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Huge housing target imposed on Mid Sussex District: a wake-up call

Friday, 10 March 2017 06:53

Letter published by the West Sussex Gazette 1 March 2017


Huge housing target imposed on Mid Sussex District: a wake-up call to MPs

A report in the West Sussex Gazette (8Feb17), with the headline -‘Housing market slows amid economic uncertainty’ advised that the “outlook for the housing market was uncertain”. 

As for economic uncertainty, the Bank of England has acknowledged that economic forecasting could “never be completely accurate”, that there are “large forecast errors”, and cautioned against “unrealistic expectations”(Daily Telegraph 22Feb17).

Uncertain, too, is the ability of house-builders to deliver new houses in the quantities required by Government. ‘Modernise or die: The Farmer Review of the UK construction labour model’, which was commissioned by the Goverment, and published October 2016, found that “the pure physical capacity of the construction industry to deliver for its clients appears to be in serious long-term decline”.

Also, in August 2016 the report by Civitas, ‘Planning approvals vs Housebuilding activity, 2006-2015’, found that house-builders and developers are hoarding permissions in order to push-up house prices and profits. .

Meanwhile, notwithstanding economic uncertainty, the Bank of England’s caution against “unrealistic expectations”, and the Civitas report and the findings of DCLG’s ‘Review’, Mr Bore, the Planning Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State DCLG to examine the soundness of the Mid Sussex District Plan, has imposed a huge interim to-be-increased housebuilding target on the District of 17,442 dwellings (1026 pa), to be built over the 17 year life of the plan, in the contentious belief, contentious because of evidence to the contrary, that “the market can sustain such figures” over 17 years.

Note that this is an interim allocation - because Mr Bore has informed Mid Sussex District Council, that together with other Councils, it must also meet the unmet needs for housing of Brighton and other coastal authorities and possibly Surrey, too. How many of these houses will be allocated to Mid Sussex has yet to be made known.

To make matters much much worse, under the present planning regime the Council will be blamed and held to account by the Government when developers, and house-builders fail to build new houses annually in numbers sufficient to meet the Inspector imposed target – and the District’s 5year requirement is not met in consequence. In which eventuality, the Council’s role as a planning authority will again be undermined and much diminished - and the aspirations of communities expressed in Neighbourhood Plans trampled on and dismissed at Appeal.

Mid Sussex’s plight should surely be a wake-up call to elected representatives at Westminster. It is time for them to intervene urgently on behalf of our beleaguered Councils and communities before any more damage is done. 

Yours faithfully,

Dr R F Smith                                                                                                                                                   
Trustee CPRE Sussex 

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