Monday, 6 November 2017

MK response to UK Government housing consultation

This weekend, on behalf of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall, I responded to the UK Government’s most recent consultation on housing.

Titled “Planning for the right homes in the right places,” the document sets out measures to “boost housing supply” and “increase local authority capacity to manage growth” – whatever that means. In particular, it proposes a “standard method” for calculating housing targets for local councils.

Over the last few years, I have often written about the process through which Cornwall Council devised its Local Plan (that includes a policy for 52,500 new properties during the period 2010-2030).

It has been well-documented that I made the case for a lower housing target and a greater focus on the provision of genuinely affordable housing for local people.

But it turned out that policy shifts from central government and input from a government inspector meant that fewer local-needs properties would be provided on developments while the housing target was increased.

The annual target is therefore 2,625 units but, in a number of recent years, fewer units have been built. This means that there has been “under-delivery” and, as a consequence, central government expects Cornwall to build even more properties to address this “backlog.”

I continue to be extremely frustrated at how Cornwall’s housing stock has been growing at a faster rate than almost all other parts of the United Kingdom and yet we are still under pressure from Whitehall to ratchet up the extent of development even further.

It is frankly unacceptable and I am saddened at how their new consultation even includes, council area by council area, the result of their calculation of an “indicative assessment of housing need” – removing, once and for all, any illusion that local councillors decide the extent of growth in their areas.

Their assessment would set an annual target of 2,889 – which would equate to a future target of 57,780 if spread over a twenty-year plan period.

However, the good news is that, as Cornwall Council has just adopted its Local Plan, the “new standardised method” would not come into effect immediately.

Nonetheless, this top-down imposition of a “standard” approach to housing growth would take decisions on planning policy even further away from local communities, and I do not believe that Government officials inside the M25 corridor know what is best for Cornwall and its people.

It remains my view that we need to see a Cornish National Planning Policy Framework, which would allow local people to bring forward more sustainable planning policies with development geared to meet local needs and defend the Cornish countryside.

[This is my article in this week's Cornish Guardian].

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