Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Housing Targets Consultation Deadline

A consultation on the latest phase of the Government's plan to dump thousands of houses on the East of England closes today. This is Labour's regional planning process that is driving the pressure to force Marshall's off the airport, as Councils are forced to find locations for housing even if they aren't suitable, or local residents object.

The Conservatives have pledge to stop all this nonsense if they win the election next year, but in the mean time I have responded to the consultation. If you would like to respond as well, you can try the link from here - but I was struggling to get the online system working so just emailed.

Anyway, my response:

I oppose all 4 scenarios outlined in the consultation which will all result in high levels of housing growth being forced on the East of England, and indeed oppose the principle of centrally setting housing targets for local authority areas to deliver, for the following reasons:

Setting targets centrally, along with the highly prescriptive centrally planning policies effectively excludes local people from the choice of whether or not there will be significant new housing development in their area, and to a large extent what types of housing are built. An inevitable consequence of central government setting housing numbers by diktat is that the planning system doesn't feel it is necessary to respond to the reasons why local people are so averse to new housing, such as the poor quality and design of the buildings, the lack of supporting infrastructure for all modes of transport (especially for personal transportation such as cars and cycles), and the mix of housing that results, which is far too heavily weighted towards flats. The RSS/targets approach to housing does nothing for hard working families looking for reasonably priced family homes in the private sector, with gardens and car parking - in fact it makes it almost impossible for normal market mechanisms to respond to this demand and produce what is required, due to the extraordinary impositions made on the developers who could deliver this housing, and the central demands to deliver a certain number of 'housing units'.

I don't believe we have to force development on people for two reasons. Firstly I think we can trust people to support new housing, as long as the schemes proposed are high quality, sustainable in every sense of the word, and clearly in the interests of local residents - for example, if local authorities were able to retain the benefit locally of more Council tax payers.

Secondly, I challenge the assumptions that are behind the RSS that result in the supposed need to build so many more houses. Specifically, I do not accept that population growth of the levels predicted should be a given - it is not desirable or sustainable on environmental grounds. We should be adopting policies that do not suggest significant increases in population nationally, in particular looking at immigration policy, whose role in population growth can no longer be ignored.

Secondly, the continued fall in average household size is testament to a generation of failed social policies - if more encouragement was given to supporting family units, for example through the benefits system and in housing allocation policies, there would be less need for more housing.

Finally, the Conservatives could be in power nationally in under 6 months, and have pledged to abolish many regional bodies and the whole regional planning process, and hand democratic control back to local authorities that will result in local residents being genuinely empowered in decision making in this area. Any time, effort and public funds spend on the regional planning process now could well be wasted, and all activity in this area should be stopped pending the General Election.

I hope these comments will be taken into account in deciding how (or indeed if) to move this plan forward,

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