Sunday, 27 October 2013

Eric Pickles and housing numbers

In last week’s Cornish Guardian, my article addressed the ongoing “debate” about the housing target to be “agreed” for Cornwall for the period 2010 to 2030.  It was as follows:

I recently chaired a five hour meeting at the unitary authority, which looked at how many new properties should be built in Cornwall over the next twenty years.

It was a difficult meeting. The discussion was less about what housing target would be appropriate for Cornwall and its communities, but more about what the Coalition expects the Council to do.

The previous Labour Government put in place a “regional spatial strategy” (RSS) which set out an extremely high housing target for Cornwall.

The RSS was abolished by the Coalition, which stated that it was “committed to localism and greater local decision-making in planning.” The Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, even pledged that his “planning reforms will bring a significant shift in power to local people” and he would allow them to decide how much housing is built and where.

Mr Pickles had earlier promised to “get out of the way” and “let councils and communities run their own affairs” – but this has not happened.

At last week’s meeting, councillors were advised that they would need to set a housing target of, at least, 47,500 new housing units in the Cornwall Local Plan,

This is based on strict guidelines from central government which require housing targets to exceed projections set out as so-called “objectively assessed needs.” These have to be included within a Strategic Housing Market Assessment, based upon data provided through the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Many councillors wish to challenge the data – not least the fact that all ONS population projections relating to Cornwall, over the last decade, have been massively over-egged.

But councillors were also told that if they set a lower target it would, almost certainly, be rejected by the (unelected) Planning Inspectorate, which would be following the diktats of Eric Pickles and his mates.

We were even provided with a massive list of local authorities, where Local Plans have been stalled because of governmental interference.

And if this happens in Cornwall, it will delay the adoption of our wider Local Plan for an extra one-two years, and leave Cornwall without up-to-date planning policies to refuse inappropriate planning applications.

So according to Mr Pickles and his “Coalition Localism,” councillors can either (i) roll over and do what they are told straight-away, or (ii) be over-ruled by the Government at a later date.

Isn’t local “democracy” great? 

No comments: