How to use SHLAA data to source off-market land

SHLAA data is an incredibly powerful source of information for developers, as it includes off-market building sites that have already been assessed for potential planning. Here, we show you how to make use of our Strategic Land Tool and to utilise our SHLAA mapping layer to find off market sites that are most likely to convert.

Hugh Gibbs
January 2, 2024

Local planning authorities in England must create and keep a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), showing potential sites for residential development. Searchland has compiled much of the SHLAA data into one comprehensive mapping layer on our platform. Here, we explore three ways to use our Strategic Land Tool to leverage this SHLAA data for finding prospective house-building sites.

What is SHLAA and how does it work?

The SHLAA is a technical exercise, undertaken by local authorities, to assess available land to meet their five-year housing targets. The method differs slightly between councils, but often involves a Call For Sites”, inviting stakeholders to submit land with development potential, including any proposed schemes and timescales.

LPAs may consider a broad range of sites (including greenfield and brownfield), although Government guidelines suggest each should support five or more homes or 0.25 ha/500 Sqm economic development. Sites are assessed against local constraints for suitability and deliverability, and then designated as “negative”, “neutral” or “positive” for future development.  

SHLAA tool on Searchland
SHLAA layers on Searchland

Sourcing off-market land for your pipeline is one of the challenges of running a property business. Not least, is finding the time to search, and to evaluate any prospects, alongside local planning regulations. A major benefit of exploring SHLAA data is that these sites have been assessed by the LPA for their development potential.

If you are not already familiar with how to use our Strategic Planning Tool, why not reach out to one of our team, for an introduction to the platform? Meanwhile, read on to explore three ways in which you can use our SHLAA mapping layer to source your next development site.

Strategy 1 - using positively assessed SHLAA sites

According to the NPPF, “Deliverable” sites are those that are “available now, offer a suitable location for development now, and can be achievable …within five years”. 

Start your search by filtering to find positively assessed sites in your preferred planning authority area. You can click through to find out details of each site, including the decision-making criteria. Then look for sites nearby with similar features.

Using our Sourcing Tool, you can filter prospects for constraints and ownership details, and even save them for review later. Our recent blog on sourcing land off-market outlines how to make the most of this search.

Sites you find using this method will tend to have relatively higher chances of approval compared to others not near approved sites. This is simply because they share characteristics with approved sites and are already within an area deemed appropriate for land development.

Strategy 2 – neutral and negatively reviewed sites

Neutral or “Developable” sites are those which have the potential for house building but did not meet one or more of the SHLAA measures for inclusion. Reasons may include:

·       Lack of clear developer involvement, and hence failure to demonstrate deliverability within the five-year timescale.  

·       Constraints, such as environmental considerations, which may be overcome with your planning knowledge and expertise.

·       The application may simply require an alternative approach, such as a lower density of housing or alternative use.

These sites, albeit more challenging, may offer opportunities for you to address any limitations and obtain a more positive response from the planners.

A site can also be dismissed for reasons which can be revisited later. In the example illustrated below, the site was deemed undevelopable due to a "lack of up-to-date expression of interest from the landowner” at the time of the original submission. This is exciting, as it means that the decision was not wholly bound by planning constraints.

SHLAA reviewed negatively due to Green Belt

A direct approach to the landowner with an alternative proposition may find them more willing to engage and negotiate. Did we mention that we have an inbuilt letter-writing tool for you to contact vendors directly?

Strategy 3 – using the Five-Year Housing Delivery Test

As well as maintaining a five-year supply of building land, each LPA is obliged to build a set number of new homes each year within its boundaries. The three-yearly Housing Delivery Test shows any local authority which is excelling, struggling, or failing to build enough homes to meet these Government targets. 

This is where strategy #3 comes in.

Happily, Searchland has details of all these results, which means you can take a much more strategic approach to your efforts.

Using the combined toolkit of mapping layers and Strategic Land filters, you can search for and drill down to find possible sites within local councils that are failing to hold a five-year land supply, and/or to pass their Housing Test. These LPAs will generally have a higher demand for land development and a higher site approval rate, and therefore make very attractive targets for site finding – and a win-win for all involved.

Why use Searchland to access SHLAA data?

Leveraging SHLAA data is an incredibly powerful way to find off market sites that will have a greater potential of passing through planning.  However, without the right tools, it can be challenging, not least due to the time involved in searching disparate sources, and the variations in criteria between planners.

Searchland’s powerful mapping system can help you find those opportunities quickly and efficiently, taking out much of the hassle that comes with locating properties for development. Contact us today to find out more about how we can save you time and effort.

Hugh Gibbs
March 1, 2023

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