LETTER: Speculative build can be reduced

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The number of new homes built on green belt land in the UK has doubled in the last four years. That might not have been so bad if more houses had been built, but they were not.

In fact only about 56 per cent of the target 240,000 per annum were built in 2013 (compared with around 64 per cent for Horsham District) and that has hardly moved above the long term average of 130,000 pa. Building company profits will however have increased.

So it is good that the new Housing Minister (in a letter to myself) accepts that district targets can be adjusted for economic factors, allowing HDC to minimise interference from Planning Inspectors.

To recap, the HDPF could not protect against indiscriminate development, while pursuing an unrealistic 20 year target of 650 new dwellings pa. I raised that with Nick Boles and then with the new Planning Minister (Brandon Lewis).

I repeated that arbitrary population driven targets are often not met, because youngsters are i) staying longer with parents, ii) have shared equity with friends or colleagues, or iii) have moved to lower priced areas and first time buyers are approaching 40.

Also developers want to optimise price and they won’t build if there are not enough house buyers in the market. They carry no penalty if the 20 year target is not met.

So it is good to see from Brandon Lewis that targets can be adjusted to take account of a market downturn, along with the delivery rates before and after the downturn. He also highlights the need for communities to designate valued local green spaces.

It should by now be clear to all, that HDC’s 650pa target is unsound and that it needs to be adjusted.

Let us hope that the Minister’s advice will be pursued proactively, so that the risk of speculative (and distorted patterns of) development can be reduced in Horsham District.

No doubt our local MP Francis Maude, will want to let us have his views on the subject.

ROGER ARTHUR

Horsham district councillor for Chanctonbury ward and UKIP parliamentary candidate for Horsham, North Street, Horsham