Home Truths #1

Why the Spelthorne housing target is not going to be reduced …

The overall target

Since 2017, the government has had a housing target for England of 300 000 dwellings per year. It has never been achieved, but it is obviously in the interests of the construction industry that this target is as large as possible.

This overall target of 300 000 dwellings per year is not going to be reduced. There is too much political capital invested in it.

Source: Transparency International; Companies House, Electoral Commission

The geographical distribution

The question then becomes, where are these 300 000 dwellings going to be built?

The new Standard Method of calculating the housing requirement, which local authorities must follow in drawing up their Local Plans, was introduced in September 2017. Using that method, Spelthorne’s housing requirement was set at 611 per year – a massive increase from the previous target of 166 per year.

There was widespread dissatisfaction with the new increased figures across the country. So in August 2020, Whitehall began a consultation about a change to the Standard Method, which was intended to shift the requirement to build away from those areas from which the complaints had emanated. Spelthorne would have been a beneficiary of this revised Standard Method. The annual requirement, had it been implemented, would have fallen from 611 to 489 per year – still a very large increase from 166, but not quite so bad. Not everyone was so fortunate, however. The target for Elmbridge Council, just across the river from us, went up even more under the revised methodology.

There were even more complaints countrywide about the revised Standard Method, and it was shelved in December 2020.

It is highly unlikely that there will be any future England-wide changes to the Standard Method.

Spelthorne’s target therefore remains 611 dwellings per year.

Spelthorne as a special case

There is a view among some Spelthorne Councillors that somehow a special plea to Whitehall will result in our housing target being reduced. A special exercise in “Visioning” was undertaken last year, at some expense in time lost, and money spent, to try and reinforce this view. But attempts at special pleading are nothing new. Attempts to persuade Whitehall have been going on for more than 3 ½ years, since July 2018. All the related correspondence can be read at:
https://spelthorne.gov.uk/article/20561/Council-challenge-the-Government-and-local-MP-on-housing-numbers

It would be marvellous if these targets were suddenly reduced, but so far these repeated approaches by Spelthorne to Whitehall have had no effect whatsoever. It is a mystery to us as to why people think that YET another attempt will be successful.

And all the while the clock is ticking.

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