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Set up to fail: why housing targets based on flawed numbers threaten the countryside

Set up to fail: why housing targets based on flawed numbers threaten the countryside

The National Planning Policy Framework prompts local authorities towards greatly expanding the provision of housing for their residents.

Authorities are required to make a Strategic Housing Market Assessment to determine 'objectively assessed need'.  However, the way in which this process is framed has led many authorities to plan aspirationally rather than realistically (a criticism CPRE Northumberland has made of the Core Strategies of our own County Council, and of others further south). They have set inflated housing targets which large building companies have been able to take advantage of. For a start builders aim to build at a pace fitted to the level of demand generated by the local market. Some are holding back from starting on sites they deem to be less attractive, even where they already have planning permission, and are instead applying to build on 'plum' sites in Green Belt land or open countryside near towns and cities.

Local authorities, keen to show they are doing all they can to achieve the targets set for their areas, are thus under pressure to agree to applications they would normally refuse.  What is more, the planning process itself, one of the bastions of our democratic system, is being blamed for the slow pace of building and must, we are told, be 'streamlined', allowing less time and opportunity for local concerns to be aired.

All of this is potentially bad for the countryside and its communities. What is more, as builders are inevitably drawn to maximising their profits from any piece of land, the current situation is doing little to fulfill the desperate need for affordable, rented homes just about everywhere. And as if this is not enough, proposed amendments to the NPPF allowing 'affordable homes' to include 'starter homes' - smaller, low-priced properties which may be resold for profit after five years - could mean even fewer affordable homes in future years, with more properties bought up by landlords to be used as holiday lets.    

Cpre has made a thorough study of the complex issues involved. Their report may be accessed by clicking on the link below.

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