should be submitted with the following information:

  • A site location plan.
  • A summary of how the land fits with the development strategy and local planning policies to make a deliverable site.
  • The suggested type of development, for instance whether the proposal is for economic development purposes such as retail, offices, warehouses, leisure facilities or residential development. Detail such as tenure and the needs of specific groups of people such as old people’s accommodation, state funded schools, the private rental sector or perhaps land for self-builders can be included to help build a viable plan.
  • The scale of the proposed development.
  • Any constraints to development such as protected species designations, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Ramsar sites.
Residential properties mapped out on a developer’s plan.

The next steps

The planning authority or local council is obliged to assess all the proposed development sites at the initial considerations stage. A Broad Location survey will be carried out followed by a detailed Assessment Review to check the information gathered in the `Call for Sites’ and desk-top assessment.

Broad Location Assessment

This calculates the development potential of each site in relation to the existing or emerging local plan policy, in line with national guidance and NPPF policies, looking at suitability, availability, achievability and economic viability to assess whether a site is deliverable in the next five year plan term, 10 years or over a longer timescale.

The survey will record or check information about a site’s location, size and boundaries and its current use, taking into account the surrounding area. Any planning constraints will be considered, using information from the initial site survey, alongside NPPF policy regarding scale, type and distribution of development and the development plan.

Planning constraints may include flood risk, vehicular access, contamination and infrastructure. Planners will also examine a site’s proximity to public transport and services and assess whether it is suitable for one type of scheme or if greater opportunities exist with a flexible mixed use development.

Future requirements

Plan-makers will also clarify development progress on other sites in the Local Plan with planning permission, to assess the type and scale of development needed in the future and identify further sites with development potential which were identified in the `Call for Sites’. Unless evidence indicates otherwise, sites which do not involve major development with any form of permission and sites with detailed planning permission should be considered achievable within the next local plan term.

The appropriateness and market appeal of any proposed scheme will be assessed to establish whether it would help regeneration areas, alongside housing and economic need and its potential impacts on nature or heritage.

The sites will be examined against the adopted development plan taking account of whether the plan is up-to-date. If an emerging plan is being used to base the assessment on, any potential policy changes which may affect the site’s suitability must be considered. Sites in existing development plans or with full planning permission are considered suitable for development unless circumstances have altered.


When assessing availability, it must be established that there are no legal or ownership issues which may be problematic; having planning permission in place indicates a site’s availability, and sites complying with the definition of deliverability should be considered available unless other issues are identified.

Sites without planning permission can be considered available within the first five years, according the the five-year housing land supply guidance. A site is considered achievable if it is economically viable in terms of the likelihood of a developer completing and selling the development.

Assessment Review

On assessment of all sites and broad locations, the development potential of each can be calculated. Assessment should include the amount of housing and economic development land that is available and the relevant timescales. A risk assessment should also be made in view of sites not coming forward as planned. If there are not enough sites or broad locations coming forward, a closer look must be made at the assessment and a further Call for Sites may be required.

Changes may be made to the development potential of certain sites or to density figures to make the most of some sites near to town centres with good transport links; adjoining areas may also need to be considered. If needs still cannot be met, the planning authority must demonstrate why when the plan is examined.

Final evidence of the assessment

Following the assessment review, the local planning authority should produce:

  • a list of all the considered sites or broad locations.
  • an assessment of each, including reasons for the rejection or acceptance of a site. This should include an explanation of how any problems with a site’s delivery can be resolved and an indication of timescales for development following the granting of planning consent.
  • the assessment must be made publicly available and it can be used by local councils to demonstrate whether there is a five-year housing land supply for decision-making purposes.

When sites are allocated for the new Local Plan, the LPA must carry out a public consultation process on the options available; not all allocated sites progress to inclusion in the Plan.

Are you seeking planning permission?

Arbtech are your best asset when it comes to obtaining planning permission for your project. Covering the entire UK, the team will be pleased to help you with the surveys required, from environmental reports to protected species surveys. Visit to find out more.

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