Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Housing numbers in East Devon

Several important points have been raised of late re housing in East Devon:

In the UK, there are 635,127 empty properties - not including flats above shops. 
One wonders how many flats above shops are empty in Sidmouth...

Comments from a correspondent:

The system is highly biased towards the Housing Industry and the right to buy (votes) strategy.
It disenfranchises local communities and is a completely flawed means of delivery affordable homes. 
Out-of-town developments depend on cheaper land and the tax payer who underwrites the connecting infrastructure whilst receiving zero VAT. 
The performance of the programme is wholly in the hands of the speculator who can build according to their own production rate wherever they like. They can ensure  the Local Authority will fail to the deliver due to the backlog to the 5 year housing supply never being met. 
Under such circumstances there is no chance of sufficient affordables being delivered even if the whole of East Devon is concreted over.

And from East Devon Alliance researcher Mike Temple, an overview of the current situation:

Housing Numbers

Inspectors often reject Local Plans, calling for an update of housing numbers. CPRE, in “Community Control or Countryside Chaos”, claims many Councils' figures are “fanciful”. Developers and planners frequently confuse/conflate housing “demand” with “social need”.

Main factors in assessing housing numbers
(See CoVoP website on Housing Need & Housing Land Supply for more detail)

> housing “demand” (based on past trends, births/deaths/age structures/household formation
> economic development and job growth
> development delivery and securing of infrastructure
> housing need based on SHMA
> the duty to co-operate with adjoining authorities

If housing numbers are inflated, they are not achievable and completions fall behind schedule; then a buffer of 20% is applied to the 5-year housing supply. A failure to identify a 5-year supply of housing land means policies are considered out-of-date and there is pressure to approve any planning applications that come forward. The more inflated the housing target the more difficult it is to identify a 5-year supply. These targets  fail, too, to take account of permissions, land-banking and windfalls. The NPPF presumption in favour of so-called “sustainable” development (when Councils have no Local Plan in place and  no 5 or 6 year housing supply) means that building is allowed (by Councils or by Inspectors on appeal) on inappropriate sites like AONBS, green belt, prime farmland, often without infrastructure provision. (“Developers can cause a 20% buffer to be required by under-delivering.” (Greg Mulholland MP))

Dubious data and data manipulation:

> Population forecasts: Recent (May 2014) figures, for East Cheshire and East Devon for example, show drops of nearly 6,000 from previous estimates.
There are more deaths than births in the District and population increase occurs because of inward migration, largely from elsewhere in England. 

> SHMA numbers are being transferred into Local Plans without making allowance for constraints and sustainability issues.

> The so-called “housing shortage” is “evident everywhere but in the data...analysis shows the number of dwellings rose by 0.6% in 2012, keeping pace with population growth” (Andrew Brigden, Blomberg News June 9 2014)

> Housing to meet social need is based on Local Authority waiting lists which are notoriously inaccurate. Many people on these lists are in rented accommodation which does not meet decency standards – if such accommodation had by law to meet decency standards, many would not be on waiting lists. Also, many people may be on several lists at the same time or may not be in genuine “need”. Similarly, many Councils have no accurate figures for the number of empty homes, their figures being effectively based on council tax records.

“Affordables”: These are rarely low-cost and developers often avoid their obligation – indeed, new rules in the Town & Country Planning Act mean developers can avoid building affordables by arguing they have become commercially “unviable” (New Statesman 30 May 2014). No affordables are planned for new garden cities (Guardian 21 April) and since 2010 the number of affordables built  has fallen from 60,480 to 42,830.

Brownfields: Developers are not interested in building on brownfield sites (1.5 million units acc to CPRE), which carry a levy and site-clearance costs. As a result “we are creating Detroits in the north while we are eating up the countryside” (Chairman of The National Trust, Daily Telegraph 28 March 2014) “Developers are cherry-picking greenfield sites, which are VAT-free, and building expensive multi-bedroom houses in areas that do not want and cannot support significant development...we need more affordable homes in key areas and social housing.” (Greg Mulholland)

East Devon Alliance | Bringing together the people of East Devon

And from the EDA website earlier this week:


4 July 2014

The National Planning Policy Framework has “failed to make a significant impact” on the percentage of planning permissions granted by local authorities in the two years since its introduction, according to new research.

Analysis of more than 1.7m planning applications and 16,000 appeals over four years by planning consultancy Turley shows approvals and rejections have remained broadly the same at 80 per cent and 20 per cent. There has, however, been a significant increase in the success of some types of planning appeals, with rates for public inquiries climbing by as much as 50 per cent since the introduction of the NPPF. There has only been a modest increase in successful appeals by hearing and no change in those through written representations.

Rob Peters, executive director at Turley, said: “There are a range of factors that can influence planning outcomes and the decision to approve or refuse applications is not solely related to national policy. However, it is a reasonable assumption that the combination of less guidance and a strong presumption in favour of sustainable development would result in more planning applications being approved. This has not been the case.”

He added that the variations in the success of different forms of planning appeals could be partly explained by “the failure of local authorities to formulate and adopt local plans to the timescale envisaged in the NPPF”. “To date, the Planning Inspectorate reports that just 14.6 per cent of development plans have been found sound and adopted since the NPPF was published,” Peters said.

“Given the importance of having an up-to-date local plan, especially one that deals with an area’s objectively assessed housing needs and the duty to cooperate with adjoining authorities, it is perhaps not surprising that major residential schemes are enjoying greater success at appeal.”
NPPF has 'little impact' on planning approvals | Local Government Executive

So, one has to ask, what was the NPPF actually FOR and how come it has made a very significant impact in East Devon yet not elsewhere.

Now, that reminds us – the East Devon Business Forum Task and Finish Group …


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