Saturday, 6 October 2012

How many new properties by 2030?

My article in the latest edition of the Cornish Guardian focused on the ongoing debate about housing numbers for the next twenty years. It is as follows:

On Thursday 27th September, the new pressure group “Our Cornwall” was launched in Truro. It is campaigning against the over-development of the Duchy, which it states is leading to “massive estates on green-field sites, soulless car-dependent suburbs, more traffic congestion, more pollution, declining town centres and irreversible environmental damage.”

I have great sympathy with the aims of the group. Over the last two years, 4,450 new housing units were built in Cornwall and, as of April 2012, there were 15,460 extant planning consents. And that does not even include the 1,500 new houses and flats recently granted to the west of Truro.

I believe planning is clearly out of control. Hundreds of planning permissions are being given and yet, because of government policies on housing and a lack of investment, little is happening to reduce the housing costs for local people earning local wages in places like Cornwall.

On Friday 28th September, I chaired the most recent meeting of Cornwall Council’s Planning Policy Advisory Panel, which focused on the housing target for the next two decades.

The officers had tabled a report which recommended that the number of new housing units to be built between 2010 and 2030 should total 49,000. The officers also argued that the housing target was based on population projections from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), an assumed decrease in average household size and a range of other factors.

They were supported by a handful of councillors, who argued that if the target was too much lower it would not get through “inspection” by the Planning Inspectorate. Apparently, under the Coalition’s new “localism” agenda, local councils can make important political decisions as long as they are fully in-line with what central government wants.

But not all councillors agreed with this view. At the meeting, I presented an alternative proposal for a lower housing target of 38,000 with the support of Camborne Councillor Dave Biggs.

We knew that between 1991 and 2010, 42,000 new properties were built in Cornwall. And evidence from the census and other sources is now showing that levels of in-migration are slowing, while household size is not decreasing as previously predicted. So, we could not see how the Council could justify or evidence such an increase in the levels of house construction over previous decades.

We also argued that the priority need was not open-market housing, but delivering genuine local-needs housing, and we will continue to demand that the policies are rejigged to work for ordinary people.

For the record, members of the Panel voted by six votes to three voted to throw out the 49,000 target and to recommend to the ruling Cabinet that the housing target for 2010-2030 should be 38,000.

1 comment:

Mike Minded said...

If the value of second homes were to be capped at, for instance, £200,000 then the number of existing houses becoming available would increase dramatically, thus reducing the number of new builds required.
Local people cannot afford houses in their area and there is no such animal as `low cost' housing.
Cap second homes and allow locals to remain local!