East Cambridgeshire District Council and the planning inspector have disagreed on the local plan for housing, creating huge uncertainty for residents and businesses in the district. The Council rejected the Inspector’s proposed changes and withdrew the plan throwing the process for agreeing where new homes will be built up into turmoil.
All local authorities are required by law to have a Local Plan in place, detailing their proposals for future housing supply. The Plan would have ensured that residents and house builders were aware of proposals for development and that the number of homes being built meets the communities need.
However, the disagreement and Councils subsequent withdrawal of the plan, means that there is now no blueprint in place for how new homes will be built. As a result decisions on new developments will be on an speculative ad-hoc ‘appeal’ basis that creates uncertainty for all. The confusion created by the Councils decision is especially concerning given that there was already a huge backlog in supply.
In order to meet housing needs the Council need to ensure the delivery of nearly 600 homes a year. In 2017/18 just 289 homes were built. This continued undersupply of new homes will only exacerbate the housing crisis in the area, driving up house prices further and making it even more difficult for young people to find a home. It will also mean the area could be missing out on millions of pounds worth of investment in infrastructure and amenities and the economic boost that house building can provide.
Mark Behrendt, Planning Manager – Local Plans, at the Home Builders Federation, said; “Not having an up to date Local Plan in place, outlining where development will take place, causes uncertainty for everyone in the community. We would urge the Council to work with the inspector to get the plan agreed and ensure all parties are aware of proposals for development.
“East Cambridgeshire has consistently underdelivered on new homes and the inspector’s proposed changes would have helped ensure that the backlog in supply was addressed earlier.
“By not planning properly for its future housing the Council risks losing out on the huge social and economic contribution house building makes.
“Not only would the local area be missing out on major investment that would deliver more jobs, affordable housing and improvements to infrastructure it will also mean that the Council are less likely to benefit from the additional funding from central government.
“The approach taken by the Council will mean that the backlog in housing needs will not be delivered leading to worsening affordability in an area where average house prices are nearly 10 times average incomes.
“Since the Government is committed to building an ambitious 300,000 homes per year across the country, East Cambridgeshire has to ensure that it is doing it’s part to meet the targets given. The Local Plan in part was helping to ensure these targets were met.”
It is a requirement under the planning system to have an up to date Local Plan in place. Government is currently targeting those local authorities that do not have an adopted plan and putting them into ‘special measures’.
In areas where there is not an up to date plan in place decisions on development are taken ‘by appeal’ on an individual site by site basis. The inspector is instructed to weight his decision in favour of the developer because of the fact that the Council doesn’t have a plan in place that will deliver the homes needed. This ‘speculative’ method of deciding where development takes place does not encourage joined up planning and creates huge uncertainty for communities.
Housing is inextricably linked to the wider health of the economy and it is often referred to as a key barometer of national economic performance. But it is also important to recognise that it also has a range of significant effects on economic performance at regional and local levels too. In particular, house building:
- Drives regional economic growth through its vast and varied supply chains and contracting relationships;
- Generates unrivalled investment multiplier effects with very little import leakage due to the extensive use of local and regional suppliers and services;
- Delivers real jobs both on-site and off-site in associated trades, such as cement production and brick manufacturing, as well as in research and development fields looking at technological innovation areas such as Modern Methods of Construction;
- Creates economic value through new residents as they spend money on goods and services in the local economy;
- Supports labour market mobility wellbeing by enabling local people to move jobs freely and achieve their economic potential;
- Enhances “place competitiveness” and local economic development by improving the perceived competitiveness of specific locations and reducing the costs of mitigating social and environmental problems associated with poor or insufficient housing.
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Notes to editors
- The Home Builders Federation (HBF) is the representative body of the home building industry in England and Wales. The HBF’s member firms account for some 80% of all new homes built in England and Wales in any one year, and include companies of all sizes, ranging from multi-national, household names through regionally based businesses to small local companies: hbf.co.uk