Monday, 16 November 2015 13:25

Flawed housing targets 'threaten countryside'

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Flawed housing targets 'threaten countryside'

LOCAL housing targets are being driven by over-ambition rather than need, claim campaigners.

An overhaul of the way local authorities set housing targets in order to stop countryside being lost unnecessarily, said the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Research commissioned by CPRE suggests local authorities are in effect being asked to base their housing plans on aspiration rather than need.

This was resulting in ever higher housing targets and the unnecessary release of countryside for development, claimed the CPRE – without resulting in an increase in overall housebuilding.

The research found a lack of clear guidance in the target setting process, a lack of objectivity in the calculations, and a lack of concern for land availability and environmental impacts.

Unrealistic targets were putting undue pressure on the countryside, the CPRE said.

Setting targets far higher than what could be realistically built meant that developers had more have more sites to choose from – but higher targets did not mean faster delivery.

When these unrealistic targets were not met, councils were having to identify even more sites for housing, claimed CPRE head of planning Matt Thomson.

"It is vital that we build more homes, but this will not be achieved through ever higher housing targets based on ambition rather than actual need.

"The current process is not only highly damaging to our countryside and the environment in general, it is also damaging to community well-being."

Mr Thomson said the threat of expensive appeals meant the government was taking a top-down approach to impose and enforce housing targets – despite ministers calling for more localism.

"Instead, we need to see a more accurate definition of community need at the heart of all local plans, and more consideration for environmental concerns and land availability.

"Councils should not be penalised for failing to meet implausible ambitions for growth over and above actual housing need."

The CPRE analysed the local plans passed that contained a new housing target in a bid to illustrate the unrealistic nature of housing targets.

In 54 local plans during the past two years, the average housing requirement was 30% above the government's household projections, and 50% above the average build rate.

Only seven of the 54 targets took environmental factors into account.

The CPRE said community surveys should play a far greater role in determining "true need" so homes needed were build "in the right places".

It said available brownfield land should play a leading role in developing targets; and planning guidance should include a clear definition of housing need that supported those who lacked housing.

Local plans should specify what kind of homes will meet this need, it said.

People in this conversation

  • Guest (Julian Snell)


    The Brown Field land is often in locations like Glasgow, S****horpe & Redcar and not in employment hotspots like Reading. Oxford & Cambridge were there is not the greenfield or brownfield land available for housebuilding. I have not seen the CPRE
    Report but its time they actually stated were these over provided Local Plans are ??

    from Chichester, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 3QP, UK
  • Guest (Mary Sparks)


    The biggest problem in rural and coastal amenity areas such as Purbeck, which are very popular with holiday makers and second-home owners, is that building more houses does not equate to providing more homes - they just get bought up by people who don't live in them. Therefore the SHMAA is meaningless in providing for housing need, while the landscape which people come to the area to enjoy is swallowed up by empty houses. CPRE needs to address this too.

  • Here in Wealden the District Council are proposing a 30% increase in housing (almost all of it on farmland). Small villages are being targeted in a shotgun approach to planning, some villages are faced with a 50% increase in size. There is not that level of need in the villages because there is no work and no viable public transport. My village of Ninfield is faced with an extra 250 houses but we have just 7 households on the waiting list.

    from Ninfield, East Sussex, UK

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