Teignbridge District Council Leader has written to the new PM, Boris Johnson, asking him to urgently reconsider the way the Government calculates housing figures imposed on local authorities.
In his letter, Council leader Gordon Hook urges Mr Johnson to consider re-evaluating the formula that is used to calculate the number of houses that need to be built across the local authority area, which has risen from 620 a year to 760 as a result of the Council’s Local Plan becoming 5 years’ old.
Said Cllr Hook:
“The situation here in Teignbridge is critical"
“The formula being used to calculate housing need is clearly badly flawed and requires urgent reconsideration.
“While it is recognised that genuine low-cost housing is desperately needed, the sheer volume of housing being imposed on us is without justification.”
Cllr Hook’s plea follows previous correspondence to Mr Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May. In this, he outlined his strong concerns around the housing demands placed on the district due to the Government’s new formula for calculating housing needs.
The ‘standard method’ allows the government to impose housing figures on Council’s where the Local Plan – the development plan that sets out the district council’s planning policy – is more than 5 years old, with the aim of ensuring that the supply of housing keeps up with the projected number of households within the district.
“We continue to exceed our housing completion targets, achieving 697 completions in 2017/18 against an annual minimum target of 620,” said Cllr Hook.
“Housing delivery remains strong, and the plan area benefits from an 8.28 years supply of land for new homes.
“We scooped top slot for Excellence in Planning Delivery in the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) South West Awards and were commended for Planning Team of the year in RTPI nationally.
“The Council has created Dawlish Countryside Park, where a 65 acre natural green space has become a natural recreation area for people, reducing pressure and protecting internationally important wildlife sites nearby such as Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve and the Exe Estuary.
“The District of Teignbridge has a unique and diverse landscape with valued environmental and historic assets. Some of these are considered to be absolute constraints (i.e. constraints which prevent development from taking place altogether e.g. flood zone 3, Ancient Woodland, significant adverse effect on an internationally protected wildlife site such as the SACs and SPA) and others which are very sensitive to development but may not prevent development from happening altogether.”
Around 40% of the district falls within the Dartmoor National Park and there are stringent policies to protect its setting, along with 1,200 hectares of Ancient Woodlands, 22 miles of coastline, 20 Countryside Parks & Nature Reserves including a National Nature Reserve, 28 SSSI’s covering 2,758 hectares or 6% of the district, 665 ha of green space and 96 square miles of Areas of Great Landscape Value – around half the district’s total area.
In addition to this, the area boasts heritage assets including listed buildings and scheduled monuments, a range of minerals, rare wildlife and Special Protection Areas at Dawlish Warren and Exe Estuary.
Councillor Hook asked for acknowledgement of the efforts made by the Council in delivering the housing needs across the district in spite of these considerable natural and physical constraints, and expressed disappointment at the considerably higher housing needs target now imposed.
“The standard method provides little to no recognition of local circumstances affecting places such as Teignbridge, nor to the way in which the datasets used are not necessarily applicable to the housing and economic dynamics of the area.
“We want to continue to meet the housing needs of our residents and that remains a key priority. But the imposition of the standard method in its current form takes away our ability to do this without the ability to ‘sense check’ the methodology in the light of more locally relevant data.
I therefore would urge you to reconsider the housing needs figures you are imposing on Teignbridge and seek to revise accordingly the methodology for your housing needs calculations so as to reflect an understanding of the local housing and economic market whilst giving local communities more say in how housing development is fulfilled in their communities.
"I implore you to give this vital issue your early and sympathetic attention.”
The Council has agreed to consider a housing strategy with its neighbouring councils through the preparation of a joint statutory plan known as the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP). This will take account of new information on housing need across the wider area, and include decisions on overall strategic distribution of housing development. It is currently expected that this work will be completed in around 2022. An updated Local Plan will follow on alongside the GESP with a view to also being in place by the end of 2022.