Housing market arithmetic
The government’s target of building 300 000 dwellings each year has been around for a number of years. It was first announced in the Autumn Budget of 2017. It was included in the Conservative Party election manifesto in 2019. Since then it has been referred to – approvingly – by any number of Cabinet ministers, most recently in the last two weeks when the Whitehall department said it was not going to reduce the 300 000 target, nor change the standard method for calculating each Borough’s contribution to this overall target.
We can take it, then, that the government is wedded to this policy. It is not going away.
If one adds up the housing targets of all the Local Planning Authorities, after taking account of the adjustment for the pandemic, and the 20% buffers applied to those LPAs not meeting their housing targets,
one gets a number that is very close to 300 000.
Thus, each LPA’s contribution is important in achieving the total. Spelthorne’s housing target is 611 dwellings per annum, which is a very high target compared with the target under the previous Local Plan of 166 per annum. But we are not alone. Other Boroughs’ targets have also risen by very large amounts.
A small number of Spelthorne Councillors want a second plea to be made to Whitehall to have the Spelthorne target reduced. (The first approach was rejected by the Department in 2020.) In addition, they want Spelthorne to produce a Local Plan that ignores this housing target completely.
The problem is, if Spelthorne were to have its housing target reduced (which is extremely unlikely to happen) then it would require some other Borough to make up the difference, in order to maintain the 300 000 total. The same applies to just ignoring the Whitehall target in a new Local Plan. As far as the Department is concerned, the dwellings have to be built somewhere, if not in Spelthorne. It really is a case of 2 minus 1 equalling 2.
But in reality they will force Spelthorne to adhere to its target, one way or another. They are already starting to do so, through the use of the “Tilted Balance”, putting all sites in the Borough at risk:
You can see why these plans to change and/or ignore the housing targets are doomed to failure. Central government won’t allow it, and other Boroughs won’t accept our deficit being shifted onto them, especially given that 71% of Boroughs are so far achieving their targets. Spelthorne is one of the minority that are not.
The only way to protect what we have – whether Green Belt or Brownfield – is to have a Local Plan which addresses this problem of very high housing targets, and provides as much protection as is possible, within the law. We cannot ignore the problem, or hope it will be shifted elsewhere.
We already have such a Local Plan, which gives the best protection possible. It is up to the Spelthorne councillors to adopt that plan, put it forward to its final public consultation, and remove this Borough from the free-for-all limbo in which it has languished for the last few years.
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