Letter: Scrap damaging and unsustainable housing target

9th April 2020

Letter published by the West Sussex County Times, 9 April 2020.

Sir

For the sake of the District and its communities, scrap and reassess damaging and unsustainable housing target and with it the dystopian draft Local Plan

How councils are to determine their ‘minimum annual housing need’ is set-out in the ‘Guidance: Housing and Economic Needs Assessment, guides councils in how to assess their housing needs’, issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The Guidance informs councils that although ‘there is an expectation that the standard method will be used” for strategic policy making, it is “not mandatory”, “if it is felt that circumstances warrant an alternative approach,’ with the caveat ”that any other method will be used only in exceptional circumstances’ (Paragraph 003 Reference ID: 2a-003-20190220).

The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is spreading at an exponential rate, threatening a recession and impacts far more severe than the financial crisis in 2008-09, is an Exceptional Circumstance – in consequence of which Horsham District Council’s huge and unprecedented open-ended house-building target has been made redundant – and ‘an alternative approach’ is ‘warranted’ – and required.

With a deep downturn and a considerably diminished housing market in prospect, house sales and build rates will reduce and the huge and unprecedented community-harming housing target for the District, arrived at by the Standard Method and the addition of the open-ended ‘unmet housing need’ of other authorities, will be rendered unachievable. Resultant failure to meet housing targets will be the norm and the council’s ability to control development will be lost.

For the sake of the District and its communities, scrap and reassess the damaging and unsustainable housing target and with it the dystopian draft Local Plan.

Yours faithfully,

Dr R F Smith
Trustee CPRE Sussex