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Council sticks head in the sand over housing
Published June 13th, 2017
Telford & Wrekin Council’s proposed way forward on its Local Plan has disappointed many who hoped for a more positive approach towards making housing more affordable in the borough.
“The Council has sidestepped the big issues,” said Helen Howie, an expert in Local Plans based in the property consultancy Berrys at Shrewsbury.
“This was an opportunity to improve the Local Plan and widen the choice of housing available to local people. Instead the Council has done the absolute minimum they think they can get away with. It’s very disappointing they have lacked ambition to tackle the big problem of housing affordability.”
The Council was responding to the Planning Inspector’s notice on March 30 that he had, “identified serious soundness concerns” with the Local Plan.
If a Local Plan is found to be ‘unsound’ then the Inspector will either stop it from being adopted by the Council, or require changes to be made. The Inspector’s two main areas of concern are firstly the amount of housing needed in the borough, and secondly the sites allocated in the Local Plan to provide that housing.
On the first issue the Inspector said: “I request that the Council reconsiders its objectively assessed housing needs (OAN) evidence in the light of these comments.” He indicated that this was likely to involve an uplift to the housing figures to take account of the economic growth of the borough.
On the second issue the Inspector noted, “it appears likely that I will reach a finding that the housing site selection exercise underpinning the Local Plan is flawed.” He suggested that all site allocations are deleted and that a new housing site allocations development plan document (DPD) should be, “brought forward as soon as possible – either through an early review of the Local Plan or the early preparation of a separate Site Allocations DPD”.
The Council could not publish its response to the Inspector due to the embargo on politically sensitive publications during the sensitive pre-election period. The documents only became available on its website on Monday.
In response to the Inspector, the Council proposes to increase its housing number by only 86 new homes per annum, up from 778 dwellings per annum to 864 dwellings per annum. The Council will delete all site allocations other than those that already have planning permission. However instead of replacing the site allocations with a new approach, the Council will hold fire until there appears to be a shortfall in housing numbers.
“The Council has massaged its housing figures,” said Helen Howie of Berrys. “Its approach prevents competition and squeezes the amount of land available to small builders. This will create greater housing affordability problems further down the line. The Council is sticking its head in the sand by putting off to future years the thorny issue of allocating housing sites that needs to be tackled now.”
Helen Howie can be contacted at Berrys on 01743 239028 m:07741 313576 e:mailto:email@example.com