Sunday, 17 November 2013

Housing: "it would be impossible to build to meet demand because there is a never-ending queue of people who want to move to Devon."

Last week's monthly County Council's cabinet meeting discussed the 'housing needs' of local communities:

Cabinet: Committee Minutes: Wed Nov 13 2013

(a) National Planning Policy Framework and House Building 

The following Notice of Motion submitted to the County Council by Councillor Brazil had been referred to the Cabinet for consideration and report back:

This Council is appalled at the effect of the new NPPF document and this Government s policy of building houses as a solution to the economic crisis which is having an adverse impact on its schools and health provision. It will continue to support the housing needs of local communities to build houses for local working families but will reject the destruction of the Devon countryside for the benefit of landowners, developers and short term political expediency .

It was MOVED by Councillor Leadbetter, SECONDED by Councillor Hart, and

RESOLVED that the Council agree that, irrespective of the provisions of the NPPF, it is important to ensure that the housing needs of Devon's population are met and that in working to that end the County Council continues to work closely with District Planning Authorities - through the Local Plans process - to ensure that the critical infrastructure necessary to support residents, including schools and transport facilities was provided and that the Council be therefore recommended to take no further action on the Notice of Motion.

Cabinet (Minutes) - Wed Nov 13 2013
Cabinet - 13th Nov 2013 - Wed, 13th Nov 2013 - 10:30 am - Devon County Council Webcasting [from 11.47]

Here is a report from Independent County Cllr Claire Wright, plus comment:

Devon Tories dismiss planning framework motion

The all-conservative Devon County Council cabinet, has dismissed a motion calling on the government to stop using the planning system to promote growth, with the associated uncontrolled development that is taking place as a result in East Devon, and many other parts of the country, thanks to the national planning policy framework, which makes it easier for developers to build in places that otherwise would have been off limits.
At Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, the following motion, proposed by Cllr Julian Brazil (libdem) and seconded by me, was put before the cabinet, following referral from October’s full council meeting.
“This Council is appalled at the effect of the new NPPF document and this Government s policy of building houses as a solution to the economic crisis. This is having an adverse impact on our schools and health provision. We will continue to support the housing needs of our local communities to build houses for local working families but we will reject the destruction of the Devon countryside for the benefit of landowners, developers and short term political expediency.”
Cllr Brazil told councillors and officers present about the pressure his community in south Devon was under from development. He said it would be impossible to build to meet demand because there was a never-ending queue of people who wanted to move to Devon.  He emphasised that it wasn’t about need, but demand.
I outlined the problems at Feniton with developers acting like a pack of vultures, the fact that Devon County Council’s highways officer cannot recommend refusal on highways grounds for 235 houses proposed because the impact cannot be described as “severe” according to the national planning policy framework.
I also read out several statements from local headteachers in the Ottery area, including one particularly powerful one by Faith Jarrett, headteacher of The King’s School, who is very worried indeed about all the housing proposed in the school’s catchment area, over and above housing allocations in EDDC’s Local Plan.
The first to speak was Cllr Jill Owen, a labour councillor in Exeter, who said she couldn’t support the motion because the country needed more social housing .... completely missing the point.
Leader of the libdems, Des Hannon (sporting a fine Movember moustache), provided an articulate riposte to this contribution… only for one member of the cabinet to reply - Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, who simply said there were two points of view and it was important that there were adequate developer contributions!
He did add that he would meet with myself and Cllr Brazil to discuss the issue - I look forward to this meeting because this is a serious problem that we really cannot ignore.
The motion returns to full council next month, so there will be another chance for us to make our case, which I would have thought to most people, was a problem that councillors of all political persuasions cannot and should not dismiss… we will see!
If you want to hear and see what was said, here’s the webcast - http://www.devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/112405 
The agenda item starts at 11.47.


1. At 10:43 pm on 15th Nov Sandra Semple wrote:
None so blind as those who will not see, none so deaf as those who will not hear ....
2. At 07:59 pm on 16th Nov Malcolm wrote:
Having watched Wednesday’s live webcast I was very impressed by the contribution made by Claire, setting out the concerns very effectively at a local level, and encouraged by the supportive comments from two LibDem councillors.
Quite predictably, the issue was kicked into touch by the Conservatives with an undertaking to discuss concerns with Claire and Cllr Julian Brazil outside of the meeting.
I was disgusted that the Labour spokesperson was completely against the proposal, based simplistically upon the fact that there was a national shortage of houses and thousands on the waiting list for social housing in Exeter – she supported building houses anywhere and everywhere regardless of local need or capacity or environmental issues.  How does building hundreds of houses at Feniton (and thousands in other towns in East Devon) help people who work and want to live in Exeter – I thought Cranbrook was intended, in part,  to alleviate the shortage in Exeter.
I would urge all residents in East Devon, particularly those in areas threatened by overdevelopment, to watch the webcast (on the DCC website) for themselves.
If I had been one of the hundreds of people who have loyally voted over the years for the Labour party in East Devon elections, I would be seriously reconsidering who I would vote for in future local elections.  The Conservative government wants to cover the countryside in concrete and local Labour councillors are completely complicit in letting this happen – I would support a candidate who is interested in my locality and in seeking a balance in what happens there.
Claire Wright - Your Independent East Devon District Councillor for Ottery Rural

On the same day as the cabinet met to discuss this item, the Financial Times published this: that new housing is being "held back by a lack of government support in the face of Nimby opposition..." 

November 13, 2013 5:27 pm

Radical state action is the answer to Britain’s housing crisis

Government needs to become engaged in building communities again, says Andrew Adonis
The heart of Britain’s housing and growth crisis is the failure to build anywhere near enough homes to meet the rise in population and households.
This is especially true in London, whose population has risen by nearly 2m in the past 20 years and is projected to rise by another 1m in little more than a decade. Boris Johnson, the city’s mayor, has set himself an annual target of 40,000 new homes. But last year barely 18,000 were completed. Independent experts suggest the target ought to be about 60,000. This largely explains why the average house price in the capital is heading north of £500,000.


Nationally, the crisis is as severe as in the early 1950s, when Harold Macmillan, then housing minister, pledged to build 300,000 homes a year. Yet today’s build rate is less than half that, and at its lowest level since the 1920s.
An acute analysis comes in a new book, Good Cities, Better Lives, by Sir Peter Hall. The eminent urban planner describes a double crisis. The first entails a collapse in the building of social housing by local authorities and registered social landlords in the late 1970s and 1980s, neither reversed thereafter nor replaced by a sustained rise in private building. The second was a collapse in private building after the 2008 crash. Before this, the number of completions peaked at 426,000 in 1968; it has never reached even half that figure in the past 25 years.
Reinforcing this was the state’s withdrawal from a central role in planning new settlements. The postwar new towns, begun under Prime Minister Clement Attlee, were mostly a success. Those around London have a combined population of 1.5m. In employment and average earnings, they exceed the national average. Yet in 40 years no big urban development has been built except London Docklands – the vision of Michael Heseltine, a Conservative minister who resisted the “do nothing and leave it to the market” tide. He has been proved right.
Sir Peter, who advised Lord Heseltine, deserves attention. His message is that the state – national and local – must resume its responsibilities. It is not enough to exhort the market and fiddle with planning. The state must engage once more in building communities – including new towns, extensions to existing towns and cities, and a radically improved approach to transport investment linking infrastructure to new housing.
Sir Peter hails the Dutch Vinex programme, through which central government achieved agreements with local authorities that generated 455,000 homes between 1996 and 2005. This followed the 1991 Vinex report, a national spatial strategy in the mould of the 1944 Abercrombie plan for postwar London, which gave rise to the new towns. The success of Vinex was not simply a function of state action. “The houses had to be in the right places,” writes Sir Peter, “close to existing cities ... above all in the heart of the Randstad [the region incorporating Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague], and also to minimise travel to cities and secure maximum use of public transport, walking and bicycles.” The UK government promised a paper on new towns two years ago – Prime Minister David Cameron cited garden cities as a model – but it has not yet been published.
A serious problem in England is the weakness of local government – although London, which has had a mayoralty since 2000, is a partial exception. At present, even local authorities’ borrowing against their own assets and income to build houses is tightly constrained. “Free the cities from the dead hand of the Treasury and fundamentally decentralise the structure of government,” writes Sir Peter. Lord Heseltine, too, has been saying this for decades.
Towns and cities with credible plans to expand should be enabled to do so. The council of the first postwar new town – Stevenage in Hertfordshire – supports a 16,000-home extension, ideally located for jobs and growth. But it is held back by a lack of government support in the face of Nimby opposition from neighbouring rural councils. The government should strongly support Stevenage and others like it.
“The models are there before our eyes,” says Sir Peter. “We merely need to remove the blinkers that are obscuring them and to clear our minds for forging fresh solutions.” And we need to start now.
The writer is shadow infrastructure minister and was transport secretary in the last UK government
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013.

Radical state action is the answer to Britain’s housing crisis - FT.com

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