LETTER: Genuine control over planning

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I have sent the following open letter to Planning Minister Nick Boles.

Dear Mr Boles

It was good to see you at the Local Government Association meeting on September 12, when I posed the question below.

The Planning Inspectorate (PI) holds Local Authorities (LAs) responsible because house building has not followed population growth, due to recession and because there are around 400,000 un-built houses across the UK, with (banked) planning approvals.

Whilst the Chancellor’s mortgage scheme has caused a surge in house buying, that is unlikely to be sustained much beyond the next election.

It is clearly unreasonable to expect LAs to force developers to build, to match population growth, when there are not enough buyers around. So please would you ask the PI to stop pressurising LAs to plan for houses that are not going to be built.

You indicated in response that 400,000 presents a distorted picture, and that an adjusted figure would probably be more like 100,000. Indeed, Horsham District recently had around 8,000 un-built houses, whilst the Inspectorate cites a 2,410 five-year supply shortfall, which is not inconsistent with your proportions.

Notwithstanding that over 1,000 houses pa would need to be built in Horsham District, over the next five years to eliminate the shortfall and to sustain the projected 20 year average.

That compares with an average building rate of 430 houses pa over the past ten years and even when UK GDP growth was running at around three per cent pa, the annual building rate only exceeded 600 in three separate years.

Accordingly the PI is imposing unrealistic expectations on many Local Authorities, based on defective methodology from the ‘abolished’ Regional Strategies.

That anomaly could be rectified, by reviewing the robustness of annual monitoring assumptions, as provided for on page 285 of the old SE Plan, and by allowing LAs to duly adjust building projections for economic growth.

If you could convey that message to the Planning Inspectorate, then LAs might be able to regain genuine control of planning, whilst residents might become less cynical about the meaning of Localism and I urge you to do that.

Even more important, our beautiful countryside and communities would be less exposed to the impact of speculative development.

I propose that this should be an open letter, which will appear in our local paper, along (in due course) with your response, so that residents can be reassured by the depth of your commitment to Localism. Many thanks again for your time.

ROGER ARTHUR

(UKIP) Horsham district councillor for Chanctonbury, North Street, Horsham