How top-down Government housing targets are distorting development in Devon – my first column in the new style ‘Devonshire’ magazine
In my first bimonthly column for the new online-only Devonshire magazine, I take up the debate started by CPRE Devon’s excellent reports on Devon’s housing needs.
You’ll find the magazine here – my column, We Need To Talk About Devon, is on pages 94 and 95.
CPRE Devon director, Penny Mills, also writes on page 32.
@cpredevon’s reports on housing need in Devon are probably the most important reports on the county in the last decade – it is essential they have wider circulation and are made available online
The Devon branch of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England has published Devon’s Housing Need Evidence Report and A Review of Government Housing Policy & Its Impacts on Devon. CPRE says of the first:
‘Launched at a packed seminar in Tiverton on 12th October 2018, this independent report by Opinion Research Services (ORS) provides the real facts about Devon’s housing needs. The comprehensive data includes housing projections, targets, costs and tenure, numbers planned and population trends across the entire County. This brand new CPRE Devon commissioned research cuts a swathe through official figures and, for the first time, reveals the truth about Devon’s REAL housing needs. It should be a valuable resource to anyone interested in housing throughout the County.’
The second report, by Dr Philip Bratby, is an equally crucial, evidence-based challenge to government policy as it affects Devon. Together, these reports show that centrally imposed targets grossly overstate need and are driving excessive and inappropriate development. We need to change course.
Hard copies are available here, for £36 and £10 respectively, or free if you join CPRE before 31st October (£36 per year). I understand that CPRE needs to recoup its costs, but I think (1) that copies should be supplied to all County and district councillors and parish councils, and (2) that they need to be made available online for the public to read.
Devon’s Real Housing Needs – How many new homes are REALLY needed in Devon? Important report by @cpredevon to be launched at Tiverton meeting on 12th October
CPRE Devon says: Have you noticed how many new houses are being built everywhere in Devon? Do we need so many? What is the REAL underlying need? Brand new CPRE Devon commissioned research, cuts a swathe through official figures and, for the first time, reveals the truth about Devon’s real housing needs.
How many new homes are planned for your community and where? How many have already been built? How many are genuinely affordable? Who are the planned new houses actually for?
To objectively assess the situation, we commissioned an independent study undertaken by a leading research firm, ORS, (Opinion Research Services) and the evidence based findings are produced in a comprehensive report, to be launched at our seminar. The data includes housing projections, targets, costs and tenure, numbers planned and population trends across the entire county. The data should prove invaluable to anybody faced with an unwanted proposal in their community.
Please join us for this important opportunity to find out what the evidence says – How many new homes are really needed in Devon?
‘Why Government Housing Policy is Wrong for Devon’ – Dr Phillip Bratby
Devon Housing Needs Evidence – Report of Findings – Mr Jonathan Lee, ORS
Followed by questions and answers from the floor. Admission by ticket only. £5, to include refreshments. Book your place here (by the way, no need to pay £5 upfront, you can choose ‘pay at the door’ option)
EDDC response to new Government planning targets could threaten Green Wedge between Seaton and Colyford
A new EDDC strategy document, Principles For Accommodating The Future Growth Needs Of East Devon, does not propose the Seaton area as an area of large-scale growth, but still raises the spectre of developing the Green Wedge between Seaton and Colyford and bringing the reserve site near the Wetlands (removed from the Local Plan) back into play for housing:
8.11 Seaton – The town is constrained by topography particularly to the east and west but there is some limited scope for growth to the north of the town. The capacity to the north of the town would depend on the extent to which developing in the existing green wedge separating the town from Colyford would be accepted. The local plan had included a reserve site which still has potential while the allocated site for employment and community purposes has not come forward and may need looking at again. Clearly there are sensitivities to the north of the town in terms of the landscape given that it is rising land but also with the green wedge designation between Seaton and Colyford.
Background The Government is setting targets for each district which in East Devon will mean around 844 extra homes per year. The document also says that to ‘also achieve Members aspiration to deliver one job per home we will also need to deliver enough employment space to accommodate at least 844 jobs per year.’
EDDC welcomes this growth as a way of offsetting the effects of austerity; ‘The continued growth of the district and the future incentives form a vital element in the mitigation of the future financial pressures anticipated from 2020/21 as detailed in the financial plan.’ It even claims that ‘Continued growth is required to finance the councils Habitat Mitigation Strategy as well as other local infrastructure investment.’ (Growth is required to mitigate the effects of growth!)
Problems Neither this paper nor the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan consultation document included in the same papers (which EDDC was unhappy with and is now being revisited) faces up to the fact that – except close to Exeter where they believe new estates should be concentrated – demand for housing is mainly from incoming retirees. This is why the projected need for employment land could be exaggerated.
In recent years, East Devon has had the highest rate of net domestic migration, well over 1 per cent p.a., of any district in England. Demand also includes a sizeable proportion of second homes: this may help explain why the report says, ‘East Devon is one of the few places in the south west where housing delivery has exceeded population growth by more than 0.5%’.
Certainly little of the housing is for local young people, not surprising as ‘the ratio between average earnings and average house prices is in the region of 11.42’.
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty The report says: ‘As custodians of these areas it is considered inappropriate to put significant growth in these areas although some authorities are doing this due to a lack of alternatives. That is not to say that there should be a moratorium on growth in the AONB’s. Any growth in AONB’sunder our own policies and government policies must conserve or enhance the landscape character of the area and major development should only be accommodated where it cannot be accommodated elsewhere.’ However we know from the recent Woodbury decision that this still means significant intrusion.
Poor infrastructure One of the reasons our area isn’t proposed for growth is probably that, as the report recognises, ‘Smaller towns and villages are losing services and facilities due to austerity measures and economic change and residents are becoming increasingly dependent on travelling to larger service centres and are often doing this by car due to poor access to public transport, convenience etc.’